Just about every facet of consumers’ lives is made possible because truck drivers deliver goods on a daily basis. According to the American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry carried 72.5% of all freight transported in the U.S. in 2019, equating to 11.84 billion tons. If truck drivers were to stop operating, we’d be in big trouble.
During the current COVID-19 crisis, truck drivers have proven to fit the government’s “essential worker” title. National Truck Driver Appreciation Week took place on September 13-19, 2020 to emphasize the vital role truck drivers have played during the coronavirus pandemic. While many places of business such as restaurants, clothing stores, and bars, have shut their doors to contain the spread of the virus, local and federal authorities have requested the trucking industry continue to keep the supply chain in motion.
In the words of a trucker quoted in USA Today, “If the freight’s there, it’s got to move. If people are going to eat, the trucks are gonna move. If they need medical supplies, the trucks are gonna move. If we stop, the world stops.” Thankfully, the estimated 3.5 million United States-based professional truckers are continuing to keep the shelves of grocery stores stocked with food and household necessities for consumers, along with ensuring medical staff receives supplies needed to give proper healthcare.
What Would Happen if We Didn’t Have Truckers?
Many people outside of the trucking industry do not think about where all of their goods originate from, nor give a thought to the dire scenario that could be presented if truckers stopped operating completely. Consider the example of the week-long strike carried out by truck drivers across Brazil in 2018. CNN reported the results heavily impacted the country as the strike “prevented the delivery of goods to supermarkets and gas to petrol stations.” It even affected public transportation since gas stations ran out of fuel.
So, if truck drivers stopped operating here in the States or other countries around the globe, would chaotic disorder ensue? In short, the answer is yes, especially while we’re in a pandemic.
The first 24 hours would hurt the medical field the most. Due to the lack of delivery, medical supplies would become depleted. Hospitals would run out of basic supplies such as syringes and catheters. Therefore, if the trucking delivery network stopped, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies would quickly run out of necessities. Looking for a check from your employer or a gift from a relative? There’s a good chance you wouldn’t receive it since the USPS, FedEx, UPS, and other package delivery operations would cease. Also taking place within a day would be the onslaught of food shortages and service stations would begin running out of fuel. Further, without manufacturing components and trucks for product delivery, assembly lines would shut down, resulting in the unemployment of thousands of people.
And that’s just the beginning.
In a matter of two to three days, ATMs across the country would run out of cash. Thus, banks wouldn’t be able to process transactions. Garbage would begin piling up in both great metropolitans and suburban areas. Essential supplies such as bottled water and canned goods would disappear resulting in even more food shortages, especially when consumers panic and hoard foodstuffs (we’ve seen it during natural disasters). Service stations would completely run out of fuel for all vehicles, including the essential working trucks. Imported goods shipped from other countries from the sea would remain in ports.
Within a week, due to the lack of fuel, automobile travel would come to a standstill. Hospitals would begin to run out of oxygen supplies. By the fourth week, the clean water supply would be completely exhausted, and water would only be safe for drinking after boiling. You might be wondering, “What’s a truck driver have to do with the water supply?” Everything. Every 7-14 days, truck drivers deliver purification chemicals to water supply plants. Without such chemicals, water cannot be purified and made safe for us to drink. Inevitably, the water supply plants would run out of drinkable water in two to four weeks.
Thank a Trucker Today
The future’s indeed bleak when you think of a world without our all-important, heroic truck drivers. The magnitude of a ceased trucker operation would produce a trickle-down effect that would ultimately impact everything—right down to our physical health. This information isn’t meant to frighten you. Instead, we hope it bolsters your appreciation for truck drivers internationally. They’re carrying out a job that’s difficult even when we’re not enduring a global crisis. Next time you meet a local truck driver, be sure to thank him or her for their service—because, without them, we’d lack the necessities and comforts we’ve come to take for granted.
As of 2019, the average gross salary of an owner/operator is $220,591. However, this figure does not take into account the expenses incurred each week. On top of standard expenses, the installation costs of a new tractor can run a hefty price tag (over $100,000). For owner/operators, this presents a unique challenge of navigating their budgets.
The key is this: Like any business owner, you need to have a thorough understanding of your cash flow as a trucker, especially if you’re an owner/operator. By asking the necessary questions—“What are the costs of my expenses?” and “What is my net profit after taxes?”—can save you from encountering many financial troubles. By identifying your specific losses due to expenses, you’ll unlock the key to success as an owner/operator.
Here, we present five of the biggest owner/operator expenses and how to account for each in your total budget.
Fuel is by far the greatest expense to those owning and operating a truck; the average fuel cost for owner/operators ranges from $50,000 to $70,000. You don’t have to estimate your fuel costs each week, month, or year, though. Plan in advance by sorting out your truck’s average cost per mile. This is done by dividing your fuel cost per gallon by average MPG, then multiplying that number by the expected number of miles you’ll drive. Once you have that number, the next thing to do is figure out your fuel efficiency.
The most effective way to get the ideal fuel mileage is by finding the best RPM to run your engine. When you pull your load with torque and not horsepower, you’ll burn less fuel because your truck will use less energy.
The truck itself is another large expense, and the primary truck-related expenses pertain to maintenance and tires. Though the price for maintenance may vary depending on other factors, such as the age of the truck, make, and model, alongside the quality of maintenance, you can still expect it to run you approximately 10% of overall costs. It’s helpful to budget for more than you think your maintenance will cost to avoid any financial surprises. Make sure to set aside a maintenance fund.
Furthermore, the average annual tire expense for retreading can exceed $4,000. This number is contingent on variables like miles driven, load weight, number of tires you have, types of tires you purchase, and wear patterns of the truck. When it comes to making the most cost-effective decision in purchasing tires, it’s important to consider the cost and expected lifespan of the tires.
3.Food & Drink
Even for the everyday person, dining out can quickly add up. Owner/operators are constantly on the go, and the prices of food and snacks are often significantly higher on the highway. This means it’s especially important to budget for eating at restaurants, snacks, and drinks. Once the budget is set, do your best to stick to it.
There are a couple of ways you can cut costs when it comes to food and beverage. Invest in keeping a mini-fridge and microwave in your sleeper. Owner/operators are also given a per diem tax break for travel expenses, including meals. As of last year, the per diem rate is 80% of $66 per day. Just be sure to save all receipts for qualifying tax deductions.
As a hired truck driver, you hardly have to worry about taxes because the company handles such matters. However, owner/operators are responsible for paying a variety of taxes, including but not limited to the fuel tax, federal heavy vehicle use taxes, self-employment tax, and so forth. To avoid any unnecessary stress or confusion, use of a professional tax preparer to ensure you receive every possible deduction and your returns are handled properly.
Trucking insurance also packs a hefty price tag, costing owner/operators anywhere from $8,000 to $14,000. Some coverage is required, while other insurances are optional. Common insurances needed are Truckers General Liability, Primary Liability, Physical Damage, and Non-Trucking Liability. Be sure to examine your coverages carefully as all insurance isn’t created equal. An insurer might offer cheaper coverage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the protection you’ll need on the road. Just as essential as having an insured truck is having health medical coverage for yourself. Be sure to factor this must-have into your budget as well.
For more information on how to achieve success as an owner/operator, be sure to follow our blog to stay in-the-know with the latest industry news.
Picture this: You’re on the road and the inevitable happens… You get stopped for a roadside inspection. Such blitzes can happen at any time but are particularly enforced during certain times of the year. For example, Operation Safe Driver Week took place in July 2020. During that time period, law enforcement observed over 66,000 drivers engaging in unsafe driving on roadways and issued 71,343 warnings and citations.
There’s also the annual International Roadcheck. In this three-day period, the emphasis is placed on compliance with federal regulations, and inspectors use the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria to spot any violations. Last year’s International Roadcheck revealed staggering results. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, of the 3.36 million inspections conducted, 952,938 driver violations were noticed, of which 199,722 were out-of-service (OOS) conditions.
At some point in your trucking career, you will be flagged down for a roadside inspection. Passing or failing inspection, however, is ultimately contingent on your preparedness. Listed below are the top four ways you can plan ahead to pass a roadside inspection.
1) Make Sure You Have Proper Documentation
There are a total of eight inspection levels. Level III inspection is specifically centered on the driver’s credentials, which includes but isn’t limited to a CDL review, medical examiner’s certificate, plus the record of duty status, and more. Among the top 25 truck driver violations last year, driving without a valid medical certificate ranked at #2. This is merely a one-point violation, but it’s easily avoidable when owners/operators keep themselves organized.
Unfortunately, when you’re in a rush to hit the road, staying up to date with important documents can easily fall by the wayside. It’s helpful to already have a binder or folder consisting of the documents the inspector will need. Such documents include a driver’s license, registration, vehicle insurance, medical examiner’s certificate, record of duty status, annual inspection records, hazardous materials paperwork, IFTA card, and permit credentials.
2) Have a Pre-trip Checklist Ready
During a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) Level I Roadside Inspection, there are some equipment problems that can lead to trip delays, citations, or worse yet, an OOS order. In order to avoid the three aforementioned issues, make it a habit to address the following items daily: replace/mend deflated or worn tires, adjust brakes or other brake-related problems, secure your load, take care of oil leaks, and repair any damaged lights or windshield.
Another facet of the checklist needs to include understanding how your electronic logging device (ELD) works. In the event you’re flagged for an inspection, you’ll need to know how to email your e-logs to the inspector. This will help expedite the entire process quickly, so you can get you back on the road.
What if you covered your checklist, but encounter an issue and an unexpected inspection on the road? Be transparent with the inspector about anything that may cause further inspection. This can mean the difference between a waiver of citation(s) or incurring a violation. If you recently discovered the issue, tell the inspector and take steps to handle it promptly.
3) Keep up with the Maintenance of Your Truck
This tip goes hand-in-hand with having a pre-trip checklist. Staying safe on the road for you and others is the top priority—besides passing the roadside inspection. And the key to safety comes down to the upkeep of your truck.
When you start your semi-truck, take time to do the following:
- Check the tires for punctures, pressure, and air leaks.
- Ensure all your lights are working properly. This is not to be taken lightly. A broken light is a six-point violation, and in some instances, can result in an OOS.
- Make sure your truck’s windshield is clean. Not only is this highly important to your safety and that of others, but it also can make or break your chances of getting pulled over by law enforcement for an inspection.
- Perform a Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) to ensure you’re meeting the law’s standards for your truck. This includes checking things such as your battery, clutch, exhaust, and more. Covering all your bases by paying attention to detail can help you not only pass a potential inspection but will also help you stay safe.
4) Don’t forget to conduct a post-trip (and en route) inspection
Let’s face it: Roadside inspections are part of being a trucker in the U.S. Whether you’re a rookie or an expert truck driver, you need to get into the practice of conducting routine inspections en route and post-trip. A solid post-trip inspection gives you time to address an identified problem before the truck makes its next trip. Much like the pre-trip checklist, the post-trip inspection list is equally important. Though it’s time-consuming, such a task will help in keeping you safe for your next trip and possible inspection. So, take time to check major details such as the functionality of your brakes, windshield wipers, steering efficiency, and tire condition.
For more information on how to succeed as an owner-operator, visit our blog!