Can You Afford To Change Carriers?

Last year was a very good year to be an owner operator. Rates were high, fuel costs were relatively low despite some fuel tax increases. New truck sales went through the roof. Everything was rolling along smoothly for the most part. Many new owner operators joined the trucking industry.

Then 2019 came and we have seen a dip in rates. For those who just entered the industry last year, you may be thinking of finding greener pastures. Those high rates of 2018 have subsided, and we are back to usual.

Leased owner operators seeking to better their businesses will change carriers from time to time for a variety of reasons. If you are considering a change due to losing revenue, lack of work or lack of the 2018 rates, consider the costs associated with changing carriers.

While it may sound as simple as a new contract with a new carrier, it is not without risk or cost. Permits and plates are just the start. There may also be electronics (ELD) to be removed and returned, as well as any decals representing your previous carrier. A weigh station bypass device might either need to be returned to previous carrier or adjusted to match your new plates and DOT number. Now you have to install your new ELD, if required, have your new decals installed (carrier name/logo and DOT number), get your new IFTA card and decal, have your toll pass updated to match your new credentials, insurance policies need changed, etc.

Now that the truck has been made ready for the new carrier, what about you?

There will be an adjustment period. At your old carrier, you may have known just the right person to call for certain issues. You may have become accustomed to where your previous carrier’s customer base was located. You may have even risen in the ranks of your old carrier to get the loads you want or need. Now, starting anew, you may have to climb your way up the ranks again to get the better loads. The pay increase you are looking for may take a little longer to get. Are you prepared?

Transitioning to a new carrier can be costly for both parties. The carrier has to invest time and resources to get you oriented to their way of doing things. You have to learn their system to get things done the way they expect you to. These things can take time.

Do you have the funds to weather the transition? It could take a couple of weeks, or even months for you to “catch up”. Before jumping ship, or seeking greener pastures, make sure you are financially ready to make the move.

IndyCar – The Traveling Show

The “Team” depends on three black Western Star trucks that carry everything from track to track.  These trucks are expected to get everything safely and quickly from track to track and look good while in the paddock area.  The trucks have almost zero deadhead on them and are always loaded to near 80,000 pounds.

What impresses me about these trucks is that they run the speed limit consistently and are always loaded heavy.  The truck that Bob and I drove averaged 7.1 MPG from Long Beach, CA to Plainfield, IL, home of Dale Coyne Racing.

Recently IndyCar was in Long Beach for the Grand Prix street race.  The Dale Coyne team traveled from Barber Motorsports Park, Leeds, Alabama to downtown Long Beach.  This area is not truck friendly, and yet they had trucks crammed everywhere with enough room to set up the tent garages.   There were several types of races going on throughout the week, and each class of race vehicles had their designated parking area.

The IndyCar garages were erected near the “Aquarium” which I later learned was not an aquarium at all but an event center.  A huge round building with fish painted on it should be a large round aquarium.  As each truck and trailer pulled in to their designated space, the area was measured for the tent, and then the next truck and trailer would pull in.  Dale Coyne Racing had two cars racing, the engineering trailer was parked next to the # 19 trailer of Santino Ferrucci, then the garage area for both cars and then the #18 trailer of Sebastien Bourdais.

Once the trucks are parked the floor of the garage is laid out (Kiwi tile) and then the tents are set up.  It is unbelievable how much “stuff” is inside each trailer and how quickly these guys can get the garage set up and their tools out ready to work.  Once the garages are complete, the cars are lowered from the upper section of the trailers, and the work begins.  New race and new track require a different set up for each car.

The central part of the team consists of about twenty people who set up the garages and then as the week goes on more people show up to help or to support.  Each one of these people will be fed lunch each day, drinks provided, as well as snacks.  The garage area is kept spotless from the rugs being vacuumed often, tables wiped down, inside of the trailers cleaned, trash emptied, and at the trucks polished and dusted.  It is a never-ending effort to maintain this level of tidiness.

While all of these people are milling around, trash cans are emptied and people are chatting, the mechanics work on the cars.  When one of the cars is started crowds form at the barriers to watch and listen.  Finally, it is time to go to the track for practice and qualify, all building up to the final race.  If a racecar is damaged during practice, a team’s hopes can be dashed, or they scramble madly to get the car back into competitive racing form.

It is unbelievable the work and manpower that is involved in getting each car out onto the track.  One of the people of the team that fascinates me the most is the girl in charge of logistics. Karina schedules everything.  Flights are planned from the various cities, cars are rented, hotels rooms reserved, and what time everything happens at the track.

Her rooming schedule is a nightmare of who rooms with who and do they get along, who drives each rental car and who will ride with them, and then when it is over, she gets flights for each person to get back home or to Chicago and home base for the team.  All of the extra people for each race have to have credentials to get into the track, and she lines that all up.

In her spare time, she also does many of the press releases for the cars and each driver.  Karina is unflappable and I have watched her when someone’s plans change last minute and they want her to fix their flights and plans and she calmly takes care of it as if it was no big deal.

Once the race is over the “traveling show” is packed away, and it is off to the next race with dreams of the next podium finish. We feel fortunate to be a part of this operation and to have a glimpse behind the scenes of an IndyCar Team.

FTLGR’s Own Tom Siderius and Eric Schaltz Named Top Sellers By Freightliner Trucks

Our very own Tom Siderius and Eric Schaltz are named Freightliner Trucks’ 2017-2018 Leland James Award Winners!

Freightliner Trucks has announced its top dealer sales professionals’ “Elite” status through its annual Leland James Elite Sales Achievement Program.

“It is my sincere honor to congratulate the winners of our prestigious Leland James Elite Program,” said Bob Correll, vice president sales, Freightliner Trucks. “The winners who achieve this award are hardworking, dedicated professionals who help our customers achieve their business goals by guiding them on their commercial vehicle needs. It’s no easy task, and we are pleased to honor them with this distinction.”

Created in 2003 and named in honor of Freightliner Trucks’ founder, Leland James, the program recognizes and rewards outstanding sales results from dealer sales professionals in the United States and Canada. The top 46 sales professionals and 6 sales managers were honored at a special awards ceremony earlier this month.

Recipients were selected for on-highway, medium duty and vocational sales success. The recognition also considers other criteria, including total number of customers, conquest account achievement and training certifications.

“For more than a decade, we have honored our top sales professionals with the Leland James Elite Program,” said Tom Zielke, business training and events manager, Freightliner Trucks. “The competition is fierce, because the Freightliner Trucks network is made up of truly superior sales professionals. The winners of this program exemplify the best of the best in terms of hard work, commitment and superior service to our customers, and it is our honor to reward them.”

Congratulations to our sales representatives Tom Siderius and Eric Schaltz on this well-deserved honor!

Click here for the original March 2019 press release from Daimler Trucks North America, “Freightliner Trucks Honors Its Top Dealer Sales Professionals.”

Go To The Next Exit

Making a wild evasive maneuver at the last second because you have missed a turn or exit is an irresponsible decision.

Recently while traveling across I-10 east in the great state of Alabama I had merged and got onto I-65 north exit ramp, this particular exit is a left-hand exit with two lanes going to I-65 north.

Let me set the scene for you…there is a car a little bit ahead of me in the left lane of the exit ramp. There is a pickup truck to my right which is continuing on I-10 east. I am slowing down to the 35 MPH recommended speed for the ramp. Suddenly, and at the last second before entering the curve, the car on my left turned sharp right without any signal and shot across the paved median to remain on I-10 east. Oddly enough the pickup truck which was on the right at the same moment made a sharp left and shot across the paved median. The pickup nearly clipped my right-hand corner of my truck and at the same time narrowly missed the car which had come from my left side. At this point, the available real estate was becoming in short supply. Fortunately, I already had my foot on the brake slowing down for the ramp and was able to slow down enough to not hit either of these vehicles.

What appeared to happen in this situation of erratic maneuvers was two vehicles nearly missing their exit on the interstate. The safe thing for either of these vehicles would have been to continue on the road they were currently on and turn around at the next exit to correct their miscalculation.

Driving to the next exit, no matter how far it is, won’t kill you. However, making a highly aggressive maneuver to not miss your exit not only puts you at risk but all the other vehicles in your vicinity.

What everyone should do is say “Oh, I missed my turn” and continue on rather than put everyone else at risk. In the end, it is better to take the time to correct your mistake in this manner instead of creating a situation that could be a deadly mistake.

Stow On the Go

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By Jimmy Nevarez

We all see it out there, from time to time flatbedders poking fun at reefer and van drivers about “slapping it in and swinging the doors shut!” All kidding aside, the job of cargo securement is serious business and should not be taken lightly. Whether it is chains and binders or bars and straps, we all have tools of the trade we use to secure our freight while it is in transit. What we do with those tools when they’re not in use is important too, so that they don’t become a hazard going down the road.

Flatbed drivers have the most securement tools I usually see out there, being that they haul some of the more odd-shaped loads. A flatbed driver can go from hauling a truckload of ladders to hauling a sensitive load in need of tarping in a moment’s notice if prepared with the right securement items. This is why they typically have large tool boxes on the trailers and some back of cab storage at times that enable them to carry these numerous items for their varying load types. Being a van guy myself, I will say it is much simpler for van and reefer guys!

Though I do not have to carry corner braces, chains and binders for my van freight, I do have quite an assortment of blocks, nails, straps and most recently bars. Never one to like carrying bars, I have inherited them from a shipper that likes to put them with their loads instead of straps and I get to keep them at the receiver end. Though a large toolbox might lend itself to helping organize this stuff, it is not typically something you see a lot of van and reefer trailers equipped with. Likewise you may see bar racks on the back of cabs, but not having spec’d one from the factory because I usually didn’t prefer to carry them.

I am not one to favor drilling anything aftermarket into the body of my cab unless absolutely necessary to put one in. Due to this, I have had great success with my own method of keeping the regularly required amount of cargo securement items right inside the trailer, closet to where I need them most.

I guess you could say I “Jimmy Rigged” my own rack of sorts inside the tail of the trailer that eliminates the need of having to go outside for my necessary bars, or a couple straps, or any combo of either. Sure I have to keep an eye that none of them “grow legs” and walk away at my shippers and receivers, but using this method I have had great success and even a couple shipper comments that they liked having them organized in the back like this because they were just able to grab a bar and slap it across the back for me without even having to ask. It was an idea I had when I was frequenting a shipper that would make me leave two straps or two bars in the back before loading, which I guess started to accumulate into the 4 bars and 3 straps I keep back there today, along with 7 other straps I have rolled up in the underseat compartment in my Freightliner Cascadia.

Though I may not hold the award for most cargo securing tools onboard my truck, I know the importance of keeping things secure when not in use, while still making sure they are easily accessible. This solution works well for me because I do not haul any wall-to-wall cubed-out loads and have the room to keep these back there and out of the way, so this may not be the best solution for everyone. I like it so much, I may soon even look at a more permanent in-trailer solution that works with my E-track.

Next time you have to grab an iced over, dirty load lock off the back of your cab though, remember this little trick and you may just find yourself having a new way to avoid some of those pains of storing these devices out in the elements. Keep an eye out for those “wall riders” though, as occasionally you may find they’ve rubbed a ratchet right off one of your straps or bent a bar, like my picture below! Just like a flatbedder storing their expensive items in a toolbox to protect them, use your own “dry box” to store them safely as well!

Safety Outside the Cab

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By Jimmy Nevarez

In my daily routine of being a driver myself and also watching out for my other drivers while wearing my fleet owner hat, there are a lot of things I see to watch out for when outside of the truck. Whether it is a pothole to twist an ankle or a patch of ice to slip on, there are enough daily hazards to make it an inevitable fact that you are going to encounter something dangerous. Of course, the warehouses and loading yards we often encounter add even more dangerous scenarios to the equation. I wonder if these factors are taken into consideration each year when people rank truck driver as one of the deadliest jobs there is for anyone to have.


When in a warehouse, you should always be under the assumption that forklift drivers do not see you. With other things to manage like label scanning, looking out for other lift trucks and making sure the proper PO’s are loaded, sometimes their duty of watching out for foot traffic can fall by the wayside. I take certain precautions to maximize my “standing out” against the other distractions that warehouse personnel have to deal with, including wearing my yellow safety vest in the warehouses and yards, while trying to maintain eye contact with any lift operator around to make sure they register I am noticed as a pedestrian hazard.


Safety at a shipper or receiver should not be limited to just increasing visibility either. Safety glasses, or even regular glasses, can be useful in many warehouses where particles are floating around or other eye damage hazards may exist. If there are painted walkways for pedestrians, be sure to use them to navigate your way around. If not, try and stay out of the middle of isles and listen for moving equipment. Read safety and warning signs posted around as well, since they are there to help keep you safe. Remember that lifts are not the only objects that can hit you that are wheels in a warehouse or out in a loading yard! Even getting hit by a golf cart or three-wheeled bicycle while walking around can injure you badly.


When loading in a production area with loud equipment you may want to consider the use of earplugs. I even wear them while standing by the door to monitor loading/unloading a lot of times because most ramps slam down very noisily as forklifts drive over them, which can damage your hearing if loud enough. Should the need arise for any driver-assisted loading or unloading, be sure to carry a back brace for just such an occasion, which I wear in addition to a knee brace.

Safety in and around the loading docks or loading yards begins and ends with you! No matter how fast or slow you are loaded, the main priority should to be always remain being on the lookout and remaining safe while out of the cab. Safety outside the truck is just as important as when you are behind the wheel! After all, we all want to make it home in one piece and healthy after every trip out on the road!

Measuring Tire Tread Depth

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By Bob Caffee

In this video, we will show how to check the tread depth of a tire. Why would you want to know how to do this? For the everyday commuter, maybe you wouldn’t. Being a commercial truck driver, it is important to keep up on the wear of your tires. We, as commercial drivers, are required to replace steer tires at or before they are worn down to 4/32 of an inch, and drive and trailer tires at or before 2/32 of an inch, see FMCSR 393.75 (c) for this regulation.

That is not the only reason we should keep track of tire wear. We can also measure for an indication of any odd wear patterns that you may not be able to see. Even if your tires are wearing smooth and even, the right steer tire is probably wearing faster than the left. This is normal due to the crown in the road, or so I’ve been told. In order to keep the tires wearing evenly, you should rotate the steer tires when there is about 4/32 of an inch difference. The only way to tell if there is 4/32” difference is to measure the tread depth on both steer tires.

Some like to rotate tires at specific mileages and that’s fine, but I like to measure and rotate as needed. Some tires are directional, which means they are designed to turn only one direction. That also means they cannot be rotated without flipping them on the wheel, dismount and remount can get expensive.

As you can tell finding tire problems, wear patterns or just worn beyond legal limits can only be done by measuring the tread depth. You can find tread depth gauges at truck stops, tire shops, auto and truck parts stores and online. From as little as $3 on up, extremely simple ones or precision digital gauges, whatever you want to spend. Just get one, measure often, at least once a week, and measure in multiple places, 2-3, around each tire.

Until next time, be safe out there.

What I Didn’t Know

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By Henry Albert

Back in 1996 I had started my career as an independent owner-operator after many years as a company driver for two private carriers. With my experience in the transportation industry being derived from driving for private carriers, it left me ill-prepared for some of the challenges to becoming an independent owner-operator. Upon looking back, I am glad that my career in this industry had its birth in the private sector.

I am glad that I spent two years planning the start of this venture, as I took this time to study the regulations, monetary issues, and basic business practices.  However, there were two areas where I was miserably ill-prepared to deal with.

  1. The large percentage of freight is being controlled by brokers and large carriers. My business plan had been based upon having my own customers just as the private carriers had. I had zero experience dealing with brokers. The fortunate part of this scenario is that I already had one direct customer in my portfolio before I purchased a truck. My business plan was to concentrate on two cities that were spaced within one day’s driving time between each other. The objective was to develop relationships and bounce back and forth between these two locations. I had no idea how hard it would be to secure my own direct customers to fill out one half of my route. This is when I got introduced to brokers, and what an eye opener that was. I found some good ones, I found some I wish I had never heard of, but in the end, I wanted to deal with the customer directly. Persevering, I steadily acquired direct customers, and for the most part only used brokerages on rare occasions when I needed to fill in a gap.
  2. The second area that required a major learning curve is that freight rates were based on market conditions more than actual operating cost. This is a particular hard area to get your arms wrapped around for many in the industry. Some areas, due to supply and demand, may support a rate which puts rates to levels high enough to make profitability extremely high. In this case, you could have a rate that was four dollars a mile and still be on the low side based upon market conditions. The more difficult thing to get your mind wrapped around is when market conditions are not in your favor and you would scoff at $1.20-mile freight until you find out the market only supported $1.00 a mile on average due to market conditions. This area of understanding market conditions was a major learning curve to make sure that I was profitable at the end of the day, week, month, quarter, and year. I worked hard at understanding how to put all of these pieces of the puzzle together and have managed to have every year of my operation of Albert Transport to be a profitable endeavor.

Fortunately, along the way I had many good mentors in which I gleaned great advice from in order to make all of this a success. I will leave you with two of the greatest pieces of advice that I received early on.

  1. The first question I had asked was “How do you determine your freight rates?” the person I asked this question to had over eighty trucks at this time. The first thing you have to understand is that freight rates are not based upon operating costs. There I stood looking at him holding a handful of papers with all of my projected operating costs figured out in great detail. I am thinking to myself I put a lot of work into this. This is when he said it is very important for you to know your bottom line. That is when he said to me it is just as important to know the market conditions of your area of operation followed by knowing the needs of your customers to be able to achieve a profitable rate of compensation.
  2. The second piece of advice was not derived from me asking a question but from someone who was not in the trucking industry who said to me upon discussion of my endeavor, “Why in the world is anyone going to use you to haul their freight versus a carrier that is already serving them?” I looked at him and hesitated for a second, then uttered that I was going to be professional and reliable and at that time he said, “Who cares?” I looked back at him and said “what do you mean who cares?” which is when he said to me “that is necessary, but what is going to set you apart from your competition?”. As I stood there thinking about this he said “I do not want to know your answer now, as it needs to be on the tip of your tongue and your own.”  This turned out to be one of the most important weeks of my life from a business perspective as I pondered the question. I came up with my own ideas which were uniquely designed to set myself apart from my competitors. Upon sharing this with him he said, “very good now you have something to work with!”

In the end these two areas helped me tremendously in being a profitable carrier, which was able to support my lifestyle every year of its existence since 1996.

Avoid A Costly Tow

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By Joey Slaughter

Besides a crash or a catastrophic maintenance failure, being towed is the worst thing financially that can happen to your maintenance budget.  For starters, it’s VERY expensive and after you pay the big money, you still don’t have anything repaired.  If you have to get towed, make sure it’s to the right place the first time.  I had to be towed once and I decided to take it to the shop that sent the wrecker.  They couldn’t fix the problem so they hooked it again and took it to the dealer.  That increased my towing bill and still didn’t begin to look at repairing the problem. I think that particular towing bill was $850.

On another occasion, the regulator that controlled air flow to my trailer air bags failed and I lost all my suspension while going down I-85 in SC.  It was late at night and the trailer chassis came to rest on my trailer tires thus damaging all 8 of my tires, and my frame was practically dragging the ground. It was roadside repairable, but not until the next day and I wanted to get that unit off the interstate.  There’s not many places scarier than on the side of a busy interstate at night.  I was towed to a safe place for repairs and as I look back, that was a good decision. The cost of that tow, which only moved the truck about 100 yards, was $550!

Towing due to a mechanical failure is usually a last ditch effort.  It’s more than likely a major malfunction that cannot be fixed on the side of the road, or the vehicle is situated in such a way that roadside maintenance is not feasible due to safety concerns.  If possible, get the vehicle out of the travel lane to avoid mandatory towing. Mandatory towing will happen if your truck is impeding traffic.  The attending police officer will more than likely call a tow truck to move a disabled vehicle from a traffic lane if it cannot be repaired expeditiously.

Hours of Business for Holidays 2018

Please see below for our hours of operation at each location this holiday season.

Grand Rapids Sales Dept. holiday hours:
8:00 AM to 12:00 PM Christmas Eve; Closed Christmas Day
8:00 AM to 6:00 PM New Year’s Eve; Closed New Year’s Day

Grand Rapids Parts and Service Dept. holiday hours:
6:00 AM to 2:00 PM Christmas Eve; Closed Christmas Day
6:00 AM to 4:00 PM New Year’s Eve; Closed New Year’s Day

Kalamazoo Sales Dept. holiday hours:
8:30 AM to 2:00 PM Christmas Eve; Closed Christmas Day
8:30 AM to 5:00 PM New Year’s Eve; Closed New Year’s Day

Kalamazoo Service and Parts Dept. holiday hours:
7:00 AM to 2:00 PM Christmas Eve; Closed Christmas Day
7:00 AM to 5:00 PM New Year’s Eve; Closed New Year’s Day

Questions? Please click here for our contact page.