Monday, July 29, 2013

New Hours Of Service For Team Operations

Thanks to my handy dandy Driver's Daily Log program, I have run the new hours of service through the ringer and it came out clean on the other side.  A team can still run around the clock for five straight days continuously without ever stopping the truck.  Teams also can avoid the 30 minute break if they manage their time properly.  Here is an example of a team that started their run at 5 AM and didn't stop until they hit their weekly limit:

Day 1
Driver A:
Day 1
Driver B:
Day 2
Driver A:
Day 2
Driver B:
Day 3
Driver A:
Day 3
Driver B:
Day 4
Driver A:
Day 4
Driver B:
Day 5
Driver A:
Day 5
Driver B:
Day 6
Driver A:
Day 6
Driver B:
Day 7
Driver A:
Day 7
Driver B:
Day 8
Driver A:
Day 8
Driver B:

This example is missing a few elements that most drivers run into such as: Fuel, Meal Breaks, Load Inspections, Pre, Mid, and Post-Trip Inspections.  Every truck would perform a load check within the first 50 miles, and then flatbeds would perform load checks every additional 150 miles, 3 hours, or duty status change (whichever comes first)

This is a 8 on, 8 off, 3 on, 3 off, combination, but an 8 on, 3 off, 3 on, 8 off configuration would work as well. 

Most trucks don't run around the clock like this.  This team hit their 70 hours on day 6 at 9 PM causing the truck to stop until day 7 at 3 AM.  It could move 4 more hours until it had to stay stopped until Day 8 at 7 AM when the team could resume operations again.  

Just as soon as you finish reading this, the HOS will change again.  Who knows when the FMCSA will stop fiddling with these regulations.  Your guess is as good as mine. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hurry Up And Wait

There is no point in hauling cheap freight.  You use your expensive equipment, your time, and purchase expensive fuel.  You are also putting your life on the line to deliver equipment and toilet paper all while keeping those around you safe from harm.  

Even if your truck, house, and retirement is paid for, you still can't afford to work for free.  Every time the truck moves down the road, the tires lose a little tread, the fuel injectors lose a little life, and the whole truck wears down a little more every day.  When those wheels are turning, you need to be earning.  

My first two years as an owner were filled with disappointments.  I lost money for all sorts of reasons, but I had fun in the process.  One of the ways I lost money was working for cheap.  I was working for people who had zero appreciation for all the money I was saving them.  They would post a cheap load and I would take it.  I would run as hard I could to make delivery early, but it was all for nothing.  

There was rarely a repeat call for my services, but when there was, the customer wanted an even cheaper rate.  There is a drive by the industry to provide affordable rates to the customer, but there are customers that are not worth dealing with because they are unrealistic in their desire to move their freight for as cheap as possible.  

Finding the loads is easy, but getting paid for your time is not.  You must fight for every dollar that you make in trucking.  No one will hand it to you, but it is rewarding when you win what you have worked for.  Anyone who would deny you your hard earned deserved pay for your time is not the kind of person that you want to trust your business to.  And trust is earned, not given away.  

Once you have earned a place as a trusted carrier who is on time, delivers freight damage free, and is honest about how you do your work, you should be paid for your time.  It's as simple as that.  Keep in mind that as a driver, NOTHING, and I MEAN NOTHING, gets done without your hard work.  Even one day when robots will possibly be controlling these rigs, there will be people to maintain them and own them.

Unless the Terminators take over

But then, driving a truck will be the least of your problems.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Watch Your Back

When working around freight, you need to protect yourself.  In trucking, there are two main areas on your body that are prone to damage.  One is your back (your lower back to be precise).
And the other is your knees
There are several ways to protect these areas of your body.  First of all you shouldn't be using your lower back to do anything trucking related.  When you lift something, you should be lowering yourself to the object you are lifting while keeping your back straight.

You should use any steps on your truck or trailer to climb or descend instead of hopping up or jumping down.




When sitting in the driving seat or the passenger seat, you should keep your legs at a 90 degree angle from your back angle. 


One of these lumbar supports has served me well over the years.  This one allows airflow through it and behind it so that your back wont sweat.  If you use it properly and every time you drive, it will save your back.  Of course every person is different and you should experiment with what works for you, but you should take every step you can to protect your back.  It's the only one you have.



Lastly the most important deterrent you can use to prevent injury is moderate daily exercise such as walking around the truck stop or doing low impact aerobics.  If you don't stay active, you will lose your muscle tone, bone density, and healthy heart.  Over the years, trucking will break you down and you will be subject to diabetes, heart disease, back problems, knee problems, hypertension, breathing problems, and so on. 

You must maintain a healthy lifestyle to last in trucking or you will end up at the end of a long career in far worse condition than you can afford to be in.  Do yourself a favor and protect your knees, back, heart, and overall health by being careful, getting moderate exercise, and keeping injuries at bay.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Know How To Un-Do Before You Do

Just as you would need to know how to off-load the truck before you fill the trailer with freight, you need to have a plan to release the securement devices that hold everything on the trailer.

Once a chain or strap is mounted over or through the freight on the deck of the trailer, it will need to be adjusted along the route, and then removed on the other end. If you place a strap where it will get caught in or on the load so that it wont come loose when you loosen it at the unload area, you are in for a trouble.  Chains pose a similar threat as well, but also are far heavier than straps causing a situation that could result in injury.

A snap binder like the one pictured here needs to be used so that when you reach your destination, you can remove it safely.  There are several things wrong with the binder in this picture.  It is tightened upside down so that it will be hard to release and it is secured with a bungee cord, which is illegal (I use a chain with a snap ring).

If this snap binder were on the other side of the chain it could be removed easily and safely.  Whoever placed this binder on this load is in for a tough time removing it later on down the road. 

The same could be said of a strapped load which is compressed by the straps during transit.  Once you have arrived at your destination and it is time to release the straps, you could be in a dangerous situation.  Every care should be taken to make sure that you are nowhere near a point of impact should the load free itself during strap removal and fall off the trailer.

 Knowing how it will be unloaded will be a key in knowing how to secure it to the trailer.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Exit Strategy

When you book freight and show up to haul it, the customer expects you to tell them how to load your trailer.  Sometimes they tell you how they want the shipment situated, but they usually wont be unloading it, so it's in your best interests to have a plan in place before proceeding. 

Many times when you take the freight off, the receiving customer wont have the same type of dock area that the shipping customer has.  You might back into a dock and have pallets loaded from the rear with a pallet jack or a forklift.  Then when you unload that same shipment, the customer might want to remove the freight on the trailer from the side.  If you have a van trailer, you might load carpet rolls with a forklift that has a carpet roll attachment installed and then arrive at the destination where they don't have the same type of equipment.

It is important to ask how it will be taken off the trailer while you're loading because it might dictate how it is positioned on the trailer.  Many times the best thing to do is to call the receiving end and ask how it will be taken off.  If it's obvious how it will be off-loaded then there are no worries.  If you were putting pallets into a van trailer then usually van trailers are unloaded with a forklift or pallet jack. 

Sometimes it seems obvious that the freight would be loaded and unloaded in the same way, but it's not.  On a flatbed, you are more likely to run into this situation because flatbeds can be backed into docks,loaded from the sides, or from the top as with a crane.  It's best to know how the shipment will be off-loaded before it's put on the trailer.  If you don't know, you should ask and if you can't find out, you shouldn't load it. 

You don't want to arrive at a receiver and be stuck in their yard while they are trying to figure out how to unload the trailer.  In one instance, I had a large piece of odd shaped alloy steel loaded in a way that the shipper considered right side up and the receiver considered upside down.  This receiving customer needed a special tool to flip the freight over just to get it off the truck.  There was no way to know that it was loaded upside down because many times the freight isn't something that you've ever seen before.