Sunday, November 30, 2008

ACCOUNTING IS ESSENTIAL

Now that I have owned a truck for a few years and have learned to watch the mechanics like a hawk. The next issue on hand is to be on top of the IRS. Even though you may be diligent in keeping records, there are numerous tax deductions that you may not even know about. There is a radio show on XM/Sirius radio that is hosted by Kevin Rutherford and he gives expert advice beyond what I am doing here. He frequently talks about accounting and how important it is to running a business. I couldn't agree more. Running any business is all about numbers and knowing every advantage that is available and disadvantage to stay away from.

There are numerous calculations to consider when owning a big rig. At the top of the list is fuel mileage. Even as the price of fuel has been dropping lately, the average truck only has a miles per gallon (mpg) of 6 or less. If your truck can get 7 or more by tweaking it a little or adjusting the type of driving you are doing, then you can lower your fuel costs and save thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars per year. There are many ways to do this. One is know the gear ratio, tire size, and type of transmission, and then calculating the optimal speed to drive. In many cases simply slowing down will give you more mpg. Idling will hurt your overall mpgs as well if you idle too much which is to say 5 or more hours per day.

There is a company that makes screens for your truck where you can roll the windows down and place them in to keep bugs out. I have seen some drivers strap generators to their trucks that run on either gas or diesel and then cut a hole in the back wall of their truck or crafted a special mount on their window to run an air conditioner that you might buy at any hardware store. Anything to save fuel. You could save up to $30,000.00 per year versus some drivers out there that get only 5 mpg and run harder and longer for less money.

Many companies have switched to Auxiliary Power Units (APU) which come with an A/C unit and a heating unit as well as 120 volt AC outlets for inside and outside the truck with options to plug an external power cord into the unit to provide shore power.

Maintenance comes in second as a necessary expense for the trucking business. If you don't find a good competent shop to repair your truck in a location that is convenient for your business, then you could wind up spending tens of thousands of dollars unnecessarily because one of the many repair facilities in the US may not know what they are doing and end up costing you bug bucks that you could have used for your retirement or health care. I have seen firsthand that some people with excellent reputations in their field of mechanics can get it wrong costing me upwards of $40,000 to $50,000 unnecessarily. This is no way to run a business and it can put you under quickly.

Accounting is the only way to know what your business is doing. It is the only way to pin point weak areas and know just what to fine tune in order to squeeze extra bucks into your pocket. If you don't know accounting, you are leaving yourself wide open to failure. The best thing to do is to find an accountant that has been doing trucking taxes specifically for years and that wants to work with you. The next most important thing is to make sure that accountant will do IRS audits. In fact the first thing you should ask the accountant is if they will handle an audit for you on a return that you prepared yourself. If they will, then there is a good chance that you have found a competent mechanic that will accomodate your needs. Even if you are an accountant it is important to find a good trucking accountant that knows all of the deductions that you are entitled to.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

COMPANY DRIVERS AREN'T ALWAYS ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD

Awhile back I used to drive for a few companies. One of them was the fifth largest trucking outfit in the country. They had their own trucking school. It seemed as if they could not lose, but the last days were very telling. Trucking companies have several ways that they show when they are failing. One of them is when dispatchers disappear the day after they come to work. Another way that the companies start to show a failing business model is when they start paying drivers when the drivers aren't doing any work.

This is always a sign of trouble. Of course another way to tell that your trucking company is failing is when banks start showing up to seize trucks at truckstops and at terminals. Then there is always the paychecks that dwindle down to nothing while you are working. Basically there is one way to run a trucking company. You have to have steady customers, good freight, dependable drivers, and good mechanics to keep the truck on the road.

The largest company I ever worked for had its leadership handed to one of the sons of the owners and he cared more about having fun than running a company. So instead of running it, he ruined it. I remember the day that I started looking for another job while I worked at that company. I called in one day and was greeted with a language that I was unfamliar with. I asked if there was anyone there who spoke English and then he put the phone down. I found out that he was brought in to translate to all of the new drivers that were imported from Guatemala! I wonder what amount of money they were working for. Since new drivers were getting 18 cents a mile, I am guessing that these people were getting at least 9 cents a mile. ARRIBA!!! VIVA LA GUATEMALA!!!!

Yeah these companies will do just about anything for a buck. anything..................

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

GOOD AND BAD ASPECTS OF BEING LEASED ON TO SOMEONE

So you want to buy a truck and lease it on to a company, but you don't know if its right for you? The first thing you need to know is if you enjoy driving. Do you really love love love driving a truck? Most people who have never driven a truck before should go through the paces and obtain a license through the normal channels of the typical company truck driver route. So lets say that you have done this and are happy with the way you get around inside the company.

Companies take care of their equipment and expect you to tell them when something needs to be fixed. Hmmmm. What else do they typically do? They provide you with health insurance, possible retirement plans and a practically guaranteed paycheck. Your miles at the company will depend on how long you want to stay out and how good you are at being on-time. You get new equipment to use most of the time. If you have a problem on understanding your obligations, there is someone there to hold your hand and walk you through whatever is going on.

Here are some key things that you absolutely have to know if you intend to be an owner operator leasing onto someone:

1. Don't ever ever ever purchase a truck from a trucking company and haul for them at the same time for some ridiculously low percentage. Most trucking companies have these lease/purchase programs set up to bleed you dry and make more money off of you than when you were a company driver.

2. Always look for a company with a majority of people with years of experience that are owner operators.

3. Look for a company that allows you to pick your freight rates and load choices.

4. When you drive your own truck, you want to keep maintenance and overhead to a minimum. and the best way to do this is to drive slow and carefully. What I mean is that you are no longer trying to drive the most miles in a day that you can for a fixed (per mile) rate. Ideally you have chosen a company that allows you to obtain the highest rate per mile on each load that is available and at a pace that wont stress your equipment out too much. Number 4 is a long one. So you want to drive around 57 to 60 mph ALWAYS! You want to conserve your brakes in favor of using your engine brake ALWAYS! You want to get monthly oil changes and weekly grease jobs ALWAYS! (Oil Changes and Grease Jobs are the cheapest mechanics you can hire).

5. You want to be able to take off whenever you want without being hassled. To me this is the point of being an owner operator. Otherwise stay at your company.

6. When you become an owner operator leased to a company there are some important things to remember. The freight is endless and the companies are always needing drivers so don't feel obligated to haul a load by some needy salesman (broker/agent) who is claiming that all hell will break loose if this load doesn't get hauled. Too bad because the customer should have ordered whatever it is earlier. Lack of preparedness on your part does constitute an emergency on my part. Agents/Brokers/Salesmen in the trucking industry are EXACTLY LIKE people that work at carnivals. "Hey step right up and win a little stuffed giraffe! Everyone is a winner!" They will sucker you in with anything they have access to.

7. Reputable agents who are established don't need you and could care less if you ever called them to start with. There are agents who have contracts that you could retire in 5 years by doing and the competition for these is cutthroat to the extreme. Drivers make up stories about other drivers to get them kicked out and sometimes lie to each other to try to slip the other drivers up. When one load pays enough to allow you to take a month off in Aruba, you can bet that every driver that knows about it is going to be fighting like a dog to get it no matter who gets in their way.

8. Some new agents (I like to say agents because it is shorter than broker and salesman, but they are all the same) have new customers and are starting to build a reputation. They need good drivers like The Pope needs Catholics. They don't always get the good freight, but if you get your foot in the door with one of them while they are starting up and they go on to attain the good contracts, then there is a good chance that they will rely on you to help them succeed.

9. You have to know how to maintain your equipment. This could be up there at number one if you were numbering these out by importance, but I am not. You don't have to necessarily do the work, but you must understand what the mechanic is doing because sometimes the mechanic doesn't know what he or she is doing. This can be difficult because I have been ripped off by both reputable dealers and people with decades of experience as well as the little shops that claim to be trying to get a good reputation. They will all take your money and not all necessarily for the right reason. You have to find a shop that behaves as if your truck is a person and you are taking him or her to the doctor's office. You wouldn't go to a doctor that just started replacing things without knowing what to replace or why. If you are unsure about them, then leave and make sure that you document everything.

10. Shops that work on trucks have a few MUST DO'S. You must get a written estimate and write on the estimate that no further repairs are authorized, unless you are first informed of what the cost is in writing. Make sure that you write that any deviations from the estimated repairs are brought to your attention and that no approval or payment for any unauthorized repairs will be given without your notification.

11. Make sure the shop's personnel are certified to do the work. Not everything carries a certification with it, but if you are having engine work done, the shop should be an authorized dealer for the engine in question. This is the case for the tranmsission as well. ASE certification is necessary so ask if the shop's personnel is ASE certified. Small shops have warranties only through their shop. Nationwide chains have warranties nationwide, but you may have to wait a little while longer before they can get your truck in. Sometimes if you aggressively pursue an earlier time to get in, they will get you in a week ahead of time if they are really backed up and know that you need the truck and are waiting.

12. Always try to pay with a credit card. If the shop doesn't take credit cards, be leary. Many shops don't take credit cards because if they don't do their job properly, the credit card company can just pull the funds right back out of their bank and it is the shop's burden to prove they did the right thing. Credit card companies typically win these types of disputes. It is easier to get your money back from a bad shop if you don't pay cash.

13. Make sure the shop can fix everything that is wrong. Don't take the truck into a place that only fixes tires, if you also have a brake failure. Don't take a truck to a shop that only does brakes if you have a bad differential. You have to get an estimate in writing that completely diagnoses the issue and spells out everything related to the source of the problem that it could possibly be. Truck manufacturers are the best places to go usually as they typically have all of the tools needed to properly diagnose the problem and these types of shops can usually fix everything from bumper to bumper.

14. Don't assume that because the dealer is a truck manufacturer, that they can fix everything. I have been to places that weren't authorized dealers for my particular engine, yet they were the truck's manufacturer. The bottom line here is to gather every bit of information about the shop that you can before you do any business with them. Especially if you are having the truck towed in somewhere. You want to make sure that your truck repair is being handled in the best business like manner that is possible and that the shop is behaving as much like a doctor's office as can be expected. You wouldn't let a doctor perform surgery on you if he or she was constantly unsure of whether or not they were making the right decision. There are tools out there now to properly take the guess work out of every situation. Don't let someone talk you into kind of thinking that maybe if you do this or that, it will solve your problem. If they don't know, don't go!

15. Don't rush into anything. Being an owner operator requires patience a partially meticulous nature about some things. You must do your homework.

16. My philosphy (Well one of my many philosophies) is that if I don't do it, someone else will and I don't want that. I want the work! I want the paycheck! Not the other person! I am entitled to the business because I will work my hardest and smartest to get it done right. Maybe someone out there is faster, cheaper, and more appealing than me, but that is their business, and mine is to do the best with what I have. When you own the truck, you are the boss and you make the final decision. Sink or SWIM. I choose to SWIM.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

HURRICANE IKE RECOVERY

Hurricane Ike has just passed through and now it is time to pick up the pieces. There is the largest rescue and recovery effort ever attempted going on now in Texas and I am just waiting for the call. 140,000 people weren't accounted for, but I have faith in the Texas spirit and ability to pull through. Once the phone lines are back up and going again things will start to get back to normal. There was flooding in the south areas around Galveston, but it looked like most of the people made it out.

I know that the generators getting up and running along with the phone lines are a top priority. Hopefully the hospitals are in good shape to help whoever needs it. I am amazed that all of the Gulf areas don't have better systems in place to deal with these types of things. Maybe we are on the verge of having an impenetrable system on the gulf which can withstand all sorts of things.

Friday, September 12, 2008

FLEE TO HIGHER GROUND AGAIN!

Hurricane Ike is here. It is here!! Right here!!!! Right now!!!! KahZOW!!!!!!

Just when Gustav was in full force about a week ago, Ike was bearing down on his hiney! Everyone evacuated the Gulf Coast and I couldn't deliver my load! So the people there didn't even have any plan for what I was to do! (Hmmmmph said the camel!-Rudyard Kipling) The load was picked up in West Memphis, AR and then hastily taken to Liberty, TX where I was greeted by a lone secrity guard who was the only inhabitant of the entire facility.

What to do now. The customer didn't know what to do and I didn't know what to do or who to call. Luckily a solution was acquired by the fact that another of the companies branches north of where the storm was hitting was able to unload the stuff. So now I sit and wait patiently on the FEMA list. Waiting and watching the news. At least the truck runs great. He He He

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

ON THE ROAD AGAIN, JUST CAN'T WAIT TO GET ON THE ROAD AGAIN

The new truck arguement is one I have had many times over the last couple of years and I really want a new truck, but I want one that fits my budget. The fact is that a new truck has a new truck payment, maintenance, full insurance coverage, and none of these things ever diminishes for several (at least 3) years. When I have to shell out money for repairs and justify it because I am operating a used truck, I do so like this:

1. The cost of repairs alone is less than a new truck payment.

2. The fact that I don't have a truck loan payment every month is true freedom as if the truck is in good condition, it is as good as a new truck.

3. The new trucks that I have test driven have been exactly like driving my truck as it is and I know what I have under the hood.

4. If I spend $20,000.00 a year on maintenance that is almost $20,000.00 less a year than a new truck payment, repairs/maintenance on the new truck.

5. To replace an engine in these trucks is $20,000.00 and the engine warranties last 3 years so you could replace one every three years and always have an engine warranty as well as the drivetrain.

You could install a rebuilt transmission every three years for $6000.00. So basically you could pay $2500.00 a month for a new truck that is only decreasing in value plus maintenance and insurance you are looking at between $35,000.00 a year and $40,000.00 a year. The other option is to install a rebuilt engine and transmission for around $30,000.00 every three years and only be out around ten grand a year. You do the math.

The thing about the new truck is that it is new and you have the manufacturers warranty plus the tax depreciation and generally less maintenance. The thing about the used truck is that you don't have to make high monthly payments and you roll the dice on installed components.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

SO NOW THAT THE TRUCK HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY DIAGNOSED

With truck repairs, the IRS, and the current issues with the trailer, I am at a stand still and waiting. Soon the truck will be back on the road and the next stop will be the accountant's office. I love my country and I also pay my taxes, at least only the ones I am legally bound to pay. The IRS loves to not tell you everything and take as much as they can. That is why a good accountant is the key in dealing with them. Some accountants have more experience with the tax laws than the people doing the audits and taking in tax returns.

So now this truck has two new differentials, a rebuilt transmission, and new driveline which has been properly aligned by the truck's manufacturer. It run's like its on rails and feels like a cadillac. The sleeper is a little small, but it works for now. I was in the market for a larger sleeper, but maybe next year. The large sleeper trucks are nice, but heavy and long. Sometimes they are too long to get into some places like Manhattan or maybe a tiny container yard.

With today's new aluminum trailers, the fact is that lighter is enabling people to customize their trucks and make them into almost anything you could imagine. I have seen trucks with 15 foot sleepers on them which have bathrooms in them that have their own door, corian countertops, queen beds, and even a separate compartment behind the sleeper which houses a motorcycle. I am not there yet, but maybe one day.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

MONEY=GONE

3 transmissions, one driveline, and 2 differentials later.......

My transmission went out, so I called a shop that claimed to be a professional shop. They arranged to tow the truck as stated in previous posts. The shop tried to pull some shenanigans and keep my truck locked up in their shop for hurricane Gustav. A shop that flooded during hurricane Katrina. Upon discussing the storm, it was decided that we would leave with the truck to shelter it from the storm and so that I could have real professionals look at it. I did just that.

After the manufacturer of the truck got their hands on it, they found within 30 minutes of diagnosis that the driveline angle was way way off. This is something that the previous shop should have noticed. This is also the cause of the noisy driveline and most likely the cause of the failed transmission. Because this shop misdiagnosed so much with this truck, further investigation will occur before a determination is made in regards to the condition of the front differential. After the transmission was replaced, the truck was checked at a shop across town and no metal shavings were present in either of the differentials.

Since the first shop I took it to that worked on the truck didn't know what they were doing, it is possible that thousands of dollars were spent chasing a noise that was not properly diagnosed so money=gone

Monday, September 1, 2008

FLEE TO HIGHER GROUND

Well the truck is safely out of harm's way as of yesterday and in line with thousands or millions of fleeing people from New Orleans, LA. Thank goodness that everyone got out of town! There are many people from the area wanting to go home already, but the storm has left a bit of damage depending on where you live in southern Louisiana. The weather channel is the most popular around now. The truck ran well, but seems to have some sort of suspension problem or a bad driveline angle or improperly installed springs or a bad air levelling valve or bad axle spacing or or or or or or. The bottom line is that so far no one knows what the heck the issue is.

Well now that the truck is out of the hurricane zone and Labor Day is over, it is time to get another opinion again. Is it possible that everyone in this country who works on trucks is totally incompetent? Is it? Helloooo? I say it is since no one is answering. That is crazy isn't it? I have the right to be a little crazy after all the crap that just happened.

Friday, August 29, 2008

HURRICANE GUSTAV

I should be anywhere else but here right now, but whatcha gonna do? My truck has been down for almost a month and it is no better off. I can't believe that I am still sitting here with a blown transmission, noisy differential, and out of patience! I was patient when they towed the truck. I was patient when they said they would rebuild my transmission. I was patient when they installed a bad clutch. I was patient when they installed another transmission with the bad clutch. I was patient when they finally settled rebuilding my transmission and then saying that the front differential was making noise. I was patient when they replaced the front differential and then said that the rear differential was making noise. I was patient when after all of this the transmission, differentials, and driveline were still harboring a noise.

I am out of patience. The truck has been down for 22 days and still sounds like crap. Noises like grinding metal when you drive and gear grinding noises from 8th through tenth gears. I have never had this much trouble with a truck. Ever! From transmission to both differentials to the entire driveshaft, we have hit the trifecta. I am stuck here in Louisiana while tropical storms and hurricanes are pummeling the coastline. People are actually evacuating this place and here I sit. In 12 years I have never seen anything like this. I actually called around and asked the other drivers that I know if they had ever heard of anything like that and they said no. These are guys with over 30 years experience and they said no. It is unbelieveable that this truck is still down. The possibility exists that a hurricane will come through here flooding the area which will mean that my truck will sit most likely underwater.

Hurricane Gustav is transitioning from a tropical storm to a hurricane and back again all the while moving along towards southern Louisiana where I am sitting on my tail doing nothing. Perhaps I will be here to help pull people out of the water when the storm hits or maybe I will be here to photograph the storm up close. There is nothing like being in a truck that is underwater. I guess the earth does take care of itself.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Notebook and other soppy stories

So we love The Notebook. A movie about an elderly couple who have Alsheimer's disease complications and the story of their lives. It is a nice story and touching. James Garner is a good actor. It is a little hard to believe that James Garner is Ryan Gosseling, but whatever. Amy Adams is beautiful and well casted in this movie. I can't blog about trucking everyday so this is what fills my non trucking thinking hours. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

REAR DIFFERENTIAL NOW

Today the shop is replacing the rear differential. After removing it and inspecting it, the gears looked ok, but there were metal shavings on the internal magnets in the axle casing. This is caused by deteriorating bearings and/or gears. The gears themselves looked good, but there was looseness or play in the gear mesh. This was causing noise in the differential which moved through the driveline producing a loud backlash of gears sound in the cab. Unnerving to say the least.

After today I should have a new driveline from the back of the engine to the back of the truck. Hopefully this will get the truck to the end of the year and beyond without issue. Everything on the truck is new within the past two years and this is basically a new truck. I can't wait to get back to work and start working again. Sitting around is ok, but it can get excessive and annoying. I hear the Willie Nelson song "On the Road Again". I hear ya Willie!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DRIVESHAFT PROBLEMS NOW

Yesterday I took my truck to have the suspension checked out and found that I have an issue with the driveshaft. It turns out that it is defective. That has uncovered a new flaw in the driveline and it was unexpected. The problems I am having today are unusual. My truck has run for 2 straight years and 300,000 miles without any issues.

These trucks of today can run up to a million miles on one engine and all on standard monthly maintenance. Diesel is better than gasoline in this aspect. The compression of the sparks created in a diesel combustion engine are more lubricated than a gasoline engine and the maintenance is usually less.

Monday, August 25, 2008

TRUCK MAINTENANCE 101

So I have a few transmission issues that have been quite a real dilemma. The problem always is to locate the real problem and fix it immediately. However sometimes the problems don't sort themselves out immediately. In fact the old saying "Don't fix It till Its broke" is usually the only way to go with such things as vibrations and mysterious problems. I don't know how to really describe what happended to my truck exactly, but I do know that it involved the breaking of shaft and the stripping of a few pins in one of the differentials.

The first thing to do when your truck is down is find a competent mechanic to work on your truck. If he or she (Almost always a he) doesn't accept credit cards, that is not always a good sign because perhaps they didn't do their job right the first time and the customer refused to pay or disputed the charge on the credit card. You can get a general feel for the people though and see that they are hard working and care about their job. In the end though, it is the performance of the vehicle that will tell the story.

Usually you want to find a shop that specializes in whatever problem you are having. If you are having engine problems, then you want a shop that has certifications from the manufacturer of your engine and that will warranty their work. A nationwide warranty from a truck manufacturer is important. Sometimes the "little guy" can provide good service and at a price that will substantially be lower than the big shops. You have to weigh it out.

In this instance I had a transmission failure and a differential failure. Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Since vibrations can ruin any truck quickly, I made sure that this repair was complete and that all infected parts were taken care off. The shop I went with worked swiftly and at a modest price that was competitive with all of the local area shops. They also got me in quickly and began working immediately. I have had luck with this in the past because the shop was hungry for my business and wanted to keep me as a customer.

This shop towed my truck and had the transmission out in one day and that is no small task. After installing a failed clutch that recieved a factory warranty after being removed, they installed everything and still heard a noise. This noise was found in the front differential and it was then replaced as well. Still a noise was present and the truck was placed in the shop again. Finding noises in drivelines is only for the mechanics out there that have the stamina to stay on top of it. The shop found that one of the leaf springs was one inch lower to the ground than the other ones on the drive axles. This is next on the list to be fixed, but they don't specialize in suspensions so they didn't accept the job of fixing it and after calling the shop that did install the springs, I was told to bring it back and they would take care of it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

STUCK IN A HOTEL

Well I have been all but stranded in a hotel now for about 2 and a half weeks. My truck's transmission, U-Joints, and front drive differential failed because of a problem that stemmed from one suspension spring that was not like the other ones. This suspension spring caused one of the air bags to be out of adjustment resulting in a misaligned frame causing driveline failure.

The plus side is that I get to accomplish paperwork that has been accumulating. The minus side is that I am not working. So I have caught up on old movies that I haven't seen and done banking that I haven't had a chance to do. Being an owner operator requires me to be up on all of my paperwork and being responsible for my taxes and my obligations. When you drive a truck for a company most of your paperwork and business responsibilities are taken care of for you.

The thing that I have recently caught on to when it comes to staying in hotels is that you should get a loyalty card from the hotel so you can earn points towards free hotels. You should also pay for everything with credit cards that earn points, but the trick is to pay the balances off every month.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

LOUISIANA MARSH


This is a Red Eared Slider poking his or her head up for some air and maybe a bite of a tasty insect. This photo was taken in a marsh in the backwoods around Slidell, LA as was the Southeastern Lubber Grasshopper shown below. There were about 30 visible turtles in this marsh just below the bridge I was standing on
















Friday, August 22, 2008

TRUCKING, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING

The oldest truck is called the Thornycroft Steamer and was built in 1896. That was the same year that Utah became a state and we had the 45 star US flag made. William McKinley won the Presidential Election as the Republican in the race. Bicycles were the thing to have to get around town. There were over 150 bicycle factories in the US that made over 1000 kinds of bicycles. This was the year of the world's first hot air balloon race between Professor Deering and Miss Hazel Keyes of Sioux City, IA. Wilhelm Rontgen discovered x-rays.

Fanny Farmer published her first cookbook. The Tootsie Roll was invented. Detroit had its first automobile called the "Horseless Carriage". Gold was found in the Yukon. Modern Olympics began in Greece. Premier of motion pictures occurs. First movie theater opens. First car accident occurs where a motorist hit a bicycle. The first US marathon. Yosemite becomes a National Park. Sherlock Holmes is written. Football huddle created. "Stars and Stripes Forever" is written by John Philip Sousa.

Here we are in 2008 approaching 2009 and our trucks have over 600 hp, full computer systems that can record everything we do and satellites hovering overhead that keep us all connected. Who knows where we will be in 2096 only two hundred short years after the invention of the first truck. We are already developing trucks that run on water and that are operated by robots. This is a new horizon for trucking and even though gas prices are causing turmoil in the price wars that are going on now, stability too is on the horizon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Walking a fine line

Once you are an operator of a large vehicle, you must be very careful in how you operate it. Many times the people on the road are not safety oriented and must be watched closely. Since your life and livelyhood are on the line, you are solely responsible and you must operate the equipment safely. You are the trained operator and not the average traveler in their car on their way to the mall or home. When in the vicinity of a major city, most motorists are simply on the interstate for a few short miles and so they tend to be in a hurry.

Monday, August 18, 2008

THE GREATNESS OF TRUCKING

I travel the country with my girlfriend who has a CDL also. We drive to every state in the US each year and up into Canada all the way to Alaska. Since I own my own truck and keep a very spotless record, I have more freedom than many of the other drivers out there. Being leased to a major carrier who has thousands of trucks, I can maintain worry free operations as far as the customers are concerned because if I am available to haul a load there are thousands of other drivers out there to help out.

This is drastically different from an owner operator who goes it alone as they must constantly cater to every one of their customers in that they only have one or two trucks and don't have access to an entire fleet. This is where being leased to a major carrier is a plus over having your own authority and going it alone. The benefit to being an owner operator over a company driver is access to load rates and access to the total line haul as well as control over your equipment and control over your complete operation.

The ins and outs of team operations

Operating as a team is a great way to specialize your truckiing business. You can deliver loads in half the time of a solo operation when traveling cross country. Most people have a difficult time spending as much time together as a team must spend. You are living in a small space 24 hours a day. There are many teams that are husband and wife, wife and wife, husband and husband, whatever, but it helps when you have a small amount of overhead and can manage your expenses. Two people who operate on the same income will do better than two people who need to two separate incomes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

TRUCKING SCHOOL

In trucking school you are expected to learn about how to safely maneuver your vehicle in traffic on the highway during rush hour and in inclement weather. You cannot possibly learn this though. 2 weeks is not enough time. The plan is to satisfy the insurance companies.

Basically, the way it works is that if you don't have a million dollars to be self insured, which is everybody, then you have to shell out $5000.00 for the school and then go to work for a company that has insurance for students. Once you have worked for them for 2 years then insurance companies will take a look at you. The catch is that if you leave trucking for 3 years, you lose all of your driving experience as far as the insurance companies are concerned and you have to start all over again with the school and driving for a company for 2 years.

This is a round about way that the trucking companies and the government have to insure that truckers are good people and that they maintain their professional demeanor. If you are a jerk and can't do your job properly you can be launched out and forced to start all over again regardless of your experience level unless you have a million dollars to get insurance.

The way it works worded differently is like this:
Insurance companies require 2 years experience in order to insure you. You can't get 2 years experience without insurance so you are forced to go to trucking school and then work for one of these companies that hire students and have horrendous turnover rates and accident frequencies such as rear end collisions and roll overs. The trainers that will train you sometimes only have as little as 6 months experience themselves and their emphasis is on making money, not training you.

This is a system which needs serious refining. The trucking schools should educate the drivers extensively for at least a year on every situation imaginable. At the end of that year, you should be eligible to be insured and able to buy a truck and hit the road on your own if you wish. The trucking schools should incorporate fatigue exercises for when a company keeps you out on the road for too long or when you are kept on a dock for too long and then expected to drive all night long or be late. You must make the right decision here and you should well trained as to what it is.

Trucking schools............a lot to be desired..........................

Friday, August 15, 2008

FIRST DAY OF TRUCKING SCHOOL

I attended trucking school in West Memphis, Arkansas for a trucking company which was the fifth largest trucking company in the country at the time. Just 2 short years later the company was bought out. That is another post.

Trucking school took place at the Greyhound Dog Racing park and all of the students who didn't live locally stayed at the local hotels which were very near the truckstops and the race park. I was in the Marine Reserves at the time and was a straight arrow. I ran everyday and did aerobics. My roommate was a pimp in the west memphis area. His name was actually "Pimp" and his girls came to the room once to give him some money. He was a little uncomfortable with me around, because as far as he was concerned I might as well have been a policeman.

One of the characters that I liked the most had just been released from prison for forgery and told me about how to use stamps over and over again by washing the ink off of them with shampoo. I have not used this information to this day so I don't even know if this is true, but having these people around made trucking school all the more fun.

The school was 2 weeks long and it was literally a crash course. We drove the trucks around the area and through a course on the Greyhound Racetrack grounds. The school comprised of backing through a serpentine and backing around blind corners. We did this all day everyday and for lunch some of the guys would go to the track and bet on the dogs. It was more like a party than a school. The trainers called me a natural and I was always comfortable behind the wheel.

When we went to take the test to get our CDL's one of the students couldn't speak English, so another student coached him through the test by basically answering his questions for him. All but a couple of people made it through the school the first time. Trucking school hasn't changed much from the days when I went and since it seems to be getting more and more difficult to be qualified, things are going to be harder.