Trucking Blog


Factoring Funding

What Every Freight Broker Should Know About Factoring

Invoice factoring has been around for thousands of years and can be traced to the 18th century B.C. Babylonian king, Hammurabi. Over the past 10 years, transportation intermediaries are directing more and more of their carrier payments to factoring companies ‐ anecdotally, we hear as much as 80%. At Triumph Business Capital, we’ve processed carrier payments for over 500 freight brokers, and our experience is consistent with those reports.

Why Now?

It starts with economics. Lots of new capital has flooded the commercial finance sector, and many new factoring companies have entered the transportation space. And, why not? The collectability of a freight bill is terrific. As a result of increasing competition, carriers are solicited daily with factoring offers of high advance rates (the percentage of the freight bill advanced at time the invoice is sold or “factored”) coupled with factoring fees that are a fraction of what they were 10 years ago. In fact, factoring fees are typically at or below the same pricing which many brokers charge for quick pay.

The quality of factoring services has improved as well. Many of the top factoring companies offer online credit services, fuel purchase programs, equipment and insurance financing and mobile technology applications. The factoring industry has come a long way, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the difference between recourse and non‐recourse factoring? And, how does it affect me?

A. Recourse means the factoring client is ultimately responsibility for the payment of the invoice. Non‐recourse factoring allows companies to sell their invoices in a style in which the factoring company assumes the credit risks. Often misunderstood, non‐payment for legitimate disputes (such as shortages, claims, late delivery, etc.) remain the responsibility of the client regardless of contract form. The style of a carrier’s factoring contract should have no impact on the freight broker.

 

Q. What is a Notice of Assignment and do Freight Brokers need to acknowledge them?

A. The Uniform Commercial Code (§ 9‐406) outlines the business and law underlying the invoice factoring industry. The ability to assign payment obligations (accounts) from the
broker (account debtor) to a factor (assignee) was a purposeful and intentional provision that the UCC drafters identified to provide businesses with opportunity to raise working
capital. Remember, the assignment of pay proceeds is separate and distinct from the assignment of services or other responsibilities in a legal contract (i.e., Broker‐Carrier
agreements). Payors cannot restrict the assignment of proceeds and are subject to double‐payment liability if they choose to ignore proper notification. Notice of
Assignments (NOA’s) can be presented by an invoice “stamp”, separate communication (letter) or both. Once you have been “effectively noticed” all payments must go to the
factoring company, whether the invoice has a stamp or not, and regardless of any claims by the carrier whether or not a particular invoice was factored. Never stop sending
payments to the factor until you receive a release letter, which the factoring company should be willing to provide

 

Q. What makes a Notice of Assignment binding? Is a signature required?

A. The effectiveness of an NOA is a question answered by case law, but the practical guidelines are simply and widely accepted. The account debtor is not required to
acknowledge the NOA with a signature and, even if there was a signature, it might not be clear as to whether the person signing the NOA had the proper authority to do so.
So, you don’t have to sign them – but that doesn’t really matter. Once an account debtor sends payment to the factoring company, it’s broadly understood that they did so based
upon receiving notice. (Why else would you send money to someone other than the carrier who hauled the freight?) If you pay a factoring company one time, then the NOA
is probably effective and you’re most likely bound by its terms. Now, you can refuse to use carriers that work with factoring companies, or even certain factoring companies,
but you can’t ignore a valid NOA once received.

 

Q. Am I obligated to pay a carrier’s factoring company if we haven’t received a Notice of Assignment.

A. Short answer is No. With more and more “online” or “cash advance” lenders entering the space, this question is more likely to come up than you may realize. A business may
grant a factor or lender a security interest in its accounts receivable, and perfect that security interest by filing a UCC financing statement. Security interests establish priority
among secured creditors, but do not impact payment remittance. It’s all about assignment and your receipt of effective notification of that assignment.

 

Q. Does the presence of a factoring company restrict our ability to offset future payments for claims?

A. Frankly, there’s a lot of “urban myth” surrounding this subject, but it ultimately depends on the broker‐carrier agreement. UCC § 9‐404 provides the factor (assignee) with certain
protections against claims and defenses – but only to the extent that the contract was silent on those provisions. Generally speaking, the broker’s obligation to the pay the
factor are identical to the contractual obligations for paying the carrier. As a practical (and ethical) matter, the factor is entitled to the same level of communication regarding
claims and setoffs that you would reasonably provide the carrier.

 

Q. What can be done about factoring companies which report slow payments and delinquencies to credit reporting agencies, regardless of how timely those payments are sent?

A. There are two primary reasons for unfair credit reporting: the U.S. Postal Service and bad factoring companies. Mail times are continuing to deteriorate, and payors using mail
service providers are likely experiencing additional delays. If you’re committed to mailing your payments, utilizing the “Intelligent Bar Code” will reduce USPS time and
processing errors. Alternatively, most reputable factoring companies will accept payment by ACH or wire, particularly if your TMS or accounting system can provide
reasonable instructions for correctly applying those payments.

 

Q. What about the “bad actors” in the factoring community, who are unreasonable, annoying and difficult to deal with?

A. The International Factoring Association (IFA) is an engaged trade organization which is elevating its constituency through education, best practices and advocacy. Over 450 IFA
members ascribe to a Code of Ethics and the organization actively responds to inquiries and disputes. You can contact the IFA at (800) 563‐1895 or info@factoring.org.

 

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Making Sense Out of Carrier Payments

Freight brokers pay carriers – that’s what you do.  You do it for fuel advances and again when the load’s settled and billed. You pay when it’s due and sometimes you pay quick.  You pay by fuel card, by express check, by bank draft, by paper check.  And mostly you pay factoring companies – after they call to verify the load, again to check for advances and yet again to collect.  You’re ready to pay the trucks who’ve been with you forever, the one that showed last week and the one which may still call back.  You pay carriers – but is that what you do best?

New Technology, More Options

Large industrial firms have been outsourcing vendor payments for decades. It’s become a standard practice in medical, hospitality and government contracting.  The consistent premise is to operate your business within your business systems, and to have your systems feed payment instructions to payment processors – seamlessly, safely and cost effectively.  That’s the goal.

The evolution of technology integrations has also resulted in a proliferation of financial solutions.  Some of these solution structures make particular sense in certain industries, not so much in others.  Some providers offer credit capacity, others focus only on technology solutions.  Just to make things more confusing, the terminology isn’t consistent.  But overlooking the labels just a bit, we can identify three general categories of payment processing solutions.  For purposes of this road map, let’s call them Dynamic Discounting, Supply Chain Finance and Virtual Card Payments.  And, of course, there are combinations of the three, but let’s get started anyway – paying particular attention to what makes sense in for-hire transportation.

Dynamic Discounting

The simplest form of payment processing involves an arrangement between a buyer (such as a freight broker) and vendor (carrier) whereby payment for goods or services is made early in return for a reduced price or discount.  Dynamic Discounting has been primarily a technology service offer with the following characteristics:

  • Transaction unchanged between buyer and vendor
  • Servicer may or may not provide credit or liquidity
  • When credit is provided, it’s most typically in the form of a loan structure (to buyer)
  • Often combined with other tech-based services, such as freight bill auditing

We haven’t seen huge impact of Dynamic Discounting in the trucking space, largely because of the complexity.  Most truckers are happy with two payment terms: standard and quick.  The market saturation of factoring companies has probably simplified quick pay requirements as well.

Supply Chain Finance

Often called “Reverse Factoring”, the basic premise is that buyers (freight brokers) can become more attractive to their vendors (carriers) by incorporating working capital options from the onset. Unlike traditional factoring, where carriers sell their accounts receivable, reverse factoring is a financing solution initiated by the broker to help its carriers to finance their open accounts more easily and at a lower cost than what would normally or otherwise be available.  In Europe, where factoring is more prominent than in the U.S., Supply Chain Finance has become more prevalently adopted than traditional factoring.  Characteristics include:

  • Cost benefits to both buyer and vendor
  • Proactive alternative to “Factor Fatigue”
  • Optimal in markets where buyers deal with a large number of small vendors and can rely upon the payment processor to minimize onboarding costs

Our company’s payment processing platform, which we call TriumphPay, is a form of Reverse Factoring or Supply Chain Finance.  There are a few other very good products coming to the transportation intermediary market in this style as well.  From a broker’s perspective, the quality of the carrier experience, and consequently their rate of adoption, will largely drive the cost saving benefits to be realized.

Virtual Card Payments

Despite several transaction models, this is a style of B2B payment processing that uses a single-use credit card number. Virtual card payments have become extremely popular in certain industries and offer distinctive advantages to buyer, including fraud deterrence and revenue opportunities.  However, processing costs are transferred to vendors which has resulted in limited adoption in other industries.

  • Highly controlled, buyer-centric process
  • High adoption rates in stable and/or contractual vendor communities (i.e., hospitals/medical providers)
  • Low adoption rates in markets with high factoring penetration

To be fair, Virtual Cards are a valuable tool to have in your payment processing toolbox.  You’ll need to determine whether it’s a platform you lead with or use to supplement other transaction models.

Outlook

Payment processing options are coming.  If the U.S. trucking industry is similar to other markets around the world, it will be coming quickly. But please understand, these are customized solutions that can be tailored to fit your business like a glove.  The more time you invest in learning about the various structures, including their relative strengths and weaknesses, the better equipped you’ll be to make these financial products works for you.

 

 

Trucks lined up at a truck stop. They are parking in the night.

The Parking Problem

In 2009, a trucker named Jason Rivenburg was shot and killed by a man who stole $7 in cash from him. Forced to park in an abandoned gas station when he became tired, Jason became the victim of a brutal crime. Sadly there are other stories similar to this one; it’s not the first time this has happened nor was it the last. It’s been 7 years since the murder of Jason Rivenburg, and even after a law has been passed, can we say that much has been done to address this problem?

According to a recent report from the Federal Highway Administration, 72% of states reported having problems with truck parking. What is causing the problem for the lack of parking? There are a couple of factors that could be playing into this:

• HOS Rules

With the hours of service rules in place, truckers may not be able to find parking when the clock runs out. In an article by Fleet Owner, one trucker said that the closest safe parking to his intended destination was 15 miles away. In traffic, that distance could be up to 45 minutes. Because of HOS rules, this 45 minutes could cause a trucker to go over his or her allotted time. The impact of hours of service rules on truck parking is causing many truckers to park in unsafe areas, like along highways, interstates, exit ramps and abandoned lots.

• Lack of truck stops

The United States went through a recession in 2008. During this time, trucks on the road decreased and many truck stops had more spaces than trucks. A couple of years after, the economy picked back up as well as the number of trucks on the road. However, truck stops haven’t caught up to the demand, creating a lack of safe parking at truck stops.

So what’s the solution?

After the tragedy involving Jason Rivenburg in 2009, legislation occurred to increase available, safe parking for truckers through Jason’s Law. The law was passed in 2012 providing more than $6 million to put toward the construction of safe truck parking.

In 2015, the National Coalition on Truck Parking was created through the Federal Highway Administration to address this shortage. The coalition met in the fall of 2015 after the survey results of Jason’s Law confirmed the lack of safe parking available. During this meeting, the coalition defined some obstacles and opportunities to reaching the ultimate goal.
The United States Department of Transportation conducted a Beyond Traffic study and concluded that by 2040 the amount of freight moving in this country will increase by 45 percent. Therefore, the truck parking issue needs to be addressed way before we get to that point.

Many truck stops are expanding their spaces and giving truckers the option of “reserving” spots. However, this can cost money, and should a trucker have to pay for his or her safety? Another option for truckers is the big box stores that sometimes let truckers park in their parking lots. Many of their parking lots have the ability to hold that amount of weight, because freight is coming in and out constantly, However, not all big box stores have the same policies. While some are welcoming to big rigs, others turn them away. This is not always a viable option, so it can’t be the only solution.

In addition to the coalition formed, Truckers Had Enough has created a video creating more awareness of the truck parking problem.

Ultimately, we can create laws and coalitions, but in the end, we need to prevent more Jason Rivenburg situations; we need a solution.

A white 18-wheelers driving with large moutains to the right with a little bit of snow and a lot of green trees. There is a lime green check box to the left of the image as well.

Look for the Green Check Mark and Kiss the Lost Loads Goodbye

Since 1978, DAT Solutions has been a trusted source of information for transportation professionals, providing valuable data on important topics like supply and demand trends, forecasting, benchmarking and capacity planning, which is vital for achieving operational efficiency. As part of our commitment to serve the trucking industry and our valued clients, Triumph Business Capital has had an exclusive factoring partnership with DAT since 2013.

Through this partnership, our clients can enjoy free trials on two different DAT freight matching services – 30 days free on TruckersEdge and 15 days free on DAT Express. All DAT load matching services offer full technology integration with our own proprietary Online Broker Credit program. This provides valuable insight into which loads are factorable while searching for your next load to haul.

In the past, truckers struggled with mustering up the time and resources it took to identify which loads are factorable through their factoring company. By the time you received credit approval, the load could be gone. That’s why this partnership between Triumph and DAT is so beneficial. With the seamless interface, you can search for loads and see which ones are credit-approved – all at the same time. The green check on the DAT Load Boards indicates a factorable load through Triumph Business Capital. It’s that simple!

Freight factoring provides a number of benefits to those in the trucking industry, the most obvious of which is improved cash flow. By selling your outstanding accounts receivable balances, you can gain quick and easy access to much-needed capital without having to rely on loans or other complicated financing options. And because invoice factoring doesn’t involve ongoing debt payments or interest charges, your company will experience reduced risk. Freight factoring is built to last through the various seasons of your business’ life.

What could your trucking company do with better cash flow? Pay your drivers on time, stay up to date on insurance, pay for fuel and much more. Truck factoring can even help you work toward an aggressive growth strategy. Whatever your unique business needs, freight factoring can provide the funding you need to achieve your goals and objectives. And with this exclusive DAT partnership, doing so has never been easier.

To learn more about our DAT partnership and how you can take advantage of this and other great benefits that our factoring company has to offer, click here or visit our Trucking Blog.

Doctor tool and laptop laying on surface

The Drive for Better Health

an 18-wheeler driving on a road with mountains in the background, and a red and blue sky

Choosing Your Big Rig: Buying vs. Leasing Your Truck

Purchasing a truck can be a significant expense, even for the most established trucking companies. As with most vehicles, acquiring a truck typically requires either a lease or a purchase. Which is the wisest investment? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons associated with each option to help you make a more informed decision for your business.

Leasing

Leasing is essentially financing the use (or deprecation) of your truck, as opposed to a loan, which finances the actual vehicle. There are various types of leasing agreements to choose from, but generally speaking, a truck lease covers the difference between the purchase price of the vehicle (excluding sales tax) and the projected value of the vehicle at the end of the lease terms.

One of the biggest differences between a lease and a purchase is what happens when all the required payments have been made. Unlike a purchase, with a lease, you will not automatically own the vehicle at the end of the terms. Some leases will allow you to purchase the truck when the lease ends for an additional amount of money, while others will allow you to trade the vehicle in, either for another truck or for the remaining cash value.

Depending on the type of lease you choose, you could end up paying more for a “closed end” lease. You could also be paying for mileage or wear and tear before you walk away as well. Furthermore, leases often include other expenses, such as security deposits, non-refundable acquisition fees and other miscellaneous fees.

In short, leasing provides flexible options, but sometimes that flexibility can come back to hurt you, as having an outstanding lease on a vehicle directly impacts your company’s cash flow, taxes and ability to replace or increase fleet.

Buying

Unless you can afford to pay in full, buying a truck typically involves taking out a loan for the purchase amount, less any cash down payment you can come up with. The loan will be for a set term, with incremental payments due that include whatever interest rate your business was assessed. Unlike leasing, purchasing a vehicle doesn’t involve nearly as many fees or expenses. It also provides the distinct advantage of allowing your business to establish and grow equity over time. When that last loan payment is made, ownership of the vehicle is transferred over to your company.

When purchasing a truck, there are a number of available equipment financing options from which to choose. Most importantly, as you make payments on the truck, unlike with a lease, you will continue to increase your equity in that vehicle. Once your financing obligation is met, you will be free to do whatever you’d like with the vehicle, including selling it to raise more capital for newer, better or additional truck purchases.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to lease or purchase will depend on your company’s unique situation. It will also depend on cash flow. If you’re looking to increase your fleet, trucking factoring can help provide an additional avenue of income to help make lease or loan payments more manageable.

Truck who uses freight factoring pulling into truck stop

Freight Factoring Can Keep You Rolling

Cash flow problems can cause you to put the brakes on your trucking business. Before you find yourself running on empty, take a look at freight factoring; it’s cash flow without debt.

You may have heard of this type of financing before around the truck stop or at trade shows under different names like truck factoring, accounts receivable financing or even transportation factoring. Despite the name, the purpose is the same: to get you cash when you need it.

What is Freight Factoring?

Factoring companies like Triumph Business Capital can purchase your outstanding invoices for a small fee, so you don’t have to wait 30, 60 or even 90 days to get paid.

With that extra cash in hand, you now can pay your drivers (or your salary), insurance costs, fuel and other expenses eating at you. If you’ve been thinking about growing your trucking business, freight factoring can help you buy more trucks and hire more drivers.

With truck factoring, slow paying customers don’t have to slow you down.

Freight bill factoring isn’t one size fits all. It grows with your business. Through recourse and non-recourse factoring, you can tailor factoring to fit your business.

What to Look for with a Factoring Company

Your transportation factoring company will be dealing a lot with your money, so the first thing you want to look for is a team you can trust. Make sure you have the ability to see the status of your funding whenever and wherever you need to.

Yes, a rate is important, but a freight factoring company you can trust is of greater importance. That low rate isn’t going to do you any good when your factoring company won’t communicate with you about when you will get your money.

You should also look for a trucking factoring company that partners with others who offer helpful services to truckers. For example, Triumph Business Capital is exclusively partnered with DAT Solutions, allowing load board users to see which loads are factorable directly on the load board.

Stability is another important aspect to look for in your freight factoring company. Because your factoring company deals with your cash, you want to make sure it is financially stable. Along with Triumph’s financial stability in Triumph Bancorp, it also has the ability to offer your business various financial services- insurance, equipment financing and even asset based lending.

Freight factoring could be the answer to your inconsistent cash flow. Feel free to give an expert at Triumph a call at 866-368-2482.

For up to date information on the trucking industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

18 Wheeler Driving in the rain behind a small car

We Ranked the Top Critical Truck Driver Safety Tips

Driving a truck may seem pretty simple and straightforward, but given the size and power of these vehicles, safety is critical. That’s why a significant portion of all truck driver training programs is devoted to teaching future drivers how to keep themselves and other operators safe on the road, while also protecting their precious cargo. If you’re planning a career in trucking, below are critical truck driver safety tips to keep in mind when getting behind the wheel.

Load Cargo Carefully

If you are responsible for loading your own truck, be careful about how you do so to avoid potential issues once you hit the road. Remember that the higher you stack your cargo, the more drag you will have on your truck. By stacking lower and distributing cargo throughout the full space of the truck, your vehicle will be easier to control and maneuver, making it safer. As an added bonus, you’ll also improve your fuel economy. Want to see how to best load your cargo? Use this simple load calculator.

Understand Blind Spots

All vehicles have certain areas known as blind spots from which the driver is unable to adequately see what’s around him or her. For larger vehicles, common blind spots include the area off to the side, just in front of the cab; directly behind the side mirrors; and directly behind the truck itself. It’s important to take extra precaution when conducting certain maneuvers, such as backing up or changing lanes. Also, keep in mind that four wheelers may be unaware of these blind spots. In fact, most four wheelers don’t know about the four no zones. You could think about placing warning signs with pictures of your blind spots on the back of your truck to inform four wheelers of the dangers.

Reduce Speed on Curves

Posted speed limits, particularly on roadways that feature lots of curves, are meant more for four wheel drivers. Larger trucks aren’t meant to hit these higher limits, especially around corners and bends. Driving too fast in such an area can increase the risk of your truck tipping over. Whenever you’re navigating around curves you should always reduce speed below the posted limit.

Drive Defensively

There are plenty of things you can do to ensure that your driving is safe, but since you’ll inevitably be sharing the road, it’s also important that you take into consideration the other drivers around you. Always be alert and prepared for any situation, like avoiding a collision with a vehicle that unexpectedly cuts you off.

Adjust for Bad Weather

About one quarter of all speed-related accidents involving trucks are caused by inclement weather. It’s critical that you reduce your driving speed accordingly when traveling in poor weather. A good rule of thumb is to reduce your speed by one-third when roads are wet and reduce half your speed when snow or ice is present. Allow ample time for other drivers to see your signals before changing lanes, and if you notice other truck drivers pulling over, it might be wise for you to do the same. For more information on winter weather driving tips, check out our blog post.

Drive with Caution in Construction Zones

Believe it or not, incidents involving large trucks account for approximately one-third of all construction-zone accidents. This is why truck driver training includes detailed instruction on how to watch for and avoid such situations. Pay careful attention to all road signs and always err on the side of caution by reducing your speed any time you are driving through a construction area.

Maintain Your Vehicle

Prior to leaving for any type of road trip, you are responsible for conducting a thorough inspection of your truck. Any potential problems should be reported and/or corrected immediately. The act of properly maintaining your vehicle can dramatically reduce the number of safety incidents that occur on the road. Test your knowledge about a pre-trip inspection with these free tests!

Stay Calm

Another important lesson, though one that isn’t usually covered in truck driver training, is that of remaining calm in any situation. For some, this is easier said than done, especially in stressful situations such as heavy traffic or other delays. If you are to remain safe and prevent potentially dangerous accidents, however, keeping a cool head is essential.

Take Care of Yourself

Driving a truck can be an exhausting job, but given the inherent risk associated with the profession, taking proper care of yourself is of the utmost importance. For instance, making sure you always get the proper amount of sleep prior to getting behind the wheel. It’s also good practice to eat well, exercise regularly and enjoy some much-needed time off every so often. Doing so will keep you refreshed and rejuvenated, which will lead to safer driving all around. Trucking companies and drivers are making big changes for a healthier lifestyle; learn more in “The Push to Help You ‘Keep On Trucking.’”

One of the most important goals any truck driver strives for on a daily basis is that of safety. It takes a concerted effort and well-planned execution to avoid accidents and other potentially dangerous situations while behind the wheel. The truck driver safety tips listed above should provide a good foundation for keeping yourself, your vehicle and your fellow motorists out of harm’s way.

Truck, ELD Mandate

Electronic Logging Devices: What this Mandate Means for You

The clock has started ticking.

On December 16, 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published the official Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate, enforcing the adoption of ELDs by all truck drivers before December 18, 2017. Not only did the FMSCA publish this rule by Congressional mandate, but they also believe that this rule will eliminate 1,844 crashes, prevent 562 injuries and save 26 lives.

What does an ELD do?

An ELD tracks the hours a trucker is on the road and location of the truck and will replace the paper logs that truckers have been required to keep. The device can’t allow any deletion of driving time and must be tamperproof. This allows the FMCSA to use electronic data to track compliance for HOS rules. Drivers will still need to keep supporting documents to verify HOS compliance (bills of lading, dispatch and trip reports, mobile communications, etc).

Who Does and Doesn’t Need an ELD?

Drivers who fill out paper logs will be required to abide by the ELD mandate. However, this rule doesn’t apply to some drivers. Drivers that are exceptions to the rule are:

Timecard or “shorthaul” drivers
Drivers in the driveaway-towaway business
Drivers that drive a vehicle manufactured before model year 2000

Why does the model year matter? Before 2000, commercial vehicles have different aspects to their engine control monitors that wouldn’t allow the ELD to capture the information it needs.

Grandfathering of the ELD Mandate

As with any rule, there are exceptions. Because there is equipment similar to ELDs already in use by many carriers, the FMCSA has allowed a “grandfathering” of some equipment. If they follow the standards put in place for Automatic On-Board Recording Devices, then they can be used until December 2019. Such equipment can also be modified to meet the ELD specifications to be used after December 2019.

Two Sides of the Fence

Industry experts can agree that December 16th was a historic day in the transportation industry. However, major industry leaders have different feelings about the mandate. A day after the FMSCA made the final ruling on ELDs, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) sued the FMCSA.

OOIDA also has some issues with the privacy of the mandate. In a recent Transport Topic article, OOIDA President, Jim Johnson says, “This regulation is absolutely the most outrageous intrusion into the rights of professional truckers imaginable and will do nothing at all to improve highway safety. In fact, we firmly believe it will do exactly the opposite by placing even more pressure and stress on drivers than they already deal with.”

While OOIDA strongly opposes the FMCSA’s decision, the American Trucking Association (ATA) believes this ruling will make a positive impact on the trucking industry. According to a recent Commercial Carrier Journal article, this mandate has been a priority of the ATA for about 5 years now.

Other transportation groups have differing feelings surrounding the mandate. Regardless of outlooks, currently the ELD mandate is still in place.

So What’s Next?

Carriers should start the process of finding the right ELD for their business. Manufacturers of the equipment will be required to have it tested and certified with the FMCSA to verify it meets the mandate’s standards. It will keep a public registry of approved devices for carriers to reference, starting on February 16. Before choosing an ELD system, ask the provider the following questions:

How was the certification earned?
Was testing involved? If so, what tests were done?
What state rules were considered in manufacturing?

Due diligence is especially important when choosing your ELD, because if an ELD becomes de-certified, you will need to find a new ELD, which requires more time and money.

Many carriers have been using fleet management software or equipment that functions similar to an ELD for some time, and many should be able to continue using them under the new ruling.

To see what the ELD mandate means for you and your trucking company, please visit the ATA’s summary of the ELD mandate.

The FMCSA posted the full mandate that you can read by clicking here.

For up to date information on the trucking industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Taxes, Trucking

Paying Back Uncle Sam: Tax Tips for Truckers

It’s almost that time of year again – tax season. For truck drivers, there are many unique deductions available that can help reduce monies owed and maximize returns. Before sitting down with your accountant or tax advisor, here are some of the things to take into consideration that will help you get the most out of your 2015 tax filing.

Preparing Ahead

Part of your truck driver training should have included the importance of keeping detailed records of all the expenses you incurred over the course of the year. By keeping track of how your money is being spent, you’ll be able to more accurately determine exactly what and how much you can deduct. Keeping receipts and other documentation in one place, such as in a folder or on a spreadsheet is recommended.

What’s New for 2015?

In some instances, new tax laws are implemented that specifically impact truck driving professionals. For 2015, Section 179 of the tax law has been expanded to include a few major deductions that were not previously available. For instance, starting with this year’s tax filing, you can now depreciate any truck you own over a three year period for tax savings purposes.

Additionally, if you purchased your truck in 2015, you can now deduct the actual amount you paid during the year, even if was financed.

What Else Can You Deduct?

Beyond equipment, there are also a number of other deductions that are available to trucking professionals. If you are an owner operator, many of the supplies necessary to run your business can be counted as deductions on your taxes. Some examples of these types of deductions include, but are not limited to:

  • Internet and cell phone costs
  • DOT required physical exam
  • Drug tests
  • Load board subscriber fees
  • Postage fees (mailing invoices, bills of lading, etc.)
  • Subscriptions to trucking publications
  • Cleaning products for your truck

For a full list of available deductions, click here.

What Can’t You Deduct?

Just as it’s important to understand what deductions are available to you, it’s equally important to avoid taking deductions on things that are not allowed. If you’re not careful, your return could be flagged for a costly and time consuming audit. For instance, if you are a company truck driver and your company reimburses you for any of the things listed above, you are not allowed to deduct them on your own taxes.

Additional expenses that are not considered tax deductible include:

  • Home phone
  • Personal vacations
  • Tolls
  • Everyday clothing (not your uniform)

As with anything else relating to finance and taxes, it is always advisable to consult with a professional such as an accountant or tax advisor. It’s particularly beneficial to work with someone who has experience filing taxes for clients in the trucking industry.

For more trucker tips or to find out how trucking factoring could work for your business, contact us today. Or, connect with us socially on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Winter Weather, Road, Mountains

Winter Trucking Tips: Don’t Let Jack Frost Ruin Your Run!

The weather outside is frightful, but these winter trucking tips should make your drive a little more delightful.

First, preparing for your drive starts before you even get on the road with a pre-trip inspection. You should already be completing a pre-trip inspection, but with winter road conditions, it’s recommended that you check your vehicle more often. Remember that this inspection includes tires, wiper blades, fluids and lights. If one of these parts doesn’t work properly, it is a bigger problem in winter weather.

Imagine a tire going out in the snow or your lights not being seen because of all the grime from the road covering them. Also, keeping at least half a tank of fuel in your truck is important. The more fuel you have in your tank, the less condensation builds in your fuel tank.

After your pre inspection you will want to have items packed in case of the worst:

• Proper clothing (layers, gloves, rain gear, and a coat)
• Flashlight
• Blanket
• Extra food and water
• Bag of sand
• Windshield washer fluid
• Windshield scraper
• Jumper cables
• Tire chains and/or traction mats
• Reflective vest
• Bungees
• Cam Lock T-handles
• Kneeling pad
• Anti-gel
• Emergency flares

Now it’s time to plan your trip. When determining your route, take note of truck stops and weather patterns, so you take the safest route possible. If you typically drive the same lane, start taking note of these stops in the spring and summer before winter weather appears. To get up to date information on the weather through your phone, you can download the Weather Bug app. It has a radar that can keep you updated on winter weather ahead.

When you head out on the road, watch your speed. Wherever you are going isn’t as important as your life or others. You will have more time to react if something happens, which also means you need to watch your spacing. Keep a good following distance so you can respond to whatever may happen on the road.

Brake and accelerate lightly. Whatever is out on the road can become an even bigger issue if you are stopping and accelerating at high speeds. This is especially important because black ice can exist out on the road. One clue to black ice is noticing that the spray from tires on vehicles in front of you has stopped.

Be extra careful in the mountains, because weather can change rapidly. Obey all signs, especially in the mountains so you can be as safe as possible.

As truckers, you know how to drive in this weather, but one thing to be concerned about that you can’t control is the other drivers out on the road. Even though you can’t control how they drive, you can control how you drive around them. Drive defensively. Keep your distance in case you need to react quickly and have a heightened sense of awareness.

Lastly, if you find yourself stranded on the road, stay in your truck. Grab the blanket and coat you packed and stay moving to keep warm. Keep your exhaust pipe clear of snow and crack a downwind window for ventilation. Also, you should run your engine for about 10-15 minutes per hour.

If you find yourself on the road in bad weather conditions, don’t be afraid to get off the road. Use your best judgment, because your life is the most precious cargo you are carrying.

For more Trucking Tips, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Trucking, Trucks Lined Up

Is Your MC Number Going Away?

MC numbers. MX numbers. FF numbers. Soon, they’ll all be gone. In the near future, all interstate motor carriers will need just one number to complete the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) registration process. Read on to find out why the change is happening, who is affected, how to maintain compliance, and when to take action.

Why the change?

The current carrier registration process is complex, involving different numbers and processes for different carrier types — and many carriers still submit paper forms. It can be time-consuming to track individual carriers using disparate systems, and the government wants to phase out inefficient paper processes.

The FMCSA’S new Unified Registration System (URS) will streamline and simplify things, merging multiple systems, numbers and forms into a single, electronic online process. Once it launches, all carriers will be identified solely by their USDOT (Department of Transportation) number. This simple approach will make it easier to obtain operation authority and maintain compliance. It will also save an estimated $9 million for the FMCSA and the trucking industry, over the next decade.

Who is affected?

All interstate motor carriers, freight forwarders, brokers, IEPs, HMSP applicants/holders, and cargo tank manufacturing and repair facilities under FMCSA jurisdiction will need to comply.

What action must I take — and when?

  • Carriers Currently Registered with the FMCSA:
    If you already have an MC USDOT, or FF number, you don’t have to do anything yet. The change is so big and sweeping, the FMCSA is rolling it out in phases — and currently registered entities are not required to make any changes until September 30, 2016. Continue using the current agency forms and processes to apply for additional registration authority, make administrative filings, and update your registration.
  • Special Entity Requirements:
    If you’re a private HAZMAT or exempt for-hire carrier, you must provide proof of financial responsibility beginning December 31, 2016. In addition, you must have BOC-3 filings in place beginning December 31, 2016. New applicants will begin providing this information September 30, 2016.
  • New Carriers:
    New registration applicants will be required to use the URS online registration application sooner — beginning December 12, 2015. Because it will take some time to transition from the old system to the new one, only new applicants will be able to use the online URS at this time.

Where do I go to get my number?

Online. Once the URS is in effect, paper forms will no longer be accepted. However, we can’t give you the url yet — it’s not ready. The FMCSA recently published an extension to their original deadline for the website launch, citing the need to implement multiple provisions.

Dates to remember: Biennial updates

Once you begin using the URS, you will be required to update your information biennially (every other year). So, how do you know which year and month to do so? The answer lies in your USDOT number itself. Here are the guidelines:

  • If the next-to-last digit in your USDOT number is odd, you must update your information in the odd-numbered calendar year.
  • If the next-to-last digit in your USDOT number is even, update your information in the even-
    numbered calendar year.
  • To determine the month in which you must update, look at the last digit of your USDOT number.
    “1” means January, “2” means February, “3” means March, and so on. Oh, and “0” means October. We know what you’re thinking. What about November and December? Those are double-digit months. Well, don’t worry — there will be no updates in those months.
  • Special exclusions: If you change your name, address, or form of business, you must update your information within 30 days of the change.

We know — it’s a pain in the bumper. But if you don’t complete the biennial update, your USDOT number will be deactivated.

The URS may seem confusing, but once it launches, we’ll be on the road to a more efficient, simpler process (To learn more, visit the FMCSA website.) At Triumph Business Capital, we’re committed to serving truckers. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date with the latest in the industry!

Trucker Health

The Push to Help You “Keep On Trucking”

The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.7 years — but for truckers, it’s only around 60. While job risks like traffic accidents are partly to blame, the trucking lifestyle may be the bigger culprit. Here’s what truckers are doing to change the statistics, and create longer, healthier lives.

Why is it so hard for truckers to stay healthy?

Long hours sitting behind the wheel. Lack of access to healthy food choices. Limited time for exercise. It’s easy to see why staying healthy is a challenge for truck drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, truckers have the highest obesity prevalence of any occupation. They also have a 50% higher risk of developing diabetes compared to the general population, according to a 2009 study. However, an industry-wide shift toward healthier lifestyles is beginning to change all that.

Who’s driving the push for better health?

Rising healthcare and insurance costs, an aging workforce, and the desire to improve one’s own health are all contributing factors to the growing concern — and as the industry rallies around the problem, we’re seeing a lot of promising new solutions. Transportation companies, health insurance providers, healthcare companies, and individual truckers are all doing their part to create a healthier future for truckers. Here’s how:

  • Employers and Transportation Companies
    In the corporate world, “workplace wellness” has been a growing trend — but it’s been slower to reach the trucking industry. Drivers travel across the country daily, making it difficult to access workout facilities, participate in fitness classes, or assemble for office meetings about healthcare. Instead, employers are trying new methods to reach a mobile workforce, including online fitness programs, conference calls with health coaches, and mobile applications to track diet and exercise. For example, Prime Inc., a trucking operation with thousands of drivers, hired a trucker-turned-fitness guru to create and implement a health program for its fleet.
  • Healthcare Providers and Insurance Companies
    Keeping truckers healthy is good for everyone on the road. A driver with more energy is less likely to become drowsy — which may prevent accidents. Healthcare providers and insurance companies are reaching out to truckers with websites, online video channels, and other resources aimed at improving health. For example, The Healthy Trucking Association dispenses health advice, articles, and recipes on its website, along with insurance information.
  • Transportation Industry
    Financial providers and others in the industry are also chipping in to improve trucker health. The healthytrucker website features health, lifestyle and money blogs. Meanwhile, the online video network CFF Nation hosts fitness-themed shows for truckers, including cooking shows and exercise programs with moves you can do inside or outside of your truck.

Individual Truckers

Of course, the only way to truly improve truckers’ health is if truckers themselves get involved — and not surprisingly, truckers are the biggest drivers in the trend. Here are some of the ways they’re incorporating health into life on the road:

  • 15-minute “exercise breaks”
    Truckers are using breaks to get in quick, high-intensity exercise. A workout can be as simple as
    jogging around the truck stop, lifting weights, or doing jumping jacks. If you can work in two or three short exercise sessions a day, you’ll boost your metabolism.
  • Healthy choices on the road
    Fast food options are limited, but with a little education, drivers can make better choices. For example, a six-inch sub with double meat provides more protein and fewer carbs than a foot-long. Drivers can skip buns on burgers, sub salads for fries, and go easy on the dressing.
  • Kitchen-in-the-cab
    Some drivers are creating kitchens in their cabs, with portable mini-fridges and basic cooking facilities designed for the road. They’re stocking up on healthy ingredients and produce at grocery stores, and making their own nutritious meals instead of settling for fast food.

Truckers are fighting the statistics — and it may result in longer and happier lives. For more Trucking Tips, give us a follow on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

Smart Hiring Tips

How to Make it Through Your First Year as an Owner-Operator

So you’ve decided to leap from employed trucker to becoming an owner-operator.

There are definite advantages to having your own authority and being your own boss: setting your own schedule; choosing loads and lanes that suit you; leaving company politics, rules and dispatcher favoritism in your rearview mirror. But where much freedom is given, much responsibility is required. Following these tips from others’ been-there-hauled-that experience will improve your chances for success in your first year on your own.

Set realistic expectations.

Even though becoming an owner-operator offers the opportunity to make more money, take off the rose-colored sunglasses. In your first year, expect to lay out a lot of cash for working capital, out-of-pocket expenses, insurance, meals, oil changes, repairs and many other expenses. Do a lot of research to get an accurate handle on both expected income and expenses.

Live within your means.

Your spending habits and money management will drive your success as an owner-operator. It’s good to set ambitious goals, but you can’t spend anticipating future growth. Budget based on yearlong averages, not the best of times. Buy or lease a truck you can afford, and set aside money for insurance, repairs and maintenance – even for a brand-spanking new one with a warranty.

Choose your truck wisely.

Spec it to squeeze out every penny of profit. Align the engine with the loads you expect to haul. Whether buying new or used, do your homework. Consider the truck’s fuel economy and its age (including mileage, warranty and amenities) for the money. Research fuel economy with the diesel engine manufacturers. Get real-world input from other owner-operators with similar trucks and engines. Also focus on reliability and longevity as well as maintenance requirements and overall performance.

Credit matters.

Avoid the common mistake of becoming an independent trucker with bad credit or excessive personal debts. Minimize your credit-card debt. Maintaining good credit supports your ability to keep rolling and access necessary capital for equipment, fuel cards, and investment in your business.

Set aside money for downtime and emergencies.

Plan for a rainy day by setting aside a little bit each week “just in case.” Work can dry up. You could get sick. Costs and revenue fluctuate. Build up your emergency fund – a good 3-6 months of living expenses – to tide you over in case you experience a real financial emergency, you can’t work, or you need ready access to cash. Even new rigs break, and downtime can be devastating.

Pay for professional expertise.

Consult with professionals on accounting and legal issues to set up the most appropriate business structure for your trucking business, keep proper records, plan for taxes and address various legal issues. You’ll also need a responsive and knowledgeable business banking contact. Seek out reputable professionals who can advise you properly for your specific circumstances.

Keep yourself healthy.

If you’re going to be on the road for long periods of time, your body and mind need to be in good health. If you have downtime because of health issues, you aren’t making money. If you’ve got health issues, plan for getting medical attention even while on the road. Also keep in mind that being a long-haul trucker is tough on relationships and family, stresses that can affect your physical health. Make sure you’ve got a decent health insurance policy and be prepared to pay for travel coverage.

Continue to learn.

You may be new to the industry or you may have been leased on to a company for years, but to stay one step ahead of your competition, continue to learn. Connect with industry leaders and learn from them. Those connections can help grow your business in the future, too. Don’t ever become complacent with your knowledge. You’ll also need to continue your professional training. If you plan properly, you can do this while on the road without taking hours away from your home time.

Think like a business owner.

Trucking is a business and your truck is your tool. It takes an intense work ethic and hard, smart work to be successful. In the beginning, after becoming an owner-operator, you’ll need to drive 70 hours a week and spend extra hours behind the scenes to keep the business running. You have to be prepared if something happens to your truck or you need more money for fuel. Those are now your responsibilities, not someone else’s. And, when evaluating loads, strike the right balance between home time and having enough cash coming in.

Go into carrier relationships with eyes wide open.

Know what you’re getting into before you sign – from the business sector you’re getting into to specific carriers. Rates, costs, customers, safety records, internal relationships all affect your operation. Focus on building long-term relationships with good customers.

Be prepared.

Even if you weren’t a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, you need to be prepared for whatever happens in your business. If your brokers or shippers pay slowly, you may want to consider factoring through Triumph Business Capital. Freight bill factoring helps you manage your cash flow so you get paid fast without incurring debt. Also look to Triumph for a free trial of DAT Load Boards to search for credit-approved loads.

DAT Solutions

How to Choose the Right Fuel Card

What could you do with $1,080 extra per year, per truck in your fleet? You could be saving this much or more just by using the right discount fuel card. With so many fuel card options available, it can be hard to know how to choose the right one. In this blog, we’ll explain the difference between a discount fuel card and a credit card, and share the top features to compare when you’re shopping for savings.

Choosing the Right Card Type

Credit Cards

Many fleet owners buy fuel with credit cards because they’re quick, convenient, and they’re accepted everywhere. But no matter where your drivers are fueling up, if they’re using a credit card, you’re overpaying. The diesel price posted at truck stops is actually the cash price. When you pay by credit card, the cost is usually five cents more per gallon, or higher. Multiply that by 1,500 gallons per month (a typical amount of fuel consumed by an average tractor-trailer), and it comes out to $90.00 per month, or $1,080 per year. Even worse, if you don’t pay off your credit card each month, you’ll pay interest fees, too.

Discount Fuel Cards

Unlike credit cards, discount fuel cards are cash-based, so they qualify for the lower cash price posted at the pump. But that’s not the only way discount fuel cards help you save money. You’ll also get discounted pricing negotiated by the card provider, beyond the cash price. When multiplied by the gallon, and by the truck, these discounts add up to huge savings.

Comparing Fuel Card Benefits:

Discount fuel cards offer much more than savings, and not all cards are created equal. Here are some of the top benefits (and drawbacks) to look for when comparing providers:

Rebates
Fuel is one of biggest expenses in operating a fleet, accounting for up to a third of business costs. Ask your card provider how many cents per gallon you’ll save when you use their card, and find out whether you must meet a certain fuel threshold to qualify.

Reporting Features
Many fuel discount cards provide detailed reporting tools to analyze spending and assist with fuel tax reporting. The level of detail provided depends on the card, so be sure to ask what you’re getting. For example, can you track mileage and expenses per vehicle, and per driver?

Control Features
If you want to ensure your team is using cards appropriately, ask about control features. You may wish to limit purchase types, amounts, or the number of times a card is used daily.

Card Acceptance
Some fuel cards are limited to certain geographic areas, or specific fuel providers. Be sure the card you choose will be convenient for you and your fleet to use.

Cash Advance Capabilities
Can you use the card to withdraw cash from an ATM, transfer money, and make balance inquiries? Cash advance capabilities can be an attractive feature in fuel cards, but not all providers offer them. If yours does you should beware, most of the capabilities come with a transaction fee that can also add up overtime.

Service
The people behind the card can be as important as the benefits provided. Find out if there is a 24-hour line for customer support, and try calling. It can be helpful to know whether a live person answers, and how long it takes to get through.

Trust
This is your money we’re talking about, so make sure you’re dealing with a provider you trust.
How is the company rated by the BBB? Are they financially sound? Do they have a good reputation? Do you trust them? Interview each card provider, and ask for referrals.

It pays to shop around, so be sure to do your homework. If you decide a fuel card is right for your fleet, you may want to consider Triumph Business Capital’s discount fuel card program, which is accepted at over 11,000 locations nationwide. Ask Blaine Waugh, for more information.

Tax Tips for Truckers

15 Fun Facts About the U.S. Trucking Industry

You can probably recite a slew of metrics about your own operations, but you may not be aware of the role trucking plays in the U.S. economy or the extent of its reach. Here are 15 interesting tidbits about the industry you live and breathe:

  • Charles Freuhauf invented the first tractor-trailer over one hundred years ago in 1914 when a customer wanted a vehicle that could haul a boat.
  • The trucking industry is expected to generate $1.3 trillion in revenue in 2015.
  • One out of every 14 jobs in the United States is created or directly affected by the trucking industry.
  • A typical U.S. commercial truck driver logs 105,000 miles per year.
  • The combined mileage of all trucks making deliveries in the country is nearly 5 billion miles per year.
  • Approximately 15.7 million trucks are currently in use in the U.S. If you lined up all of those trucks end-to-end, they would reach the moon!
  • About two-thirds of all domestic freight transported in the United States is carried by truck.
  • Over-the-road truck engines are designed to travel more than one million miles before being retired, whereas car engines are expected to go just 200,000 miles.
  • The average big rig carries 80,000 pounds of freight at one time. That’s 40 tons of goods and products.
  • The U.S. trucking industry consumes about 50 billion gallons of gasoline every year. This equates to nearly 13 percent of the country’s total fuel consumption.
  • In 2009, the average over-the-road truck driver made $35,000. In 2013, that figure was $55,000, a $20,000 jump in income in just seven years.
  • Trucks need 40 percent more time to stop than cars.
  • The types of goods most commonly transported via truck are food, clothing, furniture and electrical machinery.
  • Over the last 19 years, the exhaust emissions of heavy trucks and off-road equipment have plummeted more than 95 percent.
  • It would take 60 of today’s clean-diesel trucks to generate the exhaust emissions of one truck from 1988.

While these facts are fun to know, it pays to know about the many resources available to help your business thrive. For starters, look to Triumph for invoice factoring. By purchasing your outstanding invoices, you can get your cash faster without sweating slow payments or taking on debt. In addition to helping you manage your cash flow, Triumph also supports your business with services such as online credit checks, fuel discounts and advances, insurance, free trial on DAT load boards, which includes an automatic credit check on shippers and brokers, and other benefits previously reserved for larger companies. Rely on Triumph to minimize the headaches and risks of operating your fleet.

And, keep up with our latest trucking tips and tools on your favorite social platforms:

Join the conversation on Twitter
Become a fan on Facebook
See what we’re up to on Instagram
Get the latest scoop on Google Plus

Freight Broker

Six Questions You Should Ask Your Freight Broker

Even though a freight broker is entrusting your trucks and drivers with their customers’ shipments, you’re on the hook if they’re not trustworthy, financially strong or a performance-focused operator. Here are the top six questions to ask before you take on a job with a new freight brokerage.

Is the freight broker financially stable and able to pay its carriers?

Perform a credit check to find out if they are profitable and how quickly they pay vendors. Are there any liens, lawsuits or legal judgments against them? If you turn up financial problems, keep your distance. Better to build an ongoing relationship with a brokerage that has been growing steadily in revenues, staff, technology and capabilities over the years. In a 2014 survey by Penske Logistics, chief executives of third-party logistics companies predicted the 3PL industry would grow 6.5% per year over the next three years and that their own businesses would grow by more than 10% at the same time. If their results are underperforming industry expectations, that’s a red flag.

Is the broker properly licensed and bonded?

Do they have a federal property broker license issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and broker authority? Do they have a freight broker bond? A $75,000 surety bond is required by law for all brokers, providing protection for carriers in the event that a broker fails to pay freight charges. Check out the FMCSA’s searchable database to see if a freight broker is properly licensed and bonded.

How does it treat its carriers?

Do they establish and maintain mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with their carriers? How quickly do they pay trucking companies after a load is delivered? Do they pay on time and strive to eliminate costly deadhead miles? Partnerships built on trust and over time, where brokers and truckers work closely together, are most valuable. They help anticipate customer freight needs and boost shipper satisfaction, leading to more profitable, ongoing business.

Do they carry contingent cargo insurance?

Even though your trucks physically would be handling the freight, not the broker, contingent cargo insurance protects the shipper if a shipment is lost, stolen or damaged in transit. If you cannot or do not fully pay the claim loss, the broker’s insurance kicks in, providing backup. It is preferable to work with freight brokers who have this insurance.

How long has the brokerage been operating?

For the first one or two years, companies focus on survival. If it’s been around for a decade or longer, that’s a strong indicator that the business is solid. If it’s a startup with hardly any history, or a lot of customer complaints, steer clear. A good track record and thriving business are good signs that they execute well, and consequently are stable and successful. Unfortunately, the freight industry has seen its share of fly-by-night operators who pay their carriers late – or not at all. Save yourself the heartburn and research the brokerage online to learn about the company’s longevity, a measure of its experience and expertise.

Are communications clear, comprehensive and in writing?

Good communication on the front end and throughout the process avoids surprises and problems later on. You should get instructions in writing, as well as document details on loads you pick up and deliver. Relying on phone calls to get instructions, match loads to your capacity and prove that loads were picked up and delivered is not enough. And, before you do business, make sure you have a written contract with the broker.

Factor in ready cash with freight bill factoring

With Triumph’s freight factoring, see your cash faster to take care of business needs without taking on debt or making loan payments. We take the stress and work out of getting paid by freight brokers and shippers by purchasing your outstanding invoices and getting you paid faster. Put our team of savvy credit and collection professionals to work for you. Benefit from added resources and experience in operations and technology. Avoid bad debt and slow-pay headaches – be ready to take on new opportunities.

Truck Driver Shortage

How to Hire Drivers– and Keep Them During the Truck Driver Shortage

For today’s generation, trucking doesn’t seem to hold much appeal. Long hours on the road, time spent away from family, and mediocre pay is leading to increasingly high turnover rates and driver shortages. In fact, according to the American Trucking Association, the industry needs 30,000 more drivers to meet current demands. If you’re a fleet owner, you’re probably well aware of the truck driver shortage. And, you may even be looking for truck driver resources to attract new talent. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled some of the best tips for finding truck drivers and reducing driver turnover. Read on to learn how to improve recruitment, training and retention for your fleet.

1. Accelerate recruitment.

With so much competition for drivers, it can be challenging to recruit high quality candidates. However, by rethinking recruitment and appealing to new pools of talent, you can be on the road to hiring new truckers a lot faster. Here’s how:

  • Use social media.
    The trucking industry has historically recruited through TV and print ads, but today’s drivers are online. Make sure your company has a presence on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and use these sites to post positions and interact with drivers. Most are free to use, but offer paid advertising that can help with finding truck drivers more efficiently.
  • Make your website work harder.
    Search engine optimization can go a long way toward attracting long-haul drivers. Create a “Careers” page on your website for posting jobs and accepting resumes, and be sure to include keywords that drivers might search — such as “trucking jobs,” “truck driver resources,” etc. You may also want to add a blog to your site, and post articles with keywords, to keep content fresh.
  • Use driver job boards, lead boards and aggregator sites.
    Websites like DAT Solutions cater to the trucking industry, and can make finding truck drivers easier. Post your job in more than one spot for maximum visibility.
  • Recruit military drivers.
    Military truck drivers can bring a high level of integrity to your organization — and their training is second to none. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program helps veterans and military spouses find worthwhile employment, and offers a nationwide hiring fair as well as online resources.

2. Drive Quality with Better Onboarding and Training.

Despite the truck driver shortage, you shouldn’t have to accept an employee that doesn’t meet your quality requirements. A strong onboarding process for qualifying and training new employees can lead to better performance on the job, and improved satisfaction. It can also reduce driver turnover, which can be costly.

  • Conduct background checks and screenings.
    Head off turnover early by conducting thorough background check and screenings, including moving violations, driving while under the influence, and Compliance Safety Accountability records. Ask for recommendations from previous employers, too — and take the extra time to call them. A little due diligence now could save you time and money later.
  • Create a formal orientation program.
    If your company doesn’t have a formal orientation and training program, create one. Include training in all the skills needed to complete the job, and discuss your expectations and any special job requirements.
  • Ask for employees’ input.
    Conduct a post-training interview to ask new hires how they feel about the job so far, and answer any questions that may have.

3. Create an environment where drivers feel respected and valued.

Build a retention program to ensure truckers know what is expected of them, show them that their opinions are valued, and prove that management is willing to do what it takes to keep them there. Here’s what some of the most successful fleet owners are doing to attract and retain the best talent.

  • Raise pay and benefits.
    Higher salaries and benefits are big draws in any industry — and trucking is no exception. Check industry standards to see what competitors are offering, and make sure your salaries are in line. Also, consider adding health and wellness benefits.
  • Create a better work/life balance.
    Spending days and weeks away from home causes stress for truckers and their families. Consider altering schedules to allow drivers to return home more often.
  • Make the job easier with new technology.
    Automated logs make record keeping less taxing. Rear-facing cameras help truckers navigate blind spots. Automatic transmissions can make trucks easier to drive. Ask your fleet what features they would like to see, and consider investing in technology to improve job satisfaction.
  • Create a career path.
    Truckers don’t just want jobs — they want meaningful careers. If you can provide carriers with opportunities for advancement, transitioning from on-the-road to behind-the-desk, you may see your driver turnover problem turn around.
  • Conduct employee surveys.
    The best way to know what employees want is to ask them. Distribute surveys to ask employees if they are satisfied with their jobs, and find out what you can do to make the work experience better.

In the end, truckers want the same things every employee wants: a promising career, good pay and benefits, and a positive work environment. Even in a truck driver shortage, offering these benefits can help you attract better quality candidates. While you’re growing your work force, Triumph Business Capital can help you access working capital to grow your business — and ensure your new employees are paid on time. Ask Blaine Waugh for more information.

Truckers Insurance

Why Is My Insurance So Expensive?

When most people go to buy trucking insurance, they expect the obvious questions:

How many trucks do you own? Where is your company domiciled? What commodities do you haul?  What is your travel radius?  Insurance companies use this information to formulate your premium.  But, what else goes into rating a commercial trucking policy?  What other factors are driving your rates?

The answer is….there are several other factors companies use when considering a risk.  Some examples are:

  • Loss Frequency and Severity
  • Safety Management Scores
  • Out-of-Service Percentages
  • Growth Plans
  • Coverages or lack there of
  • Multiple MC Numbers
  • Sharing of Units

Who knew so much went into formulating your insurance premium?  Now you are wondering how to keep your cost down.  Here are some hints that may help you do just that:

  1. Know who you are hiring.  We suggest that part of your hiring process should include obtaining a motor vehicle report on all drivers prior to making an offer of employment.    Drivers can obtain a copy of their MVR from the local Department of Motor Vehicles.  There are also many services out there that will run MVRs for you as well.
  2. Electronic Logs. These logs not only keep drivers within DOT guidelines, they also alert you when the device has been disconnected.
  3. Safety Management Meetings. Regular safety meetings will promote safe driving habits, the importance of vehicle maintenance, and most importantly open communication.  The benefit will be less accidents and violations to contend with and lower insurance premiums.
  4. Growth Plans. While growth is exciting, rapid growth could harm your business.  Rapid growth is sometimes frowned upon by the insurance companies.  Plan to grow methodically, be selective in who you hire, what commodities you will haul and even the age of the equipment you purchase or lease on.
  5. Talk to Your Commercial Insurance Agent. An agent who focuses on the trucking insurance industry is more likely to understand your needs.  Tell them about your operation and ask questions.  You are your own best source of information.  Your licensed agent can help you to make the right decisions regarding you insurance needs.

We hope this information is helpful to you.   Maybe this information has raised some questions.  Our licensed agents at Triumph Insurance Group will be glad to help you with whatever questions you may have!  Check out the website at http://www.triumphinsurance.com or call at 800-411-7542 and our agents can get started on a quote for you!

Invoice Factoring

Trucking is the Fastest Growing Small Business Industry

As the economy grows, one industry is standing out as the fastest growing small business industry—trucking. According to a recent article from Triumph Bancorp, parent company to Triumph Business Capital, the trucking industry has seen a 25 percent uptick in sales over the last year, indicating large growth.

The American Trucking Association reported that the transportation industry has generated more than $700 billion in revenue for the first time since 2014. With this increase in sales and the current driver shortage, trucking companies will see more opportunities for their small business.

As a trucking company owner, are you taking advantage of the opportunities out there?

If your business is growing faster than your ability to cover expenses, you can convert your accounts receivable into cash with Triumph Business Capital. Through our experienced team and partnerships, we can provide trucking business owners with the resources they need to keep their company growing.

Best Factoring Companies

Pick a Niche

 

Even if you already have your small trucking company up and rolling (pun intended), it’s not too late to further refine your business. One refinement you might consider is choosing a niche. You’ll often see that recommended in business articles for any industry, but it seems particularly necessary in trucking.

Read more

Factoring Companies

Who Knows You? By Timothy D. Brady

Recently I saw an idiom that said “Hustle until you no longer need to introduce yourself.” This got me to thinking on a couple of related thoughts.

Why would you stop hustling when everyone knows who you are?

Under what circumstances would it be no longer necessary to introduce yourself to others?

First let’s define the word ‘hustle’ in this particular context.

Most dictionaries have the following definitions:
1. to quickly move or push (someone), often in a rough way.
2. to move or work in a quick and energetic way.
3. to play a sport with a lot of energy and effort.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll use number 2. to move or work in a quick and energetic way.

Now to provide my thoughts on the two previous questions.

Why would you stop hustling when everyone knows who you are?

In my opinion, even if you walk into a room full of people where everyone knows you, (the ‘Cheers’ syndrome), wouldn’t it be a little presumptuous and a bit egoistical to assume there isn’t at least one person who doesn’t know who you are and what you do? I think your focus when doing business with others, no matter whether you’re Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or the new guy on the block, a bit of humbleness goes a long way with customers and people who have the potential of someone with whom you’d like to do business. The idea for success in marketing, maintaining current and creating future customers, is through the respect you show each and every person you come in contact with, regardless whether they know who you are or not.

Under what circumstances would it be no longer necessary to introduce yourself to others?
I recall a scene in the movie The Devil Wears Prada where the character Amanda Priestly is flanked by her two assistants who’ve spent hours studying photos of all the guests and personal details of their lives before Ms. Priestly’s huge event. That way she had names, nicknames, marital status and so on at her disposal while greeting all. The purpose of this, while she no longer needed to be introduced, as everyone knew her, was for her to show respect to every guest who was important or potentially important to her or her business’s future. Just remember it’s not who knows you, it’s who you know (and do they respect you) that determines your success.

A couple of other thoughts concerning how much someone should hustle even after they’re well known within their industry. In trucking, the industry is always evolving; i.e., regulations, HOS, technology and logistics in general, so you never know when the person with whom you do business today may not be in a decision-making position tomorrow – and someone new,  who doesn’t know you, is the person with whom you’ll be working.

So never assume you’re so well-known that you’ll never need to introduce yourself in the future.

Contact Tim Brady at 731-749-8567 or at www.timothybrady.com

Looking for Direct Shipper Freight – What’s the Solution? By Timothy D. Brady

Nearly every small and micro-trucking company owner has asked this question several times. The smaller your operation, the more difficult it is to find the answer. So, many of us relegate ourselves to hauling wholesale (broker and load board) freight and leave the direct shipper freight to the bigger carriers. After all, the fewer trucks you own, the less you have to offer a shipper, right?

Well, maybe not. It depends on how you approach those shippers. One good thing, with fewer trucks you don’t need 20 or 30 shippers to fill your trailers. Just a few shippers, or maybe even one or two is all you need to add that retail freight revenue to your cash flow.

So honestly, finding those two or three shippers isn’t as big a task as you might think. It’s all about how you approach the process.

It’s not about selling your services to the highest bidder; it’s more about making your services available, so shippers know your trucks are running in the lanes and areas where their freight needs to be hauled.  To sell your hauling services, you have to convince a shipper to purchase that service. But what if all that’s required is for you to locate the companies needing freight hauled, and then be available to provide them with freight rates upon request? Not near as involved as cold calling or knocking on doors just to be told ‘they’re not buying freight services today.’ You need to stop selling your freight hauling services and start freight prospecting.

To explain: freight prospecting is a lot like panning for gold. You start with a pan full of rocks, sand and water, and shake it back and forth allowing the lighter rocks and sand to spill over the edge while the heaver gold falls to the bottom of the pan. Freight prospecting is very similar in that you begin with a large list of shippers. Narrow the list down to specific areas and lanes in which you need your trucks operating. Then start the shaking to find the shippers worth their weight in gold.

The gold shippers are the ones with freight that works with your regular brokered and load board freight, going the direction you need your trucks to travel, to create the greatest amount of revenue over the shortest time and distance. Once you’ve narrowed the list down to these shippers, the plan is to contact them and become an Approved Carrier for them.

What’s an Approved Carrier? This is a trucking company they’ll contact every time they have a load that fits the criteria you’ve established with them. When they have a load that’s a match, they will email or fax you an RFP (Request for Proposal). All you have to do is write the best rate for which you’re willing to haul the load on the RFP and return it to them. If the rate is in line with the range they’re willing to pay, bingo!  the load is yours. Do this enough times for regularly-scheduled shipments and you can then request the load be placed on your trucks every time it becomes available.

This is how you build a carrier customer relationship with a direct shipper:
1. Become an approved carrier in their data base

2. Provide rates that work with their needs

3. Be on time and on schedule with all the loads you haul for them

4. No damage and no unexpected events with their loads

And the next thing you know, you’re hauling good, retail paying freight.

The trick is to have a large enough database of potential shippers from which to pan for gold and spend one to two hours per week working down the list of qualified shippers. It’s a numbers game that, when played correctly, has a really nice pay back.

For information on where to find such a shipper database, please fell free to contact me.

Timothy Brady © 2014

To contact Brady:

www.timothybrady.com

731-749-8567

Moving to the Next Level- Growing Your Trucking Company Part 1 by Timothy D. Brady

The most common question I’m asked by owners/managers of small motor carriers is:

“How do I grow my trucking company?”

Moving your business to the next level isn’t based on luck. Growing a trucking company requires dedication and leaps of faith, but most of all it requires a solid business plan. This plan looks at the company’s potential, projects its revenue needs (over the next 5 and 10 years), and then determines where growth plateaus will occur, thus being prepared with both cash and assets as each plateau is reached.

One of the biggest mistakes many companies make is trying to grow too fast. The first rule of growth is being prepared with the capital investment needed, yet at the same time ready for the drain of cash while new equipment starts producing enough revenue to support itself.  As any successful businessperson will tell you, growth initially drains assets both in cash and in personnel, so you must plan growth very carefully.

Try these pointers:

  1. Have a complete business plan. Know the numbers (expenses versus income). Be sure your growth has a real opportunity for success.
  2. Evaluate your market and know it will support your growth.
  3. Have a vision of how you’ll reach each plateau in your growth plan.
  4. Set revenue goals. Have the facts and figures of what you’re doing based on your plan at hand. If it’s working, stay the course; if it’s not working, adjust or scrap the portion which isn’t achieving its goals.
  5. Know your break-even point, the figure which changes every time any expense increases or decreases. It’s the point where losing money stops and profit begins.
  6. Be sure you’ve included in your break-even costs a salary for yourself, and anyone else working for your company. Any company owner waiting for profits to pay his salary is doomed to working for someone else. Your profits are where your funds for growth will accumulate and where performance bonuses come from; it’s not your salary.
  7. Determine a profit margin, which will retain your competitive position while growing your capitalization fund.

A trucking company owner who thinks he’s going to strike it rich in the first five years had better think twice. That’s not to say this isn’t possible, but you have a better chance of selecting next week’s winning lottery numbers. If you want to grow your company, reinvest your profits back into your trucking company.

In the next blog article, I’ll provide an example with numbers on how to establish the needed funds to sustain and grow your trucking company.

Drive long and prosper, and remember: Sustainability is the first step towards growth.

Timothy Brady ©2013

To contact Brady go to www.timothybrady.com

For more information on Trucking Business Courses go to: www.truckersu.com

 

Daylight Saving Time and Trucker Fatigue

Maybe that hour ‘saved’ isn’t worth it

There’s a joke going around the internet as a quote attributed to an old Indian chief concerning his opinion of Daylight Saving time. It says, “Only the government would come up with a plan where it is believed that if you cut of the bottom of a blanket and then sew it to the top, you’d have a longer blanket.”

With that non-time addition in mind, is it possible Daylight Saving Time is a large contributor to truck driver fatigue?

Isaac Edery, Rutgers University professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry has been doing research on the circadian clock and the effects of losing that hour every March. Edery is a researcher at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, a joint venture of Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

In a recent article in the Asbury Park Press, Edery was quoted, “Studies indicate that when we transition to daylight-saving time in March, we lose 20 to 30 minutes of sleep each day just trying to adjust to the time change.”

Question: How does this loss of sleep affect truckers who have to deal with the transition both impacting their sleep habits and how they log the transition? According to Professor Edery “This loss can go on for days, weeks or even months. For some people, it can take quite a toll.” Is it possible this is true for many truckers?

It’s been estimated 1.9 million crashes a year, and one in six fatalities, involve a fatigued driver. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman has repeatedly said, “Tired drivers pose a safety risk because fatigue can degrade every aspect of human performance. Fatigue slows reaction time, impairs judgment and degrades memory.”

In an October 4, 2011, article for The Beverage Industry newsletter at bevindustry.com, David Kolman, former trucker now trucking journalist, made the point: “The end of daylight saving time throws off our internal clocks. Studies find that it can take as long as two weeks for people to fully readjust their sleep schedule after the time change.”

Many studies support Kolman’s statement.

In April of 2004, an Australian study, “The Interaction Of Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Sleep Deprivation, Circadian Factors and Alcohol In Driving Fatigue Risk,” prepared for NSW Motor Accidents Authority in Australia, refers to multiple studies spanning several decades about Daylight Saving Time and fatigue in relation to truckers. The report stated the following:

“Following on from an article published in the Journal Science in the 1970’s … showed that measurable changes in sleep pattern persist for up to five days after each time shift associated with Daylight Saving.” (Monk T., Folkard S. Adjusting to the changes to and from daylight saving time, Science, 1976). Stanley Coren, Ph.D., published a very interesting article in The New England Journal of Medicine titled Daylight Saving Time and Traffic Accidents. (New England Journal of Medicine, 1996); looking at the effects of daylight saving time zone changes on Canadian road accident rates.

Coren, using road accident data from the Canadian Ministry of Transport for 1991 and 1992 (approximately 20,000 reported accidents), showed that the spring shift to Daylight Saving Time, and the concomitant loss of one hour of sleep, resulted in an average increase in traffic accidents of approximately 8 percent, whereas the fall shift resulted in a decrease in accidents of approximately the same magnitude immediately after the time shift.

This suggested that even small changes in the amount of sleep people get can have major consequences in everyday activities, including the risk of traffic accidents. However, a similar recent study in Sweden did not show a measurable, immediate effect on crash incidence in Sweden associated with the shift to and from Daylight Saving Time. (Lambe M., Cummings P. The shift to and from Daylight Saving Time and motor vehicle crashes. Accident Analysis & Prevention 2000.).

In October of 1998, Alex Vincent, Ph.D., with Transport Canada, refuted Dr. Coren’s findings in a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine saying Dr. Coren’s hypothesis was flawed.

Dr. Vincent stated, “The results of a recent Canadian study call into question Coren’s findings that motor vehicle crashes increase by 8 percent following the change to Daylight Saving Time and decrease by 7 percent after the change to standard time. The study extended Coren’s analysis, using the same data source. First, data from the days between the Monday preceding the time change and the Monday one week afterward were analyzed. Second, Coren’s hypothesis was statistically tested with data from the years 1984 to 1993, to evaluate the significance of any differences obtained.

The mean motor vehicle crash rates for the Monday one week before the change to standard time were compared with those for the Monday immediately after the change and showed a significant increase. This result is inconsistent with Coren’s hypothesis. A paired t-test showed that the mean rate of 188.5 for the Monday immediately after the change was not significantly different from the mean rate of 186.5 for the Monday one week after the change.”

Dr. Coren responded, “In my study of the effects of Daylight Saving Time on traffic accidents, I found increased accident rates on the Monday after the spring shift in time and decreased rates in the fall. I interpreted this in terms of sleep time lost or gained. Vincent uses a larger data base than that available to me and fails to replicate these results. Unfortunately, Vincent’s analyses are based on t-tests of annual counts, rather than more sensitive, pooled relative-risk measures. More important, analysis of recent data from larger data banks gives me reason still to believe that the shift to Daylight Saving Time in the spring is associated with an increased risk of accidents, although the rebound reduction in accidents in the fall may be more problematic.”

“These data are consistent with the hypothesis that a small decrease in the duration of sleep can increase one’s susceptibility to accidents. Although work schedules accentuate the loss of sleep after the spring shift to Daylight Saving Time, the absence of a reduction in accidents in the fall may reflect the fact that many people do not take advantage of the hour gained to extend their sleep.”

In September of 2009, Christopher M. Barnes and David T. Wagner published “Changing to daylight saving time cuts into sleep and increases workplace injuries” in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 94(5). Barnes and Wagner reported they examined the influence of time changes associated with Daylight Saving Time on sleep quantity and associated workplace injuries.

In Study 1, they used a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health database of mining injuries for the years 1983–2006, and they found that in comparison with other days, on Mondays directly following the switch to Daylight Saving Time—in which 1 hour is lost—workers sustain more workplace injuries and injuries of greater severity.

In Study 2, Barnes and Wagner used a Bureau of Labor Statistics database of time use for the years 2003–2006. They found indirect evidence for the role of sleep in the Daylight Saving Time/injuries relationship. Data showed that on Mondays directly following the switch to Daylight Saving Time, workers sleep on average 40 minutes less than on other days. On Mondays directly following the switch back to Standard Time, in which 1 hour is gained, there are no significant differences in sleep, injury quantity, or injury severity.

In the Canarise Courier (Brooklyn, NY) March 18, 2010 newspaper, an article titled ‘Daylight Saving Time Could Mean More Drowsy Drivers,’ reported: “Commissioner David J. Swarts of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) used the occasion of the switch to Daylight Saving Time to remind motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving. Daylight Saving Time went into effect last Sunday. Swarts said, “Motorists should be aware of the warning signs of fatigue and how to avoid drowsy driving, particularly as we adjust to the loss of sleep that comes with the switch to Daylight Saving Tim.,”

Blogger Alan Bristol with Truck Driver News wrote in his March 11, 2011 post, (just preceding the ‘spring forward’ of clocks on March 14), “I don’t know about you but the last thing my circadian rhythm needs is this biannual cheap shot. By the way, have you ever thought how ludicrous the term “Time Change” is? I mean there are still 24 hours in a day, right? It’s not as if we are changing the rotational speed of the earth on its axis or anything.”

Fifteen years after Dr. Coren’s study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the American Automobile Association (AAA) made a statement in support of Dr. Corens’s findings. In a November 7, 2011, article in The Washington Post, ‘Seasonal time changes disrupt drivers’ body clocks, survey finds,’ John B. Townsend II of AAA was quoted, “Studies show that traffic accidents noticeably increase for a week following the time change in both the fall and the spring. Motorists have a tendency to misjudge the impact being tired has on their driving ability. That puts themselves and others at risk.”

It seems that with the preponderance of research and reports on Daylight Saving Time and the overwhelming evidence that it’s detrimental to one’s internal clock– causing fatigue–that the FMCSA or the National Highway Safety Administration would be taking a far more serious look at whether Daylight Saving Time should be repealed. After all, an 8% increase in vehicle crashes the week after the start of Daylight Savings Time is significant.

Timothy Brady © 2011 Contact Brady through www.timothybrady.com/contactus
For more information on Trucking Business Courses go to: www.truckersu.com

Resource Links used in this blog article.

http://www.bevindustry.com/articles/85004-enhance-driver-safety-after-falling-back

http://www.maa.nsw.gov.au/ http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199604043341416

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199810153391617

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/apl/94/5/1305/

http://www.app.com/article/BZ/20111105/NEWS01/311050054/RU-expert-Falling-back-easier-body-clocks

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/seasonal-time-changes-disrupt-drivers-body-clocks-survey-finds/2011/11/07/gIQADU8pwM_story.html

http://www.canarsiecourier.com/news/2010-03-18/Other_News/Daylight_Savings_Time_Could_Mean_More_Drowsy_Drive.html

http://www.truckdriversnews.com/time-change-springing-forward-here-we-go-again/

A Threat to Mom & Pop Trucking Companies

Call out the troops – again

Here we go again; the idea that creating more government regulation is the solution to the woes of the trucking industry.

There’s currently a piece of legislation in front of Congress, H. R. 7, American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012. This Act addresses many of the concerns about our decaying highway infrastructure which need to be acted upon – and soon.

But – there are also an aggregate 12 pages in this 847-page bill, through lobbying pressure from the Transportation Intermediary Association (TIA), representing the larger freight brokers in this country and OOIDA, which will put many micro- and small carriers out of business.

Here is the exact wording of the area of greatest concern within the proposed legislation: “Minimum financial security.— Broker subject to the requirements of this section of H.R. 7 shall provide financial security of $100,000, regardless of the number of branch offices or sales agents of the broker.”

What this says is, regardless of the size of the freight broker, its bond will be $100,000. As an example, a small mom and pop trucking operation which has a freight brokerage to move excess freight from their customer base, will need to secure the same $100,000 Surety Bond as a company the size of C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. (During the year ended December 31, 2010, CHR handled approximately 9.2 million shipments for more than 36,000 customers. It operates through a network of 231 offices. Public, NASDAQ:CHRW).

In other words, under the provisions of H.R. 7, C.H. Robinson with 231 offices will be required to secure a single bond in the amount of $100,000. A small mom & pop trucking company with one office inside their truck will be required to secure a bond for the same $100,000.

If this is going to be fair and equitable, shouldn’t C. H. Robinson (CHR) have to secure a bond for each one of their 231 offices separately? As we learned with the failure of Lehman Brothers (NYSE ticker symbol LEH), no company or enterprise is too big to fail. CHR should be minimally required to post a $23,100,000 bond to make the law fair and equitable.

Will increasing the bond to $100,000 per broker actually stop the withholding payment thievery from truckers who hauled the loads? No, it just creates the atmosphere for a larger amount to be absconded from unsuspecting carriers by unsavory freight brokers. It does nothing to fix the problem.

So what needs to be done to protect the trucker and not put honest, small mom & pop businesses out of business?

1. If it’s going to be fair and equitable, the bond should be based on 25% of the annual revenue of the broker, starting with a minimum bond of $25,000.

2. Every office of a broker should be required to have a bond. C.H. Robinson, as an example, would have a bond for all of their offices based on the overall revenue produced by the company divided by 231. Based on CHR’s 2011 annual truck brokerage operations revenue of $1,236,611,000, each office would post a bond of $1.3 million (rounded up). A mom & pop trucking operation with a brokerage operation annual revenue of $100,000 would post a $25,000 bond.

3. Just like real estate and other property brokers who act in fiduciary capacity, freight brokers should be required to maintain a fiduciary escrow trust account where all monies from a freight hauling transaction are deposited. All parties, including the freight broker, should be paid from the escrow, just like a Real Estate closing. There would be no commingling of carrier owed funds and the freight broker’s general account. It would be much easier to track any inconsistencies or brokers trying to steal from the carrier/shipper, plus everyone involved in the transaction would know what everyone was being paid in full disclosure.

(More information on Fiduciary Escrow Trust Accounts – http://www.irem.org/pdfs/publicpolicy/brokertrustaccounts.pdf)

Having been a yacht broker, a real estate broker and an insurance agent over the past 35 years, I have experience in the areas of fiduciary escrows and bonds. In the first two examples of being a broker, I was required to carry a fiduciary bond and maintain a Fiduciary Escrow Trust Account; in the last example, I wrote fiduciary bond policies. Insurance brokers, real estate brokers, yacht brokers and attorneys are all required to post a fiduciary bond and maintain a fiduciary trust escrow account. And it has been a successful means to ensure all parties in the transactions they handle are paid fairly and that there is no commingling of clients’ monies with the broker’s or attorney’s general business account.

Many small carriers rely on brokering excess freight to grow their operations. H.R. 7 will put every one of those small carriers out of business if they have to maintain a $100,000 freight brokers bond. This disastrous result has not been addressed in this legislation.

Many small carriers/brokers are grossing far less in their freight brokering operations than an amount that would justify the cost of a $100,000 bond. In many cases, what they net is less than what the premium would be. This is because they are focusing on hauling asset-based freight with their trucks and are brokering out the excess freight for which they haven’t the capacity. Being able to broker the excess freight of their direct ship customers gives them the extra revenue and ability to slowly grow the asset side as they build their customer base with the brokering side. It also helps them wean their trucking operation from brokers. The proposed legislation puts them out of business.

If you see the inequality in this legislation, I request you do two things:

1. Contact your Congressional Representative and let them know the changes that need to be made to SEC. 6206, FINANCIAL SECURITY OF BROKERS AND FREIGHT FORWARDERS of H. R. 7, American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 (pages 525 through 530).

2. Go to http://www.petitiononline.com/100KBOND/petition.html and sign the online petition, Keep Property Broker Bonds Reasonable.

Feel free to copy and paste any portion of this blog article you think is needed to promote your position.

Drive long and prosper.

Timothy Brady ©2012 To contact Brady go to www.timothybrady.com
For more information on Trucking Business Courses go to: www.truckersu.com

Medical Certificates, CDLs and Self-Certification

At the end of this month, the FMCSA will require all states to include truck drivers’ medical certification status and information on each trucker’s medical examiner’s certificate in each driver’s Commercial Driver’s License Information System record. There’s also the requirement to self-certify whether he or she is an interstate or intrastate hauler. What do truckers need to know and do to obey this new regulation?

Disclaimer: The FMCSA regulations covering Self-Certifying and a Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator’s Medical Examiner’s Certificate for truckers who operate as a for-hire or private fleet motor carrier in Interstate Commerce are governed under FMCSA 49 CFR part 391 and require compliance through maintaining and providing a DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate to the trucker’s state of residence’s Driver’s License Agency. These are federal regulations and are in effect nation-wide.

Each state has its own rules and regulations covering who is excepted (exempt) and who is non-excepted (non-exempted) from presenting and maintaining a DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate when concerning the operation of other types of non-commercial, government, farm, and emergency CMV operations. In this article, I have used State of Tennessee examples, which are some of the most stringent state medical examiner certificate regulations in the country. Please check with your state of residence’s Driver’s License Agency for clarification.

What must truckers do to comply with the new requirements for making their medical certification part of their CDL driving record?

Starting on January 30, 2012, when a person:

Applies for a CDL;
Renews a CDL;
Applies for a higher class of CDL;
Applies for a new endorsement on a CDL;
Or transfers a CDL from another state

The driver will be required to Self-Certify to a single type of commercial operation on his driver’s license application form. Based on that Self-Certification, the trucker may need to provide his state of residence’s Driver’s License Agency with a current medical examiner’s certificate and show any FMCSA variance he may have to obtain or keep a CDL.

Self-Certification – what is the procedure for a CDL holder to determine whether he is an Intrastate or an Interstate commercial driver?

Step 1: First he must know in what capacity he’s operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV), Interstate or Intrastate commerce?

Interstate Commerce is when the trucker drives a CMV under the following conditions:

From one state to another state or to a foreign country;
Between two places within a state, but during part of the trip, the truck crosses into another state or foreign country;
Or between two places within a state, providing the cargo is onboard for part of a trip that began or will end in another state or foreign country.

It isn’t where the truck and driver travels that determines the self-certification type, it’s where the freight in the truck or trailer originates or is delivered that determines under which Self-Certification a trucker would be classified.

Example: A trucker picks up a trailer from a yard in Memphis, Tennessee and drives it to Nashville, Tennessee. If the freight in the trailer was loaded in Olive Branch, Mississippi and the trailer is taken to Nashville and unloaded, it’s an Interstate Commerce load. Or, if instead of delivering in Nashville, another trucker backs under the trailer and takes it to Bowling Green, Kentucky, then it’s an Interstate Commerce load. Both instances require the trucker to Self-Certify as an Interstate Commerce Driver.

To be Self-Certified as an Intrastate Commerce Driver the trucker must; one, do all commercial truck driving within the borders of a single state and two; not haul any freight which originated outside of that state or which will be delivered outside the state as its final destination.

If a trucker operates in both intrastate commerce and interstate commerce, he must choose interstate commerce as his Self-Certification selection.

Simple enough so far, but then this is the government, and it would be a rare FMCSA regulation without a couple of twists.

So to complete the Self-Certification process, here’s the second step.

Step 2: Once a trucker decides whether he’ll operate in interstate commerce or intrastate commerce, he must decide whether he expects to operate in a non-excepted or excepted status. This decision will tell him to which of the four types of commerce he must Self-Certify: excepted interstate commerce, non-excepted interstate commerce, excepted intrastate commerce, non-excepted intrastate commerce.

Interstate Commerce:

To operate in excepted interstate commerce when driving a CMV in interstate commerce only for the following excepted activities:

If the CDL holder answers “yes” to one or more of the activities listed below as the only operation in which he drives, he operates in excepted interstate commerce and does not need a federal medical examiner’s certificate.

As federal, state or local government employees. (The exceptions to this are CDL holders who need a hazardous materials, passenger, or school bus endorsement. They are not considered exempt.)
To transport human corpses or sick or injured persons.
Fire truck or rescue vehicle drivers during emergencies and other related activities.
Primarily in the transportation of propane (winter heating fuel) when responding to an emergency condition requiring immediate response such as damage to a propane gas system after a storm or flooding.
In response to a pipeline emergency condition requiring immediate response such as a pipeline leak or rupture.
In custom harvesting on a farm or to transport farm machinery and supplies used in the custom harvesting operation to and from a farm or to transport custom-harvested crops to storage or market.
Beekeeper in the seasonal transportation of bees.
The vehicle is controlled and operated by a farmer, but is not a combination vehicle (power unit and towed unit), and is used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery or farm supplies (no placardable hazardous materials) to and from a farm and within 150 air-miles of the farm.
To transport migrant workers.

If the CDL holder answered “no” to all of the above activities, he operates in non-excepted interstate commerce and is required to provide a current medical examiner’s certificate (49 CFR 391.45), commonly referred to as a medical certificate or DOT card, to the state Driver’s Licenses Agency.

NOTE: The majority of CDL holders who drive CMVs in interstate commerce are non-excepted interstate commerce drivers.

If a CDL holder operates in both excepted interstate commerce and non-excepted interstate commerce, he must choose non-excepted interstate commerce to be qualified to operate in both types of interstate commerce.

What about Intrastate Commerce?

He operates in excepted intrastate commerce when he drives a CMV only in intrastate commerce activities for which his state of licensure does not require him to meet the state’s medical certification requirements. In the State of Tennessee as an example, there is two ways a CDL holder can be excepted from having to meet medical certification requirements when driving intrastate commerce:

One: If the person driving the CMV is an employee of the government and doesn’t transport passengers or HazMat.

Two: Drivers granted a waiver for vision or insulin controlled diabetes. (Intrastate only)

All other CDL holders in intrastate commerce in the State of Tennessee are required to have a Medical Certificate on file with the state. This is known as non-excepted intrastate commerce certification.

If a CDL holder operates in both excepted intrastate commerce and non-excepted intrastate commerce, he must choose non-excepted intrastate commerce and present his medical certificate to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security; in other words, a trucker drives for the government during the week and an intrastate motor carrier on the weekends.

NOTE: When it comes to Intrastate (or In-State) regulations covering medical certificates and the Self-Certification process for in-state driving positions, every state will have its own set of regulations. A driver should check with his state’s Driver’s License Agency’s CDL division for specific requirements for intrastate Self-Certification.

Step 3: Every CDL holder must provide the state Driver’s License Agency that issued his CDL with his Self-Certification of the driver’s operating status. If he Self-Certifies to non-excepted interstate on or after January 30, 2012, he must provide the state Driver’s License Agency with the original or copy of his current medical examiner’s certificate.

If the driver’s medical examiner’s certificate is only valid with a vision, diabetes or a skills performance evaluation variance granted by the FMCSA, he may also be asked by the Driver’s License Agency to provide a copy of that variance document.

What if the trucker is an existing CDL holder who does not have a license renewal, upgrade or transfer between January 30, 2012 and January 30, 2014?

He is responsible for following the three steps above and providing the state which issued his CDL with his Self-Certification of operating status by January 30, 2014. If required, he must also provide his current medical examiner’s certificate and any variance document by January 30, 2014. Most states will mail the trucker information on how to do this.

But he shouldn’t wait until the last minute, because if he doesn’t receive the notice or it’s lost in some other way, it doesn’t change the deadline of January 30th, 2014, and he could lose his privilege to drive a CMV until he presents the correct documents to his state’s Drivers License Agency.

After the trucker provides his state’s Drivers License Agency with his unexpired medical examiner’s certificate, does he still have to carry an original or copy of his medical examiner’s certificate?

Yes. Until the program is fully implemented on January 30, 2014, every trucker will still have to carry an original or copy of the medical examiner’s certificate and provide a copy to his employer for his driver qualification file.

What should a CDL Holder do with the medical examiner’s certificate beginning on January 30, 2014?

After the trucker provides his state’s Drivers License Agency and employer with the medical examiner’s certificate, the medical examiner’s certificate will only be valid for the first 15 days after it was issued. The trucker’s medical examiner’s certificate will be recorded on his driving record and will become the valid version of his medical certification. Again this is AFTER January 30, 2014. Until then, drivers must keep their medical certification cards with them at all times when operating a CMV.

What if the trucker doesn’t provide his state’s Drivers License Agency with his self-certification and if required, his medical examiner’s certificate and any required variance document by January 30, 2014?

The trucker’s state Drivers License Agency will notify him that he’s no longer medically certified to operate a CMV in non-excepted interstate commerce. That state’s Drivers License Agency will then remove all the trucker’s CDL privileges from his license.

What should a driver do when his medical certificate and/or variance is about to expire?

The driver must have a new medical examination and obtain a new medical certificate. He must then provide his state’s Drivers License Agency with the new medical examiner’s certificate. Each trucker is also responsible for applying to the FMCSA for a renewal of any variance.

What happens if the truck driver’s medical examiner’s certificate or variance expires before he provides his state’s Drivers License Agency with a new one?

The truck driver’s state Drivers License Agency will notify him that he’s no longer medically certified to operate a CMV in non-excepted interstate commerce. The truck driver’s state Drivers License Agency will then remove all his CDL privileges from his driver’s license.

How can a trucker get back his CDL privileges?

If the medical examiner’s certificate has expired, he must obtain a new one and provide it to his state’s Driver’s License Agency. If the variance has expired, he must renew it with the FMCSA. Some states may require retesting and additional fees to get back his CDL privileges. If allowed by his state’s Driver’s License Agency, he may also change his Self-Certification to an operating category that does not require a medical certificate.

Bottom line is, if you move freight, chances are you’ll need to Self-Certify as non-excepted Interstate Commerce and provide your state’s Driver’s License Agency, bureau, or department with your current medical certificate.

Truckers and motor carriers need to stay on top of getting this done to avoid being shut down because a state pulled a driver’s CDL privileges.

Here’s to great loads and good roads.

Timothy Brady © 2012 Contact Brady through www.timothybrady.com/contactus
For more information on Trucking Business Courses, go to: www.truckersu.com

Covering the Cost of Fuel

I was recently tapped in an on-line conversation concerning the relevance of the fuel surcharge as a means of covering fuel costs.

One poster stated: “Not to side with Timothy Brady, but the fuel surcharge is largely irrelevant. I could be saying that because I get one. What the FS really does is provide a mechanism for longer term contracts. If you get $1 per mile (for math purposes) what difference does it really make what you call it? 60¢ for reg rate and 40¢ per FS or just $1. What higher fuel costs do is encourage efficiency.”

Another poster responded: “I wouldn’t say it’s irrelevant, — definitely related to the problem of fuel-price volatility and allows truckers to pass along the volatility in contracts. Ultimately, yes, truly beating fuel prices is a matter of increasing efficiency.”

Here’s my response:

Current Fuel Surcharge methods of the vast majority of trucking companies promotes inefficiency, which is why it makes today’s FS irrelevant. The fact that it’s only loosely connected to the real time price of fuel is the reason for its irrelevancy. The concept goes back to pre-deregulation and the ICC, when the government actually set and adjusted the FS. When the FS is only adjusted once a month, it’s not a fuel surcharge, but something totally unrelated to fuel cost. It becomes more a means of rate price control for the shipper, broker and the carrier to their lease operators and company drivers. Since the methods and formulas for fuel surcharges are set by each individual shipper, broker or carrier and no longer by the government, the FS becomes a tool of manipulation, not reimbursement of actual fuel costs.

With technology providing instant access to real time fuel prices, it makes sense to have a Fuel CAP™ (Fuel Cost Adjustment Policy): a carrier has a per-day truck use rate plus a mileage rate that encompasses the operational cost and fuel cost.

Example: for a truck getting 6 miles per gallon, for every nickel increase or decrease in the price of fuel, the Fuel CAP is adjusted by a penny per mile. If your fuel cost per mile is 67 cents per mile at $4.01 per gallon, and the price for fuel goes to $4.06, the rate per mile for fuel would increase to 68 cents. If it went to $3.96 per gallon, it would decrease to 65 cents. Place the trucker’s pay and carrier’s profit in the per Day Truck Use Rate and have the real time fuel and operational costs as add-ons to the per Day Truck Use Rate for actual miles driven. This takes care of two things in one move:

One: the trucker and carrier are being fully compensated for their fuel costs in real time.

Two: Because the Day Truck Use Rate is based on actual time involved with the load; from waiting, to loading, to driving, to waiting to unload, the trucker and carrier are compensated for all time involved in the load. This eliminates the need to add detention time as it’s already included in the per Day Truck Use Rate if the shipper delays loading or unloading the truck.

Some other benefits are:
Truck drivers could be paid a per-day rate plus a per-mile rate which would help close the gap of lost revenue or pay they experience under the current system.

It would create incentive to shippers to be more efficient in getting a load on or off a truck in order to avoid paying an extra per-day rate.

Finally, it would create a far safer environment for truckers and others using the nation’s highways, since a trucker wouldn’t be under the “gotta get the miles covered” dictum when a shipper has taken valuable drive time away from the trucker with loading/unloading delays.

Steps to Setting up a Profitable Freight Lane

Setting up a profitable freight lane takes more than just being in the right place at the right time. It’s more about understanding the dynamics of what freight is moving in what direction during certain periods of a month. A freight ‘lane’ can be any of a number of shapes and sizes. It can be a Point A to Point B and return to Point A. It can be in a triangle; square, an octagon. Or it can look like the six-pointed star we drew as kids, or a look all its own. In other words, the shape isn’t as important as the freight that’s available to haul at the times that it’s needed.

So what are the steps to designing a profitable freight lane?

Important Note: Before you begin the process of developing your freight lanes you need to have a Hauling Rate Range that encompasses a range from your break-even point to your highest profit level. Don’t expect shippers and brokers to know what you need in revenue; that’s your responsibility.

1. Determine your beginning point; this is usually the domicile or home base of your operation. As a small or micro-motor carrier, this will be where you find the best paying freight in your freight lane the vast majority of time. The reason is fairly simple – home is where you know the territory the best, where you’re more likely to know a principle owner or general manager of a manufacturer or distribution center and you can develop a direct-ship relationship (one that doesn’t require brokers’ involvement).

2. Make a list of all the local manufacturers and distribution centers within a 50 to 100 mile radius of your home base.

3. Call each one and ask to be placed on their preferred carrier list. Keep in mind not all will accommodate you, but several will. Those are the ones from which you’ll start working to develop your first leg of your freight lane.

4. The shippers who won’t put you on their preferred carrier list are usually using a freight broker or 3PL to handle their shipment scheduling, so find out the names and contacts for those companies. Then call the 3PLs and brokers and get on their preferred carrier list.

Note: No need to discuss hauling rates with any of these folks at this time. The idea here is to garner a sizeable list of available freight going out of your area.

5. Once on these manufacturers’, DCs’, freight brokers’ and 3PLs’ preferred carrier list, then contact them again and ask:

what areas do they currently have the most difficulty in getting the other carriers to haul to?
a list of available regular outbound destinations for the majority of their freight
what services they’re currently not getting from their other carriers that they’d like to be getting?

This provides you with three valuable pieces of information from which to begin building your freight lane.

6. Look at the areas into which they’re having difficulty getting carriers to haul. Find out what kind of freight is available from these areas and how frequently these loads occur. You might discover that it’s a dead freight area with very little outbound freight available, which usually equals very low backhaul freight rates. This is extremely valuable information when it comes time to provide a hauling rate to the shipper, in that you may need to quote a higher rate that covers your deadhead miles to the nearest location of decent-paying freight. In other words, a low truck-to-load ratio in an area means a higher rate going in.

7. Start looking in an ever-widening circle out from the low rate or no freight area until you find freight that fits into your carrier’s established hauling rate range. That will provide you with the distance and time requirements to establish your hauling rate from your home base to the low outbound freight destination.

8. Follow the same procedure looking at all available freight going to different destinations to find what will work in conjunction with the difficult outbound freight or as a stand-alone outbound load.

Note: It may require the development of one or more additional freight legs within your freight lane to generate the required revenue to make the lane profitable.

9. Next take a look at the services the other carriers are not providing to the shippers, brokers and 3PLs and see if you can develop a plan to provide those services. Determine whether it would require an increase in what you charge to haul the freight or if you could do it as a value-added service at no charge, making you a far more valuable carrier to the shipper, broker, or 3PL.

10. The final objective is to design a freight lane for each of your trucks that covers a full month of hauling. The combined revenue from all the legs of the lane needs to achieve the profit necessary. While you may have a few legs that are low revenue, it’s the grouping of all the legs of a freight lane and their associated revenue that determine its profitability.

Why Every Trucker Should Know His Break-even Point (BeP)

A trucking company’s Break-even Points are the basis from which its hauling rate range is calculated. If the company owner or manager doesn’t know what it costs to operate a business, then success is very elusive. Many small trucking businesspeople are unsuccessful because they fail to cover the company’s cost of doing business in the hauling rates they establish or accept. If they don’t know the least amount they can charge in order to pay all of the expenses required to keep the business open and operate their trucks, their success is doomed from the very start.

One of the biggest mistakes many small and micro-trucking company owners make is failing to calculate one very important expense as a fixed expense in their Break-even Point. This one expense is so important, if it isn’t paid constantly and continually, the company will fail. Now, as you continue to read this article, please think of all the costs you’re required to pay as a trucking company owner. See if you can pick out the one that’s more important than all the others. As you read the article, you’ll find my answer; compare it to yours and see if you agree with me.

The biggest mistake many trucking company owners make is thinking they just need to establish a firm rate per mile, adjust it with a Fuel Surcharge and they’ll generate the revenue to exceed their BeP.

Figuring a Break-even Point goes far beyond a per-mile rate. Some expenses can be figured by the mile, but other costs occur even while your trucks are sitting. It’s basic arithmetic, but figuring the correct formulas from the proper perspective is the real secret to success in trucking.

There are five components to a Break-even Point:

Operating Cost: Costs or expenses required to keep your trucks rolling: Maintenance, Repairs, and Tires. The most effective means of figuring this cost is per mile. However, minimally, it should be based on these costs from the previous month. Also, amortize the cost of tires and repairs based on the anticipated life of that repair; i.e., two steer tires costing $900 with an anticipated life of one year would be $75 per month. Take the total Operating Cost on each truck and divide it by the odometer miles for the month to arrive at a cost per mile figure.

Fuel Cost: The reason Fuel Cost is separated from Operating Cost is because it changes constantly and needs to be calculated on a price change to price change basis (also calculated per mile). Take a predetermined amount of miles and divide by the individual truck’s miles per gallon to arrive at the total gallons required for that distance. Multiply by the current cost per gallon of fuel for total cost of fuel for that distance and then divide by that distance.
3,000 miles ÷ 6 miles per gallon = 500 gallons X $4.00 per gallon = $2000 ÷ 3,000 miles = 66.6666 cents, rounded up to 67 cents per mile.

Driver Labor: How you pay your truckers determines how Driver Labor is calculated. If it’s per mile, remember to figure payroll costs (FICA, benefits, etc.) into the driver’s pay per mile. If it’s an hourly or salaried rate, the same thing needs to be calculated, but it becomes a per day figure rather than per mile.

Load-Specific Costs: Expenses exclusive to a particular load or run, including tolls, trip permits, escort fees, load/unload labor or any expense which may not appear on other loads or runs.

Fixed Cost: Any expense paid regardless of whether your company’s trucks are rolling or parked, including equipment loan/lease payments, insurance, office rent, utilities, staff salaries and phones, communications, etc. Think of it as expenses that keep on tickin’ even though the truck and driver are sittin’. This is where that one expense, that if it isn’t paid constantly and continually, the company will fail is included … (drum roll, please) … the most important expense that must be included in any trucking company’s fixed cost is the trucking company owner’s salary!

Think of your BeP (Break-even Point) as the point at which your doors stay open for one more day. Therefore, each time you meet or beat your BeP, you’re still in business and not relying on ‘profit’ which evades most companies in the first years of being in business. Warning: if you depend upon hard-won profit to pay yourself, two things will occur. One, in the early years, you’ll be working for free a lot of the time. Two, since profit is what a trucking company needs to sustain itself in difficult times and grow in good times, the owner who depends on it for his pay is stealing his success.

Know your Break-even Point for each truck and secure your well-deserved success.

Tim Brady (www.timothybrady.com/) is an industry expert on small motor carriers. He’s a business editor and columnist for leading trucking publications and a weekly guest expert on Sirius-XM Radio’s Road Dog Trucking’s Lockridge Report.

EOBRs: A Curse or a Benefit?

Technology can be used either way

By Timothy D. Brady

EOBR technology is awesome, as a potential tool. But like any tool, it’s how it benefits everyone who uses it. But I have the same apprehension and fear as when I tested the QUALCOMM system back in its beginnings in the early ’90s. If it’s used by carriers and the government to micromanage truckers, it diminishes the value of each trucker. When you remove responsibility and treat individuals (truckers) as if they don’t have the intellect to make safe and responsible decisions, you end up with a lower quality individual desiring to enter the truck driving profession.

I hope you heard about the recent judicial decision that may have far-reaching consequences. The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 26 vacated and remanded the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic onboard recorder 2010 final rule for motor carriers with significant hours-of-service violations back to the agency for further proceedings.

EOBRs have caused some very heated debates and have many carriers and truckers concerned over the real impact they will have on the industry. Let’s examine the different sides of the issue.

From two of the major organizations with opposing views:

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said an analysis conducted by FMCSA had stated, “Companies use EOBRs to enforce company policies and monitor drivers’ behavior in other ways.”

“They can contact the driver and put on pressure to get back on the road to get the most of his or her on-duty time, regardless of how fatigued a driver may be,” Spencer said in a statement. “Such a mandate would be a step backward in the effort toward highway safety and is an overly burdensome regulation that simply runs up costs for the majority of trucking, which is small-business.”

American Trucking Associations CEO Bill Graves said in a statement, “The ATA is still reviewing the court’s decision, but supports FMCSA’s efforts to mandate the adoption and use of electronic logging devices for hours-of-service compliance.

“We hope FMCSA will work quickly to address the Court’s decision and the important device design and performance specifications being evaluated by the Administrator’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.”

Vince Granowicz, a Supply Chain Sales Executive for an asset-based provider of comprehensive, worldwide shipping services, in a recent post on LinkedIn brought some very interesting points to the debate (used by permission of the author):

“Has anyone given thought to what the correlation might be between a reduction in the quality of drivers in the industry (old or new) and the overall reduction in personal interaction brought on by the technology?

It use to be that speaking with the driver daily gave operations some insight into the driver’s mindset/mood. Now a dispatcher can avoid all personal interaction in the name of LEAN practices. Perhaps this is the wrong direction to move forward with the “green” drivers that are confident of their skill set two months after graduating driving school. With everyone in agreement that safety is the most critical piece for any fleet, why do so many believe that mandating EOBR systems is a better way than increased standards and scrutiny for driving schools?

When you manage people, you CANNOT do so effectively by removing all human interaction, so why do so many think that it can work with drivers, drivers who make life and death decisions every moment of everyday?

With decades of government over reaching in the name of revenue generation, why would anyone believe that this is NOT a Pandora’s Box?”

Good question Mr. Granowicz; one that needs to be considered. OOIDA brought some important points into this debate such as: Will the use of EOBRs create an environment where carriers use a driver’s available  Hours of Service information to force a driver to roll down the highway even if they are fatigued? This fits right into the Pandora’s Box theory of Mr. Granowicz.

A good example is drivers who aren’t taught how to read a map. They blindly follow the GPS directions until they have struck a bridge with the trailer they are pulling. Their excuse is, “The GPS told me to turn there.” Are we going to begin hearing similar excuses from truckers who are told by a carrier’s dispatch, “The EOBR says your 10-hour rest break is up; now, get on the road.” When the driver has an accident, will his excuse be, “Even though I was sick three times last night and only got about three hours of sleep, the EOBR said I was OK to drive, and my dispatcher sent me a text message to get on the road or else, so I did.”

Taking the human interaction out of the process, removing the common-sense factor which allows an individual driver to decide when it’s safe and when it’s not, is a dangerous road to go down.

Technology is a good thing if it is used as a tool to augment one’s training and education, but when it is used to replace intelligence and common sense, it becomes dangerous. Stifling, non-yielding regulations won’t ever replace solid training and education. If EOBRs are used like baby monitors, they will dumb down the drivers, thus requiring carriers to overly depend on the technology as a short cut around training and micromanage their truckers, thus creating a downward spiral that will be difficult to reverse.

Technology can’t replace quality training and education when it comes to safety. Shouldn’t the trucking industry and the FMCSA put more emphasis on training and educating truckers, instead of relying on technology to compensate for its lack?  Something to think about.

And while you’re thinking, here’s a link to another, earlier opinion: http://www.truckinginfo.com/news/news-detail.asp?news_id=68833   It’s written by safety consultant Dr. Ron Knipling, and was published in 2009 on Heavy Duty Trucking Magazine’s website, Truckinginfo.

Timothy Brady   ©2011   To contact Brady go to www.timothybrady.com

For more information on Trucking Business Courses go to: www.truckersu.com

An Argument Against Deadheading

(Even “cheap freight” pays something)

By Timothy D. Brady

 The pitfalls of driving a trucking route without paying freight should be avoided. 

Some points I find it interesting: first, that there are still truckers who think if they can make a static rate per mile they’ll earn enough to make it in this industry. Second, what constitutes cheap freight for one carrier may not be for another.

On a static rate per mile. This is so wrong in so many ways and is one of the reasons many truckers and carriers find themselves behind the hauling rate 8-ball. In simple terms, you have a consistent, fixed cost of truck payments, insurance, base plate, office rent etc. which all have to be paid whether a truck is hauling paying freight, running empty or just sitting in the yard. Because of this fixed cost, your required rate per mile will change based on both time and distance. A difference of 500 miles in a week can cause the cost per mile of a truck to go up or down as much as 20 cents per mile–the fewer miles you run, the higher your cost per mile. The more miles you run, the lower your cost per mile. Example: a truck running 3,000 miles a week might have a cost per mile of $1.40, but if that same truck runs only 2,500 miles in a week, it would cost $1.60 per mile. So it’s imperative you know your fixed cost per day and look at the number of days a load requires plusits total miles from destination to destination.

The formula goes like this:
(Days on Load X Daily Fixed Costs) + (Total destination to destination miles X fuel cost per mile) + (total destination to destination miles X operational cost per mile) + (Tolls, permits, lumper labor, etc) = Load’s break-even point.

Don’t assume because you made a profit at $1.75 per mile last time it will hold true this time. All these costs must be tracked. Fixed costs and operational costs should be tracked  monthly; fuel cost as it changes and load-specific costs on each load.

Deadheading or waiting an extra day for a “Good paying load” will increase the cost per mile you’ll need to cover. This must be factored into every load—Take/Decline load decision. Many times it’s more cost-effective to take the “cheap freight” load, but it requires diligent planning and effort.

Cheap freight is an over-used and misunderstood term. What is cheap freight for one may be the profit for another. Here’s something more to think about:

1. Truck-to-load ratio is the largest determining factor: more loads, fewer trucks, higher rates; or fewer loads, more truckers, lower rates. (The ratio is the major determining rate  factor for areas like Miami and Denver). So it is important to know those ratios when accepting a load to an area. It’s also important to know the market of the areas in which you operate.

2. Another problem with many truckers is they don’t establish definitive freight lanes. This is NOT hauling dedicated freight for one customer. This is establishing a series of hauling routes which have multiple shippers and brokers, with quality hauling rates that are consistently available. But in every freight lane, there’s usually one leg which has low-paying freight. If you plan your lane correctly and have the cost of the low-paying leg incorporated into the revenue from all the other legs in the lane which are profitable,   at the end of the month, then any load hauled in the low-pay lane becomes pure profit.

Example: I have a client who operates out of Denver with a 565-mile deadhead out of Denver to his first load in the lane. Because he incorporated the cost of the deadhead into the needed revenue and profit margin of the other three legs in the lane, he’s making a $1,035 profit per truck per month or around $4,140 for the four trucks he operates in that lane per month.

Now for the kicker. He hauls a 60-cent per mile load out of Denver that pays $339 per load per truck for the deadhead leg three weeks each month. This $339 goes straight to profit, adding an additional $1,017 profit per truck per month or an additional $4,068 profit per month for the 4 trucks operating in that lane. That cheap freight represents $48,816 additional profit per year, which has allowed him to add 4 more trucks and trailers to his operation in the last two years, (Yes, during the Recession), and his carrier is growing by leaps and bounds. If he had continued to deadhead those 565 miles because he doesn’t haul “Cheap Freight” he’d still own only 4 trucks. Something to think about.

Good loads and good roads, everyone.

Timothy Brady  ©2011
www.timothybrady.com

Between the Ditches: ‘Sleeper Test’

Trucking’s Shame

“Keep it between the ditches” is highway slang for “drive safe.” This series is provided as a public service by Advance Business Capital.

From Time Magazine:

“Adriesue (“Bitsy”) Gomez, 33, is a “gear-jamming gal with white-line fever.” A woman truck driver from Los Angeles, she is also a pain in the axle to a traditionally macho industry. … Bitsy is out to change the industry’s traditional attitude toward female truckers. Some docking areas still have MEN ONLY signs, and many truck stops routinely refuse to let women truckers use the showers. Worse, says Gomez: “When you lose your job to some 18-year-old punk boy after ten years, it makes you real mad.” … Bitsy has another major gripe. Women truckers, she says, often have to pass a “sleeper test”—having sex with a foreman or male driver—to get a job.”

That Was Then. This is Still Then.

This article was not published last week, or even last year. It appeared in Time’s April 26, 1976 issue. We stumbled on it during a Google search and realized only on a second reading that it was thirty-five years old!

So what does that say about the current status of women in trucking? They are no longer the rarity they were when Bitsy Gomez was driving, but how much discrimination and harassment still goes on?

Here’s a comment from Desiree Wood, better known as “Trucker Desiree,” a mother of two and grandmother of six. Although she has only been an OTR driver since 2009, she has become a well-known (and occasionally controversial) voice for drivers, beginning with the “expose” of the trucking school she attended, which was featured on the syndicated program Dan Rather Presents. This is a recent excerpt from her column on the blogzine, Life on the Road.

Trucker Desiree writes:  “While sexual misconduct on the job happens in all industries, in truck driver training programs it is a unique issue due to the isolated atmosphere and living conditions. The standard operating procedure is to withhold key components to the training such as learning to back the truck, forbidding the student to use the Qualcomm® and not giving them proper 24 [hour] emergency information contacts prior to leaving the terminal with the trainer.

“Recently I met a woman at a social event who turned out to have been a former driver. I will be posting the interview on my You Tube channel this week, but what she told me about her OTR experience was one of many stories that are carbon copies of one another. It goes like this… ‘Convince the female to get on the truck and that they are safe, get them far away from home, give them the ultimatum.’

“In this particular woman’s case she was close to a city and had enough cash to make it to an airport to fly home. Some are not so lucky. She also had enough experience and was fortunate to find another job where she went on to drive for another twenty-plus years and maintained an excellent record.

“Deb is another gal I have come to know from my writings on this topic. She was raised by her grandmother; her brother was a truck driver. She was a tomboy and eventually wanted to become a truck driver herself.  Deb says her grandmother taught her many things but never about what bad men will do to a young naive girl. When Deb was 20 years old, an older driver agreed to ‘take her under his wing.’ Nice guy, right?

“In minus 40 below temperatures, he stopped 10 miles outside of town and told Deb to perform oral sex on him or walk back to town. He then told everyone at the employer that Deb was a whore in order to discredit her before she had a chance to collect her thoughts about the incident. Deb went on to have an eight plus safety rating in Canada, which is where she is from. This was not the last incident she encountered but if you love your job then you keep your mouth shut about such things. That is the fact of life for some women, especially women known not to have any support system and no one to call for help.”

Outrageous, But How Common?

These examples are obviously outrageous, but they don’t necessarily make the case that there’s widespread harassment in the trucking industry, only that it exists, which no reasonable person doubts.

That’s the real issue. What has changed? Something, we hope. It would be too depressing to think that there have been no advances for women truckers in 35 years.

The CRST Case

A year ago, a federal court threw out a sexual harassment case filed on behalf of female truckers against CRST Van Expedited, a large carrier based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Chief U.S. Judge Linda Reade ruled that the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission had failed to prove harassment and ordered the government to pay CRST $4.4 million in legal fees.

Ellen Voie, President of the Women in Trucking Association, and a prominent advocate for female advancement, agreed to a video interview at GATS [2010], but when asked about the CRST decision, declined to condemn it, commenting that there was a lack of actual evidence and making a passing reference to people who have a “victim psychology.”

Ellen Voie Voices Her Opinion Voie’s comments, which in fairness were less than a minute out of a 45-minute interview, were put on YouTube™ and touched off a small firestorm of controversy. We’ll examine the implications of that in the second part of this two-part series in next month’s Between the Ditches.

Sources for this article include Time, Life on the Road, Women in Trucking, Ask the Trucker, Real Women in Trucking and Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Detention Time and the Law

Publish your Rules Circular and prosper

By Timothy Brady

 

Last week Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore, introduced a bill requiring the DOT to study industry detention practices and establish a maximum number of hours that drivers may be detained without being paid.

The Government Accountability Office recently surveyed 300 truckers.

68% reported being detained within the last month.

The GAO discovered 80% of the detained drivers had difficulty complying with hours of service requirements, and 65% reported losing money in the process of being held by a receiver or shipper. In the words of Representative DeFazio, “Yep, it’s a problem.”

The legislation, H.R. 756, states: “To direct the Secretary of Transportation to prescribe standards for the maximum number of hours that an operator of a commercial motor vehicle may be reasonably detained by a shipper or receiver, and for other purposes.”

Limitations on Certain Detentions- Section 14103 of title 49, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

`(c) Limitations on Certain Detentions- A shipper or receiver may not detain a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle transporting property in interstate commerce before the loading or unloading of such vehicle without providing compensation for time detained beyond the maximum number of hours that the Secretary determines, by regulation, is reasonable.’

Many on the carrier side of the logistics industry are applauding the move, saying it has been a long time coming. But questions remain: With the current atmosphere in Congress, will a bill introduced by a Democrat ever see the light of day in the Republican House? Another question is, if it were attached as an amendment to a House bill assured to pass and moved to the Senate, would the Senate’s Democrat Majority allow it to make it through to the President’s desk? And finally, would the Fortune 500 lobby, i.e., Wal-Mart, Costco, large food manufacturers and distributors, lobby the bill out of existence? That, only time will tell.
Reviewing a reference on this subject, I found there are already regulations on the books which allow you to charge a shipper or receiver detention time. But the vast majority of carriers don’t have the proper documents to support assessing detention fees.

Have you published your carrier’s Service Conditions? As a motor carrier, you are entitled to establish the terms and conditions of doing business along with a Rules Circular which spells out: Governing Publications (mileage guides and tariffs), Scope of Operations and Statement of Services provided (territorial area serviced, Interstate vs. Intrastate,  Dry Van, Temperature Controlled,  Intermodal, Haz Mat, etc.) Accessorial Services and Charges (Detention, Lumpers,  Expedited or Exclusive Use services, etc.), Claims Liabilities and Limits, Claims Processing and Salvage, Credit and Collection Provisions, and Fuel Surcharges.

While it is no longer necessary to file rates or tariffs with any federal agency, a motor carrier of property is required to provide a shipper, upon request, a copy of  the rate, classification, rules and practices which apply to its shipment or agreed to between shipper and carrier (49U.S.C. 13710). However, if there is no written agreement to the contrary, the terms and conditions published in your Service Conditions and Rules Circular apply, if you have one.

Therefore, if a carrier were to properly publish in their Rules Circular under Accessorial Charges – Detention and Free Time (time a shipper or receiver has to begin loading or unloading a trailer before detention time begins), customers may be held accountable. Minimally, if written correctly, when a shipper/receiver doesn’t begin loading/unloading within the free time period specified, the carrier can demand full payment as a condition of delivery with a promissory lien, as long as there is not a bilateral agreement between the shipper and carrier to the contrary. (‘Bilateral’ meaning signed, agreed to and executed by both parties.)
However, specified Detention Time, Free Time and the Promissory Lien must be published as a part of the carrier’s Rules Circular and be available by request to the shipper. So what is your carrier doing?

That’s something to think about.

Reference:

Protecting Motor Carrier Interests in Contracts, 2nd edition; By Henry E. Seaton, Esq.

© 2003, Seaton & Husk, LP  http://www.transportationlaw.net/

Timothy Brady   ©2011

To contact Brady go to www.timothybrady.com

For more information on Trucking Business Courses go to: www.truckersu.com

How to Know If Your Hauling Rate Is Correct

By guess and by golly won’t work

By Timothy Brady

 

According to Logistics Management 2011 Rate Outlook (http://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/2011_logistics_rate_outlook/)“Volatile oil and diesel prices, capacity shortages, another looming driver crisis, debilitating regulatory uncertainties, and an improving economy have led industry analysts across all modes to one conclusion: Shippers will have to shoulder some of the burden associated with escalating transportation costs this year.”

With all of this looming over the next several years, the best opportunity to increase hauling rates is upon us. But again, shippers are very smart when it comes to what they pay to haul their goods. In order to increase your rates, you’ll need to provide justification to your customers on why and have the supporting math to prove your point.

A common question I’m asked is: “How do I establish a profitable hauling rate?”  That’s a wide-ranging question. Its answer depends on the type of freight, area in which the carrier is domiciled, lanes in which you operate. I help carriers establish rate ranges as a part of my Business Coaching service. The first instruction for my client is that he/she must initially determine what it costs to provide their level of service.
An aside: I find it interesting in that some small carriers will quote a static, per-mile rate based on their costs over the last year. That is so wrong in so many ways in determining a rate range. The problem with a static, per mile Break-even Point (BEP) is that it will vary up or down depending on distance traveled; i.e., the shorter the distance, the higher the cost per mile; the longer the distance, the lower the cost per mile. This can vary as much as 20 to 30 cents per mile on a variance of just 500 miles per week.

There are four different cost areas one needs to address: Fixed Cost per day, Operational Cost per mile, Fuel cost per mile, and Load-Specific Costs.

Fixed Costs: any expense which occurs regardless of whether your truck(s) are rolling. This would include items like truck payments, insurance, 2290 FHUT, base plate, communications, office rent and utilities, salaried driver pay, etc. This is a number which is calculated by the day, week, month, quarter or annually.

Operational Cost: any expense which occurs each time your truck(s) are rolling. This would include items like truck and trailer maintenance, repairs, tires, other equipment repairs, and per-mile driver pay, etc. This figure is based on the expenses paid in the past 30 days with items such as tires and repairs amortized over their expected useful life. It’s figured on a per-mile basis.

Fuel Cost: this expense is always figured separately due to the volatility of its cost and because it is one of the largest expenses of any trucking operation. Simply put, by figuring fuel cost on what it will cost on a specific load or run rather than relying on a fuel surcharge to compensate the fuel purchaser, you’ll be sure you’ve covered this expense. Fuel Cost is also figured by the mile.

Load-Specific Costs: every load has specific costs which don’t occur on each load or may be different on each load. This can include percentage driver pay, tolls, lumper labor, pilot cars, special permits, or any expense that is unique to a particular load.
Finally, to determine your specific rate range you must establish two additional factors:

1. What’s the required capital to sustain your operation when revenue doesn’t meet costs?

2. How much money is required at what times to grow your company’s net worth and add additional hauling capacity?

From these numbers you are then able to establish a hauling rate range that will provide the revenue needed to attain these goals.

Good loads and good roads, everyone.

Timothy Brady  ©2011

To contact Brady go to

www.timothybrady.com

For more information on Trucking Business Courses go to:

http://www.truckersu.com/trucking-business-courses.php

What’s In Your Pitch To Shippers?

A deeper discount? Better hold onto your shirt

By Timothy Brady

 

Under the current economic atmosphere, large segments of the trucking industry have fallen into the trap of “Volume Discounting.”  The greater volume a customer has to ship, the lower his shipping cost. While this works to a point, beyond that point lies the eventual collapse of the trucking company.

Let me recommend an excellent volume for your business reading list: The Profitmover’s Guide to Business Success by James B. Larsen. While his book is focused on the moving and relocation services part of the transportation industry, still a lot of his observations hold true for us all. Here’s a quote that resonates with any business, especially a small business: : “In a typical scenario, the company informs its salespeople that they can sell at a certain price or discount up to a certain percent to get the order … . What this really means is that salespeople are being allowed to set price without knowledge of what the actual COST is for the product or service they are selling. Does this make good business sense?”

No, frankly, it doesn’t. So don’t do it. There will always be a (usually new and inexperienced) trucking company that figures the best way to line up shipping contracts fast is to undercut every other motor carrier out there. It’s sad, but they’ll be holding an auction to sell off tractors and desks before they realize they didn’t run their numbers to know their costs and have a business plan in place to take the company beyond the first round of paychecks.

On the other hand, you know the numbers you deal with, day in and day out, that determine the profitability of your company and whether it grows or stagnates. You know the drill: you’ve got to know the Fixed, Operational and Load-Specific Costs on every piece of equipment that moves under your company name.

And to get ahead, you’ve got to remember to figure a salary for yourself and your office staff into Fixed Costs while placing the volatile fuel cost into the Load-Specific Costs. (Fuel, by the way, is going up again.  No surprise there. And the only way to handle the cost of fueling every shipment is to know exactly how much that transport of goods is costing your company.) Profits are set back to grow the company, whether in two years or five.

Most shippers understand ROI and other costs. Actually, if you took the time to sit down with your ‘old reliable’ shippers and showed them exactly how you arrive at your shipping costs on their invoices, my bet is they’d be impressed. You’d show them that not only do you know how to keep your stock rolling and get their products where they need to be on time and in perfect condition, but you also understand the dynamics of the entire logistics chain.

Maybe your pitch to shippers needs to be a short background lesson on how you figure your prices. Invite them into your motor carrier’s office for a short business meeting. Set up a white board, show them your figures, and see there’s a fresh pot of coffee and maybe some doughnuts for the meeting too.

Your shippers won’t be left scratching their heads and wondering why their shipping rates went up when they’ve been with you for a year already. You can show them why the customer service you provide them has gotten a little costlier, and also let them know you want their company to succeed just as much as they do.

You won’t lose many shippers to new competitors. Isn’t that worth an hour of your time and a box of doughnuts?

Good loads and good roads, everyone.

Timothy Brady © 2011

Contact Brady through www.timothybrady.com

How to Exit a Trucking Business

You do what you gotta do
By Timothy Brady

 

Have you ever been rolling down the interstate, suddenly looked at the fuel gauge and realized: “I’m not sure I’ll make it to where I was going to fuel next.” All kinds of thoughts start going through your mind. Where’s the next fuel stop; any fuel stop? Is that one I passed a few miles ago closer than the next one down the highway? Boy, this is going to cost me. I’m not going to be able to control what I pay. (This is followed or preceded by a string of expletives.)

That’s a micro-example of a problem to which many small carriers, owner/operators and lease operators don’t pay any mind—the Business Exit Strategy. Many truckers have had or will face a similar situation in the future, but instead of running out of fuel; it will be the financial fuel tank that begins to run dry. First realize there are many articles and resources on how to save your company from financial collapse, and every attempt should be made to rescue your operation.

But every company, regardless of size, should have exit strategies designed for multiple scenarios. There are different circumstances requiring you to extricate yourself from your business. Being prepared with different exit plans based on the possibilities is the only way to preserve personal assets and income.

The question is, how do you close down a business with the least financial impact on you and your family? Walking away is not the answer. It may seem like the course of least resistance, but it’s like stopping the truck in the middle of the interstate, getting out of the cab and hoofing it to the house. The inevitable wreck will leave a lot of collateral damage and probably get you room and board with three squares and a striped suit. You need a course of action so if those circumstances arise, then you already know how to get to where you need to go (without a side trip to the big house in the worst of all scenarios).

Planning is everything in a small business. If the operator of the above-mentioned vehicle had planned where to fuel and had enough in reserve for the unexpected, he wouldn’t be in that situation. The same is true in the financial end of business. As is constantly said; know your costs, control those costs, know your market, and have something in the wings to replace revenue lost from an economic downturn. Planning is the secret to real business success. The same holds true if it becomes necessary to shut the whole thing down. Yes, it’s like writing a Last Will and Testament; we know we need to do so, but avoid it because it’s not something we want to think about.

So what are the steps to graciously step away from a trucking business?

  1. If you have a partnership, corporation or LLC, you must reach agreement and obtain authorization from other partners and stockholders to close your business. This agreement and authorization to dissolve a business should have been established under some acceptable governing set of rules, such as the original bylaws or partnership agreement.
  2. If there is more than a single owner involved, form a Closing the Business Committee. You need a person covering finance, accounting (Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable and business taxes), Human Resources and Legal.
  3. When necessary, hire professionals, experts to fill the gaps in your Business Closing Committee. For many carriers and owner/operators this could be your accountant, attorney, banker, equipment valuation expert and even an auctioneer.
  4. Review your current business obligations and those vendors or customers who have obligations to your company. Write a List of Problems To Be Resolved from this same review.
  5. Inventory what is owned by the company, what is owed on these assets and how best to dispose of them with the least negative financial impact. The inventory is very important. It’s used to establish the value of the business, make decisions, manage the sale or disposal of assets and becomes the basis for tax calculations and tax returns. Print out a copy for everyone involved.
  6. What is your carrier’s current worth? It’s difficult to make decisions without knowing the value of the business and its assets. Don’t forget you may have customer lists and information which can be of value to a competitor. This can be potential cash in your pocket.
  7. Develop a step-by-step schedule on each area to be discontinued. This schedule provides a way to measure progress and estimate both the time to complete important tasks and when the closure will be final.
  8. Notifying customers, vendors, creditors, independent contractors (lease operators) and employees will be necessary and may require legal notice. In some cases this can be by classified ad in a local paper or by individual letters to each party. Consult an attorney to be sure you don’t miss anything required by law.
  9. Check your Business Closing Plan and then check it again. Events will happen very quickly and it’s easy to lose control. Done correctly and by the numbers your net worth can be preserved; do it haphazardly, and your money can be drained very quickly, substantially reducing the net value of what’s left.
  10. Close or transfer contracts, leases and agreements. This process may require
    approval from contracting parties and involve negotiation of final terms. If you lease office space, is it transferable or can you sublet? What about any equipment leases? Know your post-shutdown obligations and responsibilities. In regard to your business insurance, the timing of stop coverage dates is very important so you don’t expose yourself to risks that otherwise would be covered.
  11. We recently saw the results of a badly planned trucking company shutdown that
    left employees, contractors and vendors holding the proverbial bag. One
    extremely important reason for a Closing Business Plan is to avoid putting
    employees, contractors, vendors or yourself at odds with one another, creating
    the need for litigation to resolve issues. Communication is your best tool, and
    honesty your best policy.
  12. Once your operations have been shut down, you can begin disposing of or
    transferring assets according to your plan. Remember, this is an important tax event and if done correctly, will reduce your tax responsibility. This is also when most insurance coverage can be reduced or eliminated.
  13. You need to satisfy and pay all remaining Accounts Payable and debt obligations
    from the proceeds you receive through the sale and transfer of assets along with
    capital in the company’s bank account.
  14. Finally, prepare the financial statement and balance sheets required to file the
    final business tax returns. These financial statements and balance sheets
    determine the taxes owed for the business and capital gains or losses on asset
    sales for the company, its principals and stockholders.
  15. Many states require a company that is closing to file Articles of Dissolution. This
    formal filing is required to terminate the legal and tax status of the business. You
    may file Articles of Dissolution, Certificates of Withdrawal, and/or Cancellation
    Certificates. This process also results in a review of tax liabilities, and issuance of a tax clearance notice or certificate. Consult an attorney or CPA to be sure you do this correctly.
  16. Prepare and issue special filings, notices, informational returns, and taxes as
    required by the type of business entity under which your company was organized. The best way to be sure you don’t miss anything is to look back at the licenses,
    bonds and permits required at the company start-up. Generally, some action is
    required regarding every federal and state registration, tax, and licensing agency
    which you contacted in order to start the business. Final filing of payroll and
    unemployment taxes, workers compensation insurance certificates, required
    liability insurance and other business tax returns must indicate the business is now
    closed.
  17. Close bank accounts by distributing the remaining funds according to the
    agreement reached by all principals, partners and stockholders.
  18. File and store all business records and copies of files in a safe, accessible location.
    These records should be kept for at least seven years.

As you can see, closing a trucking business is equally as involved as the process of starting one up. Doing it correctly can save time, money and legal fights in the future. There are transitional times in everyone’s life, but when you’re a business owner, if you’re closing your motor carrier, do it with a complete plan so you’re not left standing in the middle of the business interstate, out of financial fuel and no planned direction.

Good loads and good roads, everyone; or in this case, God speed in your next adventure.

Timothy Brady  © 2010
www.timothybrady.com
731-749-8567

Developing a Niche 1

Niche Hauling: a geographic area, commodity, particular service, unique method, or specialized market for which a small trucking company is best suited.

For the small or start-up trucking company, the highway to success is to find a specific niche which is not filled by the more traditional, larger trucking companies. Under the current economic conditions, in the traditional truckload and LTL freight areas there more trucks available than freight, making this the lowest-paying tonnage. Trying to compete with the mega-truckload and LTL carriers with business models of volume hauling in which profits can be a mere penny-a-mile, can bring the best independent trucker to his knees.

So what are the solutions?

  1. Think regional: Find a commodity or service you can provide which encompasses the smallest geographic area possible. This reduces your fuel costs by placing you closer to your origin and destination points and reducing the distance if any deadheading is required.
  2. Think labor-intensive: Most truckload carriers haven’t any interest in loads which need special handling beyond the trailer doors and freight dock. Finding loads that require out of the ordinary care either in the trailer, on the trailer, or at the time of delivery will reap higher revenues to your operation.
  3. Find groups of shippers needing similar services: specific ways of securing the items hauled, disassembly and reassembly of equipment, crating and uncrating, etc. The more time spent in a trailer and the less time spent in the left seat of a tractor, the greater the revenue you earned for the time invested.
  4. Haul your passion: The more you believe in what you’re hauling the more care you will provide your customer. There are small trucking companies in business today that haul private individual’s motorcycles to rallies and shows, windmill blades for generating electricity, custom cars in enclosed car carriers, travel trailers, boats, cargo trailers, small trade shows and displays, children’s play sets, modular offices, and—well, just use your imagination.
  5. Become lean and nimble: One of the advantages you have over a large carrier is you adjust more quickly with the changing transportation industry. This changing industry includes fuel costs not abating any time soon; the requirement of special IDs to haul in and out of ports, the new attitudes of buyers concerned with how much energy is consumed bringing the products they purchase to market, and the adjustments shippers and receivers are making in how they do business with haulers.

For the small motor carrier, niche hauling is a necessity to its survival. The whole idea of positioning your company in this manner is to create a higher level of efficiency, better cash flow, and lower costs. This type of business model allows you to become theexpert in your chosen area; whether it be geographical, commodity-specific, defined by service or unique method, or specialized market. Or it can include a combination of some or all of these attributes.

Next week I will provide with details on how niche hauling can be an excellent means of avoiding sudden shifts in the open freight market: but it comes with a  word of caution.

Good loads and safe roads, everyone.

Timothy Brady
©2009

Do You Know Your Break-Even Point?

How important is knowing your Break-Even Point when you are a trucker?
I’m constantly saying, “You’ve got to know your Break-Even Point!”  But is it that important?

According to Renee Cloud, of Clerical Business Solutions, a business management company providing business consulting & administrative support (virtual assistant services): A number one rule for business is to know your break-even point when it comes to profitability. Many business owners pay a lot of attention to their profitability instead putting some focus on their break-even point. To tell if your business is profitable look at your break even point and your break even margin. When you know your break-even point on certain services, products and overall business operations, it’s the key to strategic planning, maintaining and increasing profitability in the long run.”

According to Charles Alexander at Volunteer State Community College and the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (www.tsbdc.org): “Knowing your break-even point is one of the most important pieces of information that a business owner should know. Whenever I ask someone if they know what their break-even is, I always get the answer of “I have a ballpark idea of what it is.” This is not good enough to make important decisions in your business such as hiring additional personnel, buying a piece of equipment, or offering a new product or service. You need to know exactly how much money it takes to break-even.”

If it is so important to know your business’s Break-Even Point, why does it seem a large number of truckers either don’t know what theirs is, or have the wrong figure?

I think it stems from lack of information, especially when most of these folks are thrust into being business owners. Most lease operators were offered the “opportunity” to make more money by leasing or owning their trucks rather than being a company driver. At the time it seemed like a no-brainer, because to the uninformed observer, by making three to four times what they were making as company drivers, there should be plenty of money “left over” after all the expenses had been paid. They would be making substantially more money. They assumed the information they were being given was correct, but they never checked the numbers by doing a Break-Even Analysis. The reason? They didn’t know what a BEP Analysis was, didn’t know it was important, or figured the trucking company’s accountants had already done one and it wasn’t necessary.  There’s also another incentive called the Pride of Ownership. Many truckers are of such independent stock that they would give up some income to say, “That’s my truck.” Not a solid business decision, obviously, but one anybody who has owned or desired to own a truck can understand.

So what makes up a break-even point?

It’s made up of all the costs required to own and operate a truck. But many truckers only include a partial list of those expenses.  It always amazes me when I ask a trucker what his Break-Even Point is, and he quotes me a per-mile figure. The problem is a per-mile Break-Even Point moves all over the map. Example:  if a trucker’s fixed costs are $300 per day, his maintenance cost per-mile is 20 cents, his fuel cost is 40 cents per mile, and his truck moves one mile in a day, what is his per-mile Break-Even Point? It’s $300 and 60 cents. If the truck goes 100 miles in a day, his per-mile BEP is $3.60 per mile. The same holds true as you look at a week. Using $300 per day fixed cost and 60 cents per mile maintenance and fuel, if a truck travels 3,000 miles in seven days his per-mile BEP is  $1.30 per mile; for 2500 miles in the same seven days, the BEP’s $1.44 per mile, and at 2,000 miles it increases to $1.65 per mile. So if I ask someone what his BEP is and he quotes me a per-mile figure, unless he qualifies it with how many miles it’s based on, this shows me he doesn’t have a clue. And if he can’t tell me his daily fixed cost and what his per-mile maintenance and fuel cost is today, he’s operating his business without all the facts he needs.  Kind of like trying to drive a truck without wheels and tires. It just sits there and digs a deep hole.

If a trucker says his Break-Even Point is, say, 70 cents a mile, what does that tell me?
It indicates he is either quoting a number he heard from someone else, or he’s only using the cost of fuel, maintenance, and maybe his per diem. But what he hasn’t included are all the other costs that are required to own and operate a truck.

What are those costs?
Those costs include everything from the obvious to ones you might not think about.
The obvious ones are the truck lease payment or loan payment, insurance. workers comp (or occupational hazard), FHUT, cell phone, QUALCOMM, office supplies, labor fees, tolls, permits, parking  fees, shower fees, lodging, tires, repairs, maintenance costs,  Air Card fees, PrePass fees, fuel taxes, meals, tools, bling for the truck, paid claims, accounting fees. If it’s spent on the truck, for the truck or to keep the truck rolling, it’s a part of your Break-Even Point.

Which one is the most commonly missed by owner/operators?
Believe it or not, it’s the one expense that without it the truck can’t roll down the highway!
It’s the driver’s paycheck. Many owner/operators are under the misconception that their pay is what’s left over after all expenses have been paid and the reserves have received their deposits.  The problem with this approach for the owner/operator is the times when there are no leftovers—something that’s happening with regularity right now—the driver and the owner both aren’t getting paid. This creates a terrible internal conflict, because if most company drivers don’t get paid they’d quit, but how does an owner/operator quit himself?  There are experts in our industry who say if you’re an entrepreneur trucker, your pay is based on the profits left after expenses.  In my opinion that is so wrong on many levels.  Number one, profits are where you get the money to grow your operation. Two, if an owner/operator doesn’t calculate a paycheck for himself as a part of his expenses, he will either take too much from the trucking operation, weakening its capital for sustainability and growth, or he’ll never get a paycheck with any regularity because he hasn’t established a target at which to aim. Most truckers would rather die than miss a truck payment. The reason they don’t miss that truck payment is they’ve established a target amount, and they make sure it’s there when the payment is due. By including a regular paycheck amount for the drivers (themselves) within the Break-Even Point, just like that truck payment, they’ve established a target. If you’ve got a target and you practice enough, you will start hitting it. The more you practice, the more often you’ll hit it. [Side Note: Including a regular salary or draw in the Break-Even Point to the company owner even when he doesn’t drive a truck is also a great way to make sure your operation survives the difficult times.]

What’s the difference between the trucker who knows his true Break-Even Point and the trucker who either thinks he does, or has no idea how to calculate it?
It’s education. Lots of people go swimming without ever taking a swimming lesson, and they do just fine until they get into turbulent waters. Lacking the information they would have learned if they had taken lessons, their chances of survival are reduced substantially. The same holds true in trucking. As I have told all my students and clients, knowing how to operate a truck does not mean you know the business of trucking. While it is one of the components in a trucking business, it’s not the one that will create the foundation for a successful trucking operation. The trucker who thinks he understands the business of trucking but lacks the education and knowledge of basic business principles is the greatest threat to this industry, because the people who do understand these business basics will be able to take advantage of the ones who don’t.   I see it every time a trucker goes lease or gets his or her own authority and within a couple of weeks they’re blaming low hauling rates on the brokers, shippers, or the  trucking company. In fact the situation can be traced back to the point where they jumped into the trucking pool without a plan and without knowing how to calculate their Break-Even Point. If I’m going to jump into a lake I’m going to make sure one, I know how to swim, and two, what’s in the lake. Truckers need to know the cost and revenue projections of what they are getting into before they even start looking at a truck.  My advice to anyone either struggling in this industry or thinking of leasing or buying a truck, don’t assume you know how to make it successful.  Get the education and knowledge so you have all the tools required to be successful. Then move forward again by taking continuing education classes to stay on top of how things are changing.

Good roads and good loads, everyone.
Timothy Brady
©2009

What Determines the Quality of a Load?

In the last blog, we went through the process of determining the value of a load, but that was only the first step in selecting which loads to haul and which ones to leave on the dock. Now for the next step, looking at the quality of a load. Value is what a load pays; quality is what does or doesn’t occur as you develop multiple loads into a freight lane. Note: A freight lane is the combination of outbound loads and required inbound loads needed to come back to your original departure location of the outbound shipment. The objective when developing Freight Lane is to craft a series of loads that combine to generate the necessary revenue which creates a profit at the completion of each freight lane run. The combined revenue of all the loads in a specific trip, plus the amount by which this revenue exceeds your Break-Even Point is what determines the quality of the loads.

The biggest challenge to developing a freight lane is that outbound and inbound freight lanes are inherently imbalanced. This is particularly true when working in truckload hauling. The typical description of an unbalanced freight lane would be hauling steel girders to Miami, Florida, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is a major manufacturing hub with numerous factories and support industries, whereas Miami is a large consumer locale with very little manufacturing; very little outbound freight. In short, Miami needs the steel to build its condominiums and high-rises, but has very little freight to send to Pittsburgh, thus the imbalanced freight lane. When developing your freight lane it’s important to take this imbalance into consideration. But because a freight lane is imbalanced to some degree, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth developing. There are always going to be freight areas where the inbound freight far exceeds the outbound freight, meaning there will be more trucks than freight in an area. In a well-designed freight lane this imbalance is taken into consideration. It might be necessary to depart a low freight area empty and  head to a location which has better paying freight, or it might make sense to take that cheap load to generate cash flow to increase your total revenue on the trip. This is all decided by doing a Freight Lane Development Analysis.

The first step in developing a freight lane is to look at your available outbound freight from your Home Domicile for the niche you’ve selected.

  • To what location is the largest amount of freight headed?
  • What is the available freight returning to your Home Domicile from the destination of the outbound freight?
  • What is the return freight area’s truck-to-load ratio average over the past month, quarter, and year?
  • If the truck-to-load ratio is too many trucks and not enough freight for the backhaul, how far will you need to run empty from this area to find a positive truck-to-load ratio which will give you the revenue to return to your Home Domicile? Is it moving your trucks further away from getting back to your Home Domicile?
  • Look at multiple scenarios to determine the best routes to produce the highest overall revenue at the end of each round (outbound and return).
  • You must have at least one loaded shipment returning (or being compensated at your minimum hauling rate if having to return to your Home Domicile empty) from any backhaul location. The trick is to be sure you’re paid for the miles and time required, regardless whether you are loaded or empty.

The best approach to finding, and continuing to get the best loads for your trucks, is by targeting specific areas where your outbound freight is headed.  This means going from a scattergun to the ‘lock and load’ approach with your sights on the bull’s-eye of available loads in your Freight Lane Development Plan.

Good roads and good loads, everyone.

Timothy Brady
©  2009

The Profitable Trucking Company

How to make a profit in today’s trucking industry.

Are you asking yourself if you can really make a profit in trucking today, especially with fuel going up again and the freight still not recovering? That’s the 64,000-dollar question for most trucking companies.

I’d still say, yes, you can make a profit in trucking with planning, forethought, and using correct business principles. If you’re a small motor carrier, you should be looking for a specific niche in which to specialize. If you want to compete in the truckload side of the business, you have to provide something no one else is willing to do, and then do it better than anyone else could. Always charge a profitable rate for your services, too. You won’t ever compete on just price alone with the big trucking companies, because they can easily afford to undercut their competition’s rates.

There’s always a need for any size company which provides excellent customer service. So yes, you can be successful in trucking, as long as you make a plan, know your costs, and be sure your rates reflect those costs. Find and fill your niche and become the best in the lane you service. Don’t try to haul everything to everyone. Know your market; create strong relationships with your customers, and give them true commitment to their wants and needs.

You won’t succeed if you go into trucking for the one and only reason of making money. The true bottom line to being prosperous in the trucking industry has multiple parts:

  • Believe what you do helps create a better quality of life for you and your neighbors.
  • Think safety, not just your own, but everyone around you.
  • Become the expert in your niche market.
  • Know your customers, what makes them tick, their wants and needs, and concentrate on serving them beyond their expectations.
  • Know your costs, down to every nut, bolt, airline, paper towel and staple.
  • Set your rates to reflect your costs, including your salary.
  • Have a plan, one that includes your vision of achieving your goals.
  • Know when to say no and when to say yes.

There’s still profit to be made on the highway, by being the best driver and customer supplier ever. Maybe the real 64,000-dollar question is, how great a trucking company do you want to be?

Good loads and good roads, everyone.

Timothy Brady
©  2009

What Is Lane Density?

What is lane density? This is a term you may or may not have heard in the course of doing business as a trucker. But as you’re about to see, it’s very important in determining whether you are profitable or not. This applies to a single truck operation or multiple unit dispatch.

Lane density is the art of load planning, which keeps the truck full with profitable tonnage whenever it is rolling. It’s documented that over 40% of all OTR trucks traversing the American highway are partially or completely empty. This means that efficiency, or lane density, isn’t being calculated. But lane density should be one of the dispatch plans every trucking operation implements, regardless of size. The PLAN is simple: keep your trailer loaded every mile it has tires rolling on highway pavement. This means you’re looking for return tonnage while considering what you’re going to load outbound. Better yet; you’re looking two or three or more trips into the future, planning loads for each truck, so that every trailer has a load assigned to it long before it has reached its destination. Eliminate dead-heading and unnecessary sitting by maximizing lane density. Don’t allow the truck or your loads to dictate downtime, or contribute to unpaid or under-paid miles.

Every mile a truck is driven costs money, whether loaded or not. Once a load is delivered, both the number of days from that delivery date and the number of miles required to complete the next trip all belong to the new load. Regardless of whether you’re hauling paying tonnage or sailboat fuel; deadheading or traveling to your next pick-up, every time the truck is rolling there’s money going out the exhaust. To maintain lane density you must keep that loaded truck on the most direct path between pick-up and delivery; minimizing distance traveled, thus saving on operational costs and driver’s Hours of Service. The idea that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points works here. You must match your loads so as the truck starts pick-ups and deliveries, it deviates very little from the straight line. When it has to stray from the line to pick up or deliver, the rates charged reflect the time and distance required out of route. Small package trucking companies do this, why shouldn’t you? Don’t be fooled by the rate per mile of a specific shipment or load: what counts is the actual distance the rubber rolls and the amount of time required to accomplish the entire trip. A rate per mile is nothing more or less than a means by which you figure the amount to be charged the customer. That rate per mile is usually figured on some arbitrary mileage table that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual miles to be covered. You must compare your revenue to the actual miles to be driven and time required to complete the trip. Moreover, those miles and time must start from the place and time you delivered your previous trip’s load; not from origin to destination, but from destination to destination.

Here’s that four letter word again….PLAN! But don’t get caught with the wrong plan! Most truckers and small fleets run on the day-to-day plan. In the morning, they determine which trucks are going to be empty that day and start searching for loads for them: a plan, but not a good plan. You’ve got to have a Lane Density Strategy: one that not only looks at today, but one that looks as far into the future as possible. If you haven’t located the return load before you accept the outbound load… you have a failing plan. To set into motion the best plan, your Lane Density Strategy should include the following:

  1. Set up dedicated routes that maintain lane density.
  2. Look for tonnage along these routes before you need it.
  3. Find loads long before you need them.
  4. Try to have more tonnage available than trucks.
  5. Set up a bread and butter run for each truck and driver(s).
  6. Don’t look for loads at the last minute.
  7. Always plan two to three loads ahead for each truck.
  8. Think multi-directional, outbound, return, and in-between.
  9. Don’t send any truck out without a return plan.
  10. Provide quality service so shippers are calling you back.

In today’s tough market, there is less tonnage than there are trucks available. Any trucking company or individual Owner/Operator must be looking ahead as far as possible—planning loads weeks in advance. Remember the further ahead you plan your loads, the more control you have if one goes sour.

Good loads and good roads, everyone.

Timothy Brady
©  2009

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