Western Truck Insurance Services has evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. Their mission is to provide high quality insurance and risk management by a staff dedicated to building the finest national truck insurance brokerage. They are committed to deliver exceptional value which results in more profits to our clients and companies.
If you’re a truck driver thinking of starting your own business, or if you just have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to start your own trucking company, you’ll want to proceed the right way. While there’s certainly much to be gained by having your own business, you’ll want to have the right info for starting a successful trucking company rather than a company that’s destined to be an expensive failure.
Make Sure You Have Quality Equipment
No matter how great of a business plan, name or location you have, you’ll need to have it all backed up with the right equipment as you learn how to run a trucking company. Once you’ve compiled a list of all the equipment your company will need, you’ve got to decide whether you’ll be better off renting it all or buying it outright. While buying equipment guarantees you’ll be the owner, you might prefer to lease equipment that’s bound to become obsolete in the next few years. There’s also the fact that you might not be in a financial position to buy what you need, especially if you hope to grow your trucking company as much and as soon as possible.
Identify Your Customer Base
After you’ve decided how to take care of your equipment needs, it’s time to turn your attention to finding customers to deliver to and work with. Load boards are most certainly a great place to start while getting your feet wet, but one of the main problems with these boards is that you’ll probably have to be the lowest bidder. There’s also the fact that you’ll find load boards are quite competitive, making it hard for a new business like yours to get a good foothold.
You’ll be better off splitting your time and focus between load boards and making sales calls to find customers on your own and start forging relationships and business connections that way. Once you’ve managed to prove yourself to customers through sales calls and solid customer service, you could find you no longer need to even think about looking at load boards.
Learn How to Bid and Handle Common Expenses
When it comes to biding, you’ve got to learn how to find the balance between offering customers a good deal and actually making money. This is likely to take some getting used to, so give yourself plenty of time when you’re first getting started.
To help strike an equilibrium, get to know your expenses. For instance, how much do common truck repairs cost? If there are any trucks that will soon need maintenance, how much do you think that will cost? What do fuel prices look like right now, and how might they change in the future? You might also have to charge more depending on where you deliver and how difficult it is to get to your final destination. Always have enough for unexpected emergencies, because there are bound to be more than a few when you least expect or want them.
Don’t Forget About the Back Office
What happens in the background of your business operation is just as vital as what’s going on in the foreground. If your trucking company has more than one employee, you might need office space to keep things running smoothly. If so, decide the size of office you’ll need to accommodate the size of your business, the office equipment you’ll require and what needs to take place in the office.
Should your business grow large enough, you may have to bring on additional employees, like a secretary. Be sure to account for this in your business plan as well as your expenses. In addition to paying a salary, you also have to think about taxes, benefits and the like. Even if you’re just getting started as a single owner-operator trucking company, it won’t hurt to do some research to see what you’ll be expected to handle should you decide to expand.
Anticipate Cash Flow Problems
Even when business is booming, there’s always a chance your business will bust in the future. Rather than wait for that to happen, go ahead and start planning for it now. Something else to consider is the fact that just because you deliver something today doesn’t mean you’ll get paid for it anytime soon; you might have to wait as many as 90 days to receive payment, which can throw your cash flow off track.
Look into freight factoring as a way to keep cash flowing in while still allowing your customers to pay in 40, 60 or more days. This gives everyone the best of both worlds without ruffling any feathers.
There’s a lot to being the owner of any kind of business, but there are special considerations to make when it comes to owning a truck company. Be sure to keep the above info in mind as you get started.
Getting a loan on a commercial vehicle can be a complex process. Lenders tend to be more lenient with semi truck loans, because the vehicle possesses high collateral value and is typically only used for business purposes. However, getting semi truck financing isn’t going to be a walk in the park either. You will need to show the commercial lender that you can make loan payments. Here are six things you can do to improve your chances of getting commercial truck financing:
1. Have a registered business.
Most states require an LLC or corporation to register through the Secretary of State. If you are a sole proprietor, you should be able to show business income through your taxes. As a new sole proprietor, you may want to get an employer identification number (EIN) or have a doing business as (DBA) name. Your lender may also want you to have a CDL, a Motor Carrier (MC) number and USDOT number. Some lenders want to see some experience, at least two years, in the industry.
2. Work on your personal credit.
For new owner operator financing, you may need to have a personal credit score of 600 or more to qualify for financing. If you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you may have a little more leeway. As a sole proprietor, you are probably relying more on your personal credit than your business credit. The higher your score, the better chances you have to qualify for a loan and for a lower down payment.
If you have a lower credit score, you may want to find a co-signer or work on your credit score before applying for a loan. If you are behind on child support, have had a recent bankruptcy or repossession or have a tax lien, the lender may refuse financing. Take care of your finances before applying for a commercial loan.
3. Find a good truck to buy.
The lender may have specific requirements about the truck, for example, it may need to be less than 10 years old, or have less than 700k miles on it. This is to protect their investment as well as your business. Older trucks break down more frequently. The collateral value isn’t as high. However, provided the truck is in good condition, it’s easier today to purchase the truck through a private party or even an auction. Generally, you will need this information
Make, model, year and mileage
Pictures of the truck
Specifications of the sale, the seller, new or used truck, etc.
Check with the lender for everything you need to finalize the purchase
4. You will need money for a down payment and cash reserves.
Most of the time, you won’t qualify for 100 percent financing. Having a down payment of 10 to 30 percent will reduce your loan payment quite a bit and make the lender feel more confident in your ability to repay the loan. Your lender may also want to see a cash reserve of one to three months to cover repairs, insurance and expenses in case you have a slow month. It makes good business sense to have a little extra in the bank. You never know when you may have to wait for payment or have to take time off because you have the flu. Unexpected things can often upset your finances more than you realize.
5. Have insurance lined up.
Generally, you will need insurance to cover the truck before lender releases the money to pay for the truck. The type of insurance your business requires will depend on many factors, as does the cost of insurance. Make sure you have a policy lined up while you’re working with lenders.
6. Work with your lender.
Traditionally, owner operator loans were only available through financial institutions, such as banks or credit unions, but there are many more lenders in the marketplace today. Many online lenders have almost instant credit decisions, allowing you to have more options for commercial truck loans.
You may want to consider each company carefully before applying. First, lenders may have different qualification requirements. They may also specialize in different types of loans or only work with certain leases. Every lease application can affect your personal credit. Do your research first. Don’t just take the first approval you get. Read all the terms and conditions of the loan application before signing.
Enjoy Financial Freedom
Owning any type of business doesn’t mean that you will be free from responsibilities. You may not have a boss looking over your shoulder any longer, but your stakeholders will be expecting you to make payments on time. However, when you purchase your own new or used semi truck, you are on track to having financial independence. It will take hard work, but you can do it. Just make sure you take the time to understand the requirements of owning your own truck.
The trucking industry is booming in the United States. Being a truck driver has a lot of rewards, but it can also be quite stressful and overwhelming in the first few months as you learn how to do everything that is required of you. Even experienced drivers hit curbs or miss a turn, but they know how to avoid turning that small mistake into a larger one. We’d like to offer these new truck driver tips to help you make the most of your new career. Here are some of the most common rookie truck driver mistakes:
One of the most common rookie truck driver mistakes is neglecting your paperwork, mismanaging your time and not handling money wisely. When you are unorganized, it leads to stress and frustration which can definitely affect your driving.
Know the rules that affect your hours of service. Plan for rest stops and breaks before you get out on the road.
Make sure you understand the regulations on your current load.
Do your paperwork as you go. Don’t try to remember it at the end of the week. Spending 15 to 20 minutes every day handling the paperwork ensures you get paid on time and avoid hefty fines for not having an up-to-date logbook.
Track expenses. Save receipts. Keep your cab clean and tidy. Have all paperwork for the current load at the ready to provide it when it’s needed.
You’d be surprised how many truck drivers get lost on their first few runs. When you’re in the cab, it’s easy to miss exit signs or signs that alert you to a truck-only route. You have a lot on your plate, but if you do take a wrong turn, the worst thing you can do is to panic. The mistake isn’t necessarily in getting lost, but in how you handle finding the right route. Instead, stay calm and be prepared to get out of the situation.
Find a safe place to pull over
Check the GPS and make sure the address is entered correctly
Call the company and ask for directions once you can describe where you are
Get on the CB radio and ask for help
Avoid getting lost by not relying on just the navigation system to get you where you need to go. Google Maps won’t always tell you about truck-restricted routes or low bridges. Use a motor carriers’ road atlas to plan your route in advance. As a driver, you have to be efficient while considering practical routes for your larger vehicle.
Not Taking Care of Yourself
As with any job, you may have to work when you’re tired of stressed, but as a truck driver, you are handling tons of equipment and product on the road. Dispatchers, family issues, law enforcement, fatigue and weather changes can all lead to catastrophes with devastating results if you lose your cool. You have to take care of yourself by taking breaks and sleeping adequately on those breaks. No assignment is worth an accident.
Take care of your health with these newbie truck driver tips
Don’t abuse caffeine or energy drinks. In a pinch, they can keep you going for a little while, but when the effects wear off, you will figuratively crash.
When you take breaks, use them to take care of yourself. Stretch your legs by taking a walk. Take a shower. Get sleep. As a driver, you are expected to keep your blood pressure within healthy guidelines. You can’t do that without taking care of yourself.
Eat well. Shop at the grocery store for fresh fruit and healthy snacks to pack in the cab with you. When you do eat at a restaurant, choose lean meats that are broiled or grilled, not fried or sautéed. Ask for salads and vegetables instead of French fries and starches. Better nutrition makes you feel better and more alert.
Face it, you may get homesick. Have a way to deal with those feelings. Ask your family to make videos that help you keep up with what your kids are doing. Call your friends and family when you have time. Focus on your goals, much like an athlete does when they’re training. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
Not Asking for Help
So many people avoid using the resources available to them, but as a truck driver, you need to know when to ask for assistance and use the information that your company is giving you. The safety department in the organization is not an enemy. The safety officers are just as concerned with your success as you are. Your dispatcher may not be happy when you are running late, but it’s better to keep them informed than to try and pull the wool over their eyes. Ask for help when you need it. Always thank people for information and advice, even if you disagree. You never know when you may run into that person again. Be gracious and leave a good impression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle accidents consistently rank in the top three causes of death each year for every age group. Many people are scared of flying, but the real danger in today’s world is actually driving or riding in a car. Defensive driving isn’t just a class that people take after they get a ticket. Defensive driving tactics are ways to prevent accidents from occurring. When you consider that 1 in 4 fatal work injuries involves a vehicle accident, you can see why commercial vehicle defense driving is so important to your business.
One key element in defensive truck driving is to be aware. Distracted driving is one of the biggest reasons people get into accidents. Commercial vehicles are often much heavier and larger than standard vehicles. It takes more control and more time to handle your vehicle. You cannot control what any other driver does. But you can be defensive in your own driving.
Before you ever get into your vehicle, you should make certain that it is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit with you, medical supplies, water, a blanket and other items that are important to your survival if you are in an accident. Know the conditions of the places where you’ll be driving. It’s much different driving through a sand storm in Arizona than in the mountains in Kentucky. But don’t stop there.
On the road, stay alert:
Make note of safe areas where you escape potential accidents
When you spot dangerous behaviors of another driver, remove yourself from their vicinity. Change lanes, slow down, speed up and move around them if it’s safe.
Use a technique known as “high eyes driving.” Don’t fixate on the car in front of you. Look at the road horizon to know what’s up ahead. This will give you ample time to react if there is an emergency ahead of you.
Minimize lane changes. A driver who stays in his or her own lane at a steady speed will rarely experience a rear end accident. The most common accidents occur when vehicles change lanes.
Avoid Road Rage
Even calm and reasonable people can get frustrated on the road. If you’re worried about meeting deadlines or are subjected to another driver’s bad driving, it can make you uneasy. Don’t give in to temptation and try to teach the other driver a lesson when you see someone behaving dangerously on the road. When you get stressed, put in music to help you relax. Contact your dispatcher to explain the situation. Remember your limitations. It’s better to be a little late than to get in an accident or even get a traffic ticket. Stay calm and don’t give in to your emotions when you’re on the road.
Create Space Around You
When driving at high speeds, you need to give other drivers plenty of space. Don’t tailgate other drivers. In bad weather, make sure to give extra room between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Slow down when a driver cuts in front of you. It might be frustrating, but it’s better than rear-ending another car.
Keep Other Vehicles in Your Sight
As a commercial vehicle, you are probably very visible to other drivers. However, the same cannot be said of them. Install mirrors on your vehicle to avoid blind spots. Not every driver on the road realizes that you may not be able to see them. Don’t make sudden lane changes or exit without signaling. You have to drive defensively to avoid accidents.
Know When and How to Swerve
Sometimes, you have to make quick judgements to avoid a deer in the road or run into another car. Understand that you may have to kill an animal to prevent humans from being injured. Know how to handle the vehicle if you do have to swerve to avoid an accident. When you swerve, you need to correct your vehicle to avoid ending up on the side of the road. Take a defensive driving class that lets you practice handling your vehicle under hazardous conditions.
Avoid Driving Impairments
As a commercial driver, you are aware that drinking or using illicit drugs will get your licensed revoked. However, there are other impairments you may not think about. Some over-the-counter medicines can cause drowsiness, such as antihistamines, cold and flu medications and even antidiarrheals. Combining some medications can also cause your driving to be impaired. Don’t do any activity that takes your eyes and ears away from the road. Eating, drinking, talking on the phone and changing the radio station are considered distractions. And focus on the road when you see an accident. Turning your head away to glance at the damage can leave you vulnerable to another accident.
Defensive driving is really about focusing on the road and other drivers while you’re in the vehicle. Something all drivers should be doing anyway. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on them. You can only control your own vehicle.
High blood pressure is a common condition that many Americans deal with. Blood pressure is the measure of the amount of blood pumped by your heart and the amount of resistance in your arteries. As you pump more blood through narrower arteries, blood pressure increases.
Considered a silent disease, as there may be no symptoms of the condition, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems such as heart attack and stroke. Your arteries become weakened due to the constant pressure of blood flowing through them, leading to kidney failure, damage to the blood vessels in the eyes and fluid backup in the lungs.
Blood Pressure and Your DOT Physical
Truck drivers are required to have blood pressure under 140/90. The medical examiner electronically transmits the result of your physical to the DOT. Instead of stressing over your blood pressure before a physical, it’s best to address and find ways to keep it lower, not only for your livelihood but for your overall health.
Drivers with blood pressure over 140/90 can still get certified to drive, but the certification will only be for 1 year or less depending on the level of hypertension. To keep your certification, your blood pressure will have to be below 140/90 or you will be disqualified to drive. You can lower your blood pressure with medication, through lifestyle changes or both.
Here are some short-term ways to reduce your blood pressure:
Drink water instead of soda, coffee and juice. Water lowers your sodium levels, which contribute to high blood pressure. Coffee is known to increase blood pressure.
Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
Increase your intake of potassium. Bananas, oranges, carrots and leafy greens are packed with potassium.
Reduce your stress. Meditate. Take deep breaths.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – or DASH diet can give you some good guidelines. Reduce the amount of salt you eat. Beet juice has been shown to measurably reduce blood pressure.
Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation increases your risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
While these steps may lower your blood pressure for DOT physical, you still have to address the long-term effects of your career. Sitting in one place for long periods of time can negatively affect your health, not only increasing your risk of high blood pressure but also diabetes and cancer. Whether or you not you are diagnosed with hypertension at your DOT physical, you have to take steps to take care of your health. You’ll be more alert, faster and more efficient.
Exercise and lose weight
Cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart. This lowers your blood pressure because it takes less effort to pump blood when your heart is stronger. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination each week. That’s 30 minutes each day, give or take a couple.
Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, your heart works harder to pump blood through the arteries. Even a modest loss of 5 to 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
It’s not easy to eat healthy on the road unless you plan ahead. Pack your cooler with fresh meals made with lean cuts of meat and lots of vegetables. Keep fruit and fresh veggies on hand for snacking.
When you do eat fast-food or at a diner, choose grilled or baked fish and chicken over fried. Go for the salad bar and load up on spinach, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. Opt for a low-cal salad dressing. Skip the French fries and get broccoli or roasted potatoes.
Drink water. Making sure you are hydrated keeps your hypertension under control. It also benefits every system in your body. Watch your caffeine intake. Limit sugary drinks for your heart’s sake.
When you smoke, it temporarily raises your blood pressure putting stress on your cardiovascular system. Premature deaths caused by smoking are the most preventable death in the United States. It only takes seven days for nicotine to leave your system when you stop smoking. You can deal with the physical aspect of quitting. To deal with the psychological triggers, such as boredom or smoking after dinner, you will need to make a plan to replace smoking with something else. You can do it.
Get enough sleep
Regular, deep sleep plays a part in lowering your blood pressure. Eating healthier and exercise are conducive to sleep, but if you’re struggling with sleep, try blocking out light and sound or investing in a better mattress. Use your downtime to take care of yourself. You deserve it.
Limit your alcohol intake
Even though you may not have many opportunities to drink because of your job, when you’re off-the-clock, you shouldn’t binge on alcohol. One drinking session can increase your blood pressure temporarily, putting unnecessary stress on your heart. Repeated binge drinking is a precursor to hypertension.
During cold conditions, your business’s equipment is stressed. It’s not just your heating system, but the electrical, the windows and plumbing can all be affected by the cold. Use this checklist to prepare your business for brutal winter conditions.
When your business faces extreme temperatures, winter weather preparedness is very important. Preparing for winter season includes taking care of your building and your employees:
Have a chain of accountability within your organization. Ensure maintenance, building owners and business owners are working efficiently to get the building ready. You don’t want to duplicate efforts, but you need to make sure everything is getting done.
Inspect the building, making sure windows, doors and dampers are closed. Caulk all openings where cold air can enter the building. Have snow and ice removal arranged before you need it. Schedule a maintenance check during a storm or cold weather to keep everything running or at the least, to know when you’ll need to call in repairs.
Inspect the roof for leaks and debris. Make repairs when necessary.
Give your employees emergency contact information for snow removal, heating repair, utilities and road conditions. Have a plan for employees who cannot get out in bad weather conditions to keep everyone safe. Get your employees to sign up for weather alerts, either by text or through another app.
Expect flooding. Keep vulnerable equipment and stock out of harm’s way. Either move it to a location where water can’t reach it, or move it up on raisers.
Keep cold-weather gear on hand for employees, such as flashlights, blankets, gloves, hats, snow shovels and ice-melt chemicals. Make sure everyone knows where it’s stored and that it’s there for their use.
Make sure you have a list of client and employee contact information somewhere other than your computer, phone or electronic device. If the power goes down, you may not have access to that information.
Consider leaving a trickle of water running to keep constant movement in the pipes to prevent freezing. Know where the water shutoff to the building is. Turn off the water if the pipes do freeze, to prevent a leak when the water comes back on.
If the building does remain empty for a long period of time, have someone assigned who can check indoor temperatures and other issues.
Keeping Your Heating System Operating Efficiently
The heating system not only keeps your employees comfortable during the cold, but it also protects your inventory, equipment and plumbing from freezing. While some of these ideas need to be in place before a cold snap, preparing for winter season will keep your building from being affected in the cold:
Insulate all pipes. Inspect the sprinkler system and plumbing annually. Replace damaged insulation when necessary.
Inspect outside dampers. Clear all vents from snow and ice accumulation quickly.
Your heating unit requires power to operate. Have generators on standby to keep equipment operating through any conditions. At the very least, have non-electrical portable heaters for outages.
Be prepared to supply back-up power to heat tracing systems, if you have it.
An ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure, in this case. Protecting your pipes before extreme cold temperatures will prevent many problems, saving you the cost of repairs and downtime.
Protect Electrical Equipment
Cold, freezing conditions can cause power outages and downed wires. When electricity is restored, the sudden surge of power can destroy modern technology that is sensitive to power surges. When cold weather is coming in:
Unplug equipment, isolating it from the source of power, protecting it from power surges. If the equipment must stay running, have a backup plan. Install surge protectors, batteries or another power source.
If you plan on relying on generators during a power outage, test them before you need them. Have a plan to refuel generators if the outage is extended.
When power is restored, plug in devices and turn them on one at a time.
Reminders for Good Measure
Check your business insurance policies to know what is covered and what isn’t. Know your biggest risks and find ways to minimize loss instead of relying on insurance. Keep the policy number and claim information handy, to know who to call when damage occurs.
Take pictures of the building before the storm. This will help you identify damage that occurs during a storm.
Have a procedure for handling damaged equipment and inventory.
Take pictures of damage. Call the insurance adjuster ASAP.
Have a contingency plan in place if the worse happens. Know who to call for restoration. Have a place to set up temporary shop if a disaster strikes your building. Although you may be limited if your business is a restaurant or retail shop, you should at least stay in touch with customers and clients to limit the impact.
The winter temperatures and elements are hard on any vehicle. The extra moisture in the air and on the roads wreaks havoc on every system in your rig. When water gets into the air brake system, it can cause corrosion and freezing, taking your rig out of commission for hours, maybe even days. The salt and chemicals used to keep roads free of ice and snow can get into the air brakes and cause corrosion and damage.
Frozen truck brakes and winter damage are preventable, though. How can you keep air brakes working in winter? You’ll need to take steps to winterize your rig and watch for damage. Preventative maintenance is key.
A Clean Air Supply
Whether you have foundation drum or air disc brakes, you should drain the air tanks of moisture and contaminants. When the air temperature shifts 30 degrees Fahrenheit or more, moisture can accumulate. If you experience this shift in a 24-hour period, you should check the air system after driving for another week.
Winterizing Drum Brake Components
Check the chamber housings for damage and corrosion. Corrosion attracts corrosive materials, leading to failure of the housing. Check that the chamber’s dust plug is correctly installed. Lubrication is an enemy of corrosion. All components in the drum brake need to be properly lubricated, the automatic slack adjusters, clevis pin connection points, cam tubes, shafts and bushings.
Any worn rubber seals can cause air to escape and moisture to invade the system. Get your rig checked before you drive in the colder months. Remember that it gets much colder in the mountains as early as September and can stay colder until May or even June, depending on the elevation. Always consider your route and the conditions under which you be driving.
Air Disc Brakes Winterization
Visually inspect the ADBs. Look for cuts and tears in the boots. A small tear allows moisture and contaminants to enter the caliper, causing it to corrode. Replace if necessary. Make sure the pads move freely in the carrier. If not, you’ll need to remove them, clean the carrier surface with a wire brush and then replace the pads. Check the thickness of the pads and rotors. Minimum rotor thickness is 37mm; friction thickness is 2mm or greater.
If you drive in harsh or cold climates, replace the air dryer cartridge before the season. This prevents moisture from getting into the system and causing frozen truck brakes. Make sure to replace it with the right cartridge. An oil-coalescing cartridge needs to be replaced with a similar product to maintain the quality of the air.
Examine the air dryer’s purge valve. Look for signs of corrosion or an accumulation of grit. Clean it or replace it if necessary. This simple maintenance item can prevent malfunction during the harsher winter weather and save you time and headaches down the road.
What About Using Alcohol?
A traditional solution to treating frozen brakes is to add alcohol. Most experts agree that while this may solve your immediate problem, it will lead to long-term issues. It can damage the seals. Some air brake systems have an alcohol evaporator, which does keep air lines and reservoirs free of ice. However, you should only use approved products in this component. Check with your mechanic before trying to unfreeze air brakes using an alcohol product. It will be frustrating to be stuck, but if your vehicle is down for maintenance later, you haven’t saved that much time.
Driving Tips for Winter Safety
If you’re driving with air brakes in the winter, you have to keep the system dry and the pressure up. Make sure to allow even more stopping distance on wet and slippery roads than you would on dry roads. If your system doesn’t have antilock brakes, pump lightly on the brakes to maintain steering control.
Always check your truck before heading out on the road. Make sure the minimum operating pressure is no less than 100 psi for a truck with an air-brake system. It should not take longer than 2 minutes for air pressure to rise from 85 psi to 100 psi.
If you’re inexperienced in driving under winter conditions, check with your company to see if they have some training or another driver who can work with you to let you gain confidence in handling the rig in snow, ice, sleet and/extreme cold. It’s important to know how to handle mountains, country roads and city byways under wet and cold conditions. While it can be humbling to ask for help, if it saves your life, your truck and the lives of others on the road, that should be your concern.
Check all the components of the air brake system regularly throughout the winter to ensure proper performance. Poor maintenance can result in senseless deaths and injuries. It’s important to stay on top of brake maintenance all year long, but even more important in winter months. Take good care of your truck, and it will take care of you.
Tips for Reducing Distractions and Boosting Safety While You Drive
News feeds across the country are filled with stories of distracted driving, and while the statistics are alarming, the consequences are often devastating. In fact, according to the NHTSA, over 3,400 people were killed in 2015 while almost 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that a result of distracted driving. Trucks and other commercial vehicles are not immune or exempt from being included in these startling statistics, making it important for professional drivers to understand not only the dangers, but ways that they can avoid distracted driving.
Know what Distracted Driving Really Is
Though there may be many different opinions about what things qualify as distracted driving, the true definition is pretty simple. Any item or activity that takes a driver’s focus and attention away from driving can qualify as distracted driving. So really, eating, drinking, having an intense conversation with a passenger or reaching for something dropped on the floor could prove to be a hazardous distraction.
Ways to Reduce Distraction
When drivers attempt to cut any and all distractions and focus on the road, results could be equally disastrous. There must be ways for drivers to keep from falling asleep or becoming hypnotized by the long miles they are driving. Following are 5 solutions for distracted driving that can really help commercial drivers.
Invest in Technology – Though many forms of distracted driving are dangerous, there is one form that is actually illegal. In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a ban on texting while driving a commercial vehicle. In January of 2012, this ban was expanded to include holding a cell phone for any reason while driving. Currently, drivers who are found breaking the law could face a fine as high as $2,750 and may not be allowed to drive for up to 120 days.
With today’s hands-free technology, professional drivers are still able to use cell phones to call family and friends, get updates to loading or unloading locations or even check the weather. However, they must have new enough technology so that they can do these types of activities without ever needing to touch their cell phone. There are plenty of options, both wired and wireless that drivers can purchase. Many prefer a current generation Bluetooth headset that has noise cancelling capability so that the party on the other end of the call will not have to listen to the truck noise in the background.
Plan Ahead – Just as a driver needs to plan which route he or she will take to deliver a load, they should also take time to plan for things they will to listen to, snack on or use while they are on the road. Having a written list of options taped to the dash can make choices simple and keep more attention on the road ahead. There are many blogs and magazines that offer helpful advice on how to stay safe without getting overly bored.
Easy Reach Rule – One good rule of thumb for commercial drivers is that they should never make a grab for anything in their truck that is not within easy reach. In essence, if the driver has to stretch away from the steering wheel any further than a simple arm extension, they are at risk. When drivers are willing to pull off the side of an exit or take a break in a rest area to grab an item that is outside of easy reaching distance, they are helping everyone on the roads to travel more safely
Driver Education – Educating newer drivers about the risks and consequences of distracted driving can also help them make more thoughtful choices on the road. This type of training course should always cover the types of activities that can end up being too distracting, safer ways of staying awake and avoiding boredom, and a real look at fines, accidents and lifelong injuries that can happen when drivers are distracted. It can also be beneficial for drivers to be trained in how to spot drivers of other vehicles who may be distracted, so they will be able to avoid the hazards presented.
Keep it Tidy–It is not an easy task for a driver who spends many hours in the truck to keep things neat and clean. However, neatness does cut down on possible distractions. An investment in small drawers, cupboards or shelves where items can be held is an additional investment in safety, as those items will be much less likely to slide around the interior of the sleeper or cab.
Invest in Safety
By taking time for planning, professional drivers can help to increase safety on each road they travel by decreasing the number of accidents caused by driving distractions. Companies that are willing to take time to educate their drivers only add to safety levels for each individual who is also out on the road.
In today’s competitive trucking industry, safety should always be paramount. However, those familiar with running big rigs know that corners are sometimes cut in an effort to make a better profit. Sadly, the very corners that are cut typically end up costing a company more money down the line, whether it is in fines, tickets, accidents or in increased repair costs.
Take a Look at the Tires
The cost of tires for a semi can be staggering, ranging anywhere from $200 – $1,000 per tire. Multiply this dollar amount by 18 tires per truck and trailer and many realize that making tires last can really impact the overall success of any small or large operation. Following is a list of 8 things that can be done to help make tires last longer as these 18-wheelers roll across the miles.
Start Right – Scrimping on tires for your rigs may seem like a good idea at the moment, but losing a tire or two when time is of the essence can really multiply costs. When investing in new tires for your trucks, look for those that can hold up to the grueling mileage you want to get out of them. Though they may be more expensive, highly-rated tires have reinforcements, that are made to insure you get the most miles possible.
Write it Down – Reviewing stats and costs can really help truck owners to know what their tire cost really is per mile driven. Keeping up-to-date records about tire purchases including brand, anticipated mileage, tire enhancements and initial cost is a must. Asking about how long 18-wheeler tires last is also important. Some tire companies provide software with their tires that helps store, sort and calculate such data. Additional software is also available that can be used by a trucking company or an owner-operator. Such systems use RFID chips in the tires as well as electronic gauges so that company mechanics can check a truck’s tires no matter where they are in relation to the vehicle.
Keep it Clean – Newer truck drivers are often told that keeping their truck and trailer clean may help them get pulled over for inspection less frequently. Keeping tires clean can also help them last longer as snow, ice, salt or other road chemicals can break down a tire more quickly. Some drivers prefer to use a sponge and bucket of soapy water on their wheels, while others choose the convenience of a pressure washer that can easily reach the inside of the tire as well.
Fill ‘em Up – Checking the pressure in all 18 wheels can take some time, but is a great way to extend the life of tires. Not only can improperly inflated tires wear badly and develop weak spots, they can also affect overall fuel economy. Many larger fleets are investing in automatic monitoring systems that will alert the driver and the fleet mechanic if pressure is low or if a tire is failing.
EncourageGood Habits – Drivers who are well-trained understand that certain behaviors behind the wheel can shorten the life of a tire dramatically. These include speeding, braking too quickly and making excessively sharp turns. The same type of automated tire monitoring system that can send an alert when air pressure is low may be able to send additional alerts when drivers are engaging in any such behaviors which are shortening the life of their tires.
Inspect Alignment – Keeping the tires of a semi aligned is just as important as with the tires on a car. Not only does this help a vehicle to ride more smoothly, it prevents tires from developing irregular wear patterns. Technicians familiar with the importance of taking care of truck tires will check tires, axles and trailers to make sure alignment is good.
Use Clean Air – Using air that is clean and dry inside of truck tries can also help to make them last longer. Drivers should be trained to look for an air filter and in-line dryer on a compressor before using it to add air to a tire. Any water that gets inside a tire can immediately start breaking down the lining and steel belts which are both critical to the longevity of the tire.
Get Metal Caps – Metal caps are of critical importance on commercial tires, as they are the first defense against air loss, dirt and water. To make checking and maintaining the air pressure easier, many drivers use metal flow-through valve caps.
Start Out Right for Big Savings
In order to spend less on frequent tire replacement and repair, it is sometimes necessary to spend more at the beginning. Buying highly-rated tires, insisting on good inflation and cleanliness habits, and utilizing automated monitoring systems and up-to-date driver training programs may cost more up front. Owners realize, however, that starting out right tends to mean big overall savings down the road.
Though many long-haul drivers may have been lured into the industry by dreams of the open road and freedom from the stress of a 9-5 job, the job of road warrior is anything but a dream. Instead, it is filled with many different types of stress that differ greatly from those in the jobs they may have previously held.
Turning Wheels Mean Dollar Signs
One of the most stressful parts of driving long-haul is often seen plastered on t-shirts, coffee mugs and posters in truck stops across the country. Though the grammar may make some people cringe, the well-known saying “If the wheels ain’t turning, you ain’t making no money” is one that is known across all aspects of the industry. In essence, it means that anytime the truck is not moving, it is not making any money for the owner.
This leads trucking companies to come up with creative solutions, such as assigning two drivers to the same truck, each sleeping while the other is driving. It does not matter, however, if drivers are alone, or if they have a partner sleeping in the back of the rig. The long miles drive across the country can feel even longer than they really are, no matter how excited they were to begin driving a big rig for a living.
Boredom Leads to Mental Exhaustion
Current log book regulations mean that gone is the day that a driver could make his way across the country only taking cat-naps. Instead, drivers today have enforced limits on how long they can drive before they are required to take a specific length of time off-duty. There is much heated debate about whether or not the current system of hourly regulations really work out best for those who are behind the wheel, but currently they stand as law.
On average, a trucker drives anywhere between 2,000 – 3,000 miles each week. Even with enough sleep or off-duty time, the long miles put in by truck drivers can lead to a very real mental exhaustion which can, if not recognized and planned for, lead to a driver falling asleep behind the wheel. No matter if they spend those miles listening to talk radio, to music, or talking on the phone via Bluetooth headset (drivers are not permitted to hold their cell phones while they drive), the passing miles and the hypnotic hum of the tires on the road can still lead to boredom and mental exhaustion.
Tried and Trusted Tips to Avoid Falling Asleep
Thankfully, drivers are typically willing to share with each other the tips and tricks that keep them from falling asleep while driving. Following is a list of ways that have been found to work for those who are looking for better ways of staying awake.
Healthy Food – Though it is so tempting to indulge in fast food meals while driving, many have found that healthy meals consisting of protein and complex carbohydrates help them stay awake for much longer than foods that are full of fats, salt and sugars. Healthy snacks work as well. Instead of grabbing a candy bar, truckers who want to stay awake prefer trail mix, or a bag of almonds. Having a mini-fridge and a small cooking oven in the truck are not only convenient, they enable drivers to eat much more healthy foods overall.
Switch up the Listening – Drivers should change up listening selections while driving. Alternate between music, talk radio, podcasts and digital books. This way, the brain will be entertained instead of falling into a bored, sleepy slump. And if all else fails, turning up the volume to ear-splitting levels and singing along seems to work as well.
Cat Nap – Taking a short nap before starting on a long drive can be incredibly beneficial. In fact, studies show that a nap that is under an hour can power you enough to stay awake for many more hours than had you taken a nap that lasted for a few hours. Drivers who find themselves becoming drowsy on the road can always pull over and grab a 20-minute power nap in order to make it to the needed destination.
Get Out and Move – Sitting for extended periods of time can be hard on a body too. Any time drivers feel sleepiness sneaking in is a good time to find a spot for some safe exercise. This can be as little as a few laps around the truck or as extensive as some push-ups, squats and a quick jog. Getting that heart rate up means the blood will be less-sluggish upon return to the drier seat.
Don’t fall for Caffeine – Good hydration is very important to staying alert. Unfortunately, sodas that are readily available in every truck stop do not aid to overall hydration. Even worse is the fact that drinking too much caffeine while driving can make a driver need to find a restroom much more frequently than if they had simply stayed with water.
No matter the reason for getting into the long-haul industry, the end result is typically the same after many miles driven. Being prepared to combat sleepiness and stay wide awake, no matter how long the road ahead, should be the goal of every road warrior.