02/23/10

  09:52:50 am, Categories: economy

I think we are all glad to see the end of 2009 and start a new year, in fact a new decade!

It is also nice to see some encouraging signs from the leading economic indicators in the first two months of this new decade. The numbers are up, 1.2% in January and 0.3% in February. Manufacturing increased by 0.9% in December and 1% in January. These figures are directly related to our industry; freight movement has also been improving.

I have the opportunity to speak with a wide variety of trucking companies, freight brokerages, and logistics companies each week, and while far from scientific, the mood in general is shifting. Spring may not quite be in the air, but optimism is, and it is infectious.

Trucking companies are purchasing trucks to replace older equipment and for expansion. In some cases, they are simply taking advantage of amazing deals on equipment. Some companies are refitting their operations with different types of trailers so they can meet their customers changing demands. Many are purchasing or expanding their transportation management systems to prepare for increased business as the economy continues to grow.

With the shake up in 2009, many people have been moving around in the industry, finding new employers, or starting up their own companies. The results of these changes and realignments will be significant as we move forward into 2010.

How has your new decade begun? How do you feel the trucking industry has changed in the last couple of years and where do you think it is going? What changes are you preparing for?

Kurtis Brown
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

02/02/10

  03:43:33 pm, Categories: regulations , Tags: safe roads

In 2007, 41,259 people were killed in traffic accidents. In 2008, 37,261 people died in traffic accidents. That's a 9.7% decrease in fatalities according to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) Traffic Safety Facts published in June 2009. In this same report, the first quarter of 2009 saw 7,689 deaths while the same quarter in 2008 saw 8,451 deaths – a continued drop of 9.0%.

What about the transportation industry? What role, if any, have we had to play in this decline in traffic fatalities?

According to the Fatalities Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Query System, 4,301 fatalities were truck related in 2007, while only 3,787 fatalities were truck related in 2008. This is a 13.5% decrease in truck-related deaths. The transportation industry is getting involved in making our highways safer for not just truck traffic but for all traffic. How can we help make this trend continue?

What are the great concerns we, as the transportation industry must continue to work on to make these statistics drop even further?

There are three major issues on our highways today that need to be addressed:

  1. Driver fatigue. Following the existing DOT regulations for legal driving times and getting the required amounts of sleep is the #1, most imperative action that must be eliminated by drivers and those who dispatch them. This includes keeping accurate and legal logs. The days of fudging, carrying two log books, etc are in the past. As an industry, we must lead the way to reduce driver fatigue.
  2. Cell phone usage. The fact that cell phones are a distraction is well known. Many states have outlawed the use of cell phones while driving. But that isn't the worst part of cell phones. There is a new menace besides just talking on cell phones – texting while driving.
    Is texting a bad thing? No, texting is a fantastic technological breakthrough for getting information to and from drivers in a timely manner without wasting a lot of time 'talking' on the phone. But when a driver is reading or answering a text he has just received, he is less able to maintain control of his vehicle even more than an alcohol impaired driver.
    CNN.COM reported on Jul 31, 2009 that "A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study … showed truck drivers are 23 times more likely to be in a crash if they're texting, and several fatal accidents have been blamed on drivers or train operators who were distracted by texting."
  3. Alcohol consumption. Alcohol and drug use have been the bane on our highways since the first accident in the days of horse and buggy. For some unknown reason, we as human beings think we are not impaired after we have had "one for the road". The statistics could go on and on about the effects alcohol and drugs have on driver impairment, but we won't go into them here. Suffice it to say, the transportation industry must do all it can to help eradicate drinking and driving.

Are our roads, byways and highways safer than they were 10 years ago? Yes, they are. But are they safe enough? As long as one person is killed on our highways in a preventable accident the answer is no. The transportation industry needs to be applauded for the strides we have made in making our roads better and safer. But now is not the time to sit back on our laurels and relax. We must continue to lead the way in safer and more efficient equipment and in safer and more focused drivers.

Dale Clark
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

12/31/09

  10:25:47 am, Categories: efficiencies , Tags: women in trucking

It’s funny, we live in a world in which women routinely sail and fly in harm's way while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and take on the elements of nature and people in the police force or fire service. Women make up 48% of the nations work force yet there are just over 5% who are truck drivers.

Truck driving has typically been a male dominated industry because of physical requirements. For nearly 80 years, women have been present in the trucking industry whether it was inside the cab, under the hood, or in the terminal. Today more and more women are taking on important, leading roles in management, safety, dispatching, sales, and recruiting.

The workplace is changing for women across the country who decides to take on a new challenge and start driving over the road. At first, many women have reservations about driving the big 18 wheelers over the road, but after their initial fears are over; most find much enjoyment and great success. Many companies are surprised to see that the women truck driving students seem to out perform the majority of male students on written and physical truck driving tests! The fact is women make excellent truck drivers and it is arguable that they make better drivers than men.

All truck drivers encounter dangers and hardships associated with truck driving jobs, more so, however, for over the road trucking. Women truckers are more vulnerable to these dangers and need to adhere to far stricter rules of safety. Being street smart is one of the most important things you can learn as a woman in trucking. Knowing how to conduct yourself can protect you not only making terrible mistakes in judgment, but also from others who may view you as prey.

It is a great testimony to the strength and determination of our country's women to take on the demanding career of over the road trucking. It is not the easiest way of life, but it is a good life with many opportunities. Anyone wishing to seek a better livelihood should be encouraged to apply and give it a try. Many companies are missing hiring potentially excellent drivers by not reaching out to the women who have set their sight on a new horizon and started a career in truck driving.

Women view trucking as a well-paying occupation and one in which they take great pride. With that being said, I believe it is high time to rewrite some recruiting pitches to draw more women to where they are sorely needed – in your fleet's driver's seats.

Donna Bratton
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

12/23/09

  09:11:27 am, Categories: efficiencies , Tags: lost in the 1980s

In 1982 I purchased my first tractor and trailer and I started driving truck. That was followed by four more tractors and trailer over the next five years. By 1990, when an offer was made, I was ready to sell. Why? I was doing everything but driving all five trucks at the same time. I was driving one truck, contacting customers looking for freight for all of the trucks, dispatching drivers, handling irate customers, taking care of claims and eating a lot of antacids.
On the weekends, if I was home, I would get out my typewriter and create invoices for all of the freight we had moved since the last time I had been home.

I will admit that, sometimes, if I didn’t have the correct paperwork, or all of the paperwork for a given load, it would have to wait until the next time I was around to be invoiced. I dread to consider that some of those loads back then were never invoiced. I am sure if that had actually happened all of our customers would have been glad to send us a check to cover their loads even though we hadn’t sent them an invoice.

I did hear from customers that had complained they had paid invoices and were not happy that they were re-invoiced for the same charges; only to find that my bookkeeper (who was doing the money collection and recording payments) had forgotten to mark on the paper ledger we used that moneys had been received. I know of a number of loads that we "took" that were never picked up because information was lost. I know that at least one customer refused to do business with us because his freight was not picked up in a timely manner – again because information was lost either by the office or the driver or both.

I look back at those times and wonder how we accomplished half of what we did without any computer software. With the correct trucking software, such as TruckMaster 2000 from TruckMaster Logistics Systems, Inc., we would have been much more efficient, taken better care of our customers and drivers and been able to expand our fleet many times over. With TM2000, freight is never lost or misplaced. Every load is accounted for, from creation through dispatching, billing, and receipt of payment. Every step is logged and histories are created. When a load is changed, or an invoice is adjusted, TM2000 logs those changes with a date/time stamp and records who made the changes.

Paying drivers in the 1980s was more than a headache. Just trying to find all of the paperwork associated with a pay period was a time consuming job. With TM2000 payroll is simple and easy. Most TM2000 customers agree that payroll can be done in 30 minutes or less. With only a few keystrokes reports showing driver performance, customer performance and/or truck and trailer performance are easily created. Armed with this kind of valuable information a trucking company using TM2000 has a great advantage over the competition.

If you are a trucking company that is still lost in the 1980s, i.e. doing everything on paper and trying to get by, give us a call at 888-891-9550, or check us out on the web. We would be happy to show you how you too can move to the 21st Century.

Dale Clark
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

11/23/09

  12:06:27 pm, Categories: efficiencies , Tags: shop productivity

The main responsibility of your shop is to keep your trucks rolling down the road in a safe and efficient manner. Shop productivity is a measure of how well this is achieved. Shops are a chaotic place and getting information on productivity is a never ending process, but one that can pay many dividends in costs and employee morale.

Shop managers however, have different priorities and use different measurements to track productivity. One manager may compare the mechanics actual time working on equipment to their time cards. Another may be more concerned with the cost per mile figures for his equipment. And a third may look at how much work needs to be performed between regularly scheduled PM services performed by each mechanic. These issues, plus many others, affect your overall shop productivity.

Regardless of how you measure productivity, you need a method for collecting this data. Having the correct data available at the correct time is essential. However, collecting data, which will never be accessed, may actually lower your productivity. The mechanics are generally the ones that enter the initial data, so if they have too much paperwork, their productivity suffers. Your responsibility as a manager is to find efficient ways to collect the "needed" data without lowering overall productivity.

A good shop software package that is incorporated directly into your TMS software system, so that your dispatchers can be notified of scheduled PM services, can save you money and provide the necessary data to measure productivity. It must be quick and easy for your mechanics to enter data and give you the correct information to monitor your productivity. You should be able to see any work done for any equipment, by any mechanic, and show the costs associated with the work. Plus you need management reports to see the "birds-eye" view of your shop activity.

If you need software or your current truck shop software does not give you sufficient functionality, contact TruckMaster today for a free demo.

Craig Sorensen
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

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