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The Best Qualities of Top Trucking Companies

You want to work for a company that values you as an employee, especially in trucking. Read on for the best attributes that top trucking companies possess.

If you’re a trucker, you want to make sure that the company you work for is the best of the best. You’ll be spending a remarkable amount of time on the road. Your company will eventually come to feel more like a family than work group.

It’s important that you work with people you like. Likewise, you’ll want to be around people you can trust when something goes wrong.

But not all trucking companies operate in the same manner. If you’re a trucker, you’ll need to know that whoever you work for will have your back when things get rough.

It can be tough to figure out who really has your best interest at heart and who wants to make a buck off others’ hard work. You want to work for a company that values you as an employee, especially in trucking.

Here’s a quick checklist of things to keep in mind when you look at potential employers. Read on for the best attributes that top trucking companies possess.

Qualities to look for in top trucking companies

They’ll offer help with training and CDL certification: 

Before you can even put your front wheels on the open road, you’ll need to pass your CDL training. If you’re a novice trucker, this can be tougher than finding your first gig.

At most, proper CDL training can cost upward of $7,000. Finding the financing alone can inhibit people from a trucking career.

There’s an old saying that states it costs money to make money. But when certification is so expensive, it’s tempting to consider a new career path.

The training process can be tough! So find the trucking companies that will help you through the CDL process.

The best trucking companies won’t just help you get trained, they’ll pay for it! A quick search will tell you which of the top trucking companies are likely to help cover your training.

It’s going to take a while to become certified. Meanwhile, think of ways to be a resource for the company before you even begin your first haul.

They’re not cheap with gear or repairs:

Your truck will basically become your home. Accordingly, seek out trucking companies that won’t skimp out on repairs when necessary.

There are two key types of trucking companies out there:

  • Company driver (what you’re looking for)
  • Owner/operator

It can be tempting to set forth on the open road on your own. But if you’re an owner/operator, every little repair will have to come out of your own pocket. Be sure to find out who will be responsible for payment when it comes to repairs.

During the interview process, see if the company will let you tour the facility. Get a good idea of the rigs they’re using.

Ask questions like:

  • How often do your trucks need repairs?
  • What is the repair process like?
  • Does the company have a line of backup trucks if repairs take longer than expected?

These questions can help weed out the best trucking companies from those not worth your time.

There are a lot of small details to truck maintenance — make sure your company is taking care of you.

Be smart and be vigilant, the wrong company could put your life at risk.

They’ll watch for weather:

While repairs can be dicey territory, your biggest obstacle will be the environment.

Driving around and getting to see the country is no doubt one of the best aspects of a trucker’s life. While it can be relaxing and even eye-opening, you’ll always need to remain aware of the weather.

What types of weather conditions are you driving into? Is there any severe weather you’ll need to be aware of?

After all, you’re operating a massive piece of machinery capable of tremendous destruction You’ll need to know what to expect.

Having a team that you can trust means having a team that’s looking out for your safety. Trucking companies should always make sure drivers are safe when the weather turns dangerous. You’re the priority, not just the haul.

Your job is to get the haul in on time, their job is to keep you alive. Trucking companies can use a variety of resources to look into weather — many of which are free!

Sure, trucking companies should aim to make the most money. But the absolute best companies will always look out for their employees.

They’ll understand when you need time off:

Life as a trucker can be tough. You’re on the road nearly 24/7, away from friends and family.

Since you’re on the road all the time, you’ll sometimes miss big milestone events. There will be times where you may miss your home and family.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The right trucking company will make sure you have as much family time as possible.

When you look into trucking companies, try and get a sense for the corporate environment.

Is the office friendly? Does it feel isolating?

Work for a company that sees the value of you as a person, not just your value as a hard worker.

If a company places as much importance on you and your family as they do cargo, congratulations! You’ve already struck the difference between work and a proper career.

They’ll want you to make money (and not just want to make money off of you):

Of course, the entire purpose of a business is to make money. But you’ll want to work for trucking companies that see the value in your accomplishment, too.

When you’re a trucker, every single mile counts.

Look for a company that cares about your bottom line, as well as theirs. Look for trucking companies that offer bonuses, pay raises, and other ways to make extra cash. The little things will quickly add up.

Often times, the best trucking companies will offer bonuses for those who go above and beyond.

These can include bonuses for:

  • Extra distance
  • Getting a haul in on time
  • Weight of a load

Believe it or not, trucking is a career with plenty of opportunities to make extra money. Some companies even offer bonuses at the end of each year. Seems pretty tempting, doesn’t it?

You should also ask if they offer any sign-on bonuses. These little incentives are a great way to attract employees. For a list of trucking companies that offer bonuses, check here.

They offer great benefits:

Speaking of fantastic incentives!

Great trucking companies will often offer their truckers a slew of wonderful benefits.

While life on the road can take a toll on your mental health, it can also be rough on your physical health.

Look for companies that offer any and all the following benefits:

  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Prescription coverage
  • Life insurance (extremely important if you often travel to dangerous areas)
  • Retirement plans

Not only should trucking companies extend these benefits to you, but look for a company that will cover your family as well.

Aside from the bonuses, the benefits can be the best part of signing with one of the big trucking companies.

Many of their employees have been with the company a long time:

Longevity is the top thing to consider when looking into a new career, and trucking is no different. Try and find the trucking companies whose employees have been with them the longest.

You may find your head swimming with questions about pay, benefits, and general travel. But don’t forget to take the time to get a feel for the company itself.

Before or after your interview, take some time to get to know those in the office.

How long have they been with the company? What is the general morale like? Are the higher-ups easily accessible if an issue presents itself?

How a company treats their employees well is just as important as the product they offer. After all, why would you want to waste your time with a company that views you as just another number?

If employees have been with the company for quite some time, that’s a great sign. Generally, it means that a company does a fantastic job of taking care of their truckers.

Longevity is one of the most attractive qualities to look for in a company.

Interviewing for the perfect trucking job can feel a lot like dating. It takes time, patience, and a bit of luck. Therefore, the opinions of your potential coworkers will matter.

Often, if there’s a concern or problem with the company, people will be more than happy to let you know about it.

The life of a trucker isn’t always an easy one. That’s why you deserve nothing less than the best when finding trucking companies that value your work.

Let Quick Transport Solutions be your one-stop-shop for finding the best. We’ve got resources, job boards, and everything you need for the best life on the road.

 

Looking at the Best Truck Driving Jobs

Driving a truck is an exciting job that can make you a lot of money if you do it right. Here are the best truck driving jobs that are fun and well paying.

The truck driving industry can provide many lucrative opportunities, depending on your experience and the hauls you can take.

It’s also an industry with a substantial shortage of employees. In fact, in 2014, the American Truckers Association reported that the industry had 48,000 truck driving jobs that needed to be filled.

This is expected to hit 175,000 as truck drivers begin retiring and the demand for deliveries and shipping booms.

Not only is this an industry crying out for employees, but it’s also highly paid. Compensation has been increasing by 8% to 12% each year over the past few years. Compare that to wages for most industries which have barely moved recently.

However, some truck driving jobs are better than others, so we’ve researched some of the best.

The Truck Driving Jobs You Should Consider

While there are many truck driving jobs available, some have better pay and conditions than others. Here are the jobs to look out for:

Dry Van Haulers

This is the most common truck driving job if you’re an entry-level driver, and it will allow you to gain some experience in the industry. You’ll usually be driving a truck with a 53-foot trailer, and will handle:

  • Non-perishable food items
  • Retail goods
  • Medicine
  • Furniture
  • Flammable or hazardous materials
  • Chemicals

You may work for a huge, nationwide company, a smaller regional company, or a local business.

When working as a dry van hauler, you’ll back your truck up, wait for it to get loaded, and then drive on to your next destination. If your load isn’t ready, you’ll have to wait which can impact your schedule for the rest of the day. Often, there will be lumpers who will do the loading for you, although you may also need to help load and unload occasionally.

Driving a dry van hauler does mean that you don’t need to tarp and strap each load, which saves time and manual labor. Since the only shipments you’ll be hauling will fit within your dry van, you won’t need any special permits and can move easily from Point A to Point B.

Specialized dry van haulers go through Double/Triple trailer training so they can get an endorsement on their CDL. You’ll need to know how to assemble and hookup the units, and where the heaviest trailer should be placed. You’ll also need to be knowledgeable about stability and handling characteristics. This includes oscillatory sway, braking, sensory feedback and more.

You’ll also be tested on potential problems when it comes to traffic operations. In order to qualify for double trailer training, you’ll need to have six months of experience driving vehicles weighing more than 26,001 pounds.

If you want to drive triple trailers, you’ll need six months of driving a semitrailer or twin trailer before you can start training.

Tanker Hauls

Truck drivers willing to take tanker haul jobs will make more money than the average truck driver. This is because this is a more dangerous load compared to dry van hauls or flatbed loads. Liquids aren’t stable and will slosh around while you’re driving.

For this reason, you’ll need to get your CDL if you’re interested in tanker truck driving jobs. The CDL endorsement allows you to haul liquids and it’s a good investment for any truck driver.

The type of liquids you haul can vary from dairy products and water to chemicals, gas, and other hazardous materials.

If you get a hazmat endorsement, you can take hazardous materials like gas or chemical waste. Since these are more dangerous to drive with and require special skills, you can earn anywhere from $54,000 to $120,000.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rolled out new regulations in 2014. The FMSCA was concerned about commercial drivers carrying gaseous or liquid freight without having the proper training.

The new requirements require drivers to have a tanker endorsement on their CDL. As of March 2017, all states are now enforcing this regulation. You can take the Tanker Endorsement Knowledge Test at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and there are practice tests available online.

Ice Road Trucking

You may have learned about these types of truck driving jobs on the show “Ice Road Truckers” which is on the History channel. The show is based in Alaska and gives viewers a glimpse of the lives of several tough ice road truckers.

This is a job that pays well, with plenty of downtime. The ice road trucking season is only for a few months each year, while truckers earn between 75k and $120k each year.

It’s not all fun and games, and you can expect to work north of the Arctic Circle. That means temperatures which get as low as -40ºF, extremely hazardous conditions, white outs, and frequent storms.

The trucks need to be in excellent condition, and able to withstand rough terrain. The frigid conditions speed up the wear and tear on the trucks, as the temperatures can cause steel to snap.

Fractures in the ice, accidents, and white-outs can affect how fast you can travel. While this is a great way to make a lot of money, there’s often no phone reception and you’ll have to be extremely focussed while driving.

If you’ve got what it takes, you could have a very lucrative career, with months of the year where you only have to work if you want to.

You’ll need to take a CDL test which will determine whether you can do the job. You need to get at least 80% to pass and can take a practice test online before you take the real test.

You may want to drive similar routes (only safer) with a copilot to help you get used to the terrain so you can ease into the environment as you get started.

Dump Truck Driving

Dump Truck Drivers transport garbage, building materials, and more. You’ll need a Class B Commercial Driver’s License if you’re towing trailers which are less than 10,000 lbs. If you’re driving tractor trailer dump trucks, you’ll need to get a Class A CDL which will allow you to tow trailers which weigh more than 10,000 lbs.

While many truck driving jobs in small local companies will pay well, driving in the mining industry is hugely lucrative. Driving in coal mines is only for people who are extremely patient, as loading the coal needs to be done very carefully to ensure the mine isn’t disrupted which could cause a collapse.

Another option is hauling between different locations and unloading and loading materials on construction sites

OTR Truck Driver

Over the road truck drivers take jobs that involve long-haul driving. They travel from coast to coast over the interstate and need to be at least 21 years old.

These truck driving jobs are highly paid due to:

  • The amount of travel
  • The hours
  • The different road laws in each state
  • Tighter delivery schedules

OTR truck drivers are expected to keep up to date with new laws going into effect, policy changes within the industry, and the different laws in each area.

Walmart is a popular employer for OTR truck drivers and pays approximately $71,500 before bonuses.

Owner Operator

This means that you’ll own your own business. This can sometimes be stressful as you’re responsible for all expenses, filing the businesses taxes, and dealing with clients. But being your own boss can also be hugely rewarding.

By working as an owner operator, you may eventually choose to purchase another truck or two and hire some employees to work for you. If you think that you may one day get tired of always being on the road and would like to prepare for the future, working as an owner operator is a good option.

Independent truck drivers can make up to $200,000 annually. This will depend on:

  • The number of miles you drive
  • The type of deliveries you complete
  • Your customer satisfaction ratings
  • Your ability to market your business

Instructor

This is one of the best truck driving jobs for people who like to teach. You may find that you no longer want to be away from home as often as most truck drivers usually are. In this case, working for a trucking school can allow you to use your skills while staying in one location.

You won’t have to deal with dangerous roads, long hours, or time away from home. Instead, you’ll be working with students and passing on your experience and wisdom.

While these jobs typically won’t be as high-paying as some of the others on this list, you can definitely find jobs with excellent benefits and a comfortable salary. If you get your class A CDL, you’ll have a better chance of getting a job as an instructor.

As you can see, there is a range of fun, well-paying truck driving jobs available. This is a career that will allow you to travel and see the United States while earning a great income and potentially starting your own business.

Are you thinking about driving a truck? Which truck driving jobs appeal to you the most? Leave a comment below.

A Primer On Drop Decks, Materials And Preparing For The Future

Not all freight is the same size. That’s why when a truck is loading up on tall freight, it’s important that the trailers carrying it are short. This is where the ‘drop deck’ comes in.

Drop decks are a specific variant of flatbed or platform trailer. Going by either ‘single drop or ‘step decks’, these down-step flatbed or platforms offer up an additional 20 inches or more of vertical space to accommodate things like large steel or aluminum coils.

Drop decks are also used to haul things like:

  • Large mechanical gear
  • Outsized electrical gear
  • Farm equipment or other large agricultural materials
  • Aircraft engines
  • Heavy vehicle equipment parts

For extremely large or heavy loads, a ‘double drop’ offers up an even lower deck than the standard 20-inch clearance and provides an up-step just ahead of the rear tandem.

As an example, lower main decks of high-strength aluminum drop-deck trailers can carry more stacked racks than a regular flatbed might. Although they don’t always need to be composed of high-strength aluminum, they can also come in hybrid steel/aluminum varieties.

The purpose of a low main deck is primarily the lower center of gravity. Taller loads require a lower center of gravity for stability purposes, especially on windy mountain roads or in heavy winds.

The full depth of a flatbed’s understructure is designed to match the height of the truck’s fifth wheel; thus, it is tapered at the front end. This also takes into consideration that less strength is needed at the trailer’s front end.

You can also expect a drop deck’s underframe to likewise taper towards the rear, this time in an upward position. Not only is less strength needed in this position, it adds extra space for the taller cargo.

Because a drop deck has a low main deck, you can also expect to see smaller – though no less strong – wheels underpinning the trailer. Instead of the usual 22.5 inches, drop deck wheels generally come in between 17.5 and 19.5 inches. Still, because a drop deck has a high rear deck, 22.5 inch wheels can still be used, though they are the less-utilized option.

While drop decks are not needed for most freight – as they cannot carry such items as long pipes (unless risers are used) – they are especially useful in situations where dense cargo – such as lumber and shingles – need shipping. Such items can be carried on either the forward, main or rear deck of a double drop. The fact is, these trailer types offer a ton of versatility for certain cargo types.

The Materials Involved In Drop Deck Trailer Manufacturing

The main characteristic of a drop deck is in what is referred to as the “transition” area. The main difference in transition drop decks are the materials used in them. Steel is quite hard, and when gusseted well, it can take stresses up to a full 90-degree bend.

Aluminum is a softer metal and – as such – must build a radius beneath the drop deck to evenly distribute the weight on the upper and lower deck structures. This way the drop deck avoids specifically concentrated stress points and avoids cracking or potential failure while under load.

While aluminum is great for reducing trailer weight, it does – of course – need greater engineering to achieve the same strength as steel. As a result, an aluminum member is both thicker and taller. Expect an aluminum drop deck frame to be – on average – one inch taller than a comparable steel frame.

But what about a flatbed, you may be asking? On a regular flatbed, the taller frame can be accommodated under the trailer, so there’s no need to modify the deck height.

As you go about deciding what type of drop deck to choose, aluminum, steel or a hybrid version, it will depend on the specific operating requirements and financial considerations. Aluminum trailers weigh far less than steel, to the tune of anywhere from 1,100 to 1,400 pounds.

When you’re talking weight savings like those, the first things that come to mind are increased payload capacity and higher revenue numbers. Just make sure you consider that not all freight requires lightweight trailers. Depending on your application, steel or hybrid drop decks might be perfectly adequate for what you are trying to do.

Taking Usage Type Into Account

What makes steel the preferred drop deck and flatbed material for many fleets is the sheer pounding it can take. In some situations, specific materials must be designed for specific trailers.

Take wind turbines blades, generator nacelles and towers as examples. Due to the specialized design of these components, they can’t be loaded on just any old flatbed or drop deck. This is where steel comes in. Weight isn’t an issue here, especially considering these loads are often delivered under special permit.

Is your fleet operating in a geographical region where road salts or de-icing material is often used? If so, the geography of an area should impact your materials choice. Aluminum is generally more corrosion-resistant than steel, which is why you may find these variants used in the northeast and Midwest. Fleets in the Midwest also prefer hybrid trailers using steel beams buttressing aluminum decks and crossmembers. In the South, where there are no salt or de-icing issues, steel is more prevalent.

On van-type trailers, we are starting to see galvanized steel and special coatings applied to the trailer. For obvious reasons, these options are far more resistant to paint and corrosion.

When adding extra protection for steel trailers, not only are you avoiding general deterioration, but you are increasing its overall lifespan and potential resale value down the proverbial road

Assessing Cost Versus Value Over the Long Term

Cost considerations ascend from steel to hybrid combinations to aluminum varieties, although the large price gap between steel and aluminum is beginning to shrink. So while aluminum drop decks are more affordable than ever, you can still expect to pay thousands of dollars more for aluminum or hybrid steel aluminum combos.

Still, it’s important to remember you are offsetting the initial upfront cost on aluminum drop decks in their longer lifespan and greater resale value. These trailer types can retain up to 70 percent of their original value if you are the original owner trying to sell it.

The fact is, as aluminum drop decks continue to boost their market share – from 30 percent today to 40 percent five years from now – investing in them for our fleet isn’t such a bad idea.

Where Smart Trailers Come into Play

We recently looked at the new wave of smart trailers hitting the market. Whether you’re looking at sensor-enabled reefers or multi-compartment trailers with individualized temperature control, could we see such innovation where drop decks and flatbed trailers are concerned?

Certainly, one area where innovation is happening is around smart sensor and smart strapping technology. As flatbed companies continue to innovate, drop decks and other flatbed types are being built with sensors that can communicate with the truck driver should the load shift in an unexpected way.

The same holds for strapping and load bearing technology. Whether a fleet is using chains or straps to secure their cargo, newer drop deck and flatbed variants can use electronic control systems to measure and maintain cargo securement strength. They can also report on whether there are any weaknesses in the system.

The fact is, we may soon see a day where smart drop decks, flatbeds and trailers can nearly manage every aspect of cargo securement and delivery on their own, with as little involvement from the truck driver as possible.

Developing Common Operating Protocols and Preparing for the Future

No matter what happens in the drop deck, flatbed and trailer space, common protocols and OEM alignments will have to happen across the board. Whether we are talking about the materials used in constructing the trailers or the advanced technologies built into them, there’s a lot of work to be done on behalf of manufacturers, fleets and other industry players.

Ensuring these consistencies are met is another way to take care of the “sitting trailer” problem. By fully understanding what is needed, whether it be an aluminum drop deck or a sensor-laden steel hybrid flatbed, by synchronizing the trailer market across the board, fleets will be better able to ensure their trailers are on the road with as much up-time as possible.

Is your fleet preparing for the future? Furthermore, are you evaluating what you may need as shipping requirements change and federal mandates come and go. While something as simple as the kind of drop deck you use may not seem like much right now, these are the types of changes that the fleet of tomorrow must prepare for if they are to be ready to haul tomorrow’s loads.

For more information on trailers, trailer telematics, asset tracking and more, be sure to stop on by the QuickTSI blog on a regular basis. We bring you only the latest and greatest in trucking news and information.

Why Traffic Congestion Is Such A Problem For The Trucking Industry

The American Transportation Research Institute (ASTRI) has released a new report considering roadway congestion and the impact on trucking is truly staggering. Congestion on the roadways has turned into a major problem, not just for passenger car drivers, but for fleet owners alike.

We’re going to dig a little deeper into the report, but here are some preliminary numbers to make your eyes bulge out of their sockets:

  • In 2014 congestion cost the trucking industry $49.6 billion.
  • In 2015 congestions cost the trucking industry $63.4 billion.
  • There was a 3.8 percent increase in police-reported crashes and a 7.2 percent increase in fatalities, representing the largest year-over-year increase in nearly 50 years.
  • This comes on top of U.S. GDP growth that rang in at 2.59 percent over the reporting period.
  • E-commerce growth has shown tremendous growth, jumping to 14.6 percent over the reporting period.
  • Major weather impacts included the 2015 blizzard Juno, which had a major impact on shipments in the northeastern United States.

Obviously, something needs to be done as these numbers don’t appear to be dropping. But how did the ASTRI come to these numbers. In the end, it was a matter of simple math. The group collected data using multiple sources, from their own GPS collection database to the Federal Highway Administration’s Freight Analysis Framework. Other ASTRI studies completed in the past were also factored in.

The primary task of the research into 2016 numbers was to create a new methodology for facilitating congestion impacts on a year-over-year basis. More importantly, the numbers gleaned from the report went through a rigorous vetting process before they were released.

The report went through a specific peer review process overseen by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences. As the ASTRI’s GPS database has also grown, information has become more readily available for in-depth research.

Looking at the Raw Numbers

The valuation to operate a large commercial motor vehicle comes in around $63.70 per hour. When you multiply that number by 996 million hours whittled away while the vehicle waits in traffic delays, it isn’t hard to see where the total cost lies. Open your imagination for a moment and picture over 362,000 commercial trucks sitting idle for a full year.

These costs were distributed across 11.2 million registered commercial motor vehicles across the United States. This puts average congestion cost per truck at around $5,664. Of course, any single cost is dependent on a number of factors, including fleet operation, but using these numbers it isn’t difficult to extrapolate congestion delays by cross-referencing the number of miles driven annually with congestion delays on a per-truck basis.

Of course, there were some unsurprising aspects to the report, first of which is that the most problematic traffic problems occurred around dense urban clusters. Yet again, the most congested area for truck drivers was the part of the country called “Spaghetti Junction” near Atlanta.

Out of all the states, the two with the most severe problems were Florida and Texas. Combined, the two states cost the industry well over $5 billion in added traffic-related costs. Another non-surprise is that California came in third place. Indeed, many expected the Golden State to come in at the top of the list.

Yet, the differences were small. Of the top ten states that cost trucking the most, each one rang in at over $2 billion in costs to the industry.

State-By-State Analsysis

Here are the top ten states contributing the most to trucking congestion, and what their cost per mile is. Note, that these top ten are different from the Texas, Florida, California trifecta. These stats represent the raw cost-per-mile by region. What this shows is that although the congestion is concentrated, the problem is still widespread.

  1. District of Columbia: $1.175 million
  2. New Jersey: $483,970
  3. Maryland: $361,772
  4. Delaware: $353,997
  5. Connecticut: $333,380
  6. Utah: $314,512
  7. Florida: $288,695
  8. Massachusetts: $276,277
  9. Louisiana: $247,492
  10. New York: $228,923

When you look at the total congestion costs by state, it provides you with a much more detailed look at where the trucking industry is combating costs, and where gains are being made.

What also becomes apparent is that some states are generating data unrelated to what we’ve listed here. Take Ohio as one example. They topped the list of total cost increases, with a 171.3 percent increase, yet they didn’t make the top ten in overall congestion costs.

The reason? Ohio is on an infrastructure spending spree. The state put over 80 roadway projects on the map in 2015. The delays caused by these projects cost the trucking industry in over $450 million.

The same story can be told in Utah, where 13 of the Beehive State’s top 15 construction and infrastructure improvement projects are happening along the state’s National Highway System.

Still, that doesn’t mean every state experienced huge congestion increases. Some states, including Missouri and Mississippi saw congestion cost declines of 27.1 percent and 26.6 percent respectively.

Missouri specifically saw a large decrease due to the number of construction projects that came to a close, and the larger traffic capacity due to the Daniele Boone Bridge and Route 364 project completion and openings.

Yet, when you normalize the data across the entire network, your perspective goes national. After all, a full 91 percent of the total congestion costs in 2015 occurred in metropolitan areas. Of that total, $5.8 billion occurred outside of major metros, no small number itself.

The tristate New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area remained in its top spot ringing in nearly $4.6 billion in total congestion costs.

Data-Driven Increases

When it comes to congestion on a cost change basis, the first quarter of 2015 experienced the highest level of increase over the previous year. The good news? When you look at the total percentage change, the third quarter of 2015 saw the lowest level of cost increases.

But how can this be? How can you see a higher level of congestion, yet still record the lowest level of cost increases over the reporting period?

The main reason is due to July being the highest month for congestion in 2014. In 2015, those numbers didn’t reach the same point until March. Put simply, congestion costs fell through August before reaching their normal numbers in September. This resulted in the year-over-year increase we saw in July, even as higher congestion coupled with lower costs.

When you spread the total cost of congestion across the entire National Highway System network, fleet average industry costs per mile came in at a whopping $129,919 for 2015. This is where the 16.4 relative increase comes in. In 2014, that number was $111,578 per mile.

With fewer road segments contributing to the congestion, this shows that the major congestion problems once again come from a relatively small portion of the network. Think Texas, Florida, California, et al.

Trucking Is Uniquely Impacted

When it comes to traffic congestion, the trucking industry is uniquely impacted. The fact is, trucking companies rely on the country’s roadway network to get goods from one place to another.

Road congestion not only increases a fleet’s operating costs, but it also increases labor costs and wear and tear on the vehicles being used. Traffic congestion also puts stress on your truck drivers that wouldn’t otherwise be present.

Whether it be on-duty time, maintenance costs or an increased fuel burden traffic congestion anecdotally also contributes to the truck driver employment shortage. One must also consider inflationary effects that result from an inefficient supply chain. When pick-up and delivery schedules are impacted by a truck driver shortage, costs rise for everyone involved.

As the United States GDP continues to expand and job numbers show solid growth, the last thing the economy needs is a major efficiency problem disrupting the supply chain. If there is a silver lining here, it is that the congestion numbers seem to be following U.S. GDP growth, which continues to show strength.

The Final Conclusion

The fact is, we could dig even deeper into local and county-level congestion information. This report is huge and provides excellent insight into where the major problem areas are and how much this problem costs the industry. Feel free to view it yourself for all the raw data.

As we mentioned before, we are talking nearly 1 billion hours in lost time between 2014 and 2015. Furthermore, increased delay costs significantly outpaced national average declines. While some attribute this to continued GDP growth and a strong economy, there’s another side to this argument, and that’s one of infrastructure.

There’s a reason why infrastructure improvements have been on the minds of politicians as of late. Our nation’s roads, bridges and highways are in desperate need of repair and ensuring money is put to improving them, delays and congestion will continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future.

Where 2016 numbers come in is for next year’s report, but if nothing changes between now and then, expect to see more of the same, if not worse data points. If something isn’t done soon, we could see supply chain congestion having a continued negative impact on both the trucking industry and the economy for some time to come.

Could We See A Renaissance In Wide-Based Single Tires Thanks to GHG Phase 2?

We’ve talked about it before, and that’s the next round of greenhouse gas reduction rules, otherwise known as GHG Phase 2. The question is, could we see GHG Phase 2 result in fleets re-embracing wide-base single tires?

It’s quite likely the answer to that will be a resounding “Yes!” This is mainly due to their low-rolling-resistance and weight savings. Of course, weight reduction is generally not the only factor by which a truck maker will build credits under the new GHG Phase 2 rules, when evaluating the composition of the final product, it can certainly be factored in.

Consider that mounting wide-base single tires on an aluminum rim can cut down on a commercial motor vehicle’s gross vehicle weight ratio (GVWR) by up to 1,100 pounds and it isn’t difficult to see why fleets may be more inclined to option these tires when spec’ing a vehicle – or even purchasing them outright when replacement time comes.

Less About Fuel Savings and More About Credits

In the past, likely the last time we wrote about it a couple years ago, fuel savings was the primary motivating factor for fleets to make the switch to wide-base single tires. But now, thanks to a whole new crop of ultra-fuel-efficient duals, wide-based single savings can sometimes now come in on par with their super-efficient dual counterparts.

Still, the federal government – specifically the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – have put wide-base single tires quite high up on their list of credit-generating equipment.

When looked at through the lens of GHG Phase 2, the low-rolling-resistance and significant weight savings make them a desirable choice both for the agencies involved and fleets looking to decrease their carbon footprint while increasing fuel efficiency.

The “credits” we repeatedly are referring to involve OEMS gaining access to a specific set of credits for every vehicle they sell that meet a certain GHG Phase 2 requirement standard. Power unit manufacturers will be required to average their credits over time and in the end, meet a minimum overall score.

These credit requirements are specifically aimed at manufacturers, rather than end users. Manufacturers will be required to produce the trucks to standard, eliminating the need for buyers to spend time picking out list options to meet regulations.

Of course, not all regulatory change comes without headache. In this case, it will be for OEMs. For example: A fleet purchasing a new tractor will have to spec a particular engine because they will be the only ones offered. This won’t be true in other areas. A buyer could, for instance, remove aerodynamic improvements and special tires, which will harm an OEMs credit average.

Still, for those not choosing to remove the spec, tire manufacturers pushing out wide-based single tires have much to gain from focusing on the product.

Careful Product Planning Behind the Scenes

The fact is, product planners and manufacturers are looking very carefully at the new rules and what they may mean for both manufacturing and buying. Considering it takes around three years of planning and development to bring a new tire to market, there’s a lot to ponder on behalf of the tire manufacturers.

Adding to the complexity are different types of work these tires will be subjected to. There will be an expectation that these tires perform in:

  • Regional
  • Long haul
  • Urban
  • Vocational
  • OTR

As an example, a tire manufacturer will have to determine the type of rolling resistance needed for a dump truck, whereas that may not have been something they would have had to worry about before. In fact, demand for 445-type tires is already growing in the dump truck sector.

But what’s the difference? In these cases, fleets are looking for a lighter, far more durable tire that can be retreated may times over. While these fleet types haven’t traditionally looked at fuel efficiency as the number one factor when selecting a tire, it will now be a consideration – perhaps that’s not such a bad thing?

Wide-Based Singles and Retreading

We’ve talked before about the benefits of retreading, but in the case of wide-base singles, retreading isn’t as much as an imperative. While there are some preconceived notions as to why wide-based singles aren’t the greatest for retreads, these tires do have some physical limitations that prevent them going through multiple retreads.

The main reason for this is that wide-base tires operate far closer to their load-bearing capacity than do duals in a standard configuration. In most cases, wide-base tires will go through one or two retreads, which helps maximize the casing without over-extending it.

Still, if the casings are treated well and the tires are not operated underinflated, there’s no reason why multiple retreads for wide-base singles isn’t a feasible option. Definitely keep an eye on underinflation, as that is most often the problem with case integrity.

According to Michelin, “a tire that is run 10% underinflated will lose 10% tread wear and will come out of service quicker, while a tire that is 20% below the optimal air pressure is considered a flat tire.”

So, as you can see, proper inflation counts, especially where re-treaded single wide-based tires are concerned. The fact is, if you are running a tire 20% underinflated, you should probably consider scrapping it.

Consider how much these tires cost and it’s important to consider the mission-crippling and bottom-line impacting potential of ruining them by running with a flat. Fortunately, there are a number of systems out there that help you gauge and manage tire inflation.

In the case that a tire is punctured, there are puncture sealing technologies that can instantly seal nail-hole punctures up to a certain size and allow the truck to continue running until a repair facility has been reached.

These systems are especially important if your fleet is considering a proper retread program for the tires. The casing must remain protected, flats must be avoided – or mitigated – and inflation must be constantly monitored to ensure the tires stay at the proper pressure per OEM recommendation.

When a fleet isn’t practicing good tire management, they may be unsure as to a tire’s inflation history and may be hesitant to retread a single wide-base even once. That’s why a proper tire maintenance program is more important than ever, especially as GHG Phase 2 goes into effect.

Also consider that if one of these tires goes flat on the road, your truck driver is essentially stuck, as you can’t move. Running the flat will destroy your wide-single wheel, which, as you know, does not come cheap.

If you actively manage and have confidence in your tire management program, there’s no reason why your wide-based singles can’t go through multiple casings. It’s also a good idea to switch wheel positions. After the first retread, the drive tires can be moved back to the trailer position where they undergo less stress.

Staying in Compliance with GHG Phase 2

The whole reason we are talking about single wide-base tires is because of the GHG Phase 2 reduction rules and tires will play a very significant role in staying in compliance with those rules. Since the EPA will be providing OEMs with credits for equipping trucks with tires such as these, expect to see more of them on the road by the day.

The credits are designed around a complex series of tests and various calculations that manufacturers must perform to receive their credits. The test results will be displayed on a compliance label which will be placed on the door post of the vehicle.

The sticker itself will only indicate the low-rolling-resistance rating of the tire, as opposed to the type of tire being used. This is good news for fleets, as we we’ll explain in a moment.

Vehicle owners will be required to use the same type of tire throughout the entire lifespan of the vehicle they’ve been equipped on. Put another way, if a vehicle is equipped with low-rolling-resistance tires, they cannot switch to a non-low-rolling-resistance tire within the life of the vehicle.

If someone purchases the truck, the new owner will be required to use the same equipment that had been used prior to the vehicle’s purchase. While the EPA has stated they may make a few changes to this rule – such as removing the roof fairing requirement if it isn’t needed – the vehicle will need to be in compliance with whatever original equipment was used throughout its lifetime.

Digging a little deeper, what this means is that the EPA will not bother differentiating between whether the truck is equipped with single or dual tires. If the tires being used meet the original criteria, that’s all that matters. So, fleets should still be able to spec wide singles then switch them out for duels once trade time comes along.

In the end, switching to wide-base single tires will be just one cog in the wheel of staying within GHG Phase 2 regulations, but as it appears now, they certainly will be an appropriate one.

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