Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Impact Of Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBR)

Since 1938, when the first Hours of Service rules were enforced, drivers of commercial vehicles were required to keep track of how many hours were driven in what the now abolished Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) classified as a "work period". The Hours of Service (HOS) regulations are now issued by the FMCSA and generally enforced by Department of Transportation (DOT) officers, and although there have been several changes to those regulations over the years, what has stayed constant is the requirement of drivers to keep a log book if they travel more than 150 miles from their domicile.

On this log book, we record our daily lives, to the minute. We write down when we arrive at the shipper, depart the shipper, buy fuel, take a break, go to sleep, go off duty, arrive at the receiver, depart the receiver, and when we perform pre-trip inspections of our equipment.

As any human being knows, the daily life of a person can’t really be recorded accurately on a logbook, as life isn't really that cut and dry. And, we sometimes make mistakes. For example, let's say I want to go to the grocery store. I write in my logbook the time I leave the house to go to the store. It's there in black and white and I'm ready to walk out the door. But at the last minute, I realize I need to check the fridge to see how much milk I have. Hypothetically, I "legally" have two hours in my day with which I can travel to the store and run my errands, and since I've already marked my departure time in the log book, the clock is ticking.

But because I'm using a paper logbook, I can just erase the entry, and amend it when I am done checking the fridge for how much milk I have. Then, when I get in the car, I will log that I'm actually going to begin driving. Now I'm headed to the store and there's an accident on my route. This causes me to have to sit in traffic for about thirty minutes waiting for it to clear. The clock is still ticking on my log though. I am doing nothing but sitting and waiting. Remember those two hours I have? Well, now my two hours have dwindled down to an hour and a half.

The accident finally clears and I head to the store. I still have another fifteen minutes to get to the store and at arrival, realize I only have one hour left before the clock runs out. I rush through the aisles, gather everything I need, but am in such a hurry that I forgot my milk! Now I have only thirty minutes to get home, so I jump in the car without my milk and I go as fast as I can to get there before my time runs out. Instead of driving a safe low speed, I drive the maximum speed, trying to get through the traffic lights even if they're yellow. I speed around turns and rush into the driveway of my house. I get out and write in the log that I arrived at the two hour mark! Whew!

This is how modern day truck drivers log their time. We make mistakes, we fix them. We decide when we'll sleep, and for how long, and we decide how fast we'll drive. Those of us who do well in this industry know that if you keep your speed down, you'll get the rest that your body needs, you'll drive alert, and you will prosper.

The sleep issue is another one I'm going to tackle here. Let’s say that you're off duty for 3 days, but the last day was spent working on the car until 2 AM. Now it's 5 AM and you have to be at your pick-up. So you're dead tired, but technically, you're legal on the log. You arrive on time and load the trailer. Now you need to take a nap but you can’t because you can't make on time delivery and log it legally.

According to OOIDA, drivers will change their logs to make themselves legal, maintain proper rest, and make on-time deliveries. As you've already read above, humans are unpredictable and can’t really adhere to a log-every-second-of-your-day life; well, accurately and correctly anyway, because we all make mistakes.

If the driver of this load takes a nap, he or she will be more rested and make a safe, on-time delivery. But if they're forced to push themselves by going the maximum speed, or not getting enough rest, then a couple of things can occur:

1. The driver will have an accident, either because they're tired, or because they were operating unsafely.

or,

2. They will make a late delivery to accommodate the EOBR, which may result in making the customer unhappy and therefore jeopardizing getting more customers.

What the EOBR does, is stretch out the time that you'll be able to allot for on-time delivery. This means less miles per year and less revenue to stay compliant. There will be cases on a weekly basis where the load simply can’t be delivered because of several different scenarios; bad weather, traffic, accidents, equipment failure, driver fatigue, etc. These are just a few of those reasons.

The EOBR also doesn’t promote safety. It doesn’t force customers to load or unload our trucks more quickly, and it doesn’t help the already struggling small business owners with their business. What it does do, is improve the bottom line for the EOBR manufacturers, and helps large carriers push the Owner/Operators further into the hole.

The FMCSA has recently been instrumental in making these EOBRs a mandated piece of equipment that must be installed in commercial vehicles using log books. Despite the fact that they have no safety studies supporting the claim that EOBR's do anything to promote safety. Since the FMCSA is facing opposition to the EOBR, and the OOIDA has said that the FMCSA has no data supporting the EOBR's safety claims, the FMCSA has recently launched a study that will most likely prove their claims that EOBR’s are safe. The validity of this study is the issue though, as this study was put in place AFTER the EOBR mandate was added to the recent Highway Bill.

This is a corrupt system, and the FMCSA should be forced to back down on any EOBR legislation, as they have no case for implementing them. There are far reaching implications if this EOBR goes through. The CSA2010 requirements that the FMCSA has recently pushed through are another revenue generating stream that the OOIDA is fighting against, and they are along the same legal structure as the EOBR.

Right now the trucking industry is in the middle of a fight it has NEVER seen before. Millions of dollars, and several safety groups are focusing on the entire industry and their goal is to have complete and total control of all trucks, drivers, and heavy equipment. No matter the cost.

If you are considering becoming a truck driver and want to actually enjoy yourself with a rewarding career in the transportation business, while still being able to be a free person in the United States, you need to join OOIDA. Become educated on the rules and regulations that your citizens are forcing on the average truck driver. There are valid reasons for many of these rules, but the rules themselves are not being implemented correctly, and they are not rules that will do anything to prevent the already small amount of accidents they're being written to stop.

Truck drivers are the safest people on the road. Only 4% of accidents each year are caused by truck drivers, yet we are being forced to adhere to more and more ridiculous regulations daily. And every day there are more people jumping on the anti-truck driver band wagon. This is a great industry and there are a lot of great people driving trucks,. As far as I'm concerned, good riddance to the ones who ruin it for the rest of us.

Do yourself a favor if you intend to drive; start educating yourself now. The more educated the drivers out here are, the more of a chance there is to make trucking a profitable career filled with professionals and diligent long-term drivers.

The EOBR is the government’s way of trying to control the trucking companies who hire losers to drive trucks. It will not work, and if it is implemented, the only comfort there will be, is that everyone will be forced to have them. Unfortunately, for owner-operators, their own equipment is going to be forced to have one too. This doesn’t mesh with a free country. It plays out more like a Big Brother society where your every move is tracked and watched.

In addition to the already unsafe conditions that the EOBR will create, most weigh stations that the trucks go through will automatically by-pass you if you have an EOBR. How unsafe is that? I say very - I can have a major equipment malfunction and I won't get pulled into the scale because I have an EOBR. Something to think about.

Get involved. Please urge your local Senator to stop the EOBR before it's too late.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

THE GOOD

I'm going to start posting some pictures on here of some flatbed loads.  I am calling it "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly" after the movie of course.  And if you know anything about truckers, you know that we love that movie.  Who doesn't love that movie?  These aren't necessarily my loads because it would take years to compile a long list of my flatbed loads on here.  At the truckstops and along the way, I have seen numerous loads that will make for good and bad examples of how to secure a flatbed load. And each one will be labelled with one of my three monikers.  Here we go:

This is a Humvee that is chained down with the direct method of chaining using one chain on each end of the vehicle.  This is the best method of chaining this type of freight.  There are only two chains on each Humvee.  One chain on the front and one on the back of each vehicle.  This gives each tie down point half the working load limit (WLL). Though indirect would yield the entire WLL, it isn't needed here because the weight of the Humvee is low enough for 1/2 the WLL on each tie down point.


Note how the excess chain is draped through the pintle hook on the vehicle so it doesn't hang down on the trailer.  Knowing the right working load limit for the freight will allow you to get the right size and number of tie downs for each load so that you don't have to work too hard, and still achieve more than the needed securement for the freight.



Chaining each tie down point independently on vehicles with tires and suspension, keeps the vehicle from moving in any direction.  It also works with the suspension of the vehicle to keep the chain binders from popping off the chains.  When vehicles with suspensions and inflated tires are transported on trailers, they move up and down on the trailer depending on the condition of the road and the ambient outside air temperature.  Lower temperatures deflate tires and as you drive the suspension will expand and contract.  You want to tighten the binders and chains as much as you can, but you will never completely get the play out of it because of the suspension and tires.


You should keep track of the regulations in regards to each load that you haul so that you are in compliance with the FMCSA and the DOT.  For this load, I have listed one of the important regulations below:

Section 392.9 of the FMCSA regulations states that the operator must:
(2) Inspect the cargo and the devices used to secure the cargo within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip and cause any adjustments to be made to the cargo or load securement devices as necessary, including adding more securement devices, to ensure that cargo cannot shift on or within, or fall from the commercial motor vehicle; and(3) Reexamine the commercial motor vehicle's cargo and its load securement devices during the course of transportation and make any necessary adjustment to the cargo or load securement devices, including adding more securement devices, to ensure that cargo cannot shift on or within, or fall from, the commercial motor vehicle. Reexamination and any necessary adjustments must be made whenever—(i) The driver makes a change of his/her duty status; or(ii) The commercial motor vehicle has been driven for 3 hours; or(iii) The commercial motor vehicle has been driven for 150 miles, whichever occurs first.Click here to see the complete FMCSA Rule

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Owner Operator 101

You want to know how I keep busy, find loads, operate equipment frugally, and stay out of trouble? I may be able to help you with that. Step by meticulous step.

Before and after every one of these steps you should keep in mind the only organization that helps us drivers maintain a corruption free industry is OOIDA - the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. I am not paid by them and I don't intend to be, but they fight for our rights and they are the only ones who do. Before you want to start driving, join OOIDA. It's $45.00 per year if you join online or over the phone (800.444.5791), and $25.00 a year if you find them at a truck show to join there. By joining, you will also receive their monthly magazine Land Line, which has a lot of great information about the industry, and provides drivers with new government and regulatory information. Believe me, it's money well spent!

Now let's get to the steps.

Step 1. Get your CDL.

The days of chauffeur's licenses are over. You must go to some sort of school to get your CDL. There are many different types of schools out there, so how do you pick one? First, you need to do some research. Many large carriers - Swift, Schneider, CR England and others - have their own schools and will place you in a truck type according to your training. Or, you can go to a school of your choosing, and then choose the company you want to work for after you're done.

In either scenario, you'll need to answer a few questions to help you decide what kind of carrier you want to go with - van, tanker, flatbed, long-haul, regional, etc. - these will help to narrow that down a bit, and help you decide which carriers and schools you should be focusing on.

How long do you want to be away from home? Are you free as a bird and can stay away for months at a time, or are you needing to be home weekly or daily?
Free Birds can go long-haul. Being home weekly, such as on the weekends or every three days can go regional or even local. Being home daily means you're going to be local only.

Do you like working outside, or would you rather never have to be in the elements?
If you don't mind the elements, then just about all types of trailers are for you; tankers, all platform trailers (flatbed, step-deck, double-drop, etc), van trailers, log trucks, and container trailers.

Do you mind heavy lifting, or would you rather not lift anything at all?
Don't mind lifting a few things? This gets interesting because you may find that all types of trucking involves occasional lifting. Van trailers can actually have the most physical labor depending on what it is you're hauling and for whom. Platform operators will have to lift tarps, chains, and straps; they will have to climb on the loads and be able to pull on the bungees and tighten down straps. Tanker drivers have to clean the tankers by climbing on top of the tank, opening the hatch and flushing the inside of the tank out, although most tanker trucks involve very little physical labor. Van trailers may involve unloading tires, pallets, boxes, insulation, and any variation of freight.

Do you feel more comfortable being able to see your freight, or do you feel safe with a load that you may never be able to see?
If you feel safer being able to see your freight, then log trucks and platforms are more your style. If you don't mind the freight staying hidden from you during transit, then tankers and vans will work for you.

Do you like being micro-managed, or would you rather take the reigns?
If you want to be guided through the process by a driver manager, working for a trucking company is for you, but if you want to be in more control, then finding a small carrier that will let you run your own ship is the way to go. The trick here is insurance. The barrier that stands between you and buying your own truck is the insurance companies. You see, you can only get insurance if you have experience and you can only get experience if you work for a carrier who has insurance. Most large carriers are self-insured so they can hire you right out school. Some smaller carriers also are self-insured. You will have to check around, but don't settle for the large carrier just because they have the best sales pitch. There is one way to get around this. If you happen to have a million dollars to be self-insured. Is that you? No? Yes? I'm guessing it's probably a "no".

Do you want the newest equipment, or will some good old stand-bys work for you?
For the newest equipment the large carrier is the way to go. Smaller carriers will have newer equipment, but it is usually reserved for the drivers with the most seniority.

Do you have enough cash to pay for the school, or do you need someone to help you?
If you have the cash, then you are able to stay out of bondage to the carrier which means you can leave anytime you want. This is obviously a benefit. If you can't pony up the money, then take the working loan and go to the school the carrier provides.

Do you mind working off your school expense over time (usually a minimum of a year), or do you want to be able to say goodbye whenever you choose?
This also relates to the previous question. If you don't mind waiting for your debt to be repaid, then you can go the trucking company's school route. Otherwise, if you pay, you are in charge of your job.

Once you've gone through these questions and answers, you can start to narrow your search as to which route you will take. I can't list all of the carriers who have their own schools, but there aren't many. You can pick up recruiting magazines at any truck stop which will have advertisements for most of them. It's a good place to start your research. There are also many community colleges who offer programs which you pay for. They often will offer financing options, but sometimes there are grants to go to these schools depending on which programs the federal government or local governments are offering.

This should be enough to get you thinking, but make sure you come back because I have more information coming.

To be continued..............

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Perks Of Being An Owner Operator

There are a few perks to being in control of your operation.  One of them is that you work when you want to.  You must provide a service to your customers, but only at a price which is beneficial to you business.  As I write this, I am off duty.  I am enjoying the sunny days and cool water of the local pools.  I am having a few beers and just kicking back.  I will be doing a little maintenance on my equipment and slowly getting ready for a few loads one day soon.  Just not today.

I have a few other friends in the trucking business who are also Owner Operators.  One of them is basically retired and only hauls maybe 3 or 4 loads a year.  He only hauls loads that pay very well or he doesn't leave the house.  This is my philosophy also.  "Don't Haul Cheap Freight" is one of the OOIDA's mantras.  I will get into that later.

In the days you have off as an Owner Operator, and they are many, you get to look into whatever you want.  Take the boat out, go on a mini vacation, see a play, go to a football game, or a baseball game.  As long as your equipment is in good order, you're good.  

It's real simple.  You work hard, you put your life on the line, and risk it all to get the customer's freight delivered safely and on time. You should have a life outside of trucking or the stress will shorten it; not only do you get to dictate when you will work, for how long, and for whom, but you get to choose your equipment.  This involves finding the ideal truck and trailer to suit your needs.

When you are driving for someone else, many times you don't have this option.  You are subject to what kind of truck they issue you and what kind of trailer the have you hook up to.  Who knows who had it last or what kind of condition it's in.  These days with the CSA scores, the CVSA, the FMCSA, and the DOT doing more and more inspections to drum up revenue and catch the bad guys, you're the one in the hot seat.

Owning your own truck allows you to control the costs associated with your business and also allows you to choose your own path. You can maintain your own equipment, make your own deals, find your own customers, and work to expand.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Flatbed Options


Flatbeds are called platform equipment because they are an open platform and they come in several different shapes and sizes. Of these different sizes are the stepdecks, the double drops, the lowboys, the straight flatbeds, and the stretchable versions of each.

I pull a straight flatbed and I believe it to be the most versatile of the group. First of all, I can pull containers, oversized loads, long loads, wide loads, heavy loads, and some tall loads (not as tall as the other trailers, but taller than a van trailer). Also, the trailer can be unloaded at a dock or side loaded with a forklift or crane. During transit, I can see my freight so I know if it has shifted forward or to one side.

Flatbeds are the lightest of just about all trailers. Depending on the configuration, they can be very light. I pull a 48 foot long by 102 inch wide aluminum Fontaine Revolution. The trailer I have was an original edition and is no longer available from Fontaine, however, they do have more modern and I think, more versatile versions out there now. My trailer weighs in at 7850 lbs. and this comes in handy with my truck, as I can haul around 45,000 lbs. I can haul less weight in the winter because I carry snow chains, and they can weigh up to 500 pounds.

Most van trailers can only haul 40,000 lbs, and they compare to stepdecks in their heavy weight. Lowboys, stretch trailers of all types, and double drops weigh several thousand pounds more than all of the other trailers.

There are different configurations for the standard flatbed:

1. All aluminum
2. Combo trailer with a steel main beam, aluminum cross members and wood nailers in the floor (this is the most common flatbed type)
3. Steel trailer with the steel beam, steel crossmembers, and wood nailers in the floor

Of these, there are numerous different options on the actual deck of the trailer, such as:
-container twist locks
-chain tie downs
-tracks for movable tie down hooks
-pipe spools
-rub rails
-stake pockets
-tarping systems
-coil packages
-rails for moving train wheels
-sliding winches
-fixed winches
-strap hooks
-bungee hooks

Each one of these will add or detract from your operation, and you will need the most versatile piece of equipment you can get to stay busy. In this business, the more you can do, the more you can make, the more business you get. If you restrict yourself too much or specialize too much, you will limit your operation and can end up with no work. It's like keeping all of your eggs in one basket (for those of you who carry eggs in baskets). If everyone all of the sudden doesn't need freight moved on your steel rail container trailer, then you might sit for a long time.

It is important that you do your research into what you are hauling and for whom, so that you make the best informed decision when the time comes to purchase equipment. Keep on reading and see what will work the best for you.