All Posts in Category: Owner Operators
Will your truck be on the road during the DOT road check week this year?
According to DOT this year between June 7-9 they will be inspected a lot of truck drivers and their equipment. Last year the DOT’s focus was on brakes, and this year they will be focusing on tires. While many truck drivers,specifically owner operators are driving safe and legal equipment they don’t like being targeted. The truth is DOT can pull over a brand new truck and trailer and find something to write a violation for.
If you are a independent carrier, typically a 1 man owner operator company you wouldn’t want to risk damaging your company’s CSA score over something minor that DOT may find on your equipment. Many carriers that are company driver operation typically put all their trucks for DOT inspections at places like Petro, T/A, Love’s, etc.
Do you plan on rolling during the DOT road check this year?
If you plan on rolling remember that rates will be higher. Don’t sell your self short or accept cheap freight. The truck capacity will tighten and majority of the truckers that are on the road will be accepting only shorter hauls due to less driving which equals to less chance of being pulled in for an inspection. If you are a night time driver this will probably be good for you since DOT is not going to have 30 DOT SUV’s inspecting trucks at 2 AM. Majority of the inspections are done between early mornings and late afternoons. It’s a chance for longer miles and high rate per mile to accompany the transportation of the freight. If you are a dispatcher, or a owner operator that books loads don’t leave money on the table this week!
Road Check 2016 Inspection Check List
Be Ready and Prepared:
- Fire Extinguisher & Safety Triangle Kit: Check that your fire extinguisher is not dirty and dusty, wipe it off in case it is. Make sure that it’s charged and operable. Check your safety triangle kit is in the truck, not broken, and you know exactly where it is when a DOT officer asks to see it. This is part of your daily pre trip, and if you can’t find where you placed it flags rise that alert DOT officers that you haven’t done a proper pre trip. Safety Triangle Kit
- Proper Documentation: Your log books if on paper logs, should ALWAYS be updated, and filled out properly. Straight lines, clear hand writing will allow DOT officers to do a quicker check to make sure you haven’t violated the HOS Rules & Regulations. It also indicates that you know how to do your log books properly, which is part of being a professional commercial driver. Your documents such as Registration, Insurances, IFTA, Permits,medical card, etc should be kept in a neatly organized folder, and a clean one at that. This makes it easier for the DOT officer to verify that your truck is indeed properly authorized to be on the road. DOT officer does not want to spend 45 minutes waiting for documents to be found with coffee stains over it.
- Professional Attitude: Your attitude is everything in this world. A DOT Officer is not looking to ruin your day, he or she is simply doing their job. This doesn’t mean you have to make best friends with the DOT Inspection squad, but a professional and kind attitude with honesty will get you far. Poor habits such as smoking cigarettes in the DOT Inspector’s face, and giving them attitude for puling you in may prolong the inspection. Keep politics, and personal beliefs out of the conversation. Don’t play with your phone, blasting music, and smoke cigarettes. Do as you’re asked and go about your day.
- Clean Cab & Clean Truck: When a DOT officer sticks his head into your truck he doesn’t expect to see a sparkling luxury like in the backseat of a Rolls Royce. He does expect not see piss bottles all over the floor, mold, cigarettes butts, and other dirty habits. If you can’t dust off your dash, sweep the floor, and make your bed, this indicates that you don’t check anything on your truck either. If you can’t keep where you sleep clean and organized, chances are you don’t check for your equipment. Dirty cabs can also call for a thorough search for any drugs, or weapons. Get a truck wash. Doesn’t mean you need to detail your truck, but any oil stains can indicate you have oil leaks. A dirty truck can indicate that you haven’t had time for a wash due to driving nonstop.
- Citation Quota Myth: Just because you have been pulled in for an inspection doesn’t mean it’s because the DOT has to meet a citation quota. They do have to meet a inspection quota however. What this means is as long as they inspected a certain number of trucks they’re off to go. It’s much more easier for them to meet this quota with passing trucks.
- Inspect Your Truck: Spend 15 minutes to ensure all your tires are legal by having good PSI, no cracks and good tread. Having an extra spare tire helps in case you do run over a nail during transit and cause damage to your tire. In the perspective from a DOT officer, it’s understanding sometimes things can go bad, but being prepared for it will make them easier on you. Check all your lights, and keep extra bulbs just in case that a light does go out after you inspected it. If you are not sure how to adjust your brakes, find a mechanic shop that will do it for you. $75 can avoid a bigger headache, and your brakes should always be adjusted all the time! If you have extra oil bottles, tools, etc keep those nicely organized as well. This indicates that you do check your truck, and properly organize your tools. Truck Tire Inflator KIt
- Seat Belts: You will be surprised how many drivers get chosen for an inspection due to being caught without a seat belt. No matter how clean, and brand new your equipment is a seat belt is a violation.
How much fuel per hour does a semi truck use while idling at night?
It depends on what type of a truck you have. Are you idling on high rpms or low rpms? Is it cold or warm outside? Are you blasting heat or A/C? All these factors have to be considered when idling. It can range from 0.5 gallons per hour to 1.5 gallons per hour.
Cost Of Idling a Truck
If you are idling your truck 10 hours a day average, at 20 days a month that equals 200 hours of idling per month. Yearly that’s 2,400 hours of idling. At an average of .8 gallons an hours yearly you are spending 1,920 gallons for idling 200 yearly idling hours.
At current diesel fuel prices average of $2.40 per gallon that’s yearly average of $4,608.00. Fuel prices, winter,summer, and more or less idling will obviously either raise or lower that average.
Saving money by reducing idling
If your average of $4,608.00 or more expense of idling can be avoided by at least 50% that is at least $2,304.00 yearly saved. If you have bought a truck on a 5 year term you can pay it off quicker by having extra $11,520.00 in your bank. Depending on your truck payment this can be 3-10 months paying your truck off quicker! Not only would you avoid a lot of interest on your loan, but also save your truck’s engine. Now imagine how much quicker you could pay off your truck or trailer by reducing 75% of idling.
Majority of big companies use any and every way possible to reduce idling. Multiply the savings by thousands of trucks by reducing idle times. There are plenty of after markets sources such as APU’s, cab heaters, and more to help you reduce your idle time. At times we must idle, and that’s alright, but always look at idling from a business perspective if you are in this industry and realize that this is a great way to reduce costs, which will generate more profit in your bank.
Want Better Rate Per Mile?
Rather you are a driver that books his own loads, or a dispatcher at times it’s tough to find better rates. You may hear from some folks that their rate per mile on loads is something that you find hard to believe. Maybe you are selling yourself short. There are 100’s ways to get a better rate per mile, but for now I will share only 5, which should be common, and veterans in this industry use it as common practice. To get a better rate per mile you must stand out from other carriers, truckers, and dispatchers.
#1. Offer Quality Service (with your value)
While a broker does want to make as much money as possible by getting a cheap truck, many of them also know the important values a carrier can bring such as excellent service. If you are calling on a load, ignore the price mentioned by a broker, and also ignore the question of “how much can you do it for?”. Find all the details about the specific load such as weight, distance, commodity, pick up and delivery schedules. Now find a value that you can ensure the broker that he is getting first class service. Do you have new equipment? Use it to your advantage. Explain to the broker that you are offering brand new equipment which reduces a chance of potential break downs which can cause delays, or even worst product damages. Offer on guaranteed deliveries, daily updates, and paint a picture of what they would have if they hired you to move their load. In a situation like this, a broker will give an extra $400 for example much easier than a guy just asking for extra “$400”. When people are spending more money, they like to know what they will get in return. There are a lot of service values that you have and may not know it. It blows my mind how a team with brand new equipment can’t use a strategy such as “guaranteed delivery on time or a $1000 deduction”, when for a measly extra $200-$800 or more depending on the commodity and transit can save so much headache for a broker, and his customer. Too many carriers call just asking for a price, but not offering much of service. Use your values to sell high service, and explain what you have to bring to the table and for how much. To break it down for you, an extra $200 a day is an extra $1,000 in a 5 day week just by spending an extra minute on the phone selling your service in a detail. Don’t sell a service you can’t deliver. Your value may be great safety rating, great equipment, insurances, and so much more. A good broker in this industry knows the value a great carrier can bring, and they will want to work with you further down the line, but without knowing, you’re just another number that called asking about a load.
If you have not heard of a win-win situations what rock have you been under? Win-Win is where each party wins. Maybe you need to get home, but the rates are so cheap heading that way. However from where your home is, the truck capacity might be really tight. Many guys will decide to dead head because “cheap freight can rot on the dock”. However, any smart business man knows how important it is to cover costs over taking a loss from a profit. In a scenario like this, you may offer your truck to the broker from the good market, for a load he has hard time covering in return for you to get a respectable rate to go that way. It’s highly advised that if you can come to an agreement, that you stick to it, because you want to always have open doors for future loads. Not only would this ensure him he has 2 loads covered, but also it ensures you for the next few days you are rolling, and making money as well.
#3. Develop Relationships
Besides just asking about a load and rate, ask questions what are the states they typically have loads for, which lanes do they do most, and what’s the most they are busy with. You’ll be surprised how many brokers will share what they will have within the next month, and which area that they KNOW they will need help with. By discussing this, they will feel more comfortable giving you a better rate because they will need you down the road when they have 1000’s of loads and every broker is competing with your truck. It’s a good thing to always share where your trucks or truck maybe empty, and always check on any upcoming loads they might have in the near future.
#4. Go On Mute
Anytime you are unsure if you should take the load or wait place the phone call on mute. Sometimes you will hear them say how they need your truck to their office buddy, or sometimes you will hear them getting other phone calls, which should indicate if you should either take the load, or push for a little more money on the rate.
#5. Don’t Feel Pressured
I have seen this so many times, where a broker puts pressure on a dispatcher to take the load. It’s actually magical how it happens, and if I could hire those type of brokers the White House would be in my backyard. You should know what your operating costs are, what type of money you need for that load, and when you feel that you are being PRESSURED take that as a best feeling in the world. That feeling raises alarms, flags, horns are tooting, because if a broker is pressuring you to take a load, it means he NEEDS you rate. Instead of folding, and wanting to get off the phone quickly as possible, continue the conversation and return that same intensity of pressure by going over how much money you need, and why, but remember at this point you can only come down from your initial price, and sometimes even a $100 less can make the other party feel that their pressure accomplished something, which it really did, but so did yours which goes back to the win-win situation.
Never let a conversation get unprofessional. Sometimes you will come across individuals in this industry that will push your buttons. However it’s always good to keep an open door for business because even the lowest rate paying brokerage may need your services, and they will dig into their pockets for you because they’re confident in the value that you bring to the transportation industry. Subscribe for more tips!
Every leased on owner operator seems to complain about rules and regulations.
It’s as if always the big bad DOT has some regulation that will cost you money. I agree.
There are also rules and regulations implemented for owner operators and drivers that most don’t care to know at all.
The FMCSA Law and Regulation: 376.12
A lot of owner operators are being ripped off through trucking company scams such as being leased on for 10%.
Sure there are a lot of great smaller companies that are honest, but the majority is stealing your hard earned money driver.
If you are leased to a carrier you must have some kind of a lease contract document that was agreed upon by both parties. For example the agreement might be 10% of the line haul from the load that you agree to accept is taken for the company.
Load Pays: $3,600 and at 10% the company gets to keep $360.
That’s all great and honest. However it happens to many times where the company will do the following:
Load Pays: $3,600
Given To Owner Operator: $3,000
Take 10% from $3,000 and charge the owner operator $300.
As you can see the company has just made $900 by you hauling this load. Sad truth is they can take away thousands when the chances are presented. This seems to be the normal practice done by a lot of companies now a days because let’s face it.. 10% doesn’t really make them any money, but the 10% deals draw owner operators into their lease.
When an owner operator has a feeling or even clear self evidence that money is being stolen from him he goes to the company and he hears the best excuses ever.
“We didn’t steal any money. YOU ACCEPTED the load”
“This money from the load has to be paid to the broker for giving it to us”
“We don’t have to show you anything, if you don’t like it you can find a new company”
Million other excuses….
Purpose of this article is to bring the highlight of this rule and regulation for those who are not informed.
If you have a feeling that your company has been stealing money, or you would like to audit what they have been billing for the loads you accepeted, the law and regulation allows you to do so without any court orders. If they fail to allow you to do this, you may contact brokers, and if they fail to let you know, contact FMCSA and find a good business lawyer!
No matter what was accepted verbally can be used in the court of law. Everything must be paid and transactioned per the the contract that you signed when you leased on to the company. Do not forget this law.