Recently, there has been a headline in the trucking media that says truck driver fatalities are on the rise. This headline just adds fuel to the notion that electronic logs (ELD) caused this.
After reading the comments from people where these articles were shared, I noticed many people with the opinion that in fact ELD’s did cause the rise in truck driver fatalities.
READ BEYOND THE HEADLINES
If these people who commented had read the articles they would have found out that there is much more to this. The real story was there were less fatalities per mile traveled by large trucks.
Here is the rest of the story taken right out of the story published in Landline Magazine…
“Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, traffic fatalities decreased by 3.4% from 1.17 to 1.13. The decrease was not a result of less driving. VMT increased by 0.3% in 2018 compared with 2017.”
I would also question how many more commercial drivers there was in the year 2017.
The report also stated that pedestrian fatalities were up 3.4% and cyclists deaths were up by 6.3% which is the highest since 1990. Is this because there are more pedestrians and cyclists today?
I would be willing to bet there are more crashes involving cars with 17-inch diameter wheels in the year 2019 than there was back in 1975. This would make quite a headline because cars did not use 17” diameter wheels in 1975.
In the end, it is important to know the whole story before forming a knee jerk reaction without all of the facts.
In February of 2018, I started the 70+/10 project. The goal has been to run the speed limit up to 75 mph when safe to do so and achieve 10 mpg. The project is ongoing, and my fuel mileage during this period has been 9.507. New Blue’s fuel mileage before the project started was an average of 10.058, which gives my Cascadia a lifetime fuel mileage average of 9.697.
A large portion of my run is through Texas, where the speed limit is usually posted at 75 mph. An interesting take away from my 70+/10 project has been how much things have changed over the years, mechanically and aerodynamically. There is a figure that is still thrown around today that you will lose 1/10th of a mpg for each mph speed increase.
The 1/10th was always a flawed number to begin with as aerodynamic impact on drag is on a bell curve, not a straight line. Every mph increase in speed, in reality, has a greater impact than the one that proceeded it. One of the observations during 70+/10 project has been that I can still average good fuel economy numbers at speeds up to 72 mph. That final three mph up to 75 mph has proven to be the area that is holding me back from averaging above 10 mpg.
It was interesting as I was reviewing the performance of my Cascadia with another owner- operator friend of mine over dinner. He was sharing with me that he thought I would never improve my fuel mileage with this Cascadia over my previous Cascadia because this one is a 6 X 4 driving both axles vs the last one being a 6 X 2 having less parasitic loss.
The reason for being able to still increase my fuel mileage, despite going from a 6 X 2 to a 6 X 4 drive axle configure, was the mechanical and aerodynamic enhancements made to the New Cascadia vs. the old Cascadia. One of these enhancements is the 2.16 rear axle ratio with Detroit exclusive Axle Lube Management (ALM).
This one feature, ALM, brought the efficiency of the 6 X 4 rear axle configuration within 1.5 percent of the efficiency of a 6 X 2 without any of the inherent disadvantages associated with a 6 X 2 rear axle configuration. In addition to ALM the 2.16 rear axle ratio is not available in the 23,000 lb. axle used in a 6 X 2 rear axle configuration.
As I explained to my owner-operator friend, the gear ratio, along with active lube management and the myriad of aerodynamic improvements all combined, were more than enough to overcome the advantages my previous Cascadia had with only one drive axle.
A feature on the comfort side I never thought I would appreciate is the Cascadia’s Drivers Loft. My attitude has always been, get done driving, do paperwork, eat, lay down, and go to sleep. Did I need a table and chairs in a truck? Did I think it might be nice? Now that I have the Cascadia with the Drivers Loft, I have learned how much I actually use it.
Every day I put the bed away and use the table; it takes me about thirty seconds to switch back and forth. The table is nice to do my paperwork, instead of using the steering wheel or sitting in bed, prepare and eat meals, relax, or even visit with another driver.
In summary, could I live without having the Drivers Loft? Yes, as I survived back in the day with a small cabover truck sleeper. The real question is, would I want to? No, as I have come to appreciate this convenience as the sleeper feels like a home away from home.
In the end, it still amazes me how far my new Cascadia has advanced over my previous Cascadia in nearly every category from efficiency, comfort, livability, handling, and overall good looks.
Wind can be one of the more dangerous forces of Mother Nature we encounter out there, especially those of us in vans and reefers. With gusty wind areas around nearly every part of the country, wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to accurately predict wind patterns in your trip planning? I once wrote a blog article titled “Wind,” where I was excited about trying out a new wind forecasting app I had found. Now a staple in my trip planning toolbox and my favorite all-around weather predictor, many more features have been added since I last checked in on this amazing piece of weather tech.
During my first encounter with Windy.com, it was solely a web site (windytv.com) I had to type into my browser to use. Since then, it has been released as an app with regular updates for feature additions and bug fixes. Though relatively bug-free on my iPhone already, the developers have continued to keep it up-to-date. They’ve added so much new functionality and tools that it has become my go-to app for all weather forecasting and tracking of current conditions. There are at least 40 search layer overlays you can toggle on and off, including things like wind, rain, thunder/lightning, temperature, precipitation, clouds, visibility, air quality, and more! It also provides features like live webcams for certain areas, paragliding spots, and tide forecasts! The developers of this app have worked hard to make it one of the most accurate and comprehensive tools for weather I have encountered in all my weather technology searches.
I will be the first to admit that I have never been a fan of weather that I can’t see. I can do snow, sleet, rain and dust because they have visual signs. Wind on the other hand, gives me little to gauge it on except the blowing trees and bushes on the side of the road, and occasionally a truck lying over on its side if it gets that bad! Most of those daytime visual cues all but disappear in the dark of night, making an already dangerous situation much more dangerous.
Having a tool like the windy.com app or website takes a lot of the guesswork out of trip planning through wind-prone areas. It has saved me more than a handful of times, prompting me to take alternate routes on several occasions, with light loads or an empty box behind me. Be sure to add the 7-day forecast capability of the Windy.com app to your mobile device. You’ll be glad that you did!
I often get asked why fuel economy and good driving habits matter to me so much, especially since I am a company driver and don’t have to pay for the fuel. That is an excellent question. I am paid by the mile, so getting to my destination as quickly and safely as possible should be my only concern, right?
My reasoning goes a little deeper than that though. Let me explain.
THERE IS MORE MONEY TO BE MADE
My company offers a bonus for better performance, and so do most other companies too. Some companies base their bonuses simply by Miles Per Gallon (MPG) while other companies, like mine, offer bonuses for executing good driving habits that produce higher MPG. Either way, there’s money on the table and I want it. I personally like being rewarded for good habits. I can’t control load weight, terrain, traffic or weather. All of those things affect fuel economy. The only thing I can control is how I drive the truck. That’s where good habits come into play. Maintaining space, being light on the pedals and using the terrain to my advantage are all things I can control every load, every day. Following good habits will get you the best fuel economy you can achieve, so if you are paid a bonus strictly on your MPG, it is a good idea to drive as efficiently as possible.
IT HELPS KEEP EQUIPMENT IN BETTER CONDITION
Fellow Team Run Smart Pro Henry Albert once presented the following scenario. He witnessed 2 professional drivers in a rough parking lot. One of them was taking their time, being careful to avoid potholes as much as possible. Their truck was in good shape and looked pretty good. The other driver was just driving haphazardly speeding through the same lot, not paying attention to the holes and ruts. Their truck seemed to be a bad shape and looked as though it had seen better days.
“What was the difference?” Henry asked. The answer: The reckless driver was a company driver. They obviously weren’t concerned with the condition of the equipment. The other driver was an owner/operator and was taking great care with the equipment because that cost comes directly from their bottom line. But breakdowns cost company drivers as well.
One of the worst things to deal with is being broken down on the road. The long waits not only cost the company money, but it costs you, as the driver, money as well because of lost miles driven. Driving conservatively is easier on your equipment meaning your brakes and tires will last longer and your suspension won’t wear out as quickly or break. The longer we can make these parts last, the less downtime we may experience. This, in turn, allows us to keep moving and make more money. Our company makes more money too, by increasing revenue and lowering maintenance costs.
BEING WASTEFUL IS WELL…WASTEFUL
Whether it is fuel, money or time, wasting anything is just that, wasteful. Even though I am not paying for the fuel as a company driver, it still seems wasteful to just let the truck idle for no reason. I understand running it in extreme temperatures so we can stay comfortable, or for a mechanical issue, but to idle it just to idle it not only wastes fuel, it costs money. If I can save $3 a day in fuel and work 250 days a year (most of us work more than that), that is $750 a year. Now multiply that by the number of trucks your company may have. That $3 a day adds up pretty quick. I’m a firm believer that if my company is doing well financially, then I will do well financially.
Here are some simple things that can end up saving a lot of money:
Keep your tires properly inflated. Proper inflation not only improves fuel economy but lessens the chance of a tire failure which can not only result in downtime and a costly road call, but a tire blowing could injure someone.
Do a thorough Pre-Trip. Finding a problem before you get on the road can save you time and money as well. If you’re lucky, you may be at a truck stop that has service bays on site. If not, it’s still safer to have repairs performed in a parking lot than on the side of the road with traffic speeding past.
Try to maintain momentum. Every time you slow down it requires fuel to get back up to speed. One of the easiest ways to do this is to control your following distance. In heavy traffic, whether you leave 20 feet or 200 feet, someone is going to try to grab that space. Let them take it.
Lastly, report any mechanical issues and have them taken care of right away. Putting it off can lead to bigger issues that take longer to get fixed.
Be safe out there and take care of your equipment. It might just save you money and time.
As an independent owner-operator, I’ve had many drivers ask me, “How do you find your own customers?” The answer to that is you can go about this in various ways.
Years ago, when I began my business, I went to the local library to research companies that offered the proper materials to be transported on a flatbed trailer. One thing that really helped my business is that I had decided upon two major cities in which I was going to ply my trade. My thoughts at the time were to deal with only a few customers on both ends. I already knew if Albert Transport wanted more substantial profits, I needed to build customer satisfaction and didn’t want to rely on freight from brokers.
At the time, I did not have the option of Google so my research began with “Standard Industry Codes” (SIC Codes). Today, I’m sure this information is available online. A gold mine of information can be found such as:
Product or material manufactured
Years in business
Size of business
Number of employees
And much more information about each company
The contacts for the CEO or other staff members may also be listed. Other areas I researched were “Trade Publications” and advertisements for lumber, construction, steel, and various other building products. The librarian was more than happy to assist in the research and as most people do not go to the library today, they just might be missing out on a piece of knowledge only the librarian knows.
One day, I had the bright idea to search our local Home Depot, Lowes and lumber yards. The materials at these locations all provide a label with the states where the product originated. I would simply look for cities in which I wanted to serve and sometimes the phone number was located on the label.
If you are starting this search today, I would still suggest sorting through SIC Codes in the area you want to set up your business. Once you have created the list of contacts it’s time to pick up the phone, go visit them, or email the point of contact to set up a meeting. Before you pick up the phone, have your elevator speech prepared with what differentiates your business from others should they choose to use you.
When driving, walking, running, or riding a bike, all of us have to pay attention to the sounds and what is happening around us.
Recently when driving through a city, I witnessed a police vehicle almost get hit by not one, but three cars. We were all at a busy intersection, and a police car with lights and sirens on was trying to make a left-hand turn at a red light.
What is your response when you hear a siren? Mine is to look around madly and roll down the window, if needed, so that I can locate the position of the emergency vehicle. If the siren is behind or coming at me, I look in the mirrors and pull over to the right when it’s safe to do so.
When the emergency vehicle is approaching from a side street, I look to see if it has a blinker on or if they are continuing straight and respond appropriately so they are able to get around me safely.
In this instance, the officer came to a complete stop at the red light before entering the intersection, I stopped in my lane on the road to the right of the car with the flashing lights and sirens, and the oncoming traffic had stopped as well.
After I stopped two cars passed me on the right, but the one that scared me was the one that passed me on my left at a high rate of speed. They were oblivious to the sirens and the emergency lights until they got in front of the police car as it was pulling into the intersection.
I’m sure officers are taught to drive around oblivious vehicles as that was the only thing that saved the officer as well as the speeding car.
This whole scenario has me wondering “what was in these people’s minds?” First, they saw, or I hope they saw me stopped at a green light, the lights flashing on the police car, and heard the wail of the sirens. I felt like all of this should have been a huge clue that something was going on at this intersection and they should proceed with caution.
I also wondered who was waiting for this officer to possibly save their life as these oblivious vehicles made the emergency vehicle wait as they sped by.
The interior of the Freightliner Cascadia is quiet but not quiet enough to block out the sound of an emergency vehicle. We always need to be mindful of what is going on around us and take the appropriate action.
Let’s discuss the importance of pre-trip inspections for just a few minutes. They aren’t fun, and standing in the blowing snow, scorching heat, or crawling under a trailer in a gravel/dirt lot in the driving rain makes it downright unpleasant at times. However, they are necessary and pretty important.
The first reason is pretty simple. It is the law. As professional truck drivers we are required to perform them. The following is from the Federal Motor Carrier “green” book:
392.7 Equipment, inspection and use. (a) No commercial motor vehicle shall be driven unless the driver is satisfied that the following parts and accessories are in good working order, nor shall any driver fail to use or make use of such parts and accessories when and as needed: – Service brakes, including trailer brake connections – Parking (hand) Brake – Steering Mechanisms – Lighting Devices and Reflectors – Tires – Horn – Windshield Wiper or Wipers – Rear-vision mirror or mirrors – Coupling devices
Federal Motor Carrier “green” book
Doing a thorough pre-trip shouldn’t just be done to keep D.O.T. happy though, we should do it because it is the smart thing to do.
The 2nd reason to do a thorough pre-trip is the same reason one would inspect a parachute before using it to jump from a perfectly good aircraft. It is always better to know for sure if you have a functioning parachute before you jump. If something is wrong with the parachute and it doesn’t open, the results could be deadly. The same goes for our vehicles. A bulge on a steer tire or a steering component that is working itself loose could have costly, if not deadly, consequences if they fail.
Yes, it is tedious and the majority of the time you will not find anything, but a thorough pre-trip is the only way to know for sure your truck is safe and ready to go down the road. It also makes pulling into a Weigh Station less nerve-racking. Knowing that everything was good when you started your day removes that little doubt when you don’t get the by-pass signal. Those few minutes at the beginning of your day can provide peace of mind for the rest of it. For me, that is worth the time it takes to do a thorough pre-trip. So even though I don’t always feel like it, I do one every single day before I drive, and every time I hook to a new trailer.
Lastly, There are a few things you can do to make sure you are doing a thorough pre-trip, and once in the habit, it will become 2nd nature to you:
Always start at the same place: This helps with establishing a routine.
Do it the same way, every day: This helps to make sure you are not overlooking or forgetting anything.
Do it every day: This will help you to recognize if something is out of place or simply doesn’t look right.
Don’t just look, though: Feeling the smoothness of a tire, the tension of a belt or the play on the steering column can help you detect little problems before they become big ones.
Take your time: We all feel rushed sometimes, but when it comes to safety, cutting corners is not the way to save time or money.
So do a thorough pre-trip. Stop problems before they become tragedies. And lastly, be safe. We kinda like having you around.
An important thing to keep in mind as a lease-purchase driver is knowing your numbers. When I say this I mean know your operating costs, living costs, and recreational costs. When I run my numbers I try to recap how my week went and compare them to where I need to be in order to get better where I can. I also use these numbers to see how I can improve by checking out what can be done to lower these costs.
One thing that’s been a huge help with my numbers is fuel economy. I always strive for good fuel economy and the ability to keep most of my revenue. Since I’ve slowed down to the point where I can make appointments on time and also maximize my fuel economy I’ve found my nexus point. Yes, I may not get as many miles as another driver who hammers down but I’ve run the numbers and have found that by going 60 [mph] instead of 70 [mph] I’ve increased my revenue by as much as 20% in some instances which in turn lowers my operating costs even under the bar I’ve set for myself.
I’ve also evaluated what my needs vs. wants are when looking at the week. If there’s something that’s wanted and not needed and my numbers are ok but could be better, I slash that on my budget. Another thing is if I have extra revenue, I put it back into my truck. Not with chrome (granted it looks nice), but with something that has been proven to make my business more efficient. For example, I just ran some numbers and found that with my excess revenue I could afford to order a tire pressure monitoring system. Granted it can seem nice to get some extras but in lease purchase, you really have to watch those numbers to be profitable in your business.
Another thing to help watch your numbers closely is hiring a CPA or Certified Public Accountant. These CPAs can actually generate a profit and loss statement depending on your preferences so you can have a pretty good idea where you are and where you need to be.
Performing your regularly scheduled maintenance can help as well because it minimizes your downtime by catching anything that may become an issue in the future. So in conclusion, there are quite a few ways to meet the financial goals you’ve set and the ones I’ve mentioned here are just a few of the things you can do. I challenge everyone to just put pen to paper and run the numbers so you can meet or exceed your business goals.
Deadheading seems to be a very dreadful thing to many owner-operators. Just the very mention of it can send a pang of anxiety through almost any driver. Their fists will clench, their attention will rise to full alert and they begin to run through countermeasures in their minds. Of course, I am talking about Deadheading.
Why is deadheading such a bad word for so many owner-operators? While no one wants to spend their own money on fuel and wear and tear to go after a load, if the alternative is to wait it out for a better load to come along, you must consider how much a couple of days of waiting will cost you. Sure, you may be able to eat for a nominal cost and stay in the truck, saving hotel costs. You may even have an APU or generator to keep you comfortable while you wait. However, each day sitting and waiting is a day of lost revenue.
Money spent can be recouped, time lost is gone forever.
If you could deadhead (there’s that dreaded word again) 300 miles to get your next $1000 load at 6 MPG and fuel at $3.00 per gallon, that deadhead would cost you roughly $150 in fuel. Now you would be down to $850 for the load (minus the deadhead fuel cost). However, if you sit for two days to get the $1000 load 10 miles away, you have now lost 2 days of revenue just to gain $150.
We have all heard that time is money, and for the most part that is true. Whether your time makes you money or costs you money is up to you.
The next time deadheading is an option, weigh your options and think about what the waiting will cost you. If deadheading will get you back in the revenue stream quicker, then this is better than waiting for a magical load to appear in your area. While it is not ideal to constantly chase freight, deadheading can be a very beneficial tool to the savvy owner-operator, especially one who knows the value of their time.
Trucker Path is considered by many to be one of the most popular trucking app. The app is currently downloaded by over 600,000 truckers who use it for pretty much anything trucking related. Trucker Path provides many features including navigation, parking status, fuel prices, weight stations, etc.
Truck Smart is an app that is brought to you by TA Petro. Truck Smart is another all-purpose trucking app that can fulfill many different needs. It can be used to reserve parking reservations, know fuel prices in advance, and submit service requests.
Trucker Tools’ main selling point is “being the most accurate truck stop guide”. The app offers updated fuel prices, live traffic, and turn-by-turn directions. It is another app that makes a trucker’s life much easier while on the road.
GasBuddy is an in-depth gas and diesel app that gives truckers a look at nationwide fuel prices. The app provides a price map, trip cost calculator, and gas price charts. GasBuddy even allows you to pay with the app, which turns into savings or cash back each time you fill up.
BigRoad is an electronic logbook for owner-operators, drivers, and fleets. The app allows drivers to easily track hours of service by calculating the time for you. BigRoad will also send notifications for any errors or violations to help you avoid fines.
Life as a truck driver is busy and it can be easy to forget about your responsibilities. Wunderlist is an app you can use to better manage your time while on the road. With this app, you can create daily to-do lists, set reminders for yourself, and share tasks with your colleagues and family.
As a trucker, it can be difficult to keep track of paperwork or receipts while in the truck. CamScanner can be used to scan any document in order to be saved on your device or sent to somebody else. CamScanner is an app recommended to every ATBS client, as it is the simplest way to keep track of all of your important documents.
DAT has a load board app that is free for all DAT subscribers. The app posts around 637,000 loads every business day. It includes features like spot market rates, saved searches, sort options, and company reviews.
The weather channel app provides information on exactly what you would expect…the weather! What separates this weather app from others is the ability to look at weather forecasts two weeks in advance. This app also provides alerts and notifications with weather updates in whatever area you are currently in.
Rolling Strong is a health and wellness company that focuses specifically on professional drivers. They offer an app that provides drivers with exercise and meal plans while on the road. A subscription to the company also comes with online coaching from the Rolling Strong trainers.
Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. The app doesn’t just provide navigation and direction, it also provides real-time updates provided by real people on the app. Some of the updates include police presence, accidents, and traffic jams.
With all of these apps, it may be tempting to use your phone while driving. FleetSafer Mobile gets rid of this temptation. This app can block any messages you might receive while driving and automatically respond to those messages with, “I’m driving”.
Today, it’s important that you take advantage of what your mobile devices can offer. All of these apps can improve your business and your life, with little to no cost. Take a look at all of these apps and see how much easier it makes your time as an owner-operator.