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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.

Things To Consider If You Want To Become An Owner-Operator, Part II: The Financial Assessment

So, you want to strike out on your own and become an owner-operator. In part one of our series, we took a look at all of the personal considerations you have to ponder before making that decision. In this week’s installment, we’re going to take a look at the second – and dare we say just as crucial – factor: The financial considerations.

Because the fact is while becoming a truck driver is a rewarding and potentially lucrative career, you’ve got to make sure the dollar signs are backing you up. Running your own business, no matter what it is, isn’t cheap. Making sure you’re financially prepared is the key determinant behind whether or not your business succeeds. Let’s take a closer look.

Financial Assessment

Let’s face it: The financial aspect of our existence impacts every part of our life, and the trucking profession is no different. How you manage your money – and how much of it you have – are critical components to running a successful business as an owner-operator.

To make sure you are realistically ready to move into full-fledged ownership, you’ve got to do a careful examination of your financial house. Is it in order?

Consider the following:

  • Budget: For most of us the word “budget” means how do we spend our last expendable $20 three days before payday, yet if you want to become an owner-operator, you’ve got to think about it in much bigger terms. Your budget includes your entire financial lifestyle – if you will. You need to have an excellent handle on all of your income, expenses, assets and liabilities before you make the decision to go out and spend six figures on a large commercial vehicle.
  • Credit: Your overall credit situation paints your financial picture. Just as your blood transfers oxygen around your body, your credit rating affects your access to capital. You will likely need loans for your equipment, but will your credit support it? Make sure you check your credit report for an inaccuracies and get all your bills paid up.
  • Debt: The fact is if you want to have access to credit, you’ve got to eliminate any excessive debt. Setting yourself up as an owner-operator will be very challenging if you’re carrying around a huge saddleback of excessive debt. Eliminate most of your credit card debt. By doing so, not only will you improve your credit outlook, but you will set yourself up for a pretty bottom line once you get started.
  • Emergency fund: Having an emergency or rainy day fund is wise no matter where you live or what industry you work in. What will you do if you have a major financial emergency or fall ill? You’ve got to have at least 3 to 6 months of living expenses at the ready at any given moment, and that is probably a low number. After all, how will you keep your trucking business afloat if you don’t even have enough money to cover your personal expenses?

  • Disability insurance: Although some may think this is a small matter that can easily be shelved, ensuring you have comprehensive disability insurance is very important. If you get sick or injure yourself, you will need cold hard cash for everyday expenses. Furthermore, how will you make your truck payment? Remember, 3 to 6 months of living expenses may not be enough, so what will you rely on once your emergency fund runs out?


  • Life insurance: Sure, it’s not easy to talk about, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking about it. If you have dependents or other financial commitments, you need to have life insurance in place to ensure those debts are paid in case the worst happens. Term life insurance is usually quite cheap and is far less expensive than signing up for credit life insurance on your truck loan.


Admittedly, there are other financial factors you must consider, but these are the most important. Making sure your financial house in order is absolutely necessary to succeeding as an owner-operator.

So what’s next, you ask? Join us in our next installment when we discuss the third consideration in striking out as an owner-operator: The equipment assessment.

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