Summer Trucking Tips

Summer Trucking Tips

Considering most of the country is facing record high temperatures this week, it looks like summer is striking with a vengeance. Between blazing weather and vacationing families on the road, this can be a tough time for truckers. So, to help all of those out on the roads these days, we’ve put together a guide for summer trucking that will keep drivers safe during these warmer months.

 

Sun Protection

Truckers may be behind the wheel, but that doesn’t mean they are out of the sun. Any experienced trucker will point out that sun exposure is still an issue and sitting in the sun for long hauls can have serious consequences for your health. Make sure to bust out the sunscreen or window covers to avoid the negative effects of sun exposure.

 

More Drivers

Summer means that school is out and families are headed on vacation. From June to August, highways will see an increase in vehicles which means that truckers need to stay extra alert when hauling. It will take just a bit of extra attention to remain alert, but it can go a long way in preventing an accident.

 

Hydration

It should go without saying, but warmer weather means working harder to stay hydrated. Always keep plenty of water in the truck and make a conscious effort to drink around half of your body weight in ounces (i.e. If you weigh 180 pounds, try to drink around 90 ounces of water each day.). Heat stroke can be incredibly dangerous and is easily avoided through just a bit of effort.

 

Equipment Check-Ups

Hot weather is going to wear out equipment faster, so make sure to regularly check things to make sure they are in working repair. Brakes and tires will wear out most quickly, so get on top of your inspections so equipment failure does not hit you in the middle of a haul.

 

Unpredictable Weather

Summer means hotter temperatures, but it can also mean dangerous flash floods. Check the weather as you are driving and make sure you don’t accidently stumble upon a sudden storm. These rains strike fast and can be strong enough to topple a truck if you aren’t careful.

The Future of Electric Trucking

The Future of Electric Trucking

Decreased oil prices have lead to an increase in trucking, but we may start to see an even greater shift towards electric trucking in the next few years. During a conference call with investors earlier this year, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk revealed plans for an electric truck unveiling to take place this September.

Without revealing too much, Musk revealed that the electric semis would be mostly constructed out of Tesla Model 3 parts. Arguing that the truck would be economical and environmentally friendly, Musk and many other analysts think that electric trucking could be a part of the transportation industry’s future.

Some of the biggest factors that would affect an electric semi-truck are weight and range. Class 8 trucks in the U.S. have to operate under the 80,000-pound limit mandated by law and electric semis would require huge battery packs for extended journeys. Furthermore, conventional semis carry twin diesel tanks that can extend the range of trucks for longer hauls. Electric trucks seem to be without a similar alternative which may limit these trucks to only shorter or medium lengths hauls.

Still, Tesla seems optimistic about their unveiling and continues to release plans for other modes of electric transportation.

“I really do not see any segment of transport that will not be electric, in fact I’m highly confident that all transport will go fully electric with the ironic exception of rockets,” said Musk during the same conference call.

It is still a bit early to speculate on the effects of new electric semis, but if they are as effective as Musk is leading on, then the industry may have to start accounting for this new alternative.

At Transportation Data Source, we take great pride in providing companies and consumers with the resources they need to make business decisions faster and with greater confidence. For questions or business inquiries, please feel free to contact us at anytime. Our dedicated Account Managers will be happy to set up a demo of our platform. For additional content about all of the trends that affect the trucking industry, please feel free to check out our other posts.

Maximizing Fuel Mileage

Maximizing Fuel Mileage

We’re living in a golden age of commerce. New technologies are constantly driving down prices and driving up competition. This is great for the consumer, but can be a challenge for the producer or the worker. While most transportation services have certain guidelines that their drivers need to abide within, we thought we would offer some tips to keep that gas mileage up and save some money. These are tips for drivers, managers, or even your everyday commuter on maximizing fuel mileage. Enjoy!

 

  1. Avoid the Breaks, but Stay Safe

We hope no one read this first tip, felt vindicated in their need for speed, and ran out to continue a life of speeding, because that’s no way to save on mpg. In fact, the ideal speed for an average big rig is around 65 miles per hour, well under most posted freeways. Instead, what we mean by avoid the breaks is that to get the most miles out of your gas tank, it helps to avoid coming to complete stops. It takes more energy to get your car moving after a complete stop than it does if you’re simply moving slowly.

 

Imagine you’ve got a red light in front of you. Most people ride the gas pedal until it’s too late and they’ve got to brake for the light. Instead, allowing your speed to naturally dip is preferable. Even if you don’t make it quite to the light by the time it switches, that half a second in added commute time will make its way straight into your wallet.

 

  1. Know Your Climate

With summer just around the corner, more and more air conditioners will get turned on for the daily commute. However, some people opt for rolling down their windows to cool off. So, which option will save you money in the long run? Well, that depends on the speed at which you’re driving. For slower speeds, it is preferable to have your windows rolled down and to enjoy the breeze, but as you gear up to highway speeds, that same breeze becomes drag as it pulls back against the interior of your car. If going to hit the highways, save yourself some money and roll up your windows.

 

  1. Keep Your Tires Firm

As most of you reading this are likely aware, your tires have a window for what pressure they should be inflated to. Often times the suggested pressure is well below the maximum allowable pressure. The reason for this is that having your tires less inflated makes for a smoother ride. Unfortunately, this comfort comes at the expense of fuel economy. By simply increasing your tire pressure to their maximum potential pressure, you’ll be saving fuel. Sure, you might feel potholes and bumps a little more strongly than before, but you’ll also start to feel your wallet bulge from all the money you’re saving.

 

These are just three tips that almost everyone can use to increase their gas mileage and save money. These tips should never come at the expense of proper vehicle maintenance, which is also a huge factor in fuel economy. Instead, these are tertiary benefits that many people are missing out on. Try them for yourself. We’re sure you’ll be glad you did.

The Best Rest Stops In The Country

The Best Rest Stops In The Country

Whether you’re going long-haul from Washington to Florida or simply planning a road trip with your friends, truck stops can house unlikely treasures as far as on-the-go dining is concerned. Between the 48 contiguous states and the countless highways and freeways within, it would be impossible to list every delicious burger or perfectly blended cup of coffee, but we would like to list just a few of the hidden gems that are sprinkled across America. Here, we’ve listed five of our very favorite, but we’ll be back next month with some more in case you don’t cross paths with any of these rest stops.

 

Sapp Bros. – Salt Lake City, Utah

We had to start close to home, and in Utah, there is no better place to stop and refuel than Sapp Bros. Travel Center. This is actually a chain that reaches as far out as Pennsylvania, but what it lacks in singularity, it makes up for with diversity.

 

Available in nine of the Sapp Bros. locations is their most popular restaurant Apple Barrel. The menu is full of different selections of meats and pies that are sure to keep you going. The menu reads like a classic American summer and is sure to be a great start or stop on any long trip.

 

Mars Cheese Castle – Kenosha, Wisconsin

The next entry on our list moves away from our headquarters, but is definitely worth the drive. Built like an actual 20th century castle, the Mars Cheese Castle provides aesthetic along with their menu. Their menu, as is implied by their name, is full of diverse cheeses alongside craft beers and pastries. Don’t let the looming towers fool you. This is Wisconsin cheese at its finest.

 

North Forty Truck Stop – Holladay, Tennessee

The North Forty is more of a complex than a truck stop. They tout themselves as the “complete truck stop,” and they certainly might be. Aside from snacks, delis, and even a buffet, you can also help yourself to a massage. If a massage isn’t how you’re looking to unwind, they also have a TV room and a game room for relaxing after driving for hours on end.

 

But, we digress, this list is about great places to eat, and the North Forty is just that. For fans of breakfast foods, they offer a 24/7 breakfast menu in addition to the buffet serving breakfast foods from 5-11 AM each day.

 

Soulman’s Bar-B-Que – Van, Texas

A list of roadside foods that doesn’t include some BBQ isn’t much of a list, and there’s no better place to get slow cooked, Texas-style BBQ than at Soulman’s outside of Van, Texas. What really sets Soulman’s apart from the crowd is the meats they use. Most BBQ restaurants offer some combination of beef, pork, or chicken. Soulman’s offers all of these in addition to turkey. Surely, they’ve got something for everyone and every mood. They have especially got something for you if your mood is hungry. Soulman’s slogan is, “we’re not stingy with our meat,” and they live up to that promise.

 

Iowa 80 – Walcott, Iowa

Last, but definitely not least is Iowa 80, the world’s largest truck stop. Iowa 80 has been built piece-by-piece since 1964 by Standard Oil. Inside they’ve got a few options for a good meal on the road, but most famous is the Iowa 80 Kitchen. It’s open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, which is common for truck stops. What isn’t so common is the 50-foot salad bar that accompanies the fresh, warm meals.

 

When you stop by, don’t forget to check out the trucker showroom. Arguably, the largest trucker-based collection in the world, holding around 50,000 items. For some, Iowa 80 is less of a pit stop and more of a destination.

 

At Transportation Data Source, it is our mission to provide the transportation industry with the resources they need to make smart decisions faster and with greater confidence. For questions or to schedule a demo of our full-service data software, don’t hesitate to contact us at anytime. For additional content about all of the trends that affect the trucking industry, please feel free to check out our other posts.

Preserve Your Tires With These 3 Tips

Preserve Your Tires With These 3 Tips

Sturdy, durable tires are vital to an optimal driving experience. That’s why regular tire inspections and maintenance are an essential part of semi-truck maintenance. To improve your rig’s overall performance and reduce the cost of tire repairs and replacements, take note of the following three tire care tips.

Inspect the Truck and Trailer:

Properly aligned wheels will improve your fuel mileage and tire longevity. If your wheels are misaligned, you’ll notice signs of extra wear and tear on the tires. Have the alignment checked any time you change tires or every few months.

Align the Drive Axle:

Have your drive axle checked alignment checked as well. A mechanic will use electronic sensors to measure the toe on one drive shaft and use that measurement to determine the thrust line. If the axle is misaligned, they will align it to point down the center of the frame, ensuring the truck is centered correctly.

Adjust all Other Axles:

Using the first axle as a benchmark, measure the remaining axles on the vehicle and trailer. All axles should be parallel to the reference axle. If your wheels are not uniformly moving in the same direction, your tires will undergo unnecessary wear, resulting in a reduced lifespan. Ensuring all axles are properly adjusted will save you the hassle and cost of frequent repairs or replacements.

Cameras Helping Defend Truckers in Court

Cameras Helping Defend Truckers in Court

It used to be that whenever a truck was involved in a collision, the trucking company could end up paying regardless of whether the driver was at fault. SmartDrive is changing that.

The new technology involves video cameras located in the truck and the cab. The cameras face forward toward the road and inward toward the driver, recording on continuous 12-second loops. If anything should occur, that shakes the truck—even if a driver hits the brakes—the cameras retain the previous eight seconds of recording and records the next four. These records can be invaluable in protecting drivers who are not to blame in accidents.

Some drivers have expressed concern about their privacy, but the cameras do not record them at all times.

SafeDrive also contains another safety feature, a collision avoidance system which includes detectors on the truck’s bumpers. The bumpers measure the space between the truck and other vehicles and detect the truck’s speed and following distance. If the truck is approaching another vehicle too rapidly, the device automatically shuts off cruise control. In newer trucks, it will also start applying the brakes. Similarly, if the truck approaches a line on the road without using the turn signal, a device will send a signal to the driver.

The SafeDrive technology comes in tandem with the implementation of electronic logging devices (ELDs). Nationwide, ELDs are set to become mandated by Dec. 16, 2017. The mandate has been met with significant criticism from some drivers and companies. But proponents say they will further enhance driver safety. The primary purpose of the ELDs is to record how long the driver has been driving and require they take the appropriate breaks to avoid fatigue.

5 Tips to Help Drivers Transfer to Electronic Logging

5 Tips to Help Drivers Transfer to Electronic Logging

The electronic logging device (ELD) rule specifies drivers who record their Hours of Service must find and implement an electronic logging device prior to the compliance deadline of Dec. 18, 2017.

The final rule was published in December 2015. It is intended to enhance driver safety and make it faster and easier to accurately manage, track, and share records of duty (RODS) data.

The ATA and many lawmakers applaud the rule, saying paper logs are often inaccurate and inefficient. But some drivers are trepidatious, fearing “big brother” style management and an invasion of privacy.

Regardless of where you or your employees stand on the issue, everyone—with a few exceptions—will have to comply. Read on for five tips to help drivers adjust to ELD implementation.

1.Educate Yourself

You may not have time to read the 126-page rule in its entirety, but it is important to grasp the basics. Understand enough about what the new legislation requires, how the ELD technology works, and how it will affect drivers so you can impart this knowledge to your employees.

One point of reassurance for drivers is there are specific provisions preventing the use of ELD technology to harass drivers. For example, it is necessary that ELDs can be muted while the driver is sleeping. The rule also outlines procedures drivers should take if they feel their employers have failed to comply with those provisions.

2. Communication Openly

As with any major change, there are many misconceptions circulating about the new rule. Open communication will help quell any false rumors and misinformation before it spreads through the company ranks.

Take the time to discuss the rule with your employees, answering any questions and addressing any concerns. Include such points as: an overview of how the technology works; what to do if the device breaks down or service is lost; drivers’ rights; how the logged information is used; and when your fleet will be implementing the ELDs.

Make sure the conversation is inclusive of everyone in the company. All staff members will have to be trained and informed about ELDs, so it isn’t just the drivers who will be affected.

3. Point Out the Positives

The rule has many benefits. In addition to streamlining a historically labor-intensive task, many of the changes will benefit drivers directly.

These include: minimizing interruptions for “driver check” calls to verify delivery ETA or HOS availability; maximizing driver time by using every available minute; minimizing paperwork; protection from harassment with a digital audit trail to prevent manipulation or distortion of the logs; improved safety with increased accountability for both drivers and employers; and streamlined roadside checks.

4. Follow Through With Implementation

Whether yours is a small or large fleet, it will take some time for you and your employees to adjust to the new changes.

Make a plan for implementing and managing the changeover, and follow through on that plan at each step of the way. The management plan should cover everything from preparing for the switch to following up with drivers once they’ve begun using the new system.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start working on the changeover. Beginning in advance will give you more time to gradually roll out the new system and promptly fix any issues that may arise.

Be sure to give and receive feedback from all employees and remain open in your communications.

5. Share the Rewards

Make sure your employees are incentivized to go along with the new plan. The implementation of ELDs carries several cost-saving benefits for the business, including lower maintenance, administration, and fuel costs and increased safety. Fleets that have already installed the ELDs have also reported an increase in utilization, which maximizes the allowable number of driving hours.

With increased profit to your business, you might consider spreading the wealth through cash incentives, employee perks or other forms of recognition that make a driver’s job more enjoyable and the changeover less difficult.

 

FMCSA Issues Ruling on Minimum Training Standards for Entry-Level CDL Applicants

FMCSA Issues Ruling on Minimum Training Standards for Entry-Level CDL Applicants

After nearly a decade of deliberation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Dec. 7, 2016, announced its final rule on national minimum training standards for entry-level applicants seeking a commercial driver’s license or related endorsement.

The administration had been working on the rule since 2007, though there had been efforts to establish such a rule since the 1980s. The new rule will take effect Feb.  6, 2017; the compliance date is listed as February 2020.

Congress had mandated the ruling under the MAP-21 highway bill, which was passed in 2012. The rule was drawn up with the help of a negotiated rulemaking committee comprised of 25 agency representatives and industry stakeholders, as well as recommendations from the agency’s Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee. The final rule retains many of these committees’ recommendations, though not all.  

Per the notice of proposed rulemaking the FMCSA issued last spring, the committee had suggested a minimum of 30 hours behind-the-wheel training for new drivers, as well as 10 hours of training on a driving range, and unspecified time on a public road. The new rule requires applicants seeking a CDL to demonstrate proficiency in knowledge training and behind-the-wheel training on a driving range and public road, but it does not state a minimum amount of time to be spent on these training. Instead, training providers are tasked with determining that each applicant demonstrates proficiency in all the required areas.

The rule also outlines criteria for qualified training programs and states that applicants must complete training from a program that meets these criteria. Among other things, entry-level training providers must register with the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry to obtain certification that their program meets the standards.

Individuals affected by the rule include first-time CDL applicants and current CDL holders seeking to upgrade their license. It will also apply to applicants seeking additional endorsements for authorization to transport hazardous materials or to operate a motorcoach or school bus.

The rule will be in effect in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories.

Visit the Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website to read the rule in its entirety.

For access to up-to-date, reliable fleet data, including information on insurance and FMSCA Safety Ratings, finances, and operating authority, visit the Transportation Data Source website.

 

Drive Safely With These Winter Weather Tips

Drive Safely With These Winter Weather Tips

Winter weather is upon us, and with it are unpredictable driving conditions. With snow and ice, high winds and freezing temperatures, even routine routes have the potential to become treacherous. Stay safe on the road this season with the following winter driving tips courtesy of Roadmaster.

1) Be prepared

Winter weather can be unpredictable. Live by the Boy Scout motto and always be prepared. Even if the forecast looks benign at the start of your trip, taking extra precautions can save you quite a bit of trouble should a surprise storm roll your way.

Be sure to pack proper clothing, including gloves, rain gear, and a warm coat; a flashlight; a blanket; extra food and water; a bag of sand, cat litter (for traction) and extra windshield wiper fluid; jumper cables; traction mats or tire chains; and a windshield scraper. It’s also wise to keep your tank filled with at least a half-tank of gas during the colder months.

2) Be thorough in your pre-trip inspection

All drivers should complete a thorough pre-trip inspection before hitting the road, and this is particularly important for truckers. Be sure to conduct a hands-on inspection and check all the essentials, including lights, fluids, wiper blades and tires. When the temperature is cooler, it’s also wise to check your vehicle more frequently than you might during more temperate seasons.

3) Keep your distance

Make sure to allow plenty of space between your vehicle and others. Keep enough distance to ensure you can move out of harm’s way in the event of an accident or other hazard.

4) Drive more slowly

A considerable number of accidents occur because drivers are going too fast for road conditions, especially during the winter. Driving a bit more slowly will provide you with more reaction time. You’re much more likely to hydroplane or lose control when traveling at a higher speed.

5) Get a grip

Sharp, sudden moves like those caused by ice patches or wind gusts can cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Hold you steering wheel firmly with both hands to maintain greater control.

6)  Brake and accelerate gently

Anti-locking Braking Systems (ABS) can be excellent tools when used properly. If your vehicle has an ABS, press the brake down as far as possible in case of emergency. The ABS will prevent the wheels from locking, enabling you to circumvent obstacles. If you don’t have ABS, pump your brakes lightly in the event you need to slow down quickly or are driving on a slippery road. This will reduce the chance of your tires locking and spinning out of control.

7) Look out for black ice

Black ice is one of the more menacing winter weather hazards as it can be difficult to spot until it’s too late. This thin, transparent layer of ice forms when the temperature is near freezing. It often makes the road appear wet, rather than icy. Don’t assume that a sunny day means a lack of ice. Often temperatures are lower with a lack of cloud coverage. One clue signaling black ice may be present is ice build-up on the vehicle’s mirror arms, antennas or the top corners of the windshield. You can also safely assume black ice is on the road if the spray from tires or vehicles in front of you stops.

8) Be careful at mountain passes

Weather conditions in the mountains can be some of the most severe and unpredictable during the winter. Be prepared for wind gusts and keep an eye out for snowplows and emergency vehicles. If at all possible avoid stopping in avalanche hazard zones. You’ll also need to be ready to chain up your tires if necessary.

9) Be cautious approaching bridges

Elevated structures are usually some of the first to freeze. And many are not treated with ice or snow melting materials, like salt or sand. Black ice is a common problem on bridges and can cause vehicles to quickly spin out of control if the driver is unaware of its presence.

10) If stranded, stay in the vehicle

If you slide off the road or are stranded in a blizzard and cannot see a place to seek assistance, stay where you are. It’s easy to lose your way in a storm, especially in an unfamiliar area, and you may get lost easily. Bundle up and keep moving (walking around the truck, jogging in place, etc.) to stay warm. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only run your engine for 10-15 minutes each hour.

11) Obey all road signs

Signs and safety warnings are posted for a reason. If the speed limit on a curve is posted at 35 mph, that means testing has determined that is the maximum safe speed for any vehicle.

12) If conditions are too severe, get off the road

Use your best judgment. Listen to weather reports and warnings and react in kind. It’s better to be safe than sorry! If you do need to stop, be sure to be in touch with your manager to let him or her know why you’re shutting down, and to alert them as to your location in case of emergency.

 

5 Tips to Prevent Freight Theft

5 Tips to Prevent Freight Theft

Though not as popularized as the lore of Santa’s international overnight deliveries, real-life freight deliveries are just as important in driving the holiday season. Truck drivers work diligently to deliver toys and goodies on time for Christmas, but even the season of good cheer isn’t immune to the wickedness of freight theft.

The month of December is an especially busy one for anyone involved in shipping and transportation services. It’s also one of the busiest months of the year for those looking to snag a five-finger discount. This is not because security measures are lackadaisical, but rather because companies are producing and transporting more products to meet greater consumer demands.

FreightWatch reported a total of 193 cargo thefts in the U.S. during the third quarter of 2016. The average loss value per incident was $120, 536. Compared to the third quarter of 2015, that’s about a seven percent increase in the number of thefts. Though data will not be available for the fourth quarter for a few weeks yet, it is fair to infer the upward trend in thefts will continue through the holidays. To ensure your cargo remains secure, take note of the following tips courtesy of Freightos.

1) Screen employees thoroughly

Many cargo thefts are conducted as “inside jobs.” To decrease the risk of robbers in your ranks, conduct thorough background checks of drivers, warehouse employees and anyone else who may have access to information regarding shipments and logistics.

Even if a background and MVR check does not bring any criminal record to the surface, it can give you an indication of the prospective employee’s character and overall level of dedication. Be wary of drivers whose record shows repeated incidences of lapse of judgment or overall lack of commitment to their work. These individuals may be more likely to be lax in security protocol.

2) Provide security training and insist security measures are followed

Provide your drivers and freight handlers with adequate security training. Rules like parking in well-lit areas and locking the truck and trailer every time the driver is away are just a couple of security measures that can bolster freight security. Also, ask drivers not to divulge any information about what they are hauling or where they are going when talking on the CB or posting on social media.
3) Invest in GPS Asset Tracking

If your trailer is stolen GPS tracking is invaluable in the recovery effort. Asset tracking places a tracking device on trailers, freight or mobile assets and provides you with real-time location info. Even if a savvy thief disables the tracker, you will still be able to give law enforcement the last-known coordinates.

4) Use Radio Frequency Identification

Radio frequency identification (RFID), like GPS asset tracking, helps companies keep tabs on the location of their assets. RFID uses radio waves to track assets through the assembly and distribution process, which can protect assets from being stolen or lost in the warehouse or while on the way to the trucks for delivery.

5) Park Safely

Aside from parking in well-lit areas, it’s also important to park in secured lots with security monitoring systems if your load must be left unattended for any length of time. Though some delays are inevitable, try to plan trips so drivers can avoid waits (such as leaving a load in a lot over the weekend for a Monday morning pick-up). Most thieves aren’t aware of the contents of the cargo before breaking in; they’re just looking to steal something fast and get out. Unless they are specifically targeting the items in your possession, they will most likely be deterred by security cameras and other obvious security measures that will make their job riskier.

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