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How Can Trucking Companies Prevent Tire Violations

Well, the news is in, RoadCheck 2016 has officially passed. In case you don’t know, RoadCheck is a program put on by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance every year for the past 29 years.

During the two-day period, almost 10,000 CVSA-certified local, state, provincial, territorial and federal inspectors across all of North America perform inspections on large truck and busses. Each year the group puts particular emphasis on a particular aspect of the check. This year, they focused heavily on tires. Were you prepared?

They measured tire tread depth, tire pressure, overall condition and a visual inspection to ensure items were not lodged between dual tires. Things like bulges and cuts received particular attention. Fortunately, it’s easy for you to avoid tire-condition violations. If you know what to look for, they are usually pretty easy to spot.

What to Look For

The fact is, there are more than a dozen tire-related violations contained within the CVSA’s Out-of-Service handbook, and you could be hit for any number of them. At least a half dozen finds themselves at the end of an inspector’s pen with predictable regularity.

One such example is those related to tread. They include:

  • Casing separation
  • Extremely worn tread
  • Visible cords or belts
  • Tread depth below the minimum standard
  • Air leaks
  • Sidewall damage
  • Bulges
  • Cuts
  • Deformities

While tire inflation used to be an issue, it is no longer. The American Trucking Associations requested the FMCSA remove the rule from the book, so they did. A victory, in this case.

The main reason for this is that coming up with a definition of “underinflated” that would work across the board for all applications, truck models and types, would be incredibly difficult to do. Because of how complex the issue was, the rule was stricken from the book.

A flat tire could cause you problems, however. If the tire has separated from the wheel, or is shredded at all, of course it will be considered flat.

If a tire appears soft, it could still be measured. In this case use the simple formula of 50 percent of what is printed on the sidewall of the tire. If the tire is measured to 120 psi, then anything below 60 would be considered flat and could be placed out-of-service.

Other Considerations

For 2016, a new violation was added, perhaps to account for the one that was removed. Now you must watch for items lodged between a dual set of tires. This includes anything from rocks to road debris. If the object is in direct contact with your tire sidewalls, it would be considered a violation in the rulebook.

While some violations only result in fines, others can put you or your vehicle out of service. No matter how you look at it, you could be out of pocket for a while you wait for the vehicle to be serviced. Never mind the few CSA points you’ll get out of the deal.

Whether you were caught in the RoadCheck, or whether you are simply running your loads out on the road, there are quick and simple ways you can ensure your tires are in good working order. First, check out this good, common-sense list compiled by the CVSA to help you ensure your equipment is in good working order.

Other than that, always make sure you are looking for unusual wear patterns. Anything from feathering to cupping should warrant the attention of one of your fleet technicians.

Also make sure you are staying on top of your wheel alignments. A correctly aligned truck is not only good for your tires, but it can have a measurable impact on fuel consumption.

Finally, ensure you aren’t running mismatched tires. Incorrect matching diameters can create problems like scrubbing patterns for the smaller tire.

In the end, make sure you are always keeping a close eye on your tires. You don’t need a RoadCheck to ensure you are staying safe on the road.

Truck Driver – Don’t Part With Your Truck Wheels

While it may seem like keeping your wheels on is an easy matter, you’d be surprised. Although manufacturers regularly issue manuals, procedures and bulletins regarding wheel separation, somehow wheels manage to separate from rigs at a rate of two or three per day every day across the country.

In order to ensure your tractor and wheels don’t have a messy divorce, you’ve got to make sure you are taking the right steps. Today we are going to dive into four different factors in ensuring you don’t become a victim of wheel separation.

Bearings

There are a number of different wheel bearing and hub systems on the market today. Because of the variety of design, it is imperative that fleet technicians know what procedures to use when working on the bearing in question. The American Trucking Associations Recommended Practices Manual outlines this information in the RP618A section.

In the manual, it discusses the need to use dial indicators to verify bearing adjustment. Even so, using dial indicators is often cited as left out, despite being a critical part of the process. Still, some would say even getting technicians to use torque wrenches represented a huge step. Getting them to consistently use dial indicators will also take time.

Fleet technicians must also be on the lookout for incorrectly installed or LMS-type systems. If the technician doesn’t know the type of system he or she is working with, the standard procedure of torqueing down and then backing off might damage the spacer and bearings. Not all setups are conventional single- or double-nut systems.

Wheel and Hub

One of the big areas where fleet technicians miss steps is in the area of wheel and hub preparation. Always remember to ensure the contact surfaces between the hub and inner and outer wheels is completely free of any debris, including dirt, rust and grease.

When you allow foreign material to build up on the wheel-end mounting surfaces, you cause there to be extra thickness in the joint itself. This can lead to decreased tension in the bolt, which in turn can lead to a loss of clamping force. When this happens you could be looking at potential nut and/or wheel loss.

Ensure you rigorously clean all contact surfaces with a wire brush before you set about mounting the wheel. Wheel studs should also be cleaned with a wire brush. You want to make sure the thread grooves are free of rust or any other foreign material that might impact the torque on the nut.

Torque Fastening

If you live by one principle, let it be this: Tighter is not better. While many a fleet technician will try their best to achieve maximum clamping force, usually by applying force in excess of 500 ft-lbs. of torque, they are failing to take the consequences of such action into account.

Too much pressure on a wheel stud could cause it to stretch past its yielding point. If this happens, the joint will actually exhibit less clamping force. Avoid this by using a calibrated torqueing device to bring them up to their optimal torque setting. Also avoid impact guns.

Above all, remember that a stud stretches like a spring, so if you don’t apply the right amount of torque, you won’t get the proper clamp load. As it stands, over-torqueing is one of the most common mistakes made by fleet technicians.

Constant Inspections

The fact is this: Both fleet technicians and truck drivers have a role to play in keeping a watchful eye for potential problems. One example of this would be lubricant leaking from an inner wheel seal. Since it leaves oily streaks on the inside of the tire tube, this problem can be easily spotted.

Other things to look out for are abnormal tire wear, evidence of lubrication leaking or contamination, hubcap window discoloration and gasket striation.

Although fastener tightness can’t be verified without special tools, truck drivers can check for rivulets of rust appearing around the wheel stud. Nut position indicators are also available and can show the position of a nut compared to its neighbor. Movement indicates a potential problem.

Above all, one must always be on the lookout for these systems to avoid wheel separation. The last thing you want as you charge down the highway with a full load is for one of your wheels to fly off.

Welcome To The Trucking Industry

Here at QuickTSI, we want to take a long term look at the basics of the trucking industry, how it is regulated, what sort of qualifications you must meet, and the various terms that you must understand if you want to get into the industry. This is going to be a long term project and we are going to bring it to you right here.

We are going to provide you with a wealth of information, all laid out in a blog series; short training snippets that are easy to digest and quick reads. As we go through every aspect of the trucking industry, you will learn everything you need to know about it. We will lay it out in understandable, actionable terms.

Are you ready? Here we go.

What is Trucking?

We all know one thing: Without trucking, commerce wouldn’t exist. Trucks deliver everything, from raw materials to completed products. They haul freight to and from warehouses, retailers and even your home. Whether it is crude oil or olive oil, chances are at some point in time it is moved on a truck or in a trailer.

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), in 2013 9.7 billion tons of freight was transported by a truck. It’s a whopping number, and it represents over two-thirds of shipped domestic tonnage.

And it’s not only shipping that trucking has a major impact on. It’s also employment. In 2012, seven million people worked in jobs relating to the trucking industry. Over three million of them were employed as truck drivers. So when you ask what trucking is, we can tell you. It’s the heartbeat of commerce.

Types of Trucking

There are two main types of trucking. Motor carriers can run operations in interstate commerce, intrastate commerce, or both. While it may seem trivial, in light of specific compliance regulations, it is important to understand what each term means.

Interstate Commerce: If you are driving freight from state-to-state, from overseas, or across U.S. borders in a commercial motor vehicle, you are hauling interstate commerce. The same applies if you are hauling interstate cargo within a state.

Intrastate Commerce: If you are driving freight in a commercial motor vehicle and it never crosses state lines, you are participating in intrastate commerce. The cargo’s trip must begin and end within the same state and cannot cross a state line in any form, whether it be by truck, rail, ship or air.

No matter what type of trucking you embark on, you have to understand that this is a highly regulated industry. It is also important to remember that different states regulate their industries differently, so you need to know a state’s specific regulations before operating within its borders.

Rules and Regulations

The trucking industry is governed by governmental regulation. This is intended to ensure safety and create an umbrella for fleets to work under – where regulation is concerned. So if you want to be a professional truck driver or operations, you need to know how your industry is regulated.

The trucking Industry is overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The FMCSA issues and enforces most of the regulations that interstate fleets and truck drivers must follow. These regulations are called Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).

The FMCSRs were created to establish basic safety rules and measureable standards for fleets, truck drivers, or employers of motor drivers. The FMCSRs cover everything from driver qualifications and disqualifications, how long they are on the road, the commercial driver’s license (CDL) standards, how drug and alcohol testing is carried out, and how vehicles are inspected and what type of condition they should be in.

Join us next time when we finish out this section with an explanation of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA). Then we will get into the details of CDL licensing. Are you ready for trucking? Well then join us in our next installment, because trucking is ready for you.

Owner-Operator Or Misclassified Employee?

The debate between who is an owner-operator and who is a misclassified employee has been raging all year. It’s an issue that has been aggressively pushed by the Obama administration and labor unions.

Now, new guidance from the Department of Labor (DOL) could end the use of truck drivers as independent contractors. Is this just a shot across the bow from the DOL or could we really one day see the end of the owner-operator model?

The Details

The rule, Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2015-1, puts a spotlight on the idea of “misclassification” of truck drivers as independent contractors, rather than paid employees.

The document itself is a huge read, ringing in at almost 7,000 words. Without diving into a mountain of words, the basis for the document essentially lies in this part of its opening statement:

Although independent contracting relationships can be advantageous for workers and businesses, some employees may be intentionally misclassified as a means to cut costs and avoid compliance with labor laws.

The document essentially downplays the significance of an employer’s role over tasks performed by its workers. While on the surface this doesn’t seem too problematic, it could create problems if a motor carrier can’t say having truck drivers move its freight is an integral part of its business.

In even simpler terms, a literal interpretation of the guidance would mean trucking companies would need to shift to a model where moving freight is not actually their business. Instead, they would become load brokers to the independent contractors.

The American Trucking Associations calls this “an aggressive departure from prevailing classification standards,” which is not an untrue statement, for better or for worse.

The Reality

Indeed, many motor carriers do follow the law and treat their independent contractors appropriately. Could new laws designed to protect the few wind up hurting the many?

It’s important to remember that the DOL is not the only government agency tasked with determining who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. The IRS and state-level agencies governing tax and worker’s comp issues also have a say.

According to the document, however, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division has already issued into a memoranda of understanding with the IRS and various state agencies regarding this new language. As it pursues full implementation, it also is applying this guidance to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Meaning

Now that we know this is happening, what does it mean? The interpretation is significant in a few key areas.

First, it states – as the DOL’s unequivocal opinion – that “most workers are employees” under the FLSA. It also puts forth – again, as the DOL’s preferred approach – the economic realities test when determining whether a worker is a contractor or an employee.

The economic realities follow principles such as:

  • The extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business.
  • The extent of the relative investments of the employer and worker.
  • The degree of control exercised or retained by the employer.

Trucking companies have been working under this guidance for some time, and fleets have learned how to pass the control test.

The Future

In the modern age, smart trucking fleets have already learned how to manage relationships with both owner-operators and employees. That being said, the signal from the DOL is saying that they are going to err on the side of an employee/employer relationship.

This means it will be even more important for companies and independent contractors to maintain a strictly independent nature of their relationship. It will be increasingly more important for companies to check with their legal counsel to determine whether or not they are operating in an independent contractor or employee relationship.

At this point, it’s too soon to tell what kind of impact this guidance will have on the trucking industry. Whether this new view will upset prior legal precedents or will wind up being a problem for the courts is yet to be seen.

An Economy Fueled By Trucking

According to a recent report by the Commerce Department, the United States economy grew by an annually adjusted rate of 2.3 percent in the period between April and June. The growth was led by strong consumer spending, exports, and home construction.

Since we all know the trucking industry fuels national commerce, the fact that personal consumption expenditures grew at a 2.9 percent annual rate is very encouraging. Add to this that crude oil costs less than half what did a year ago, and you have a perfect recipe for continued expansion.

But while certain sectors of the economy are doing well, how does this report bode for trucking as a whole? Fortunately, the outlook is good. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

Trucking’s Economic Indicators

As people dissect the economic indicators, it’s easy to overlook trucking’s contribution. Don’t discount it however, because recent statistics show that there is a strong correlation between the trucking industry and an economic recovery.

In fact, trucking is the fourth largest contributor to the nation’s GDP behind housing, food, and health care. More trucks are on the roads means more goods are being sold and shipped. This travels on down the line, translating into more work for factories and more raw materials produced.

According to the latest report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, transportation and warehousing jobs increased by over 17,000 jobs in June. Trucking by itself delivered 7,000 new jobs.

During the past three months, trucking has added 19,000 new jobs and over the past year has added 43,300 jobs. These are staggering numbers for an industry once at the precipice a short six years ago.

The Rising Tide

This new data dovetails nicely with the increases in warehousing and storage industry jobs. That particular segment added almost 28,000 jobs over the past year. And although trucking led the way, warehousing and storage were no slouches, adding 2,800 jobs.

Jobs supporting trucking and associated categories grew by 2,700. Combine all three categories together and you are looking at almost three-quarters of all sector growth in June.

According to a recent report compiled by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and Journal of Commerce (JOC), annual trucking revenue reached $700 billion for the first time ever in 2014. This number represents a full 3 percent jump over 2013 numbers and a 28.7 percent jump over 2009 levels, when the recession hit trucking hard, dropping industry income to $544.4 billion.

Rates, Volume, Capacity

Although higher rates do account for a portion of the income gain, the report shows most of the uptick is due to heavier freight volumes. Bob Costello, Chief Economist for the ATA, noted that “increases in freight, combined with tight capacity, helped drive revenues.”

Indeed, freight volumes in 2014 rose sharply. It appears economic growth is finally showing itself in the form of an improving trucking sector.

It’s also important not to forget how capacity plays into the picture. The recession resulted in a lot of operators going out of business. The resulting capacity squeeze is directly related to the employment squeeze.

The Industry Revs Up

Now that demand is picking up, carriers are beginning to update their fleets. According to the transportation research firm FTR, orders for North American Class 8 trucks rose to 375,000 units, making 2014 the second-best year on record for truck sales.

But although the numbers are positive, remember that we still have a ways to go. The 83.4 reading in trucking capacity for 2014, though impressive, is still a full 17 percent lower than its 2006 peak value.

Considering trucks account for 80.3 percent of all freight spending while moving 9.96 billion tons of cargo, it appears these numbers will only grow as the economy continues to improve.

Fortunately, there are few bad indicators in any of these reports. No matter what happens in the long-term, it appears that trucking has finally recovered from the Great Recession and is doing its part to drive economic growth and keep the supply chain moving like a well-oiled machine.

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