Quick Transport Solutions Inc.

Re-Evaluating Your Fleet’s Braking Systems – Are ADBs The Answer?

If there’s one thing that any professional truck driver will tell you they must rely on the most it’s their braking system. They have full control over their speed and maneuvering, but when it comes to coming to a stop, they need to be able to count on their brakes to come through in a literal pinch of the pedal.

Not only are braking systems important to your truck driver, advanced stability control and collision mitigation systems increasingly depend on a fully functional braking system in order to perform. The fact is, advanced safety systems are only as good as the brakes they rely on to stop the truck.

That’s why it’s important that your fleet technicians understand the importance of maintaining their braking systems. Poorly maintained foundation brakes relying on inadequate friction material will not only compromise an advanced safety system but put your truck drivers and those on the roads around them at grave risk.

Linking Brakes to Advanced Safety Systems

Consider that today’s advanced stability control systems rely on a variety of sensor inputs and then use algorithms to make split second decisions on whether to intervene in a potential loss-of-control incident.

When a truck triggers a specific action within the safety system, that system must be able to rely on a good set of brakes to respond to the command and deliver as much braking power as required to alter the outcome of a potentially disastrous situation. If the brakes aren’t up to snuff, neither you nor your truck driver will be able to fully rely on the truck’s safety system to do its job when required.

Why put all that money into an advanced safety system if you aren’t maintaining one of the foundation components that ensure the safety system functions properly.

Whether you’re talking about electronic roll stability, managed stability control, or advanced wingman systems, they all are built around one specific component: Your brakes.

While these systems can handle expected wear-and-tear on your braking systems, if brake parts seize up, there are bad electrical connections or a choked air supply, a lot can go wrong. As a matter of fact, these systems can prove a safety detriment if something as critical as your brakes aren’t functioning properly.

What Not To Do and Managing Expectations

Obviously, the last thing you want to do is undermine your fleet’s safety system performance by spec’ing a non-OEM recommended friction material or failing to reline or change the pad at the appropriate time.

If you are deciding to save a few bucks by switching to a non-reduced stopping distance (RSD) certified braking material, you could be shaving a good 100 feet or more off your vehicle’s stopping distance. Certainly, this is no small amount.

Of course, installing aftermarket brakes at particular service intervals is nothing new for your average fleet. In the past, this was seen as a minor problem, rather than a critical discrepancy. That was then and this is now.

Now that we must rely on advanced safety systems to stop the truck, even the slightest difference in stopping power could compromise a system your truckers rely on.

Even if you only have to rely on that system to prevent one accident over its entire lifetime, then it’s paid for itself. Do you really want to lose that critical ROI, and find yourself on the wrong end of an accident report – simply because you weren’t keeping a closer eye on your braking system.

To expect a certain level of performance from your advanced safety systems and truck driver training programs, you need to make sure the rest of your system is kept up, as well.

And don’t think we’re only referring to legacy disc brakes. You need to be thinking the exact same way for pads on air disc brakes. Remember, aftermarket parts rarely undergo the same level of testing as OEM-recommended parts.

While we’re not saying aftermarket parts can’t be relied on, and in almost all cases don’t perform their function admirably, if there’s one part of your safety system that you must be able to rely on at all times, and should take no chances on, it’s the friction material underpinning your braking system.

Paying Attention to The ADB Market

Any fleet owner or shop technician will tell you, air disc brakes (ADBs) are gaining ground. As of today, ADBs are not installed on 27 percent of all tractors and 20 percent of all trailers. While some are still resistance to the change – certainly there is a cost component – the benefits far outweigh the costs, and the ROI makes itself clear in the long run.

One reason why ADBs have been increasing in popularity is their corrosion resistance. De-icing chemicals used on today’s roads can have a negative impact on overall brake maintenance.

From brake show rust-jacking to clevis pins seizing up; from cam bushing issues to slack adjuster breakage – winter weather can cause serious problems for fleets using legacy braking systems.

States have also begun using new chemicals, of the type that cause greater corrosion. One large truck operator saw a lot more repair tickets come in than in past years once new de-icing components came into use.

The areas worst hit, and where fleets are increasingly making the ABS switch, is in the Midwest through the Northeast, from Maine across the Great Lakes region to Minnesota.

What Makes ADBs Different

Once motor carriers operating in snow-covered regions make the switch to ADB braking systems, they almost immediately see a large reduction in vehicle down-time. Less down-time means greater up-time, more efficient delivery schedules, and a fatter bottom line. The positive effects trickle on down from top to bottom.

The difference between drums and air discs lies mainly in the S-cam braking components. While some fleets opt to go with a split system with ABS systems in the front and wide-block drums in the back, this still leaves some braking systems vulnerable to corrosion.

While hybrid systems may save money in the short term, long-term corrosion resistance may wind up being the better way to go. A reduction in overall maintenance costs compounds over time, rather than a quick gain up-front by going with a cheaper option.

Considering the Cost and Weight Advantage

Another area to consider when evaluating your brake system is both cost and weight. In the beginning, ADBs suffered from both increased cost and greater weight, but over time, as the systems have matured, the cost/weight problem is beginning to change.

While fleets still face a larger upfront charge to go with the ADB option, when you factor in lifecycle costs, the higher price you pay levels out, and even pays you back, in the long run.

Higher upfront costs are easily mitigated by lower maintenance costs depending on where you are operating in the country. As brake producers continue to modify their pad formulations, you can also expect to see higher surface areas and longer lives for the pads currently in use.

Newer ADB models offer up to 2 mm of additional wearable lining while still increasing overall wearable volume by 8 percent. Those numbers may be small, but when compared to past variants, you’re talking a 40 percent improvement over previous pad formulations.

Also consider that ADB friction pad life as it stands now is already a full one-and-a-half times better than that offered by standard drum friction foundations. When you consider these facts, fleets can expect to – at the minimum – reach break-even on their ADB investment if not blow completely past it.

Even More Reasons to Make the Switch

While we’ve offered you a huge reason to pay close attention to your braking system, and perhaps consider an ADB option – there are even more to consider.

Unlike legacy drum brakes, new ADB variants can respond to a signal sent by the controller and the brakes will respond accordingly.

Technology has come such a long way, that your braking system is no longer a simple matter of hydraulics and a pedal. The end user – you, the fleet – need to ensure you are utilizing a system that both stands up to the test of time and elements, but also speaks to your advanced safety system.

Manufacturers are even moving towards an electronic model, rather than the standard pneumatic actuation system. These systems also keep trailers in mind. A line could be run between tractor and trailer to connect the braking communication systems between the two.

Or a LAN box could be used for nanosecond-scale braking communication. Still, wireless signals are subject to security concerns, such as hacking and lockouts.

Still, there is a federal requirement in place mandating a fully redundant air system alongside a brake-by-wire system, which could complicate matters on the carrier cost side.

In the end, the most important thing is to ensure your braking system is in proper working order and communicates well with the rest of your integrated safety system. Without a good friction foundation, you may not be able to rely on components your truck drivers will need in a time of crisis.

What You Need To Know About Cargo Theft And Prevention

If there’s one thing that couldn’t be more precious to both shipper and carrier, it’s the cargo being carried. We’re going to give you a scenario that could happen to anyone; a scenario that you must be constantly on the lookout for:

It’s a late Saturday night and there’s a powerful storm with heavy winds heading up the coast. Docked into the bay is a trailer. It’s sitting at an out-of-the-way warehouse far from the freeway. The thing is, this trailer isn’t supposed to be there.

As the storm outside provides a welcome diversion, a crew of thieves breaks into the facility. They’re about to score $2 million worth of electronics. All of this is done before the thieves are even detected, whether it be by the facility security or any triggered alarm systems.

They did it by being experts at what they do, perhaps members of a criminal gang – one of many who targets shippers, carriers and receivers. They waited, conducting day’s-worth of surveillance and figured out just what alarm systems the facility was utilizing. Finally, they were fully prepared to unload and move the freight themselves.

With the storm lashing against the facility, the thieves used the cover of the storm to slip past the security guards and backed into the dock. With a ladder stashed earlier in a back-parking lot, they managed to find their way onto the roof, where they cut a hole and dropped down into the building.

Once inside, they disabled the alarm system. To any remote security company monitoring the system, it would have seemed as though the storm knocked out the power, which would have then knocked out the cameras.

With no one having any clue what was going on, the thieves loaded up their trailer and pulled off. They were gone, into the night. It wasn’t until the following morning that the warehouse employees returned to find the hole in the roof, tools the thieves had left behind, and a beeping alarm system.

The fact is, this isn’t an uncommon scenario. In 2010, a similar story could be told from a warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut, where a group called the “Cuban Mob” completed a heist in a very similar fashion, but with a much higher price tag: over $60 million in pharmaceuticals.

According to the FBI special agent in charge of investigating that heist, the thieves knew exactly how many pallets they needed and loaded the right amount of product into the trailer. The numbers were far too precise for there to not have been an intense amount of planning leading up to the event.

A Higher Level of Sophistication

When it comes to keeping thieves at bay, the question is not how to catch a thief, but how to thwart a thief. Fleets must keep in mind that in many cases these are career criminals who are absolute professionals. They know how to stay one step ahead and how to adapt to changing conditions on the ground.

They also know who to target, and which items sell in which markets. Selling it fast and moving it quickly is what they do. If it gets too hot to grab a particular type of cargo, they’ll move on to something else, for instance.

Still, there is one relatively stable trend that can always be counted on to remain unchanged, and that’s where the hot spots are. Year-over-year, they never seem to change.

And while cargo theft hasn’t necessarily gotten worse, what law enforcement, shippers and receivers alike have seen is a far higher level of sophistication on the part of the thieves. A couple of decades ago, cargo theft was a matter of opportunity, today it has turned into a highly-sophisticated market unto itself.

Today, the groups of thieves are larger and they know just what to target. Generally, a well-prepared criminal group will know what is on the trailer or in the warehouse before they even make their strike. Still, that doesn’t mean trucking companies and law enforcement aren’t without tools of their own, tools that are getting much more sophisticated themselves.

When it comes to ensuring cargo safety, the motto shouldn’t be “to catch a thief,” it should be “to thwart a thief.” Motor carriers today can buy technology to help thwart thieves. Still, policies must be firmly in place to protect the load. It’s not just about technology, but also truck driver education regarding where to stop and not stop, where to drop loads and where to not drop loads.

Knowing Your Market and Assessing the Thread

First, it’s vital that motor carriers know the market they are working in. Cargo thieves are drawn to high-value or what is referred to as “quick-to-fence” freight. This type of freight consists of items that are in high demand.

In 2015, according to FBI statistics, the total tally of cargo taken by type and value in 2015 shows that the most appealing items consist of computer hardware and software – no surprise there. Following up computer equipment is portable electronic communications and consumable goods such as food and beverage.

If you are a motor carrier operating in a high-risk market, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on around you and to ensure your staff is fully prepared. One way to do this is to consult the cargo-theft prevention and recovery firm CargoNet. By keeping an eye on where the hot spots are, you are less likely to find yourself at the wrong end of an attack on your operation.

In most cases, cargo thieves get away with their loot by targeting trailers and containers that are stationary. While cyberattacks grab everyone’s attention, over two-thirds of in-transit thefts involve snatching goods from off unattended trailers.

Another area to be on the lookout for is what are termed as fictitious pickups, which involve thieves posing as legitimate trucking operators. They’ll even go so far as to use fake documentation to set up trucking companies that don’t exist, even if – on paper – it looks as though they do.

In many cases, they will use online load boards to secure existing cargo bids, then show up with fake documents. The shipper hands over the load, and the theft is complete. Unfortunately, the internet has opened new avenues for thieves to practice their trade.

From Inside Jobs to Signal Interference and Cyberattacks

Another threat to watch out for are actually inside jobs. While many companies would hate to think that their employees may be colluding with the bad guys, collusion is a real problem.

Remember that your cargo security is tied to how secure your company data is. With the idea of a big payout on the other end, if you aren’t keeping your employees happy, your cargo could be at risk. And while collusion is still relatively small compared to other types of cargo theft, the true number of these types of events may never be known considering it is so hard to detect.

Also consider that if your data is at risk, so is your cargo. It doesn’t always take collusion to get inside access. Major cyberattacks are nothing new, and they can easily hit your company. If your data is compromised, so too could be your cargo.

Just recently a huge, world-wide cyberattack crippled companies and organizations across the globe. If your data falls into the wrong hands, cargo thieves will know exactly where and when to target you.

Other sophisticated threats to keep an eye out for include signal-interference devices and other high-tech electronics that interfere with a vehicle’s telematics system. In some places, thieves have even 3D-printed replacement cargo seals.

Keep it Moving, Partner Up Wisely and Train Properly

In any situation, cargo is most at risk when it is stationary. When it’s not moving, it puts a gleam in the eye of thieves. Not only must you keep close tabs on your cargo when it isn’t moving, but you should keep it moving as much as possible.

Pay close attention to who you are doing business with and choose transportation planners and intermediaries with solid reputations, businesses that share your focus on cargo security. Ensure you are doing a thorough pre-hire vetting, whether it be for a major company to partner up with or new truck driver.

Motor carriers should make sure their fleet truckers are educated on how to protect their cargo from theft or hijacking. One such example is ensuring your truck drivers aren’t stopping within the first 200 miles or four hours. This could mitigate loss when thieves are “casing” loaded vehicles.

Truck drivers should also limit the amount of time their cargo goes unattended and park in well-lit, secure areas. We were just talking about cargo-theft hot spots. Do your truck drivers know where such spots are in order to avoid them?

Whether you are protecting your cargo through adequate training, knowing where to go and not to go, or utilizing technology to keep the thieves at bay, your reputation is on the line, so make sure you always keep cargo security at the forefront of everything you do.

The New Paradigm On Sleep Apnea For Truck Drivers Too

Although sleep apnea in trucking is not a new topic, it’s come back to the forefront with a force, the United States Supreme Court has declined to hear a wrongful termination suit filed against a certain fleet carrier. In declining to hear the suit, the decision could create a legal precedent allowing for carrier-mandated sleep apnea testing.

But what are the details behind this case the Supreme Court refuses to hear?

In 2013, a truck driver sued the company he worked for based on a wrongful termination after he refused to take a sleep apnea test. All of this stemmed from the company changing their policy in 2010 to include a mandatory sleep apnea test.

They based the change on whether the truck driver had a BMI of 35 or greater. According to the BMI index, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 qualified a person as overweight, anything over 30 is considered obese.

The employee in question even brought a note from his doctor explaining that further testing was not necessary at this point, but the company refused to recognize the note. When the employee refused to take the test, the carrier suspended him indefinitely.

When asked, the employee’s attorney stated that the person in question had never been involved in any accidents nor had he exhibited any issues with fatigue in the past. As a matter of fact, he had even been given a safe driving award by a previous employer.

The lawsuit brought before the court was filed claiming discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. When the case made it to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, the court ruled in the company’s favor.

In their ruling the court stated that since sleep apnea could pose a major risk to the safety of the driver and those on the road, the company’s request for a medical examination was valid. It went on to state that the trucker’s high BMI made him at greater risk for sleep apnea and potential road injury.

Since the Supreme Court decided to pass on the case, the original court’s ruling will remain upheld. This means other motor carriers contemplating a similar measure have free rein to create similar edicts. Does this mean these carriers can consider themselves free from future legal challenges, however? Well, not exactly.

What is Sleep Apnea?

For those unfamiliar with sleep apnea, it quite literally comes from the Greek root for the word “apnea”, which quite literally means “without breath.” The most common type of apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea, in which a sleeping patient’s tongue falls back against his or her soft palate. Which has a result of effectively closing the airway.

People who suffer from sleep apnea often find themselves stopping and starting breathing repeatedly throughout the night, sometimes for 30 seconds to a minute or even longer. In most cases, the person suffering from sleep apnea doesn’t even know this is happening because the breathing stoppage doesn’t cause a full awakening. Still, it does cause other health problems down the road.

A common sign of sleep apnea is when one is finding themselves fighting sleepiness during the daytime, whether at work or in other situations. At quiet moments in the day, one may find themselves drifting or unwittingly falling asleep. Another sign of sleep apnea is if one snores loudly at night or makes gasping or choking sounds as they sleep.

Other potential signs include:

  • Waking up with a headache (indicating not enough oxygen is getting to the brain during sleep)
  • Having trouble remembering or learning new things
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Undergoing consistent mood swings or feeling irritable or depressed and not knowing why
  • Frequently waking up in the night to urinate
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat

But even those who may not exhibit these symptoms could find themselves on the wrong end of an Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) check if their motor carrier decides now is the time for a check. How do they feel about that?

Current Recommendations and Trucker Opinions

Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Medical Review Board recommends that the FMCSA create a regulation that would require truckers to meet several criteria, which we have reported on before, but of which one includes if a truck driver has a BMI higher than 33, they must be required to undergo OSA testing.

Still, no such regulation has been issued to-date, and under the new administration, it is unlikely such a regulation may see the light of day. This news is music to the ears of many truck drivers who consider mandatory OSA testing a privacy concern.

Truckers also consider a night spent in a testing facility just one other night that they should spend away from their families. In particular, the trucker who sued his carrier felt that one result of the mandatory testing is that a CPAP machine could be ordered, which would then be deducted from his pay.

A Confusing Story on Sleep Apnea

Many question whether truckers are being over diagnosed or sent in for testing when it isn’t necessary. The main reason behind this is that there are several factors that increase the likelihood of someone having sleep apnea.

The truth is, some believe that a lot of clinics are using training and OSA rules to generate additional profit. Take, for example, the trucker above afraid he would have to purchase a CPAP machine. The medical center he would have had to purchase that from likely would have marked it up a bit for the benefit of their own bottom line.

Another question surrounds the use of BMI as a sole indicator. Having a large neck size and a greater BMI does not necessarily put one at greater risk for having sleep apnea. Thus, they should not be the only criteria used when deciding on whether a truck driver should go in for testing.

The fact is, there’s been confusions surrounding sleep apnea at the federal level for a long time. In 2000, 2008 and 2012, the FMCSA received recommendations from the federal Medical Review Board regarding diagnosing and screening for sleep apnea, and there’s been a ton of inconsistency in how these recommendations have been applied.

In 2013, a law was passed requiring the FMCSA to start a rulemaking process allowing industry comment. Then in 2014, the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners weighted in.

Still, that didn’t clarify the situation, by the fall of 2015, U.S. lawmakers were alerting the FMCSA that training facilities were telling examiners to test for sleep apnea when no test was required. In the same year, the FMCSA issued a bulletin to medical examiners and training organizations that does nothing more than do things like “encourage” and provide medical examiners the ability to “exercise their right to medical judgement.” None of this clarified the situation any further.

Still, we can help shed some light on the issue by answering your burning questions:

  • Will I automatically lose my job if I have sleep apnea? No
  • How long does a diagnostics test take? Generally, one night in a sleep lab or undergoing an at home seep test.
  • What if I do not have health insurance? Although current federal rules require carriers to provide insurance, there are usually state programs that will step in to ensure truck drivers who need to undergo specific testing do so.
  • What are the treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea? Possible treatment options for OSA include weight loss, utilization of a mandibular advancement device, a CPAP or PAP device, breathing therapy, or in extreme situations, surgery.

Sleep Apnea is a Serious Condition, but Don’t Be Afraid

Still, despite court cases, motor carrier mandates and confusing signals from the feds, sleep apnea remains a serious condition that requires consideration. Daytime sleepiness is obviously a problem for those at the wheel of an 80,000-pound Class-8 big rig.

From a personal standpoint, sleep apnea also puts one at risk of everything from high blood pressure and stroke to cognitive problems due to a lack of oxygen to the brain. Heart problems can also result from a lack of sleep.

If you are having these conditions, don’t be afraid to bring it up at your next physical exam. The fear of being diagnosed with sleep apnea isn’t as severe as if you were to fall asleep behind the wheel and cause a terrible accident.

Also, consider this, you aren’t alone. Did you know that 1 in 5 adults are affected by at least mild sleep apnea? As a professional truck driver, never be intimidated or embarrassed regarding a potential sleep apnea diagnosis. It certainly is not the end of the world and nor is it the end of your career.

Approach it with a calm resolve, and you’ll be sure to get the help you need without having to take a ton of time off the road or away from your family, regardless of what the feds or your motor carrier says. Hopefully, in the meantime, we can get some clarification on the matter.

How Can Trucking Company Evaluate Fleet’s Total Cost Of Ownership

The fact is, one of the most critical aspects of running a successful trucking business is properly evaluating your total cost of ownership (TCO). When it comes to your bottom line either sinking into the muck or becoming a shareholder’s dream, a proper evaluation of your TCO will generally determine which way that goes.

Still, evaluating TCO – for any company – can be quite a challenge. So, what’s the problem? Mainly, companies have a hard time figuring out all the different components that go into the total cost of ownership (TCO). When factors that should count towards TCO aren’t measured, a company might not come to a proper judgement on whether their final TCO number is correct or not.

What fleets need to do is learn all the components that need to be calculated to figure out an accurate TCO, and how that TCO can impact the bottom line. Determining TCO enables a fleet to operate in a nimble fashion, in an environment where decisions are made based on comprehensive numbers.

Addressing the Challenge

The proper way to address a TCO analysis is to make accurate comparisons to other fleets of a similar size and makeup as your own. Consider that utilizing generic benchmarks can often lead you down a dead-end street, simply because they are compiled using self-reported data that is very generalized, rather than offering any amount of depth – specifically depth that might apply to your fleet operation.

Here are some examples in which costs are not standardized across the board:

  • Fleet age
  • Maintenance
  • Vehicle application
  • Vehicle utilization
  • Specific financing methods

Furthermore, here are the appropriate questions you need to be asking when you make your comparison:

  • Are you evaluating your fleet against a newer or younger fleet?
  • Is the application in question one of low mileage or high mileage?
  • Is the size of the fleet in question comparable to yours?
  • What types of vehicles are used? I.E. Regional versus OTR versus Last Mile

Once you’ve made these identifications, it’s time to take the first step in quantifying your TCO based on the fundamental components you’ve identified.

Quantifying the Numbers

The most effective approach to categorizing your overall fleet TCO is to break your analysis up into three major components.

We’re going to break this all down for you in a neat series of bullet points that you can save for later:

  • Acquisition
    • Investment and Purchase
    • Financing
      • Interest rate and payment terms
    • Operations
      • Maintenance
        • Contact maintenance
        • Dealer/garage
        • Self-maintenance
        • Miscellaneous maintenance
        • Accidents
      • Administrative
        • Fleet administration
        • General administration
      • Other Overhead
        • Licensing and insurance
        • Legal and taxes
        • Regulations
        • Safety services
        • Employee management
      • Disposal
        • Sales Proceeds
        • Cost of Disposal
        • Taxes on Gains

Once you have quantified the numbers using the system listed above, you have better confidence benchmarking fleet performance. You should also be able to better understand in which areas your TCO numbers may fluctuate.

As an example, financing costs, asset depreciation and other administrative costs may change over time. When evaluating your TCO you’ve got to build in a buffer that will consider any major or minor fluctuation in costs. The last thing you need is a big hit to your bottom line because you didn’t take a major fluctuation into account.

Financing and Sticker Price

When it comes to addressing your TCO, one of the areas that trips fleets up is financing fleet acquisitions. Some pay cash while others make large down payments and choose to finance the rest of the balance. Still others might opt for financing nearly the entire amount and then opting for a balloon payment once the initial terms expire.

The question is this: Should you factor the cost of capital into the total cost of owning the fleet. Consider this: Money is never free. For this reason alone, you should be factoring in the total cost of ownership, even when you are purchasing a vehicle with cash up-front.

Consider this: The cash could be in the bank earning interest or be used for another investment, so factoring cash buys into your TCO is an important part of the process.

Also consider what a tractor or trailer costs to purchase. Then, go beyond that. To determine a more accurate cost, there are three basic components you must consider:

  • The initial investment
  • The capital required
  • The depreciation

Have you considered what interest rate you will be paying? Furthermore, what are the terms of your loan? If you paid the loan off one year faster, would you be saving yourself money in the long wrong. What is your opportunity cost in paying cash? These are all appropriate questions that you must consider as you approach the financing angle of TCO.

As you take a closer look at the financing aspect, also consider your fleet’s purchasing power. The bigger your fleet is, the easier it will be for you to leverage that purchasing power as a procurement advantage in the long-run. A big fleet will have a far bigger advantage when it comes to acquisition costs.

Evaluating Maintenance Costs

When it comes to keeping vehicles on the road and promising on deliverables to your customers, fleet maintenance is incredibly important. But did you realize that maintenance is also a vital component of your TCO analysis? Therefore, it is so important to get the best possible maintenance at the best possible price – whether you decide to go with an in-house option or outsource your maintenance needs.

Also consider that two companies with two totally different fleet sizes will have different maintenance costs to consider in their TCO analysis. As an example, the cost of maintaining a vehicle in year five can be totally different than it can in can in year one. Standardizing fleet age helps you more accurately determine costs over the – pun intended – long haul.

A final factor when considering maintenance costs in your TCO is that increased maintenance and repair costs also affect uptime and reliability. They can have a direct impact on CSA scores and whether a vehicle sits idle or is on the road.

Factoring Asset Depreciation

As we mentioned before, fleets finance their acquisitions differently. It’s in this same way that they approach how they depreciate their assets and estimate salvage value.

Factoring depreciation is a complicated endeavor. As an example, many fleet managers record book depreciation. The problem with this method is that it varies based on the selected depreciable life. Essentially, this means you are not accounting for any expected gains once you’ve reached the end of the holding period.

A better way to approach this is to standardize depreciation costs that selects and applies to all equipment across the board, while also making an estimate of what can be gained once the holding period ends. Of course, a cushion would need to be built in as no one knows exactly what will be gained back at the end of the holding period, but estimating a number is a lot better than including no number at all.

The best way to manage this is to assume a 25 percent per-year depreciation over the holding period. Whereas salvage value at the end of the holding period can generally be assumed to come in around 20 percent of the asset’s original value after five to seven years.

Calculating Administrative Costs

The final piece in the TCO puzzle is in administrative costs. The fact is, it’s easy to overlook indirect costs that are associated with operating a fleet of almost any size.

What are some examples of these administrative costs?

Fleets often forget about their shop and back office when evaluating TCO. Remember, making a proper TCO analysis is about more than just the vehicles being driven.

Administrative costs could even include breakdowns, roadside assistance and repair problems, missed loads and other intangibles that are hard to quantify on the front end. While every operation runs differently evaluating these costs is crucial to determining a proper TCO.

The Final Word

The fact is this: Completing a comprehensive (and correct) TCO analysis is a huge and difficult process. To a fleet – no matter the size – this can seem like a huge beast that they simply cannot tackle. And yet, completing a proper TCO is critical to ensuring you can forecast your finances properly and keep your bottom line intact over the long term.

Does that mean you should outsource your TCO analysis to a third-party provider? The fact is, there are companies out there who will complete this analysis for you. Still, only you have an inside view as to what is going on inside your fleet, from top-to-bottom. There is also an associated cost with having a third-party complete this analysis for you.

In the end, no matter what you do, completing a TCO analysis is critical to any fleet, no matter the size. So, however you consider getting it done, just get it done.

Tackling The Nation’s Rest Area Problems of Truckers

If there’s one thing that truckers and industry insiders agree on, it’s that our nation’s rest areas and parking options need some serious improvement. When addressing the infrastructure question, additional services at rest stops needs to be part of the equation.

With forces in Capital Hill and the White House preparing for a big fight on infrastructure spending, whether it’s between Democrats and Republicans or within forces in each party, one can only wonder where funding for rest areas will fall once the dust settles.

Fortunately, there are some historical precedents to take a look at here, as well as near-constant themes always haunting this issue. Let’s dig a little deeper.

An Old Issue

The fact is, the issue of rest area availability – including commercial activities at rest stops – predates Trump’s arrival in Washington. The Federal Highway Administration has been seeking comments on the issue for some time. Specific items of inquiry include produce sales and additional vending machine at truck stops, in addition to a request for more parking.

Although a public-private partnership to support greater access and options at the nation’s rest stops seems like a no-brainer, it isn’t supported by everyone. The truck stop trade group, National Association of Truck Stop Owners (NATSO) says the idea would undercut highway-based businesses.

Still, the main issue remains, and that’s available parking. It’s no secret that available parking at truck stops has been shrinking steadily for years. Not only is additional parking important, but truck stops must be able to generate profit while being a welcome place for truckers to stop, with access to both food and basic services.

Parking is a Constant Issue

While truck stops continue to add more parking, it never seems to catch up with the current demand. Compounding the problem is zoning restrictions and local resistance whenever a truck stop tries to expand their trucking options.

The problem has gotten so bad that major truck stop chains have begun selling parking reservations. Consider that highway capacity and maintenance hasn’t kept up with the increase in freight traffic, and it’s obvious where this is turning into a serious issue.

So, what’s the solution? Some are pointing to greater rest stop commercialization as a potential answer, but is it? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Commercializing Rest Stops

Ask any number of truckers or fleet managers if they support commercial activities if it helps to create more options, from commercial services to parking, and they’ll respond with a resounding affirmative.

While NATSO opposed more commercialization of rest stops, some think the organization’s concern is misplaced. The specific argument here is that if state-facilitated rest stops are limited to such an extent that they may not even be considered “truck stops”, where’s the harm?

The fact is, a trucker won’t pass up a decent meal at a truck stop just to get a vending machine snack at a state-run facility. No matter which way you slice it, there simply aren’t enough places for truckers to park, so whatever can be done to improve the situation, whether it’s commercialization or otherwise, should be welcomed.

Parking must be considered as one of the basic utilities of both public and private truck stops. The current model – which NATSO is in favor of – of not expanding enroute parking, could be a sign of the organization’s self-interest and doesn’t seem sustainable.

As truckers increasingly look for places to park amid a shrinking parking landscape, industry insiders must consider taking extraordinary measures to address the situation, even if it means going against what groups like NATSO are proposing, which is really nothing more than the status quo.

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