Author Archives: quicktsi

The Disruptive Changes Making Ripples Throughout Trucking

Everyone in trucking is wondering when the next big trend in trucking will upset the natural order of things. What will be the next big thing? How many disparate forces must come together to create a real shift within the industry?

While the newest, most technologically advanced tractor always get a moment of fame, by themselves they don’t command the headlines. Everyone and their brother had been shouting about autonomous trucks for a long time now. Yet you don’t hear it as much anymore. Why? Certainly, it isn’t because the move towards autonomy isn’t happening. No, it is because no one sees them as a true viable option any time soon.

State and federal regulations – or lack thereof – cloud the picture. There are enough advancements happening with regular trucks-with-drivers, let alone computers on eighteen wheels.

Others point to the fancy Tesla and Nikola electric big rigs. While these certainly are impressive, shiny, new objects, there still isn’t enough information regarding range, durability, industry adoption, and so much more.

It would appear driving cool, new, battery-powered tractors might seem like an appealing proposition to someone looking for a new job in a secure industry, but they are a long way off. Conventional and hybrid powertrain options will continue to dominate for many more years.

Monumental shifts within an industry must happen organically. They must build from the bottom, growing slowly, then usually taking off with a boom once players from both inside and outside the industry take note and themselves adjust to the change. While autonomous and electric commercial motor vehicles have plenty of appeal, they don’t appear to be disrupters in the immediate or short-term.

Every topic has had its day, from platooning to greater natural gas adoption. But none of those seem like the real disruptor; the new thing that will shift the earth within the industry. What advanced technology or new initiative will ripple throughout the industry and leave change within its wake?

Trucking Makes Its Way Through DC

There is no doubt that the nation is seeing economic growth. With a business-friendly climate taking hold, what is going on in Washington D.C.? As the mid-term elections approach, trucking advocacy organizations and even trucking companies themselves want some assurances no matter who is in power, an open flow of the nation’s supply chain must be maintained.

A lot of regulations have disappeared in the past 18 months. Regardless of the rhyme or reason, this has had an impact on the industry. Even as the ELD mandate added an entirely new layer of complication, the speed-limiter test is gone, as is the sleep apnea language – and more.

The nature of change facing the trucking industry now is far more manageable. What lies beyond the horizon?

Many would argue infrastructure would be the true gamechanger. If meaningful repair and retrofit of the nation’s roads and bridges were to happen, once and for all, it could open the floodgates of commerce and lead to even greater economic growth. Will it happen, is the question.

What the administration has proposed, what Congress would be okay with, what the American people want, what trucking advocacy groups want – it’s all a mishmash of conflicting interests and desires.

With the Trump administration currently renegotiating NAFTA, the trucking industry wonders how they will fare once the deal shakes out. Cross-border trucking trade with Mexico and Canada continues to be at some of the highest levels it has ever been. This leads to positive economic activity on both sides.

Used Tractor Market Recovers

The used truck market showed strength after a sluggish 2017, a year in which prices lagged and sales slowed across the sector. Fortunately, most dealers report market stabilization. While prices have not crept up by a whole lot, used tractors continue to be an appealing option for owner-operators and large companies looking to plug some holes in their fleet.

The used truck market is affected by niche needs. Vocational truck requirements typically fluctuate, but with big, urban centers growing faster than ever, regional and residential-use vehicles of a variety of types show growth. This is a hot market and prices are up

Over-the-road used tractors have not seen the same kind of selling price growth. There has been very little price fluctuation mainly because the trucking employment shortage has put a crimp on growth. Vocational employment has not seen the same kind of shortage that OTR employment rolls have.

When combined, the growth in vocational numbers and the plateau in OTR orders is still growth. The market for used tractors shows resilience. With economic models showing continued growth, if the employment bottleneck breaks, the trucking industry will need all the new or used tractors it can get.

Nearly Half-Over

Would you choke on your beverage if we told you that 2018 was nearly half-over? Time flies, there is no doubt about that. It feels like just yesterday, right here at the Quick TSI blog team, we were just talking about the trucking trends that would shape 2018. And now here we are, well into the year.

With the middle mark already on the horizon, what should the trucking industry look out for as we finish the year and move into 2019, just like that. If 2018 is anything to go by, there is room for optimism. With the economy growing, there has been an expectation of growth in the supply chain.

Fed by the need for more and more truck drivers, OEMs have backlogs on tractor deliveries. Even with the United States economy staying at baseline, industry-wide growth is expected. Beyond new companies and new truck drivers coming on board, many current operators see the logic and the imperative of updating their own equipment.

With half the year burned through, dealerships are reporting that many of their large customers have already put in their late-2018, early-2019 orders. The trucking industry appears bullish on future economic prospects. With consumer confidence higher and consumer spending showing no signs of danger, motor carriers are looking to expand.

Too Much Business?

Is there ever a problem of too much business? Nearly every business owner’s natural instinct is to say, “Of course not!” Bring on the business and you bring on the profit. Yet trucking companies are having a problem finding truck drivers to fill the cabs.

When an industry does not have the number of qualified employees it needs to keep up with demand, you reach a situation where too much business becomes a problem. The silver lining out of all this? You hear very few fleets reporting business being bad or trucking companies failing in higher numbers than usual.

The truck driver shortage continues to be the single factor limiting growth within the industry. If there were enough people lining up to drive the routes required, it is possible you could see it reflected in overall GDP numbers.

Trucking Goes Virtual

Have you ever heard of the virtual head office? It is essentially a model where decision-makers across the organization are fanned out in different locations but can react as quickly and effectively to unexpected situations as they could have were they all together in a physical office setting.

Executives, directors, managers, and others of a company’s choosing, dons a headset and views a virtual window where they can see other participants within the virtual “room” and interact with each other. Some companies are testing out virtual white boards, where a user in one physical location can use a digital pen and a flat surface – such as a wall – can carry out a full-scale presentation.

Imagine being able to clearly map out your proposal to dozens of people spread out across the network. Large trucking companies have already begun to employ this technology. How long will it be before we see full adoption?

Traditional Hierarchies Offer Stability

Traditional management structures less reliant on technology and innovation still dominate industries. Having people in place who specifically focus on corporate recruiting, project management, marketing, fleet sales and services, shop services, and more, ensures the success of the organization. “Do we have the right people in place?” is never a bad question to ask yourself, from an operational perspective, of course.

When you have people within your organization who are specialists, excelling within their chosen field, magic happens. Not only are your people happy, but so is the community in which they work.

Trucking companies, shipping companies, freight brokerages, stores, markets, and so much more – all these businesses stand at the core of our nation’s economy. People eat, put gas in their car, go on road trips, buy clothing, and so much more, all on the backs of our nation’s transportation network.

Traditional business models focus on better customer service, more effective retention strategies, and the best ways to manage disruption in an industry primed for change. How will individual motor carriers and advocacy organizations handle this change? One thing is for certain, goods must continue to flow, as the American consumer desires, so everyone will adapt.

What is the IFTA And Should We Raise Fuel Taxes?

From new truck drivers to experienced owner-operators, understanding the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and what it means for the industry is like navigating a maze. Generally, it is something left to back-office accountants or fleet managers.

Yet, this is an important aspect of how companies make money on the road. Prior to the IFTA, truck drivers and fleets were required to purchase a fuel permit at their port of entry, which inevitably led to lost time and additional route miles. It wasn’t long after that officials in three states agreed on a universal permit. Then, over the course of the 1990s, 48 states and 10 Canadian provinces became part of the IFTA.

The original intent was to unify the process so that tax authorities, no matter where they are from, could assess one permit-type. The taxes could then be distributed to states and localities purely based on the number of miles the truck driver drove in a particular jurisdiction.

How Does It Work?

The IFTA basically simplifies a complicated arrangement of fuel taxes collected amongst the states and provinces. It then distributes them accordingly.  After the initial 48 states joined, the number remains at 48, since two states are still not part of the program.

Oregon does not participate in the program, although they do have agreements written up with states who are in the program. Their system is designed to track where the fuel is used. This way companies that operate in the other states benefit from the program. What does this mean for truck drivers operating in Oregon? They should only purchase the fuel they are planning to use in the state as they enter the state.

The other state not officially on the program is Hawaii, who’s reasons for not being on the system should be obvious. Honestly, if you are driving a big rig in Hawaii, all we have to say to you is, well, enjoy the scenery!

There are some other intricacies that other states adhere to; mainly fuel “surcharge” states. For those states, which includes Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia, you will want to – much like Oregon – buy only the fuel you plan on using in the state once you enter the state.

The mechanics of the IFTA were developed by a non-profit organization tasked with helping come up with the agreement. The fact that so many people were questioning the IFTA and how the taxes were distributed were what led to its creation.

How the IFTA Increased Efficiency

The IFTA was created to foster efficiency when it comes to collecting fuel taxes from fleets. At the same time, however, motor carriers must be well aware of how the agreement works. Without that, additional costs could become a major problem.

Consider this: the taxes are divvied up based on the number of miles driven in each state. If a truck driver fuels up in New Mexico and then drives into Texas, the truck driver will receive the tax from New Mexico for each mile driven in New Mexico.

If you are a truck driver buying your fuel in Pittsburg and then going on through Ohio, your taxes will be disbursed accordingly, depending on the state. Issuing a single fuel tax license covers truck driver in states that operate within them. This eliminates fleets from having to purchase multiple permits for multi-state travel.

Are There Problems?

One of the most common problems associated with the IFTA is the confusion surrounding the different tax rates in each state. Consider that in Oklahoma, the tax rate is 38.4 cents per gallon, as opposed to Connecticut, where the tax is 79.3 cents per gallon.

Many question how the reports are calculated. Trucking companies should be aware that they are calculated by the quarter and any money owed or money due will be calculated by state. You will owe taxes at the end of the quarter, depending on the state.

The breakdown is based upon the state. So, if you buy fuel in Connecticut and run through the fuel in Burlington or Boston, you will receive a credit on your charges at the end of the quarter. While this program may seem obtuse at first, it is far better than wondering where you will end up at the end of the day where state taxes are concerned.

On the flipside, owner-operators that are working for a fleet are responsible for keeping track of their tax liabilities and ensuring they are paid. While the rules are confusing, the agreement itself streamlines the process by which state taxes are determined depending on the amount of time the trucker operates in said state.

Do Truckers Support Higher Taxes?

Truck drivers in the United States use quite a lot of fuel. In fact, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA) truckers and trucking companies use an average of 28 billion gallons on an annual basis.

Conventional wisdom would say that this is one industry that does not want to see a rise in federal fuel taxes. Consider that fleets and owner-operators already fork over 24.4 cents per gallon and it isn’t difficult to see where they might have a problem with that cost rising even higher. If you look at the official numbers, what truck drivers pay in fuel taxes is quite higher than what passenger car drivers pay.

It could be for this reason that the ATA’s support of a rise in the federal fuel tax comes as a surprise. The ATA has been pushing Congress to raise the fuel tax many times over the past decade. There is a critical reason why this is so.

Truck drivers depend on roads, bridges, and tunnels to get the job done. If the nation’s infrastructure is failing because of a lack of funding, the people and organizations that suffer the most are those that stand at the forefront of our supply chain.

What is the Problem?

There is an unfortunate fault that was written into the original legislation. Fuel taxes are not levied to inflation. Even when the fuel tax was last raised in 1993, it was inadequate at best. The level of funding put into the Highway Trust Fund has been sorely inadequate in keeping up with our nation’s infrastructure needs.

Some Highway Trust Fund advocacy groups have proposed the fund be buttressed and finally indexed to inflation, which would decrease negative revenue impacts to motor carriers and improve overall fuel efficiency. The real heart of the matter hearkens back to something we have discussed before: The current infrastructure proposal.

The trucking industry has announced that they prefer fuel taxes over converting the interstate highway system to a high level of toll roads. In an interesting twist, this is one area where the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the ATA actually agree. According to a combined analysis, manning the toll system employment and infrastructure would move money away from infrastructure upgrades.

Fortunately, there have been some plans floated to address the problem without significantly shocking the system. Let’s take a deeper look at the specifics of these proposals.

Different Fuel Tax Funding Plans

One of the plans floated has been to gradually increase the fuel tax by 20 cents per gallon. If you look at that over the next decade, it could raise nearly $335 billion. That looks like a big number, but it still doesn’t come close to covering the gap. Many trucking analysts put the sweet spot number at just a couple hundred-billion shy of a trillion dollars.

Could the trucking industry weather a fuel tax hike designed to raise nearly a trillion dollars, let alone over a quarter-billion? Proponents of the plan state that the trucking industry has survived regardless of the fluctuations in diesel prices, which leads some to say that all the idle speculation is premature.

With the economy in good shape and economists unsure of what the effect of a potential fuel tax hike would have on the trucking industry, lots of questions abound. With the industry constantly battling congested highways and roadways in utter decline, everybody who has a stake in the industry is hoping for beneficial change.

Will infrastructure spending from a hike in the fuel tax – as opposed to increased deficit spending – cure the infrastructure ills of our nation? At this point no one knows. There are some signs of inflation creeping up. When combined with the fed’s signs that they will increase interest rates, one can only wonder what the long-term industry effects will be.

No matter what, there is never a bad time to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. Investing in the health of our transportation system makes simple economic sense. Not only does it create jobs and a sense of security, but it raises the morale of a nation. Seeing our highways built up the way they should be; in a way that can compete with some of the most advanced countries of the world, is a net benefit for everyone involved. If an increase in the fuel tax needs to be the catalyst for that change, some say so be it.

Trucking Outlook Update From Pennsylvania Avenue To Main Street

With the first quarter of 2018 drawing to a close, there has been a lot of movement in the trucking industry, and there continues to be so. That’s why we wanted to take a moment to look at what is on the horizon for trucking, both from political moves to industry hiring practices and more. Hop in the cab, buckle up, and get ready because it’s going to be a wild ride of trucking news in today’s QuickTSI blog post.

The REST Act

First up is a big update coming out of Washington. A newly proposed bill has been put forth by Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) to allow tuckers a daily break of up to 3 consecutive hours. These breaks would not eat into the 14-hour on-duty allotment that the Hours of Service rule provides.

Rep. Babin has been no stranger to rules introduced aimed to change the way trucking gets done. Early last year he attached a rider to a house bill in an attempt to end the coming ELD mandate. That rider would go on to be removed in committee.

The new proposal was introduced within the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is titled the Responsible and Effective Standards for Truckers (REST) Act, or H.R. 5417. Rep. Babin released a statement after proposing the bill stating that the legislation would modernize hours of service regulations for truckers.

The details of the bill are clear. It specifically calls for a single off-duty rest period that would not be accounted towards the truck driver’s 14-hour on-duty allowance. It would essentially be off the books, also not extending the total, allowable drive time. Truck drivers would still need to log 10 consecutive hours off duty before the start of their next shift, however. Finally, if enacted, the bill would eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.

In a separate statement, Rep. Babin said that he was “proud to introduce the REST Act and give America’s truckers the options they need to safely operate under today’s rigid federal regulations.” He posited that the bill would be an important step in improving highway safety.

If passed, the REST Act would mandate the DOT to update Hours of Service to allow a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for up to 3 consecutive hours provided the driver is not on-duty. The Owner Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA), long a supporter of Rep. Babin’s attempts to change trucking regulations, quickly released a statement supporting the proposal. In their statement, the OOIDA referred to a lack of options for truck drivers to safely operate, calling today’s Hours of Service regulations “overly rigid.”

Now the question is, will the proposal see the light of day and come out of committee unscathed? With Rep. Babin’s previous attempts going nowhere, some say that there is little chance for this attempt to pass. Yet, many also agree that the Hours of Service rules need changing, having largely remained unchanged nearly a century. At this point, only time will tell where this latest attempt will go.

The FMCSA Seeks Public Comment

In other news from the Capitol, the FMCSA is asking for public comment on self-driving vehicle regulations. The government agency has come out saying that they may need to update, modify or eliminate regulations related to the safe introduction of autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, the agency has asked the National Transportation Systems Center – itself an offshoot of the DOT – to complete a preliminary review of federal regulations surrounding what they refer to as automated driving systems (ADS). They also want to know if current safety regulation will pose a roadblock to the testing and integration of ADS into the nation’s fleets.

At the same time, they are seeking comment on what the future impact of ADS and ADS-related regulations will be. They are specifically looking for comment from companies that are currently involved in the design, development, and testing of ADS-equipped commercial motor vehicles.

Their public notice asks for the following:

  • Specific scenarios or situations where entities expect automated driving systems to be tested and integrated into commercial motor vehicles, whether it be on public roads or on interstate highways for the purposes of interstate commerce.
  • Specific operational or design domains in which the systems in question will be tested and deployed, along with environmental details.
  • Specific recommended measures they believe are required to ensure the safety and protection of proprietary or confidential business information they intend to share with the agency.

The question now is what the agency plans to do with these comments. In the current administration’s anti-regulatory environment, some wonder whether there will be enough protections placed on public safety when autonomous vehicles are introduced. With recent reports of crashes involving autonomous vehicles, it is obvious that more work needs to be done to address concerns in this area.

Trucking companies themselves are in no hurry to employ the use of autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles any time soon. As a matter of fact, more pressing issues on their mind can be found a lot closer to home, and that is in the truck driver employment squeeze, which seems to get worse by the day.

As we have reported on in the past, fleets are having a harder time than ever trying to recruit and retain qualified truck drivers. Still, with the freight industry continuing to expand in response to a growing economy, motor carriers must get creative in their drive to woo the right people. Let’s take a closer look at their expansion plans and what they have in mind to ensure they attract the talent they need to keep our nation’s supply chain on the move.

Transportation Companies Announce Expansion Plans

In trucking employment news, an area that seems bereft of good headlines as trucker employment shortages abound, positive news can be found in the news that more than three-quarters of transportation companies expect to grow their workforce this year. The question remains: How successful will they be when the trucking employment shortage seems to grow more acute by the day?

The employment solutions company HireRight recently released its annual employment screening benchmark survey and the details surrounding motor carrier hiring were certainly interesting. Their survey shows that fleets are trying an array of different strategies to handle the truck driver employment shortage.

As a result, trucking companies revealed plans on making major investments into retention and training and development programs. For trucking companies that reported more than 2,500 employees, the percentage of respondents putting an emphasis on retention was even higher. Fleets also reported setting their sights on more trade events, extending orientation periods and utilizing experienced truckers as mentors and liaisons.

Still, the main problem lies in retirement. HireRight’s survey found that nearly a quarter of all truck drivers were exiting the industry because it was simply time to retire. Aiming their recruitment strategies at a younger, more diverse audience is key to finding the right people for the cab. Fleets are finding that the old recruiting methods are less effective than they used to be.

Referrals are still reported as one of the most effective ways to find fleet candidates. One of the big places where fleet recruiters are putting their energy is in social media, which rose by 42% in 2017. On the flipside, print media recruiting has continued a big decline. Even outreach through job fairs has seen a dip.

Trucking companies continue to look for innovative ways to find and keep the right people. Yet what truck drivers see on their paycheck cannot be discounted as a big motivating factor.

Truck Driver Pay Increases

As fleets compete for an ever-shrinking pool of qualified truck drivers, pay has been seeing a big bump, with it increasing by 18% in the past few years. The market is competitive and trucking companies are being forced to answer the call in a big way with large pay increases.

According to the American Trucking Associations Driver Compensation Study, the median salary for a truckload truck driver working an irregular route jumped by 15% to just over $53,000 per year, when compared to the ATA’s last survey, which covered pay for 2013. Truckers operating in private fleets have seen an even larger increase, with an 18% jump to around $86,000 annually.

The ATA announced that the latest survey included data from more than 100,000 truck drivers and shows that fleets are reacting to an increasingly tight market. The large survey pool showed that motor carriers are reacting to the tight employment market by adding dollars signs to their pay packages. Benefits packages and other incentive programs are also seeing a boost.

Part of the trucker pay bump can also be traced back to a marked increase in signing bonuses, which in some cases have jumped to $10,000 or more. These are huge numbers when compared to where the industry was only five years ago. Attractive 401(k) plans, paid leave, and comprehensive insurance plans also sweeten the pot.

Trucking Weigh Station Considerations Every Fleet Should Keep In Mind

Weigh stations. Every motor carrier, regardless of size, must deal with them. They are scattered across most major U.S. highways. They can also be found in Canada and around other parts of the globe. But why do trucks need to constantly be weighed? Furthermore, with the advancement of technological innovations in trucking, what should a trucking company consider if they intend on selecting a weigh station bypass system?

The Skinny on Weigh Stations

Truck weigh stations were initially developed for states to collect fuel taxes they were owed by commercial motor vehicle operators utilizing their roadways. Although that was the original intent, weigh stations are no longer used for this purpose. An international fuel tax agreement has negated that states purpose. Today, weigh stations are used to enforce weight restrictions and act as a point for inspections.

The federal weight restriction on commercial motor vehicles has been 80,000 pounds for quite a long time. For a tractor to exceed that restriction, it must have a special permit. Weigh stations can be pretty high-tech, utilizing either “weigh-in-motion” (WIM) technology or standard stop-and-weigh systems.

Weigh-in-motion tech allows truckers to drive over a scale that is built into the side of the road. The scale is generally set up a mile or so before the weigh station. Once the tractor drives over the scale, the weight of the vehicle, trucking company history, and other details will make an instant determination on whether that truck needs to actually stop at the weigh station or not.

Some truckers also use transponders in their vehicles, which allows them to skip the weigh station. If they get a green light on their transponder, they can move on. Red lights mean they must pull in and get checked. So, with technological advances growing unabated, what should a trucking company consider when they select a weigh station bypass system.

Why Weigh Station Bypass Systems Are So Important

Transporting freight from Point A to Point B often comes with delays, whether it be weather, road conditions, unexpected accidents, or other activity that could impact the delivery schedule. Weigh station bypass systems give you some measure of control and in some cases even provide you with the ability to control some of these factors.

What if you could significantly reduce the number of times you have to stop at a weigh station, or bypass toll payment booths, or get discounts for each time one of our tractors go through a payment booth? Consider that trucking companies who use weigh station bypass services save over $8.00 each time their vehicle bypasses a weigh station, not to mention the time saved not having to stop for five to ten minutes at a clip.

There are two types of weigh station bypass systems that fleets should consider when they evaluate whether to employ one. The first is a radio frequency (RFID) that utilizes a transponder mounted on the inside of the windshield that specifies the vehicle in use. The other is a type of system that utilizes Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) technologies. This system runs off a cellular system paired with in-cab, tablet and/or cell technologies.

Specific Considerations in Selecting Bypass System

Since each system operates slightly differently, what works well for one fleet may not work so well for another. Owner-operators also work with a unique set of rules and needs. The first thing to consider is that not all bypass technology platforms are created equal. The major differentiating factor between RFID and CMRS systems revolves around how the data is transmitted.

RFID systems can be relied upon to transmit and receive data with nearly 100% accuracy. Alternatively, CMRS signals, since they rely on cellular technology, could drop the signal or be negatively affected by weather, terrain, how many towers a service provider has in a particular area, or other factors.

If a truck is using a CMRS bypass system and loses connection, it could be that they do not connect to the bypass signal, thus negating the usefulness of the system. Signal latency is another problem with CMRS systems. Signal latency refers to transmission delays between cellular signals. RFID systems do not have latency issues because the radio signal is transmitted between truck and weigh station with in fractions of a second.

On the flipside, RFID systems require a lot of site infrastructure, which makes installing these systems expensive to build. Therefore, if a weigh station has less traffic or is in a rural area, it is likely that they may not offer RFID bypassing as an option. Where cellular reception is good, CMRS systems can geo-fence through a weigh station with no additional infrastructure required.

Evaluating Risk and Reward Depending on the System

One of the most obvious considerations when evaluating a weigh station bypass service provider should be the number of service locations in the network. While there is some variance in how this is measured, a little research should help a fleet make the proper decision.

First, it is important to look at the type of weigh station. Fixed open weigh stations are permanent facilities that regularly operate around the clock. Mobile stations are described as ones set up along a highway or other location by law enforcement. When making the determination, you’ll want to evaluate where your trucks operate in relation to where the fixed open weigh stations are. Since you cannot control where mobile sites pop up, there is no point to including them within your evaluation parameters.

Make sure to ask any vendors you are considering if they are claiming closed sites or mobile sites when they are pitching their product to you. If the weigh station is closed or you cannot determine where it will be from one point to the next, the evaluation is largely pointless.

Also consider what we were talking about early on, weigh-in-motion scales. WIMs are extremely reliable and better suited to communicating with RFID-based bypass systems. Matches are correct 99.9% of the time.

Operating with Safety Data in Mind

Consider that weigh station bypass systems do more than just save time and money. Comprehensive bypass systems also come with built-in reporting tools, which allow a fleet to improve safety across the operational spectrum. Some bypass systems report a motor carrier’s Inspection Selection System (ISS) score, which can yield big dividends when it comes to the number of times a truck is inspected or allowed to bypass a weigh station. These systems allow fleet managers to make real-time, data-driven decisions. Imagine being able to find out the specific types of inspections your vehicles are failing. You can even see if the inspections are done at a weigh station or on the roadside.

Having actionable information that can be utilized in real-time helps you quickly respond to changing needs and dramatically reshape how many times your truck is pulled over for an inspection. These tools are very useful for both large and small motor carriers.

Fleets can also use safety intelligence data gathered using these systems to negotiate lower insurance rates, realize improved maintenance outcomes, and create stronger relationships with law enforcement professionals. If you are going to invest in a weigh station bypass system, why not select one that does more than help you bypass the weigh station. In the age of integrated telematics, there is no reason why a fleet should not invest in a solution that includes more than just a simple bypass.

Paying Tolls and Finding Third-Party Solutions

RFID bypass systems also allow fleets to integrate electronic toll payment capabilities within the system. In some cases, a fleet can even integrate the weigh station transponder with the toll payment transponder. This prevents the need for different transponders for different tolling agencies.

You may think that this is unnecessary if your operation rarely must pay tolls, but just consider the current infrastructure plan being proposed. It relies on underwritten private investment paid through interstate highway tolls. State and local highway revenues have already dumped dramatically in the past 20 years, with revenues climbing more than 50 percent.

The question is, do you want to be caught unprepared if you wind up in a situation where tolls are suddenly something you must deal with, but you chose not to invest in a bypass solution where tolls could be quickly and easily paid electronically.

Time is money. If you don’t select a weigh station bypass system that saves you one or both, you are not doing yourself any favors. If one bypass alone saves over $8.00, a fleet with just a few hundred trucks can see savings in the six figures over the lifetime of their system.

When making your choice between CMRS and RFID, make sure to do your homework and find a solution that is right for your operation. The last thing you want to do is invest in a system that winds up doing you little-to-no favors over the long run. Be prepared for the future, no matter what happens.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Damaged Truck Bodies

When business is on fire and your vehicles and truck drivers are constantly on the go, it can be tempting to overlook simple damage to your tractor’s bodies. Yet, in doing so, you may be causing more harm than good over the long run.

It is no secret that keeping a large fleet in tip-top shape is not an easy proposition. Still, with new products and technologies arriving by the day, it should be easier than ever to ensure your fleet looks good and performs well, no matter the state of your business or bottom line. Sure, trucks don’t have it easy, with long hours on the road and dents and dings seeming to happen by the day, but these are more than simple nuisances.

Fleet managers rarely want to pull trucks out of the line to handle what they consider to be “cosmetic” issues, but simple dents, dings, rust or otherwise are about more than aesthetics. Not only do truck body malformations and simple damage impact factors like fuel economy, but they also damage your company’s reputation. Even more, if you allow too many trucks to suffer too many minor damages without addressing them, it will be much harder to fix them later. Compounded, these issues present a logistical nightmare.

Is it Difficult or Easy?

OEMs, body, and material paint suppliers are continually refining their methods and products to address truck body damage concerns. This means there should be no reason why fleet managers overlook truck body damage. There are lots of new and innovative ways to get it fixed.

On the other side, you will find many a fleet manager bemoaning the complex nature of advanced truck design, which uses new components and materials in ways that they had never been used before. With many different OEMs using proprietary composites and designs, fixing truck body issues can be more complicated than one thinks.

As one example, Daimler utilizes aluminum cabs while Navistar uses steel. Other OEMs use fiberglass panels and other composite materials. As a result, today’s fleet technicians need specialized sets of skills, especially if a motor carrier is using trucks from different OEMs.

Historically, metal has always been an easier material to work with, but today technicians need to deal with composites, plastics, and other materials of different shapes and forms. With a complex repair process seeming to get more complex by the day, another worry on fleet managers’ minds are the overall repair costs to keep truck bodies in good shape.

Simple items like glues and adhesives can run close to a hundred dollars and there are few ways to get around using them. Ensuring the truck body is repaired properly is about more than good looks, but is also about safety, fuel efficiency, and more. If a fleet repair technician does not carefully follow the repair procedures outlined, mistakes can be costly.

The Advanced Components Used in Truck Bodies

OEMs are not the only ones continually on the hunt for better materials and new, advanced building methods. Businesses that produce the materials used to repair commercial motor vehicles are also under pressure to be continually innovate within their space. What is one example of this needs for constant innovation?

One example could be the obvious decreased used of rivets in truck body manufacturing. While less rivets is good news for those painting the trucks, this manufacturing methods creates headaches for those repairing truck bodies. Plastics and composites require specific materials and procedures to be repaired.

One company has introduced repair procedures and processes that utilize seam sealers, foam installations and bonding adhesives. Now that rivets have gone the way of the DoDo Bird, the only way to repair or ready panels and joints is through the aforementioned products. The same company has also introduced a liquid-molten resin, which can be used in many different truck body repair applications, regardless of the material used to build the body.

In the ever-increasing rush to decrease truck weight and increase overall fuel efficiency, more unibody designs are hitting the streets by the day. With everyone on the learning curve, holding to the manual when it comes to repairing truck bodies has never been more important. Fortunately, a lot of these materials are in themselves lightweight and come with built-in cost advantages.

Composite sidewall materials are even being used on dry vans and trailer bodies. Plates are made from a high-density core bonded to a steel skin. Repair technicians find that not only are these panels more resistant to damage, but they are quick and easy to work with in a pinch. Instead of cutting out whole sections of the body to repair damage, a simple swapping out of the composite sidewall panel is all it takes to get the job done.

Large Fleets Partner Up

One of the ways the trucking industry is driving innovation in the space is through partnerships with established brands. Large trucking fleets are building relationships with the companies who manufacture truck body repair and sealing products. Working closely with those creating the products fleet technicians use carries inherent benefits to both the fleet and the company manufacturing the materials.

When a large motor carrier works closely with commercial vehicle repair material OEMs, their shops increase turnaround times and do a much better job repairing their truck bodies than they would have otherwise been able to do on their own. When a shop can turnaround minor damage within one day, fleets experience less downtime. Larger accidents require more work, but when the small jobs get off the block at a faster rate, the bottom line doesn’t suffer any negative impacts.

Yet even for larger accidents or damage repair work, advanced composite materials can decrease the downtime fleets suffer. They can be used to handle major body repairs in a faster time than would otherwise be possible using standard rivets or other material design and building techniques.

Painting Over Problems with New Materials

The fact is, every fleet wants to minimize the amount of downtime a tractor suffers. Every minute spent in the body shop is another minute the vehicle is not making money for the business. Now, OEMs are coming out with commercial grade products that allow touch-up paint jobs to be completed without committing the vehicle to days in the shop.

When a vehicle can be touched-up in a fleet maintenance facility rather than the paint booth, everyone wins. The fleet saves on time, labor and money. Paint touch-ups can also be completed using rollable and aerosol products. Even wheels can be brought back to tip-top shape using these materials.

New advances in quick body touch-ups also include such unexpected developments as using ultraviolet light to cure paints. Some of these technologies have been long in use in the passenger car market but are now being adapted for use in commercial motor vehicles.

Ultraviolet light can be used to quickly identify areas on the body that need to be touched up before the underlying structure becomes corroded. It is vitally important to ensure moisture does not contact metal, which allows corrosion to set in. Why not take care of a minor paint touch up before ignoring it creates the need for major body work?

There is even greater innovation in paint colors, which have often been a stumbling block for fleet repair technicians. With computer programs now available to complete paint matching, paint refinishing can now be completed using techniques that take things like natural fading, sunlight damage, and discoloration into account when formulating the correct color. With different players involved in the repair and refinishing of truck bodies continually refining their methods, what excuse do you have to not keep your fleet looking as good as it should be?

Looking Good for your Company’s Sake

Keeping these considerations in mind is as much about preventing downtime, increasing fuel efficiency, and keeping your shop technicians happy, it is also about burnishing your company’s reputation. What kind of impression do you think gets made if a potential client or customer sees your vehicles barreling down the road looking like they have seen better days?

Motor carriers are operating in very competitive environments, and that’s not just where finding new trucking clients are concerned. As the trucking employment squeeze seems to go on without end, finding experienced truck drivers to work for your company is as much about what you are offering as it is about how you look. Prospecting truckers are going to go with companies that demonstrate they care by maintaining a good-looking fleet. Showing you care about your equipment can also be construed as caring for your truck drivers.

The fact is, you don’t want to be losing potential recruits or business to competitors for the simple reason that they keep their trucks in better shape than you do. With all of the new materials available today, there should be no reason why any fleet should be operating vehicles that don’t look the part.