06/26/09

  10:12:29 am, Categories: regulations , Tags: regulations, truck parking

For many years, both the Federal Highway Administration and FMCSA have been doing studies identifying the need for safe overnight parking for truckers and suggesting alternatives. However there has been little accomplished other than continually studying the problem. Other than private parking at truck stops and limited parking at rest areas, nothing much has changed in the last 15 years.

With the introduction of Federal House Bill 2156 in May, 2009, there may be some changes on the way. This bill is commonly referred to as "Jason’s Bill" after Jason Rivenburg, who was murdered in his tractor on March 5, 2009 in South Carolina. Jason had pulled into a closed truck stop to wait for his appointment the next morning. That evening he was murdered and his wallet taken. The police estimate he only had $7 in his wallet at the time.

The family and friends of Jason started a petition drive to get additional safe parking areas identified and additional parking sites created. As a result of their efforts, HB 2156 was drafted and introduced in May 2009. It is currently still in committee. Read this bill and then contact your representatives and let them know if you do or do not support it.

Whether this bill passes or not, you do need to implement plans for all drivers to find and use safe overnight parking, both for driver safety and to discourage hijacking, which has increased drastically in the last few years. Look for lighted parking areas and near other trucks. Watch out for each other.

TruckMaster has created a truck stop lookup website for drivers to locate truck stops along their route along with fuel prices. We also show the number of parking spaces and other amenities. If you haven’t visited our free website, go to FindFuelStops.com now and check us out. But above all, be safe!

Craig Sorensen
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

05/15/09

  12:05:38 pm, Categories: history , Tags: national transportation week, trucking history

This week is "National Transportation Week", instituted by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. It is a Federal holiday declaring the importance of all modes of transportation that we enjoy in the United States. Of course we would like to concentrate on our favorite mode of transportation, "Trucking".

The trucking industry really got started in the early 20's when our country experienced the first major trucking boom. At first trucks served the rail industry and ports shuttling products. As better tires were created and better roads built, the trucking industry began to fiercely compete with the rail industry. As trucks performance improved and their length of haul increased, they were often directly competing with the rail. This threat to the rail industry is what lead the government to institute regulations on the trucking industry in 1935, controlling not only the freight rates, but the type of freight a trucking company could haul. However as trucking companies continued to expand their reach, rail traffic continued to decline. In 1980 the Motor Carrier Act partly deregulated the trucking industry leading to the next huge explosion in the trucking industry.

Since then there have been many changes, and challenges. From the "North American Free Trade Act" in 1994, to the current recession and dynamic fuel price changes. However, the spirit that started the trucking industry in the early days with under powered, open cab trucks on solid rubber tires running over dirt roads or cobble stones is still alive today. There is the romance of the open road that still calls, and the entrepreneurial spirit that is a part of each and every trucking company in America. It is what drives us all to push beyond and through the tough times to at least the less tough times, and keep dreaming of the good days to come.

Today the trucking industry truly ties our country together. It is what keeps our country fed, clothed, and supplied with every convenience. Thanks to all of you that make it happen each and every day.

Have a great "National Transportation Week".

Kurtis Brown
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

05/06/09

  09:55:09 am, Categories: economy , Tags: clean truck, emission levels, freight volume

Freight volume is down. Business is slow around the world. The Port of Los Angeles instituted the Clean Truck program. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a portion of the Clean Truck program. The EPA is requiring new emission levels on 2010 equipment. OEMs have developed two different methods to achieve the emission standards. Carriers are filing bankruptcy. These are just a few of the headlines in the transportation industry since the first of the year. With all the changes happening in transportation today, how can you afford to plan ahead or can you afford not to plan ahead?

First you must look at your current operation and find things you can do today to ensure that your company survives these tough times. Strip out all unnecessary expense and unprofitable lanes. Build customer loyalty with you profitable customers. Search for addition customers in industries outside your normal business model. Look outside the box.

Once you have determined that you are lean and competitive, sit down and contemplate the future. When freight volumes rise (which they will eventually), will you be ready to capitalize at that time? Now is the time to plan.

Will you need to purchase new equipment? If so, will you purchase the SCR or enhanced ERG motors? It appears, at this time, that both methods will be certified by the EPA 2010 emissions standards. You need to research both methods and determine which will work best in your fleet. The enhanced ERG motors require only minor modification to maintenance schedules, but there are concerns that the fuel efficiency will suffer slightly and there will be more heat to dissipate. The SCR motors require an additional DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) tank. DEF is a 32.5% urea (ammonia) solution in a purified water base. The OEMs estimate that you will use 1 gallon of DEF for every 300 miles of travel. They also claim that you will increase you fuel efficiency by 2 to 3% which should offset the price of the DEF. Many truck stops are already getting ready to sell DEF, so it should be readily available, but the price has yet to be determined. You need to research and decide now which equipment you will purchase next year.

With the Port of Los Angeles implementing the Clean Truck program, other ports will likely follow. If you go to any port to drop or pickup containers, you will need to start planning now. With the appeals court in the middle of this, no one is sure what the final program will be, but cleaner truck programs of some type will become more prevalent in the coming years. If you plan now, you can be on the forefront of this movement.

These are just two areas that require immediate attention. We have all heard the expression, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Start now and plan your survival in the changing transportation industry.

Craig Sorensen
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

04/27/09

  10:52:00 am, Categories: economy , Tags: economy, tough times, trucking industry history

Is Today’s Economic Market Good For Me?

In today’s economic markets, are we being forced to find ways to grow our trucking companies? Or, are we progressively developing strategies that will take us past yet unseen economic fluctuations? I offer two statements to consider. In his epic work The Republic, Plato stated, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In a satirical comment Thorstein Veblen stated, “Invention is the mother of necessity.” As we look at the advances in the transportation industry I leave it to you to decide which of these is true and how we may interpret today’s economy and its effects on us.

As the world slipped from the 19th to the 20th Century, the railroad industry controlled all freight movement across the United States and Canada. The highway system we now enjoy wasn’t even a dream then. Farmers wishing to send produce from California to the Mid-West or East Coast (not entirely sure why they would want to) would transport their very under-ripe products from their fields to the rail station via a horse-drawn cart. Once at the rail station, the produce would be loaded into iced cars that would need to be re-iced 3-10 times before arriving at the destination rail station. Produce laden trains made multiple stops along the way to pick up additional items, drop items off, switch train assignments and even allow the product on board to be trans-loaded from one car to another. Temperature fluctuation was nearly impossible to control. The produce buyer would then go to the rail station, in a horse-drawn cart, and pick up the now over-ripe and badly abused produce and take to market – transit time from field to table – anywhere from a week to three weeks depending on the train schedule. Farmers said, “We’ve got to decrease the transit time. We’ve got to control the temperatures better.”

In the early 20th Century, gasoline and diesel powered farm trucks, took over the role of the horse drawn carts. This allowed for more volume in less time at the start and end of the trip but had little effect on the ‘over-all’ transit time and therefore, declining quality.

In the 1950s, President Eisenhower envisioned an interstate highway system that would link the country together with roads that were capable of handling extremely heavy equipment, had limited access so higher speeds could be maintained, was built of materials that didn’t break down quickly under the elements of nature, and made travel enjoyable. (Remember, he was a military man and was designing a system that could be used for military transport and, where necessary, make-shift airfields.) At the same time, truck and trailer manufacturers were working to meet the increasing demand for bigger, better and more efficient equipment. Some of us may even remember that first Mack truck we learned to drive with dual sticks, a brownie, and no sleeper. Empty, they had rock-hard leaf springs that would bounce your insides out in just a few miles. Loaded, they groaned slowly up hill and raced wildly down hill. And don’t forget, no air conditioning.

What was the advantage to these ‘innovations?’ Now produce could be loaded at the farm and delivered to market usually on the same trailer – no railroad middle man, no extra hands to slow down delivery or damage fragile products. Transit times drop to 7-10 days across country. This led to better quality on the receiving end, which led to better prices, which led to more orders. But we still had the issue of temperature control for that transit time.

As we continue down the time line, we see the development of reliable mechanically refrigerated trailers and more powerful, safer and easier to drive tractors. By the 1980’s we had better control of the temperature and transit time – which led to near fresh-picked quality, which led to better prices, which led to more orders, etc. It’s not uncommon for team drivers to leave the Salinas Valley in California Friday afternoon and be at market in New York City on Monday morning – that’s three days. In fact, it is expected.

At the beginning of this article I offered you two statements. So the question is, “Is ‘necessity the mother of invention’ or is ‘invention the mother of necessity’?” Did a need to expand produce markets create more efficient ways to get product to market? Or did the advances of technology give rise to expanded produce markets?

Where do we go from here? What does the future hold for the transportation industry? In these economically challenging times we must look for opportunities to create new necessities or new inventions. You pick which statement is true.

Dale Clark
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

04/09/09

  02:40:58 pm, Categories: economy , Tags: business credit, credit worthiness

Credit Worthiness

During economic hard times, it’s time to get back to basics. Look at the things you did when you were growing your business and do them again, but more efficiently. When you study business history, many of the most successful business were started in hard economic times and the owner did the things that made it possible to grow then and also be prepared for better times later. Several things to consider in your business is cutting costs, improving efficiency, generating new business and monitoring credit worthiness of your customers.

Today let’s discuss the credit worthiness issues. This single thing may be the deciding factor on whether your business survives and prospers or does not. If one of your customers goes bankrupt and you are left with some outstanding debt, can you continue? What can you do to try to avoid this?

First review (or create) your company’s credit policy, considering the following:

  • How is a new customer approved for credit?
  • Are they required to fill out a credit application?
  • Are references checked prior to issuing credit?
  • Who can approve credit?
  • Are credit limits set and enforced?
  • What are your terms?
  • Do you charge interest or late fees?
  • What are the consequences of late payments?
  • What are your collection policies?

Once you have determined your credit policy, include this policy in any contract or acceptance letter you send to your customer. Your customer needs to know your policy prior to doing business with you.

Monitor your accounts receivable (by customer) regularly. Compare their outstanding debt now with a month or a year earlier. If a customer is getting behind on payments, contact them immediately and try to resolve the issue. If you do not get this resolved, follow through on your credit policies for late payments. You cannot afford a "wait and see" attitude hoping your customer will come around.

Establish a method to monitor the financial information of your customers. Read trade journals, talk to other companies, network and use credit monitoring services to keep track of the credit worthiness of your customers. Remember if you are averaging 5% net after expenses, one load that is not paid, means the next 20 loads are ‘not for profit’ loads. You can’t be too careful. Your business depends on credit, but you must continuously monitor all your credit accounts.

Craig Sorensen
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

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