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The Secret Tips to Running a Trucking Business

Running a business of your own is basically part of the American dream. There’s nothing more exciting than the thought of being your own boss and being able to make a lot of money. You’d like to run your own business, but you aren’t sure what kind you’d like own. You don’t want to sell things to other people, and you don’t want to go into the food or service industry. You’ve considered turn-key operations where the money makes itself, but you think you’d want something that’s more hands on.

If you want to try something different, running a trucking business could be the new venture you’re looking for.

A profitable industry

It’s been known that the ability to drive a fleet vehicle is a coveted job skill. Being able to drive a big rig can make you money, but owning a company that sends out the rigs is even more profitable.

If you’re looking for something that’s profitable, the trucking industry could be what you need.

It’s estimated that the industry itself generates around $650 billion in revenue every year, and that number is only expected to grow.

There are over 11 million registered large trucks in the country, so you won’t have an issue finding the equipment you need to get started.

There’s money to be made in the industry, but only if you’re a good fit for the job.

What to consider before running a trucking business

Trucking is a growing and popular industry, but that doesn’t mean that just anyone can succeed in it.

Almost any budding entrepreneur thinks that they would be perfect for it, but a lot goes into being able to manage a fleet.

Aside from having a good business sense you need to have management skills, the ability to problem solve, and the ability to analyze data.

You’re going to be wearing a lot of hats when you’re running your business, and you need to be prepared to handle the workload.

If you want your business to be successful, there are a few things you need to do.

Estimate your costs accurately 

Starting a trucking business isn’t as simple as buying a few fleet vehicles and getting some drivers.

Running a trucking business costs a lot of money that goes beyond the price of the trucks and the employee’s salaries.

Maintenance can cost a significant amount of money.  Trucks need to be examined frequently to make sure that they’re running well.

Some companies take maintenance so seriously that they’ll have a mechanic look at each truck when it comes back from a delivery.

There’s also the cost of employee benefits and insurance. Both vehicles and employees need to be insured for a variety of things.

On top of this, there’s rental costs for your lot and business, and other costs are bound to pop up along the way.

Talk to a financial adviser so you can determine what you’ll need money wise to start your business.

This is important because you’ll need to…

Get a good loan 

 

When you’re discussing your budget with your financial adviser, make sure to talk about the loan amount they think is best for you.

Since you’re getting a loan, it’s also important to make sure that you look like a great potential investment to your lender.

Take some time to bring up your credit score before you apply.  Also, consider asking someone with stellar credit to co-sign your loan if you’re worried about your score.

Consider subcontracting truck drivers 

Now that you’ve spent some time considering finances, you may be wondering how you can afford to pay your employees.

If you want to save money on operating costs and still have good drivers, you may want to consider using subcontracted truck drivers.

These truck drivers are hired per contract for specific jobs, they’ll only work when you need them to.

This can be the ideal set up for people that are interested in running a trucking business but want to start their company with less capital.

Data and software are your best friends

When people think about running a trucking business they usually don’t think about software.  But the right kind of software and data collection methods can ensure that you’re running your business in the best way possible.

The right kind of software can make managing finances a breeze.  You’ll have one place where you can keep all of your paid and outstanding invoices, employee payment information, account balances, and more.

Collecting data from trips is equally important.

Find out how often drivers are stopping to fill up, and how much fuel costs them in each state.  See which routes are the most efficient and which ones seem to take more time.

Having all of this data on hand could help you find more efficient routes for your drivers or could help save you money on fuel.

Perform maintenance frequently 

Remember how we mentioned that some companies will perform routine maintenance on every truck after it gets back from a delivery?

That may seem like too much, but it helps ensure that all fleet vehicles are in top running shape.

When you’re running a trucking business, it’s important to keep in mind how much wear and tear can occur on a running big rig.

Some of these truck drivers are running their vehicles non-stop for hours at a time while they travel across the country. Even trucking businesses that stay local can put some serious miles on their rigs.

If certain issues go unnoticed for too long, your rigs can get seriously damaged.

A loose belt or low oil may go unnoticed in a regular car for a few weeks or even months depending on how much it’s driven. All it takes is one long trip for damage to become apparent in a big rig.

Aside from having professionals routinely handle truck upkeep, it can be helpful to train your truck drivers in simple maintenance. Their dashboard can only tell them so much about the state of their vehicle.

Always put safety first 

Overall, it’s important to make sure that your trucking company and your drivers are compliant with all safety standards set by the American Trucking Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association.

There are rules about hauling certain kinds of materials, equipment usage, and nearly every aspect of trucking you can think of.

The trucking industry on average produces 5,360 fatalities and 142,000 injuries each year. When you’re running a trucking business safety should be your number one priority above all else.

Highway and driver safety clearly is a priority. Your truck drivers need to observe safe driving practices when they’re on the road. Drivers that constantly take shortcuts, speed, or drive aggressively shouldn’t be a part of your company.

Driver safety is only a small part of the issue. There are other hazards associated with trucking people can forget about.

Unsafe loading and unloading practices have the potential to harm employees or damage products. Drivers should also be thoroughly trained on hauling hazardous materials if you choose to go into that industry niche.

Find good clients 

The key to running a trucking business is to have a lot of clients you can rely on.

Some owners lull themselves into a state of false security once they land their first big contract. But it’s important to remember that the 6 or 7 figure contract you have today may not be there tomorrow.

Even if you have an excellent client you think will be with you for decades, you still need a solid business development plan to ensure that you’re bringing in new work.

If you can’t devote yourself to finding new clients you need to hire someone that can handle sales. Look for someone that specializes in the trucking industry and may already have some connections.

Bring on good talent 

Running a trucking business will be hard if your drivers have a reputation for being late or rude to clients.

Your truckers are going to represent your business on each trip, and you want to make sure you hire people that are up for the task.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring people that are new to the industry, but you may want a seasoned vet or two on your team in the beginning.

They’ll know the ins and outs of the industry, and they could even serve as a mentor for newer drivers.

Don’t risk bringing on someone with a bad driving history. They may have their CDL, but you should look into their personal background.

If they have speeding tickets, road rage incidents, or any charges involving drugs or alcohol, they probably won’t be good for your business.

Wrapping up

As you can see, running a trucking business requires a lot of work. You’ll need a good mix of reliable employees, the right equipment, and a mind for business if you want to succeed.

Do any seasoned trucking business owners have advice for people new to the industry? Tell us about it in our comments section!

If you have questions about trucking services, contact us so we can answer them.

 

Truck Drivers : How Much Do You Know About Power Inverters?

If you are a professional truck driver, you’ve likely used or at least heard of power inverters. They certainly have been around for a long time. And much like everything else, when it comes to using them you get what you pay for.

First, you need to know everything there is to know about power inverters before making your decision. There’s a lot to consider, from the type of inverter itself to the waveform, surge capacity and whether or not it meets compliance requirements. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Power inverters have not been without their fair share of controversy. While many a fleet manager knows how much their operators love inverters (for creature comfort, alone) they are also wary that the inverters could potentially damage their truck’s electrical system.

But could it be that this way of thinking is being relegated to the past? The fact is, if you purchase the right inverter for the job and install it properly, there shouldn’t be much to worry about. You just need to make sure you do your due diligence before going out and making a big purchase. Always remember that there isn’t one inverter for the job. In this case, one size does not fit all.

Size Matters

That being said, size does matter. Do you need the biggest inverter out there? Consider that power inverters range in size from 300 to 5,000 watts. You need to know that the inverter is right for your truck size and the amount of power that truck uses.

Furthermore, what will you be using the inverter to power? Here is an example. You have an operator running a television and laptop at the same time. If you take a look at both devices, you will see a wattage level listed on the label. You’ll want to combine those wattages and add 20 percent to get to a final wattage number. You’ll also want to round up a little in your selection. It won’t hurt to be left with a little extra power.

Another thing to keep in mind is our power inverter’s surge rating. When you are running continuous power, you need to make sure that your equipment can handle the initial load. You’ll want to double up on whatever the power requirement is. So if you are using a 1,600-watt inverter, you’ll want to make sure it can handle a surge up to 3,200-watts.

Also figure out how long the inverter can bear the burden of an ongoing surge. You’ll want an inverter that can handle a surge for as long as possible. In some cases, an inverter may shut down almost instantly. Other converters might give you up to five seconds or more before a shut down.

Finding the Right Inverter

When using a power inverter, you want to make sure you have one that is good and reliable. The last thing you need is it breaking down on the job when you need it most. First, you want to look for an inverter that has a “Regulatory Listed” approval. Call signs to look for include UL or TL. A good rating might be 458 or higher.

Try to avoid an inverter that does not have a listed regulatory number. You don’t want a cheap inverter shocking your driver or doing other kinds of damage to your vehicle’s electrical system.

Not all manufacturers test their products as rigorously as they should. You want to make sure the company you are getting your power inverter from tests it thoroughly. As long as you make sure to educate yourself on what type of inverter you need and where it’s coming from, both your truck drivers and your fleet technicians will be happy.

Details On The New ELD Mandate For Truckers

Have you heard? By 2017, truck operators will be federally mandated to use an electronic logging device (ELD). The rule will officially go into effect on December 16th, 2017. While many fleets are already volunteering to switch, if for nothing else than to utilize the benefits of this technology, the new rule will put a stamp on the total phase out of paper logs.

Once a fleet begins using an ELD, they will no longer be required to record and maintain paper logs. The rule requires truck drivers who may be currently using paper logs to move to ELDs, with a few exceptions, which we will cover below.

The rule also outlines specific safeguards against truck driver harassment, hardware specifications and supporting documentation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says the rule will save an estimated $1 billion in industry costs, mainly on the time and money that goes into maintaining extensive paper logs. Let’s take a look at each of the mandate’s key components.

Required ELD Use

The ELD mandate will apply to all truck drivers who are required to keep records of duty statuses. Exceptions include:

  • Truck drivers operating vehicles built before the year 2000 and before;
  • Truck drivers who keep records of duty status in eight or fewer days out a total of 30 working days at a time;
  • Truck drivers in drive-away and tow-away operations.

Device Specifications

The mandate does not require that ELDs track a vehicle or truck driver in real time. Furthermore, they do not mandate that the device include driver-carrier communication capabilities.

What they must be able to do is automatically record:

  • Date;
  • Time;
  • Location;
  • Engine hours;
  • Vehicle miles;
  • Truck driver ID information.

The rule also requires that compliant devices be able to transfer the data stored on them during roadside inspections, whether it be “on-demand”, wireless, email, USB 2.0 or Bluetooth. The ELD must also be able to create a graph grid of daily status changes, whether on the units themselves or in printouts.

Supporting Documents

While fleets and truck drivers will no longer be required to keep paper logs, they must have supporting documents on hand, whether electronic or on paper, for every 24-hour period of on-duty time. They must also submit these supporting documents to their carrier within 13 days. The carrier must then hold on to the documents for six months.

The supporting documents include:

  • Bills of lading, itineraries or schedules;
  • Dispatch or trip records;
  • Expense receipts;
  • Electronic mobile communication records;
  • Payroll records, settlement sheets or similar documents.

Harassment of Truck Drivers

Back in 2012, a similar ELD mandate was tossed out in court over its lack of protections against truck driver harassment. In accordance with that court ruling, the FMCSA’s new rule makes it expressly illegal for motor carriers to use the devices to harass truck drivers.

In addition to making it illegal to harass their drivers, the rule also puts fines in place for doing so. Additionally, it outlines a system by which truck drivers can report harassment.

But what exactly is truck driver harassment by ELD? The rule defines ELD harassment as any action by a motor carrier toward a truck driver when the carrier “knew or should have known” said action would interrupt a driver’s off-duty time. It goes on to define harassment as “involving information available to the fleet through an ELD or used in combination with, but not separable from the ELD.

There’s Still Time

While all of these changes may seem like a lot, fortunately motor carriers have until the end of 2017 to get them implemented. While it is estimated there will be some increased cost associated with the mandate, perhaps efficiencies in other areas will make up for the up-front cost.

Still, as the winds continue to shift on Capitol Hill, could we see even this rule relegated to infinite legislative flux? Only time will tell.

A Primer On Truck Driver Disqualification

We recently went over what a truck driver needs to do in order to get qualify and start driving. But now we want to talk about what could potentially disqualify a truck driver.

As a professional truck driver, disqualification should be taken very seriously. Just one violation conviction in any type of vehicle could potentially disqualify you from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), at least for a year.

You love your job, and you want to be a safe driver. Here is what you need to know to keep from getting kicked out of the cab.

How You Get Disqualified

Any CMV operator can get disqualified from driving a CMV for certain offenses, even if these offenses happen in a passenger vehicle. For more specific information, see the FMCSRs section 383.51.

First, we want to take a look at major offenses. Whether you are in a non-CMV or CMV, you can be disqualified from operating a CMV if you have been convicted of any one of the following:

  • Being under the influence of alcohol;
  • Being under the influence of a controlled substance;
  • Refusing to submit to an alcohol or drug test if one is requested by a particular state or jurisdiction;
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident;
  • Have used a vehicle in such a way that results in a felony conviction;
  • Using a vehicle involving the distribution or dispensing of a controlled substance.

If you are already cleared to operate a CMV, but you commit any one of the following major offenses, you will be immediately disqualified:

  • Are found to have a blood alcohol concentration in excess of 0.04;
  • Driving a CMV when your CDL has been revoked, suspended, canceled or is expired;
  • Have caused a fatality as a result of negligent operation of a CMV.

Traffic Violations

You are also subject to disqualification if you are convicted of any combination of two or more serious traffic violations. These violations count whether they are incurred in a passenger vehicle or CMV.

Expect disqualification if you are convicted two or more times of:

  • Excessive speeding, which amounts to 15 miles per hour or more above the legally posted limit;
  • Driving recklessly or carelessly;
  • Improper or erratic lane changes;
  • Following too closely;
  • Causing a fatality in relation to violating state traffic laws.

If you are already cleared to operate a CMV, but you commit any combination of the following two violations, you will be disqualified from operating a CMV:

  • Operating a CMV without having a valid CLP or CDL;
  • Operating a CMV without the necessary class or endorsements needed for the specific vehicle group, passenger allotment, or cargo being transported;
  • Violating any law or ordinance related to distracted driving, using a handheld device, or texting while operating a CMV.

Out-of-Service Violations

You may be placed out of service by an enforcement officer for a specific period of time or until a specified problem has been rectified. This will usually happen during a roadside inspection or at a weigh station.

Out of service disqualifications range from 180 days to 5 years. Fines can range anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000. Operators of hazardous cargo can expect even greater penalties and fines.

The Disqualification Period

For the first conviction, you will be looking at a disqualification period of one year. The exception to this rule is if you have used a vehicle in the commission of a felony related to the distribution or dispensing of a controlled substance, which results in a lifetime disqualification.

If you are a transporter of hazardous materials, expect an even harsher disqualification period of three years. Convicted of anything a second time and you are looking at a lifetime disqualification. Your career as a truck driver will essentially be over.

So what’s the takeaway here? As long as you are sticking to the rules and operating your CMV to the best of your abilities, disqualification shouldn’t be an issue. Be smart, be safe, be qualified.

Get Your Truck Tires Ready For The Winter

If you are a commercial truck driver, you know that winter driving takes extra care, especially in the area of equipment. But have you given proper thought to your truck’s tires? Whether you are a fleet manager or owner-operator, the condition of your tires should be paramount as old man winter wakes from his slumber.

For large commercial tires, you’ll want to start your inspection in the fall. It will be easier for you to assess vehicle traction before the ice hits the road. Need a primer on what to do? Let us help.

The Basics

First, let’s start with tread depth. The legal tread limit for steer tires is 4/32” and 2/32” for all other tire positions. Does that mean you should be flirting with the legal limit? Absolutely not. Tires that no longer have significant tread depth will not have the same level of traction as new or retreaded tires.

Although you may be okay running rib tires in certain wheel positions during warmer weather, you will be taking some serious risks running those tires in the winter. Replace any old rib tires with new lug tires to dramatically improve drive tire traction under heavy snow, ice, and slushy conditions.

The best way to make sure you’re running the rubber that’s right for the winter (say that five times fast), you’ve got to be doing a proper and thorough inspection.

Prior to the onset of winter, make sure you check the following:

  • Measure the tread depth at specific locations around the full circumference of the tire.
  • Inspect for signs of any irregular wear.
  • If there are any punctures, repair them.
  • Double check the age of the casing.
  • Inspect the tire sidewalls for any signs of impact breaks or cracking and rotate, as necessary.

Now let’s take an in-depth look at each of these factors.

Tread Depth

Don’t make the mistake of measuring tread depth from any old random location on the tire, as this can be misleading. Instead, take tread depth measurements at each major groove between specific points on the tire.

Some tires come with stone ejectors at the bottom of each major groove. Don’t measure tread depth at the stone ejector, as doing so will give you an artificially low measurement. Also ensure your tread depth measurement device is properly calibrated.

Irregular Wear

Pinpointing irregular wear isn’t just about winter safety, but it also helps with fuel economy. Run your hand across the tread surface and make a visual inspection to ensure uniform wearing.

If you find any shoulder cuppings, depressed ribs, irregular lug wearing, or anything else, you may need to take a look at either vehicle alignment, under inflated tires or overloaded runs.

Tire Punctures

If you discover tire punctures that appear very severe, you may need to consider full repair or replacement. Otherwise, keep in mind that tires like to pick up puncturing objects.

When you are evaluating the tire for puncture wounds, make sure you look a full 360 degrees around the tire. If you want to make sure you minimize road service calls while maximizing for winter risk, check thoroughly for punctures.

Tire Casing Age

Depending on the fleet and driving application, most fleets will have their own proprietary targets where it comes to tire casing age. But whether it’s six years or eight, you’ve got to make sure you have a solid number based on your tires’ historical performance and retreadability.

Not sure how to identify your tire’s casing age? Check the last four digits of the DOT code located on the side of the tire. There’s your casing age.

Inspection and Rotation

When you are doing a fingertip diagnostic, check the tire sidewall for any noticeable undulations and visually check for signs of impact damage and ozone cracking. Once the inspection is done, check for signs of needed rotation.

In some delivery operations, the rear drive axle tires wear out much faster than front axle tires. One example of this is when trucks are frequently turning in city driving applications.

The bottom line? Thoroughly check your tires before the winter snows start to fall.

About QuickTSI

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