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Reducing Costs as an Owner-Operator in the Trucking Industry

If you are just starting out as an Owner-Operator or thinking about beginning the adventure, one important step is to make sure you understand what your expenses will be and how to increase your bottom line. Deciding to venture out as your own boss is a scary risk but can come with big rewards if you are well-prepared and understand how to reduce your costs. Below, we will explore some options that might work for you as an owner-operator.

Keeping a Detailed Budget

Keeping a detailed budget will help you to understand where your money is going and can give you an overall financial picture so that you can decide where you can reduce costs. These days, there are many digital tools to help you do that. There are many apps and computer programs that can help you to keep track of your costs. If this isn’t an option for you, outsourcing is something to consider but keep in mind that will come at an additional cost. If you decide to hire someone else to do it for you, make sure you are giving them accurate and timely information. Don’t skip on the details, if you want the most helpful budget then make sure you are giving them all the details.

Reducing Fuel Costs

There is no doubt, most of the time fuel will be your biggest expense. Because of that, find ways to help reduce your fuel costs. Some strategies that might work:

  1. Consider your idle time, some reports say that 10 seconds of idle time takes more fuel than the ignition process.
  2. Plan your trips with intent and logic. If you are headed out on a route you are not as familiar with, ask your colleagues.
  3. Reduce your speed and use cruise control when safe to do so.

Maintain your Truck

Regular maintenance for your vehicle is key. This can help to reduce unexpected breakdowns and downtime. Unexpected breakdowns are much more expensive than regular maintenance. Pre and post inspections can help to avoid costly downtime. If you are forced to take downtime it can result in the loss of a contract or worse yet a poor reputation of not delivering on time.

Food and Drink Costs

It is enviable that when you are on the road you are going to have to eat and drink. There are a couple strategies that can help to reduce the overall cost of your food and drink. First off, plan a budget for it and try to stick with it. Second, consider equipping your truck with a small fridge and microwave. This way, you have the option of bringing your own food and preparing it in your truck. Grabbing meals and snacks from gas stations or restaurants can be expensive and unhealthy. Maintaining your health is important. The last thing you need on the road is to get too sick or tired to continue with on with your journey.

Overall, planning ahead for your jobs is going to save you time and money in the end. Plan ahead by maintaining your truck, packing healthy food and drinks when you can and making sure you understand what the most efficient route to get to your destination is.

RESOURCES

https://nmccat.com/how-to-reduce-trucking-costs

https://keeptruckin.com/blog/save-fuel-costs

https://www.rigbooks.com/resources/understanding-owner-operator-expenses-costs

Driving truck as a career is difficult. It can be isolating and lonely when you are on the road for a long stretch. Friends and family are at home living their life and you are missing the big and small moments that are happening. How you deal with this is up to you. There are strategies to help ease the pain of missing your friends and family at home, especially during the holiday season.

When it comes to special days on the calendar while you are on the road, make a different plan. Change the things you can control. In most cases, you can’t control when you will be on the road but you can control what days you celebrate milestones and holidays. For example, if you are going to be home from December 21st – 24th but won’t be home for December 25th, plan for your family to celebrate Christmas Eve on December 23rd and Christmas day on December 24th. Depending on the age of the children in your family, they will adapt easily or won’t know the difference. The same strategy can be used for birthdays, anniversaries and any other holiday your family celebrates.

Technology is your friend on the road. It can be used to stay connected to family and friends at home. There are so many options these days. It can either be used to call specific people directly or used to stay connected to your friends and family through social media. Consider giving daily updates on your social media, take pictures/videos and you will likely get the social interaction you might be craving on the road.

Get creative while you are on the road. Find fun ways to stay connected with your family. Are there apps that you can use to play games together while you are not at home? Can you leave a couple books at home for your kids while you take the same ones on the road with you so that you can read the books to them? Could you listen to the same audio book as your children so that you have something to discuss and keep you connected? Another strategy to consider is to give your family a map, let them know where you are every night so they can mark it. It gives you something to talk about daily as well as when you get home. You can show them pictures of each place.

When you do get home, be present. Spend as much time as possible with your family and friends. Celebrate anything you might have missed on the road. Consider having a few small gifts or post cards of places you visited while you are out on the road. Make your time at home count so that when you unavoidably head back out on the road you are ready. If you feel connected to your family and friends when you leave home, it will help get you through the next stretch on the road.

RESOURCES

https://www.drivebigtrucks.com/blog/tips-for-how-truck-drivers-stay-connected-to-family/

https://www.driveco.org/truckers-battling-holiday-blues/

https://www.tri-countytruck.com/enjoy-holidays-as-a-trucker-away-from-home/

It is no secret that truck driving can be a very dangerous career. There is so much to keep in mind while you are trying to keep yourself safe. This list will hopefully help as you take your journey out on the road.

Wear Your Seatbelts

This one might seem obvious but it is so important. It is going to decrease your risk of bodily injury if something is to happen on the road. Whether it is a minor or major accident your seatbelt really could save your life.

Taking Breaks

Frequent breaks on the road are beneficial for a number of reasons. They give your mind and body a chance to rest, even if you don’t feel tired it gives you a chance to regroup and stretch your muscles. It may feel like you are wasting time but in the long run it will keep you on the road longer. It will help to avoid mistakes later and looking after your body will keep you in the truck longer where you and your employer can make a profit.

Weather

Be aware of what the weather is going to do. Weather can change quickly, especially if you are in the mountains. Be prepared with all of the proper equipment for whatever weather you might run into. Know what lies ahead of you and plan accordingly.

Cell Phone

This is a subject that comes up often and it is a notable one. Cell phones contribute to distracted driving every day. It is a valuable tool that most people can’t imagine living without now. Of course, they need to be used by truck drivers. The important thing to remember is to use it wisely and safely. If you need to use the phone and do not have access to a hands-free system, find a safe place where you can pull over to use your phone.

Speed

As a general tip, when in doubt slow down. It takes longer to stop when you are driving a truck especially if you are loaded. If traffic is getting heavy, the weather conditions are not good or there is road construction just slow down and do not use your cruise control. Cruise control should be used when road and weather conditions are ideal. When you drive slower it could help to prevent an accident or at the very least help to decrease the effects of an accident.

Inspections

Pre-trip and post-trip inspections are critical. They will increase your safety ensuring all parts of your truck are in ideal running condition. It could help to avoid something going wrong on the road when the vehicle is at full speed. There are apps on your phone you can use to be sure all aspects of your inspections are done. It can even be set up with your to send the report directly to your employer.

There is never a guarantee of safety on the road, every time you go out there are risks that go along with it. There are many steps you can take to decrease the chance of an accident happening. The most important thing is to stay calm on the road and take your time.

RESOURCES

https://www.samsara.com/ca/guides/truck-driver-safety-tips

When you are planning to hit the road as a truck driver it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to take with you. Knowing you will be on the road without all the comforts of home can make it challenging. It can be especially tricky if you are new to truck driving or don’t know how long you will be away from home. So here we have rounded up a list of essentials that you could bring with you to help when it is time to get on the road.

Tool Kit

It is important to have some key tools and supplies with you. They can come in handy if you have a breakdown or need to do a quick repair of something on the inside or outside of your truck. Here is a short list of tools and supplies that you consider bringing with you on the road: screwdriver, brake cleaner, zip ties, pliers, hammer, wrench set, tire pressure gauge, flashlight and batteries, pocket knife, shovel, chains for tires (if there is a chance you will run into poor weather), and wire cutters.

Clothing and Personal Items

It may seem unnecessary to think about what clothes and personal items you will bring on your trip but it can really contribute to the comfort of your trip. If you think ahead and consider factors like weather, location and duration of your trip it will help to plan what to bring. For example, even if it is a small possibility that you could run into bad weather bring extra sweaters and a warm jacket and pants so that you don’t have to worry about being cold. Some other things to consider bringing with you would be: a shower kit, a grooming kit, enough clean underwear for the duration of your trip incase you don’t have access to a washing machine, any pills that you take, raincoat, any necessary PPE, sunglasses, raincoat and wipes for any small spills that may occur.

Cleaning Supplies

Keeping a clean truck is important for your comfort and safety. It is important for your safety for a couple of reasons. Keeping your truck clean and free as possible of germs can help you stay healthy during and after your trip. Also, if you have a messy truck there is risk of something distracting you while you are driving and causing major damage. Keep key cleaning supplies in your truck such as; a handheld vacuum, paper towels, all-purpose cleaner, disinfectant wipes, laundry detergent and air freshener.

Electronics and Accessories

Electronics can be very helpful tools but it is important to bring a paper map or atlas in the off chance that all technology fails. Some things on this list might seem obvious but they are important and worth having on the list. Be sure your cell phone and two chargers, incase one fails and you are not in an area to get a new one. For entertainment during your downtime you could bring; a handheld gaming device, e-reader or tablet. Even if your truck has a built in GPS it would be good to have a handheld GPS that you could use if the one in your truck malfunctions.

Being prepared on the road is one of the best ways to help yourself get through long trips away from your home and family. Preparation starts long before you get on the road and is an important step in your overall trip.

RESOURCES

https://www.cdljobs.com/news-notes/news/32-truck-driving-essentials-to-bring-on-the-road

https://schneiderjobs.com/blog/truck-driver-packing-list

It’s no secret that truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road. Hours delivering important goods can add up quickly, but what happens when a truck driver does not get enough proper rest? It can be life-threating for the driver and other people on the road. It is crucial that drivers, especially truck drivers stay alert on the road. We have gathered up some tips to help when sleepiness sets in on the road.

Don’t Fight It

If you can, start your journey well rested. When you are on the road and are feeling drowsy, find a safe place to pull over and take a short rest. Research shows a power nap of less than an hour will provide your body with plenty of energy to keep moving forward for hours.

Eating Right

Sugar can provide you with temporary energy but what happens when the crash comes? Eating healthy food on the road can help you to continue moving and meeting those critical deadlines. Maybe instead of candy or a donut consider easy finger food that will keep you chewing and alert and provide you with last energy. Some of examples of that would be carrots, celery, trail mix or almonds. Some other options that won’t keep your stomach full but will keep you busy are sunflower seeds or gum.

What to Drink?

We all know that coffee is sold as an energy burst, which is true but too much coffee can cause a caffeine crash. When you are on the road it is best to drink small amounts of coffee with larger amounts of water. Avoid sugary drinks that could cause an upset stomach or a sugar crash.

Phone a friend

If you have cell service and can safely make a handsfree phone call then the perfect time to catch up with loved ones is on the road. If your mouth is moving then you will be alert, keep that in mind. Try to schedule calls while you are on the road so that you can keep your mind active while driving. The plus to this is, it’s good for the soul to talk to loved ones!

Temperature Settings

For a short amount of time, cranking the AC or cracking a window can help you to stay alert. But please note, this is not a long-term solution. If you are feeling drowsy enough to open a window or crank the AC it might be time to start looking for a safe place to pull over and take one of those power naps.

Plan Ahead

Before you start out on your trip, know where you are going, how long it is going to take, where you are going to stop for bathroom breaks, food breaks and overnight stops. This may help with avoid driving into awkward lighting like sunrise or sunsets which will make for a much easier and safer drive.

Take ‘Energy’ Breaks

If anyone sat in the same spot for too long, they would become tired and not as alert as they could be. When you are ready to stop, think about doing some jumping jacks or quickly walk around your truck 10 times. This can help to kick start your energy levels and keep you alert for hours.

We know there are many other ways to keep alert on the road. Some of it is trial and error when you are on the road since every individual is different. The main thing is to find out what works best for you.

Is there any advice you would pass on to fellow truck drivers or travelers?

RESOURCES
https://semitruckdriver.com/awake/2/

https://www.alltrucking.com/faq/tips-staying-awake-truck-drivers/

https://www.truckingtruth.com/trucking_blogs/Article-3823/12-tips-to-help-drivers-stay-awake-longer

Today, technology can be overwhelming. There are many options on the market, it can be a difficult decision figuring out what type of technology your fleet or truck could use and whether the return on investment will be worth it.

The other tricky thing about technology is that it is constantly changing. You always risk adding something to your truck and finding out a couple years or even months later that it is obsolete or needs constant updates that can be money or time consuming.

That all being said, technology has major advantages on the road. It can be time-saving, accident preventing and can save money if used properly.

Electronic logging devices are now mandatory in Canada and the United States. These devices electronically log commercial trucks hours of service to ensure drivers operating these vehicles are within the legal requirements of driving and resting. Some people who own smaller owner-operator businesses believe that e-logs make them less competitive, that the only way for them to keep up is to ‘stretch the truth’ when they log their hours of service. But owners who have been in the business for years can see the advantage of using them. One owner said that it took nearly two years to change over the whole fleet but once he did, he found that it contributed to his fleet doubling and it improved the drivers work life drastically.

A technology that has been evolving in the past 15 years or so is driver’s scorecards. When they were first introduced, they got a bad reputation for being the tool that could help ‘shame’ drivers into doing better on the road. They have since evolved into a great tool on the road that is more accurate and takes into considerations far more factors such as load type and transmission shifting data. The information is now a great tool for driver coaches to share with trainees and is a valuable training tool.

A forward-looking camera system more familiarly known as a ‘dash cam’ have been around for years but like most technology has improved immensely in quality. They are getting smaller in size and larger in functionality such as storage space, nighttime vision and high-definition imagery. These camera systems are a great way to protect the driver of the truck. It can be a way to defend the driver in a false insurance claim, for example, if someone is looking for an easy way to cash in on their vehicle by making a false claim the camera can capture the accident to prove the innocence of the driver.

There are many different ways to let technology help you on the road that we have not listed here. You have to find what suits your operation best. Whether you are an owner-operator or own a large fleet technology is something to consider. It will be an investment and take time to install and learn but at the end of the day it could be a real positive factor on your bottom line, safety of your drivers and efficiency on the road.

RESOURCES


https://www.fleetowner.com/technology/article/21701619/7-truck-technologies-you-need-and-why

https://haulhound.com/blog/best-tech-truck-drivers/

There is no doubt the effects of COVID-19 are vast and will be felt for a long time to come in a variety of ways. Believe it or not, this virus is also affecting animals. You might be asking yourself how COVID-19 could do that.

With some cities in Canada reporting up to a 50% decrease in perimeter traffic, animals are feeling less restricted. They are feeling brave enough to roam into cities and cross roads with less risk. With less traffic and noise, animals have less fear. The combination of these two things are increasing the risk of animal collisions for the people that are still on the road, including trucker drivers.

Outside of major cities, the same thing is happening. People are traveling less which means there is less traffic resulting in animals quickly adapting to new migration patterns and seeing the road as their road and not a thing to fear.

Lytx has reported a 64% increase in animal strikes from the same time period in 2019. Which increases trucker driver’s possibility of hitting wildlife 2.5 times. The majority of animal strikes have always happened early morning hours, from about 3AM – 7AM.

Click here for this photos origin

In the United States, Lytx reports that in the past six weeks there has been a 19% increase in speed and a 10% decrease in travel time on frequently travelled routes. And ultimately, for the bottom line this is great for the trucking industry but with higher speeds and more frequent animal sightings and strikes it could result in injury, downtime and repair expenses.

Wildlife will never be completely avoided while on the road, so it is the responsibility of the driver to take precautions such as staying alert, maintaining a reasonable speed and slowing down during peak hours. Truck drivers should consider getting a bumper which will help to avoid downtime and damage to their truck if an animal is hit.

Ali Arc bumpers have proved, over the past 30 years, that they prevent downtime and damage to your truck.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at sales@aliarc.com or call 1-877-725-4272.

The trucking industry is continuously growing. If you are thinking about starting your own trucking business, look no further as we have some great tips and hints below to get you started on a path to success.

Do the Research

The trucking industry has profitable potential, but making smart business decisions is different than deciding where to stop for fuel when you are on the road. When starting your business, you must think about the practical trucking part but also the business side of your company. Some great questions to ask yourself before you get started might be:

  1. Where is there an industry gap, how can I fill it? Hypothetically, if there were apples that needed to be transported and no one was delivering them, that might be the niche part of the industry to consider.
  2. Once you have decided which niche to fill you should ask, will I need any special equipment? What rate is the industry standard? What kind of risk is associated with this niche?
  3. Do you have a network that will support your business? If not, how can you develop it?

Funding your Business

On average, to start an owner-operator trucking business it will take somewhere between $10,000 – $30,000. There are many variables that can contribute to start up costs such as where you live and what equipment is needed. Take time to consider how much money you will need to get started and where it will come from. You must also think about operating costs, in the beginning, cash flow could be an issue. It will take a large amount of upfront money to keep your truck running successfully. Fuel, truck, license and insurance payments are some of the biggest financial burdens. Keep in mind, most invoices will not be paid for at least 15 days but could take up to 45 days. Plan ahead to ensure you have proper cash flow to meet all of your needs and have a profitable business.

Growing your Network and Hiring Drivers

One of the key ways to grow your network is by fulfilling shipments on time and in good condition. Word travels fast in this business, so as you satisfy your clients, they will tell their friends and more opportunity will come. In the beginning you may consider using load boards and brokers but keep in mind they do keep a piece of your profit at the end of the day.

As your business grows, you may want to look at hiring other drivers to expand what needs you can meet within the industry. This can be risky but also profitable. When you are hiring someone, it is best to go with someone you know or a colleague has recommended. If that is not possible, it is important to understand their history and have proof of it. Once you have a thriving employee, be sure they are satisfied with their job. Plan to be able to provide them with competitive compensation and keep the lines of communication open so that you know they are happy and fulfilled with the position.

In the end, spending time planning the future of your business and understanding industry needs will help you to grow a thriving trucking company.

Please note: This article has a lot of information in it. These are guidelines only. If you need help starting your own business, please seek professional help. 

RESOURCES
https://www.comcapfactoring.com/blog/how-to-make-a-successful-trucking-company-one-important-tip/

https://blog.keeptruckin.com/cheat-sheet-starting-trucking-business/

This time of the year there is a lot of wildlife traveling. This means you are sharing the road with them. They don’t understand what a crosswalk is or ‘waiting till it is clear’ to cross the road. That means more caution needs to be used. Especially in ‘high traffic’ areas. Most highways do a good job of marking the more common areas but animals can come out anytime from anywhere. In Canada, an average of 20 people are killed each year because of this type of collision. Almost 2000 humans are injured and over 30,000 animals are killed each year.

It is important to know that animals are the most active at dawn and dusk or about 7pm to midnight. Although running into animals is not completely unavoidable there are steps you can take to decrease your chances of running into them and causing damage to yourself, others and your truck.

When possible, avoid driving at the highest risk times, when visibility is low such as dawn and dusk. If you must drive during these times pay special attention to the road and slow down.

When you do see animals on the side of road, slow down their behavior is always unpredictable. Many animals, such as deer, travel in herds. If there is one, there could be many more.

When you are on a wide road with little traffic, drive in the middle of the road when possible. Keep your high beams on and watch for forest areas and water sources where it might be more likely for animals to be.

If you are out on the road and an animal comes out without you seeing it be sure you know what to do, being prepared mentally can go a long way for your safety and the safety of the ones around you. First of all, do your best not to panic. If you have time, flash your lights and hit the horn this might scare the animal enough to get out of your way. If you cannot avoid hitting the animal, do not swerve suddenly, hit the animal head on if you have to hit it. Swerving suddenly while going a high speed could cause you to roll your vehicle or hit another vehicle around you. Hit the brakes as hard as you can and release them just before you make contact with the animal. This method could help to be sure the animal does not roll up your hood and through your windshield.

Although hitting on the animals is not completely unavoidable, there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk. Slow down and pay attention to the signs on the road.

RESOURCES
https://www.nsds.ca/b/tips-for-safe-trucking-in-wildlife-areas

https://www.wildlifecollisions.ca/hints.htm

https://blog.bisontransport.com/2014/12/6-must-know-winter-wildlife-driving-tips/

Maintaining a clean truck is always important, it keeps you productive and healthy, both mentally and physically, as you live your life in a small space. Along with having a clean truck, keeping up with your personal hygiene should always be a priority on the road. Now, more than ever, it is a critical key to sustaining life on the road.

Interior of your truck

There are obvious steps you can take to keep the interior of your truck clean but here we thought we would break down small steps you can take so that it doesn’t become a time consuming and overwhelming job.

  1. Clean out the garbage daily. Take any coffee cups, food wrappers or bottles out before you sleep every night. When you do this, you will avoid it piling up. After all, this is your workspace and home for the next number of weeks.
  2. About once a week spend 15 minutes vacuuming out the dirtiest spots of your truck. You can use your vacuum for the dashboards and any curtains you have in the truck.
  3. Depending on the weather, it is important to wash your windows at once a week. Most of the time the exterior of your front windshield will need to be cleaned at least once a day, if not more.
  4. Once a week, take your mats out of your truck and give them a good wipe down. Also, when you are getting into your truck, take a few seconds and get rid of any visible dirt on your footwear.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic happening, it would be wise to keep an alcohol spray (at least 70%) in the cab of your truck. Spraying the surfaces of your truck frequently will help to protect you and anyone else you may come in contact with on the road.

Personal Hygiene

Personal hygiene while you are on the road can help you in many ways. It will help with first impressions, mental health and overall physical health. When you are packing to hit the road keep these tips in mind.

  1. You don’t know when you will have access to a shower. Pack everything you might need to keep you clean and feeling fresh. This includes items such as: a towel, facecloth, shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, razor and shaving cream
  2. Don’t forget to wash your clothes! There is no sense spending time keeping your body clean if your clothes are dirty. If you know you will not have access to a washing machine you could pack enough clean clothes to get you through your entire tour.
  3. If you will not have access to running water, alternatively, you could use baby wipes to replace a shower and hand sanitizer to ‘wash your hands.’ But it is important to remember that nothing will replace a warm shower with soap and clean running water and soap to wash your hands.

Making sure you and your truck clean on the road can help in so many ways. Feeling your best will allow you to stay alert on the road and sleep better at night. Keeping your truck clean will keep you healthy on the road. Be sure to make cleanliness a priority when you are on the road!

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