Monday, September 29, 2014

Fuel Planning

Before you ever turn the key and hit the road, you need to know where you will be going to buy fuel along your route.  There are a couple of websites out there that simplify this process:

Promiles

Fuel Advice

These are the two I've used so far.  Promiles is the more expensive one, yet more meaty and more decked out with all the bells and whistles.  FuelAdvice is simpler, less expensive, and a bit flawed, but it yields similar results to Promiles if not identical when it comes to where to stop to get fuel.

There are a few factors when buying fuel such as fuel tax, fuel price, amount of fuel purchased, and what fuel stops lie ahead.  The best way to do this is to run the fuel route every day because prices change.  You need to know your fuel tank capacity, fuel mileage, and your projected fuel mileage which is different from your standard fuel mileage.  I'm saying projected fuel mileage, but there are a few factors that will change your actual mileage.  Are you driving empty or loaded?  Will you be going through mountains or flat lands?  Will you be going uphill into the wind or downhill with the wind?  Will there be a side wind the entire trip?  Will your load be oversized therefor allowing less stops to maximize driving time during daylight?

Will you have enough time for multiple stops or do you need to stop once and top off the tank so as not to be wasting time at truck stops? 

Your fuel tank capacity is written on the fuel tank, however even though I have 2-140 gallon tanks, I can never get more than 240 gallons, because of how the tank holds the fuel.  I've never had a truck that could fill the amount of fuel that the tank's rated capacity said it could.

Fuel tax and fuel prices are compared in real time on these websites and they have access to the last purchase made with one of the major fuel card companies out there.  So when I swipe my Comdata card in the fuel pump, that price is sent to Comdata and from there it is made available to everyone.  You can do this yourself through Comdata here:
www.Gocomchek.com

It wont tell you that I personally bought fuel somewhere, but it will record that someone using a Comdata card bought fuel and for what price they bought it for.

There are a few strategies to fuel planning that I use commonly.  Since Salena and I are a team operation, we have loads that require less stopping because of time constraints.  Typically I will have a topped off fuel tank on arrival, but that can depend on the weight of the load.  If it is a very light load, I will top off the tank at the cheapest place I can find along the route, but if I think that I might be near my maximum load weight, which is about 40,000 lbs., I will only show up to the shipper with about 1/4 of a tank of fuel just in case the load puts too much weight on my drive axles and causes me to have less fuel carrying ability.

There are many strategies used to save fuel.  From taking the shortest routes through small towns with local police and stoplights everywhere, to running slow on the interstate and minimizing shifting while revving the engine.  You have to run the numbers and see what works for you.  Sometimes saving fuel isn't worth the hassle.  And sometimes it is.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Being A Landstar Leased Owner Operator


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Landstar is a company whose main purpose is to connect shippers and receivers to anyone that can help them move their freight.  For almost 13 years, I've been working with Landstar to make my business successful.  There are benefits to being leased to a carrier like Landstar.  They allow you to work on your schedule.  If you want to take time off, you do so at your leisure.  Landstar will manage your weekly fees, such as worker's compensation, bobtail insurance, license plate fees, and permits.  For a 2 person operation like I have, that is usually about 80 bucks a week in fees.  Those fees are pulled out of the check whether you are working or not.  If you are just one person, you will pay around $50/week. 

If you are taking an extended amount of time off, you just pay Landstar those fees and make sure that your logbook is current, and you can come and go as you please.  Landstar does prefer that you make some money every year because it is a business they are running.  Although there are retirees who are leased onto Landstar who only work during the summer and keep their payments to Landstar current.  To put equipment on with Landstar, the tractor does not need to be any particular make, model, color, or year, as long as it is capable of functioning with an EOBR.

To lease onto Landstar you must:
  • Must be at least 23 years of age, possessing a Class A CDL with HazMat (H) or combination (X) endorsement.
  • No more than two at-fault accidents and two motor vehicle violations within the previous 36 months, or no more than one at-fault accident and three motor vehicle violations during the previous 36 months.
  • No involvement in a preventable DOT recordable accident in the past 12 months.
  • Operators must have one year (six months for Expedited) of verifiable over-the-road driving (including snow and ice) within the past three years or three years verifiable experience in the last 10 years, of which six months must be within the previous 48 months, with a Class A (or Class B for Expedited) CDL using the type of equipment similar to what you will be operating at Landstar. No felony convictions within the past 7 years. All other felony and misdemeanor charges are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • No positive drug or alcohol test including refusals and pre-employment results.
  • No suspensions of more than 30 days for moving violations in the last 36 months.
  • No more than one serious violation as defined on Table 2 of section 383.51 of the FMCSR handbook within the previous 36 months prior to qualification.
  • No railroad-highway grade crossing offenses as defined on Table 3 of section 383.51 of the FMCSR handbook within the previous 36 months prior to qualification.
  • No citations or convictions for Reckless Driving or Careless Endangerment during the 36 month period prior to the order date of the MVR.
  • No DUI charges during the 60 month period prior to the order date of the MVR in a personal or non-commercial vehicle and never in a commercial vehicle.
  • Proficient enough in English to understand highway traffic signs and signals, respond to official inquiries, make entries on reports and records, and converse with the public.
In order to stay at Landstar, you must:
  • Be safe
  • Do what you say you will do in regards to the loads you are hauling
  • Have a low CSA score
  • Maintain a legal log book (All Landstar new hires must install an EOBR/ELD/AOBR) 
  • Have equipment that is current on inspections which are required every 4 months.

As a truck owner/operator, you can work for yourself on your own without a lease to a carrier, but being on board with a lease carrier like Landstar is a good way to get your feet wet in the owner/operator world and understand how to succeed.  It's also a good way to get to know other people in the business and see what you can offer to help them accomplish their goals. 

Landstar offers it's leased drivers numerous different paths.  You can drive your truck, hire people to drive your truck or trucks, become an agent who sells Landstar's capabilities to customers, or even work in a corporate capacity in one of Landstar's offices, meeting the needs of the global marketplace and potentially one day becoming the CEO. 

I will say that luck can play a part in your trucking career, but having the right people behind you in sticky situations can make all the difference.  Landstar has been there for me over the past 12 and a half years with work, freight, and opportunities.  And for that, I'm appreciative.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014