Category Archives: Inspection Tips

ELDs

Are You Ready?

By Larry Pruitt

With the FMCSA‘s Electronic Logging Device Mandate deadline quickly looming, Owner-Operators and small fleet owners alike are trying to wade through all of their options for the upcoming mandate deadline.  They’re trying to decide what will work best for them.  I know some companies have been testing different products on some select trucks in their fleet, while other operations are holding out hope that there will be a stay at the eleventh hour.  In my opinion, Congress doesn’t seem to agree on anything these days and unable to get anything passed, so I seriously doubt that this will get stopped before December 18.

With that being said, there is a very large contingent of drivers that have made the statement that they are leaving the industry when this mandate takes effect.  Some may leave and will probably move on to other careers, but most will continue on and adapt to the mandate. This upheaval in the industry will subside, and as my Mom would say, “This too shall pass”, and I agree with her, “This too will pass… it may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass”.  I’m old enough to remember back in the late-eighties or early-nineties when the CDL License Program was being introduced into the Trucking Industry.  There was a large number of drivers that were afraid that the CDL process would be so complicated that there was going to be a large shortage of drivers.  Drivers were going to leave the industry in droves because of something that today is viewed as no big deal and just part of the process of the regulations that we are saddled with today.

I’m not going to try to change anybody’s mind here on whether you want ELDs or don’t want them.  I’m just going to pass on my experiences, as I switched over to an ELD a little over a month ago.

To give you a little bit of background, I’ve been doing my logs on a tablet for the past 5 years or so using the Big Road app. I found that my logs were much easier to make sure that they were filled out completely and most of all, correctly.  This helps ensure you have a lesser chance to fall victim to a form and matter violation at a roadside inspection. The app would not let you sign your log unless everything was filled out properly.  I installed the connection to ECM back in September using the same app Big Road app.  I chose this product for a couple of different reasons, one was that I already was familiar with the app and the other was that I had good luck with tech support previously.  I wanted to get acclimated to using an ELD now versus trying to get compliant in the middle of December and having trouble.

The process of switching over has been pretty much uneventful so far.  I haven’t been caught about to run out of hours in my day yet, but I’m sure that will happen eventually.  I’m very fortunate that my operation allows me to be home every night.  I will admit that e-logs make it easier to keep track of duty status changes, it automatically knows when you start driving and when you stop driving, so you don’t even have to look at it for the biggest part of the day.  I will go back into it later and add notes to my stops whenever I have the time.

I think that ELDs are going to affect the industry over the foreseeable future.  I think that changes are going to be just as hard on shippers and receivers.  The truck lines are going to force shippers to get their trucks in and out and back on the road.  Let’s face it, companies are not going to be able to let trucks sit at a shipper or receiver for roughly 8 hours and then only have 6 hours left for their day and still be able to make any profit whatsoever.  Shippers will have to get better or their freight will lay on their dock, because no one will waste their time with that shipper.  I can see more drop and hook freight in the future, in segments that have never before been drop and hook operations.

One thing is for sure, the small fleet folks may have to change how they do business.  I think most small carriers will be able to adapt if they approach this from working within the system rather than trying to work around the system.

Well, that’s my opinion and experiences on the ELD mandate.  There are folks that agree with me and most definitely some that do not agree with me but are very passionate about their opinion.  No matter what anyone’s opinion is, let’s revisit this issue in about a year or so and see what the industry and it’s logging issues are at that time.  To everyone involved, GOOD LUCK with the mandate!

Iowa80.com offers a variety of e-log devices, shop here.


Larry Pruitt is an owner-operator with over 20 years of experience and has been involved in trucking for close to 40 years. He is a firefighter in North St. Louis County Missouri and resides with his wife, Jeanette, in Saint Clair, MO.


 

Chain Up!

Chain Up! Winter Driving Tips for Semi Trucks | Trucker Tips Blog

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

Ready or not, winter is here! If you run out west you had better be prepared to meet the requirements of the western states when it comes to snow chains. Even if you are stopped on a nice sunny day with no hint of snow in the forecast, you could still be at risk of getting a ticket for not carrying the proper amount of chains for the truck you are driving. It is extremely important that you familiarize yourself with the requirements for EACH state law regarding chains BEFORE you enter that state. Unfortunately, the laws are not the same from state to state, so getting the information ahead of time is crucial.

We recommend finding out which state has the strictest law and carry the maximum chains you will need, weight allowing. This way you will always be compliant. Another thing to check on, and be sure of, are the dates of requirement which can differ from state to state. For instance, Georgia now has a chain law as a result of all of the wrecks they’ve had in recent winter storms. Again, it’s important to look at the law in ALL states where you run.

When the chain law signs go up, you had better be prepared to hang “iron” or hire some of the people who sit at chain up areas to hang chains for you. If you don’t, you certainly aren’t going anywhere! Make sure that you know your company’s policy about chaining up or parking when the road conditions get to this point. Many companies will allow you to run around a severe winter storm or blizzard, which is the ideal situation. However if they don’t, you need to have the knowledge to keep yourself safe.

Before you find yourself in a situation where you need to put chains on your tires, it would be a good idea to find a place and practice putting them on your wheels. Standing in the cold and snow with drivers splashing you with yuck off the road is not the time to be figuring this out.

Make sure that you have plenty of bungee cords or spider bungees to help secure the chains once they are on. Time and travel on rough snowy roads can and will loosen them, so pay attention in your mirrors. It’s nice if you have a chain hanger under your trailer or on the frame of your truck so that you can hang wet sloppy chains up and not let them freeze in a big lump inside your tool box.

It’s a good idea to check your tires after running chains. Even if your chains didn’t break, other trucks will probably have one break and a broken link in a tire means a trip to the tire shop for repair. I would never have guessed this if a friend hadn’t told me (after learning the hard way).

Sometimes chains can help you even if there isn’t a chain law in effect. For instance, if the road is icy and you have to stop for an accident on an incline, chains might be the only way you are going to be able to get going again. Sometimes after a really big snow it can take truck stops awhile to get everything plowed, especially with all of the trucks in the lot. In a case like that chains or a shovel are going to be your only way out. Another good idea, one we ALWAYS do during winter months, is to carry a bag of sand, salt or kitty litter to help you get enough traction to get going. Be prepared – it may just save your life one winter day!

Remember to SLOW DOWN in inclement weather. Nothing will help you avoid disaster better than a slower speed! We have to keep a sharp eye out at all times for new drivers; 4-wheeler and 18-wheeler alike. For some, this could very well be their first ever winter driving experience. We need to be driving our trucks for them, as well as for ourselves, to keep everyone safe. It is our responsibility as the professionals out here to stay calm and behave as such. We can lead by example and do our best to keep the accident statistics down this winter.

Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!


Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.


 

Growing a Small Fleet

 

When is it Time to Add A Truck?

By John L. Hruska

 

When trying to grow your business or add a truck there are a few key things to think about. First, do you have the cash or at least some money to fund this growth? Second, do you have the additional work for the truck that you’re adding? Third, do you have another qualified driver in mind for this truck? Lastly, do you yourself have the extra time to manage another truck and driver?

In my opinion there are only a few good reasons to add a truck. 1) Dedicated profitable work that’s growing and you don’t want to miss the opportunity, 2) You know a very good driver that would fit well into your operation, and 3) The company you’re signed on with is growing and they have asked you to add another truck and driver because they like your service.

Here’s a reason to not buy a truck. Never buy a truck solely for a tax deduction. This is not a good enough reason to purchase more equipment. If you need more deductions, talk to an accountant to find out how to get some different tax breaks with your business without having to buy another truck.

Let’s start with the cash, if you’re going to put another unit on the road it’s my opinion you should have at least $12,000 to $15,000 set aside for operating expenses. I don’t mean an extra loan or a line of credit, I mean cash. This should be in addition to your down deposit money on the truck that you purchase. Keep in mind that if you’re adding a truck you will need to get through at least the first few weeks to a month of expenses before you see any money from that truck. Some of the things to think about are as follows: fuel costs, driver’s wages, your first truck payment, truck insurance, license, permits, and don’t forget repairs or upfits for road readiness.

If you purchase a new truck, the extra cash for upfits such as pumps or blowers can sometimes be financed along with your truck loan, but don’t forget if you get a higher interest rate on your truck financing you are now paying interest on your accessories too. And if they break before you pay off your truck, you have a payment on parts that you’re not even using anymore.

If you buy a used truck, review what it will take to get it road ready with your dealer. Remember, no incoming money for a month or two, and you don’t want to use your cash for breakdowns or truck readiness. Try to include into your purchase price things like all new tires, or maybe new brakes and drums, or even all new fluids in motor and drive train. Have the dealer fix any oil leaks or issues that you might see; maybe even add a fresh bumper. Look the truck over very well and take your time in doing this. Be choosy on which truck you purchase. Ask for oil samples or past engine and component history. Becoming educated on the truck purchase will help you get through the early weeks without any surprises.

Now it’s time to put your driver in the seat. Hopefully you have a good qualified candidate, but understand he’s working for you. So, he or she will need your support and respect. You need to give this person the proper tools to make this new truck and your business succeed. Make sure the driver has things like expense cash for tolls or incidentals, fuel cards, and a cell phone. It is imperative that your driver can talk to you when they need you. Don’t leave your driver hanging to make an important decision without you.  They need your full support. Make sure the driver understands that proper communication is the key to a good working relationship.

Now let’s look at extra time in your work day. Sometimes we don’t think about the time that it takes to manage additional trucks or drivers. Do you have the time to manage another driver and truck? This is something you need to give some thought to. Drivers are employees, they can’t make major decisions on their own, and you shouldn’t expect them to. If a driver is calling, you need to answer the phone. Maybe it’s about a load they should take or a breakdown, or even a question like, “should I use the toll road or not?” These are calls you must answer. You need to help them with their job to make these decisions.

Do you do your own mechanical work? If so, then you’re now working on two trucks instead of one. This can sometimes make the weekend pretty short when your significant other or kids want to go on a summer picnic or to a ball game. Don’t forget about the extra paperwork, billing, fuel receipts, all the things you do with your truck is multiplied by two.

In closing, adding a truck for the right reasons can be a very positive thing. If you think it through, manage it correctly, and use some of the ideas that I mentioned, you can be more profitable and have a greater presence with your customer or company that you work with.

 


 


hruska_149x149John’s father started in the trucking business in 1947, John then joined the business in 1981. He owns and operates Hruska Trucking and Diesel Transport along with his business partner and brother-in-law, Clark D Hofecker, in Windber, PA.


 

Tips to Survive a Roadside Inspection

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

As drivers, one of our most important responsibilities is to make sure our equipment is safe.  Therefore, we are required to inspect it before starting out every time.  As a way of determining how well we, as an industry, are maintaining the standards set for us by the Federal Government, an annual road check is held each spring.  This year, the International Road check will be held from June 2-4.  This is when 10,000 CVSA certified local, state, provincial, and federal inspectors will be inspecting trucks and buses for 72 hours.

Tips to Survive a Roadside Inspection- As drivers, one of our most important responsibilities is to make sure our equipment is safe.  Therefore, we are required to inspect it before starting out every time.  As a way of determining how well we, as an industry, are maintaining the standards set for us by the Federal Government, an annual road check is held each spring. We are going to share tips that are not only good for the annual road check but apply every day you drive your truck or bus.  One thing often overlooked in all this checking is your attitude as a driver.  I told an inspector one time that he might find something I missed; we started off on the right foot. He told me that if I came into his home I might see something that he missed even though he is there every day, this is a good analogy.

The inspector’s job is to look for things that will affect the safe operation of a truck and trailer or bus.  I don’t believe any of us want to be driving a truck that is unsafe, let alone share the road with one.

Paperwork is always at the top of the list.  Be sure you have your driver’s license, medical card (some states still require this, even a long form) vehicle registration, IFTA, insurance card, carrier lease (if required because you are an owner operator or driving rental truck etc), log book (if you aren’t using e-logs).

This year there will be special emphasis on cargo securement.  Proper loading and securing loads is a matter of public safety.  I used to get teased from other drivers about the number of load locks we carried but, you know what?  We didn’t have damaged freight.  Falling freight can also cause unstable equipment, which can cause crashes.  You have to carry the proper amount of load securement devices that are in good working condition and appropriate for the type of freight you haul.

Inspectors will be checking:

  • Brakes
  • Coupling Systems
  • Exhaust Systems
  • Fuel Systems
  • Frame
  • Lights
  • Safe Loading
  • Steering Mechanism
  • Drive Line
  • Suspension
  • Tires
  • Wheels & Rims
  • Windshield/ Wipers
  • Van & Open top bodies
  • Emergency Exits on buses

These 3 days are about public safety with enforcement and educational initiatives aimed at various elements of motor carrier, vehicle, driver, cargo safety and security.

Here are some common load securement failures:

  • Loose/unfastened tie-down failures
  • Failing to secure vehicle equipment
  • Damaged securement system tie-downs
  • Failure to meet minimum tie down requirements
  • No or improper load securement
  • No or improper container securement
  • Leaking/spilling/blowing falling cargo
  • Failure to prevent cargo shifting
  • Insufficient tie-downs without header board/blocking

The only cargo “allowed” to fall off your vehicle is water, like that draining from an iced load in a reefer that melts enroute, and feathers from live birds.

Safety Tips:

  • Pre-Inspect the condition of your vehicle
  • Get in a SAFE mindset
  • BUCKLE UP
  • Keep your eyes moving
  • Always leave yourself an out
  • Maintain a SAFE FOLLOWING DISTANCE
  • Make only safe and necessary lane changes
  • NEVER drive intoxicated
  • Get enough sleep
  • FOCUS – minimize driving distractions

These are things that we should do on a daily basis, not just 3 days a year when there is a spotlight shining on our behavior.  When you choose to drive a truck these are things that you sign up for, good or bad. Our job is to pick up and deliver freight safely and undamaged.  There can be many challenges to accomplishing this goal some days that include shippers, receivers, traffic, weather, and so on.

If you look at that inspector checking your truck as just a person doing their job, same as you are doing yours, you might find it to be a more productive experience.  Keep your logbook current, make sure your lights are working, keep your attitude in check, and don’t forget to have a little fun along the way! After all, you are getting paid to see our beautiful country while others have to pay to get there. Some days, no CEO has a view better than the one our office has to offer; it’s ever-changing, sunrises, sunsets, mountains, beautiful fields and a full moon lighting our way.

Stay Safe Out There & Keep It Shiny!


 Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.