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5 Things Owner/Operators Should Do to Achieve Success

Trucking is an expansive and flourishing occupation—and it’s one of the industries that hasn’t slowed down during the current COVID-19 crisis. Companies and essential businesses turned to trucking, heavily relying on owners/operators to deliver their much-needed products across the nation. With this level of productivity and increased activity comes the question of success. What is now deemed “successful” in the trucking industry?

For some people, success is defined by what they have. For truck drivers, success is determined by their quality of work and the professional milestones they meet. But if you’re new to owning and operating your own business, figuring out how to measure success outside of just numbers can seem overwhelming. There’s so much more to success than sheer quantity or numerical values. In this article, we’ll break down the top five things you should do if you’re aiming for success in the trucking industry.

1. Be Positive

Trucking can be a strenuous job, but if you approach your career with set goals and a positive attitude, you’re more likely to beat out the competition and thrive as a business owner. It’s essential to consider your needs and desires to establish your short-term and long-term goals. Write out your goals and treat them as stepping stones to your future. Another tip for success: Try starting your day with “I get to” instead of “I have to.” When you work as an optimist, you can be 20 to 40% more successful than pessimists.

2. Health Matters

Successful business owners know a healthy body leads to a healthy mind, which leads to a healthy business. Researchers at the University of Georgia asked a group of people who make upward of $100,000 per year what helps them find success in their work. At least 75% credited their focus and drive to physical fitness. If your health is compromised by an unhealthy diet or lack of exercise, you’re almost guaranteed to spend more time in a doctor’s office and less time running and growing your business. An unhealthy lifestyle also leads to poor leadership skills and personal qualities, like tiredness and irritability. By staying on top of your health, you’ll be more energized, focused, and capable of taking your trucking business to the next level.

3. Focus Is Key

Business owners become successful by staying focused, committed, and driven. It’s easy to lose focus in the hustle of day-to-day operations; to grow your business, however, try incorporating healthy and productive habits. Each morning, write out your goals for the day then focus on them one at a time. When you focus on too many things at once, you lose up to 40% of your productivity. Working one goal at a time will help you hone in on the day ahead. While on the clock, eliminate distractions and stay committed to your goals. Combine your focus and commitment, and those around you will see you as a driven leader and someone they want to work with.

4. Work Harder and Smarter

Having a business means setting goals, achieving them, then working hard to outdo yourself on your next set of plans. A study from Harvard showed 3% of graduate students had written goals and plans. Ten years later, the 3% were making 10 times more than the 97% who didn’t have written goals. Make your goals achievable, then strive to achieve them. To work smarter, try placing your simple tasks and goals at the start of your day. It’ll give you a sense of accomplishment and help you conquer the more challenging tasks later.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Finally, don’t be afraid to fail. It works exactly how it sounds. Things don’t always go according to plan. Some things are past our control, and that’s OK. Successful owners aren’t afraid to leap, even in the face of potential failure. It’s important to lose any fear of judgment and view your losses as learning opportunities. To get to your future, weigh the pros and cons of new options, accept any outcome, then strive for the next best thing.

Now that you have the tools for success, it’s time to get to work.

Interested in learning what it takes to become a successful owner/operator? Check out our post, How to Succeed as an Owner/Operator. For more industry news and content, stay up to date with our blog. Ready to begin your career as a trucker, but need some financial guidance? Visit our website to view our list of services, and contact us with any questions.

How Working from Home is Affecting the Transportation Industry

COVID-19 changed just about every aspect of American society, including our work lives. Earlier this year, many offices and places of business transitioned to a remote work structure with a majority of employees working out of their homes. One of the results of this change is some people no longer have a daily commute. The initial lack of commuters on the road drastically impacted traffic patterns and the transportation industry as a whole. While traffic patterns are increasing again, the transition continues to impact truckers—who are now in higher demand. Keep reading to find out exactly how remote work impacts traffic patterns, demand, and the day-to-day lives of owners/operators.

Truckers Have the Roads to Themselves

While some U.S. cities are seeing lower traffic levels—a decrease by up to 63%—trucking continues to be steady. The pandemic increased trucking activity and boosted cargo volumes since the shift in March. For truckers, large chunks of time can be spent battling gruesome traffic, drastically lowering the productivity of the entire supply chain. In 2016, the American Transportation Research Institute determined an estimated $74.5 billion in excess operating costs could be blamed on heavy traffic. This impressive figure speaks to the extent to which traffic determines the effectiveness of the entire supply chain.

Peak traffic hours in the mornings and evenings can almost entirely be contributed to commuters. Without them, those hours don’t bring the same congestion. Trucking companies used to have to completely change their routes in order to avoid high traffic areas. Many companies even planned the locations of their facilities in order to avoid trucks having to cross through metropolitan hubs. With lighter traffic than usual in some areas, many truckers can now take more direct routes and get to their destinations much faster.

Less Traffic Equals Less Liability

Having fewer drivers on the road makes traveling safer for owners/operators. By having fewer cars on the road, there is a smaller margin of error when it comes to accidents and collisions. Busy roads and traffic have been linked to increased rates of reported low-speed accidents. A study conducted by the Department of Transportation in the state of Maryland confirmed a positive correlation in the frequency and severity of collisions in high congestion lanes. When there are more cars on the road, it adds an elevated level of unpredictability. When accidents do occur in heavy traffic, that collision is much more likely to reverberate and cause pile-ups.

Streamlining the Supply Chain

The work-from-home structure also necessitates additional supplies. Since people are in their homes all day, they’re using delivery services more frequently, thus boosting business for truckers. Because of this increase in demand, trucking companies are rapidly adapting to make it all work. As mentioned earlier, many owners/operators are trying to plan routes for more direct travel. Additionally, warehouse reconfiguration allows truckers to spend less time at inventory facilities, and more time getting everyone the supplies they need to thrive from home.

Getting Back to “Normal”

Studies by StreetLight Data note that traffic is returning to its previous levels, particularly in rural areas, at a quicker pace than originally expected. As more motorists return to their daily commute, truckers might see a return to pre-COVID conditions. Fortunately, the transportation industry as a whole has evolved during this period. Even after traffic picks back up, the industry has found new and creative solutions—such as redesigned routes, streamlined loading procedures, and overall supply chain optimization—to make the entire supply chain more efficient and profitable. Additionally, as the disruption continues, more and more people will remain in their homes, amplifying the demand.

While traffic may be starting to increase again, getting up to 90% of the pre-pandemic levels, most metropolitan areas are still reporting lower congestion rates. The advancements made during this new period will have ripple effects that remain far past this period of uncertainty.

Going forward, many companies are discovering that remote work is productive, and as everyone settles into working from home, it might remain that way. If working from home becomes the new standard, the benefits it’s had for the transportation industry can be further capitalized upon in the months, and possibly years, to come.

Mission Financial is your all-in-one resource for trucking financing and industry news. Check out our comprehensive blog for updates on the transportation industry.

Everything You Need to Know About the Fiscal 2021 Transportation Funding Bill

At the end of July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of fiscal year appropriations bills for 2021 with a 217 to 197 vote. The six bills address urgent national priorities and supply funding for federal agencies, including the departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Treasury Labor, and Transportation. The $1.3 trillion bill package still needs to survive the Senate, but the overall goal is to provide funding for “96% of the government for the fiscal year 2021.”

The portion of the package for the Department of Transportation includes a request for a $107.2 billion budget for 2021. This amount will be broken down and allocated to various sub-departments within the DoT. In this article, we’ll go over what you can expect to see in 2021 if the bill passes through the Senate and how it will affect the trucking industry.

DoT Bill Breakdown

For the 2021 fiscal year, the DoT would be allotted $21.1 billion more than it received in 2020.

If the bill passes in the Senate, it will include:

  • $62.9 billion for the Federal Highway Administration
  • $18.1 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration
  • $1.3 billion for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
  • $3 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration
  • $18.9 billion for the Federal Transit Administration
  • $1.2 billion for the Maritime Administration

Aside from the $107.2 billion budget, the Department of Transportation hopes to receive an additional $26 billion “to strengthen and make more resilient our nation’s aging infrastructure” in light of the current economic climate. This amount would include National Infrastructure Investments and a budget for the DOT Office of Inspector General, to name just a couple.

To see the budget highlights in its entirety, click here.

What This Means for the Trucking Industry

The trucking industry is rapidly expanding, and there has been an extensive amount of care when it comes to growing and improving the trade. Earlier this year, the DoT announced its plans to add more upgraded truck stops across the nation. And while this may feel like a minor change, it will ultimately provide comfort and be a convenient perk for truckers conquering longer hauls.

The 2021 budget for the DoT would also be used to expand and rehabilitate the communities that serve the trucking industry. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Chairman David Price said:

“Our nation is facing an infrastructure crisis, with crumbling roads, aging transit and rail systems… Meanwhile, COVID-19 is ravaging communities, revealing and deepening existing disparities… [This bill] continues to build on bipartisan progress in recent fiscal years to increase funding for all modes of transportation—highways, aviation, transit, bike and pedestrian projects, rail, and ports—while improving safety and focusing on resiliency across all programs.”

As mentioned above, a significant plan for improvement is constructing and reconstructing infrastructures. Improving infrastructure in rural areas (where a majority of trucking fatalities occur) can lead to a safer work environment. Bettering foundations in urban areas also has its benefits. It could ultimately lead to less work-based hazards, reduced traffic, and fewer accidents, which leads to greater efficiency and steady economic growth. The increased funding for state and local governments also allows them to improve their local transportation systems and safety; this could boost public relations and enable lower-income communities to rehabilitate their areas. These changes will culminate in growing our nation’s communities and paving the way for more trucking companies to open up, create more jobs, and expand our nation’s economy.

What Can We Anticipate For 2021?

As of right now, the bill isn’t officially passed, and therefore we cannot say for sure what is to come, especially in light of COVID-19. The energy surrounding this bill is hopeful, though. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey said:

“This bill represents a forward-looking vision to rebuild our nation and strengthen our communities. Together, we can modernize our transportation systems, expand access to safe, affordable housing, and support our most vulnerable neighbors… With this bill, we are laying the foundations for sustained economic growth and expanded opportunity for every American in every corner of our nation.”

If the Senate passes the bill, you can anticipate positive actions for not only the trucking industry but the communities that benefit from it as well. Check out our blog to stay up-to-date on the latest developments for this story. If you want to kickstart your trucking career, contact us today to see how we can help you.

Pros and Cons of Employer-Paid CDL Training

Believe it or not, it’s both legal and entirely feasible for anyone in the U.S. to receive a Class A Commercial Driver’s License without any help from a private trucking school. This information can be hard to come by, however, as there are dozens of private trucking schools in most states who make a profit by convincing greenhorns the best way into trucking is through their particular programs.

What You Need to Get a CDL

That being said, there’s a lot of information and many steps required for anyone looking to acquire a CDL. As a result, going the lone-wolf route might not be in the best interest of someone looking for step-by-step assistance. If you’re attempting to get the license alone, you’ll have to do a great deal of research in order to learn what’s needed to pass the written test and then pass the truck inspection that’s required for acquiring a CDL in most states, which can be a challenge for some. The process of obtaining a CDL shares similarity with the process of attaining a regular driver’s license, with different requirements to qualify. Federal regulations require you to be at least 18 years of age before attaining a CDL. But, in order to drive a commercial vehicle across state lines (interstate travel), or haul hazardous materials (HazMat), federal regulations require you to be 21 years of age. To apply for a CDL, you must have a Social Security number assigned to you to verify your citizenship, a conventional driver’s license from your local Department of Motor Vehicles, one year of driving experience, and a good driving record.

Depending on the state where you’ll apply for your CDL, it’s possible your DMV has already published a guide to getting your CDL, like this one created by the state of Texas. Make sure to check your DMV web page concerning CDLs to see if it’s published a similar resource for your state.

To make a long story short, the cheapest way to get your CDL will always be to do it yourself, without putting money down on a private program. On the other hand, there are still potential benefits to the other two options available to new drivers, which are to: 1) Attend a private CDL training program, or 2) Participate in Employer-Paid CDL Training.

The Potential Benefits of Private CDL Training Programs

Many CDL training programs have connections in place that can make it easier for recent graduates of the program to get jobs with carriers. There’s also a very high demand for truck drivers in most states, so most individuals who receive a CDL shouldn’t have too much trouble finding employment in general. With that in mind, tuition for driving school can range from $3,000 to $6,000, making it a significantly larger investment than applying for a CDL on your own, and the most expensive way to get into trucking on average. While many students find it relatively easy to get student loans for their CDL program, interest rates in America have been on the rise in recent years, making private programs a pretty large price to pay for the convenience.

Employer-Paid CDL Training

These programs are more difficult to generalize about, as they’re slightly less well-regulated when compared to true-to-form private driving schools and can differ widely when it comes to day-to-day life in training. While you won’t have to put any money down up front in order to get your CDL, in most cases, receiving training from an employer comes with a requirement that you work for that same company for a minimum amount of time, and being terminated from that position or accepting another can come with financial penalties. If you begin, and then fail to complete Employer-Paid CDL training, it’s likely you’ll have to pay whatever amount that company values the cost of training.

The long and short of this is Employer-Paid CDL training can be an inexpensive and efficient way to get into trucking, but it also carries a great deal of risk. Prime Inc. is a huge trucking company in America that trains thousands of drivers every year; recently, it had to pay $28 million to drivers who participated in their paid apprenticeship program as a result of unfair underpayment to new graduates of their program.

Lawsuits like this aren’t overwhelmingly common, but participating in Employer-Paid CDL training programs inherently gives a lot of power to the employer and can make it difficult for new drivers to have a good understanding of what employment could look like with other companies, essentially reducing their access to the financial cushion afforded by the free market. In general, if you’re seriously considering Employer-Paid CDL training, it’s highly advised that you get a hold of someone who’s participated in that same program before you enroll.

How You Can Get Started

If you need private financing for a truck after you’ve finished your CDL program, consider contacting us at Mission Financial, where we can offer you a direct loan at a competitive rate. Make sure to visit our blog to keep up with recent trucking news as well.

Tax Update for Owner Operators and Fleet Owners

IRS Brings Back Form 1099-NEC

The IRS form known as 1099-NEC is returning for the 2020 tax year. The 1099 form has been in use for a long time—it’s the tax form used for independent contractors to report their taxable income. The NEC variant hasn’t always been in use, however, as it was replaced in the early 1980s by an updated, more robust version of 1099 MISC. This year, the form you’ll use to report information about your income as an independent contractor has changed. In this article we’ll describe why that is and what you need to know to be prepared. Filing taxes correctly can save you a lot of time, money, and headache—so make sure to do your due diligence and brush up on what’s new for 2020, and read our other tips for trucking success once you’ve made a plan for this tax season.

Supposedly, the revival of this tax form is in response to the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), which now requires businesses to file new information returns that are specific to their 1099 (aka non-employee) workers by January 31 of each year. The PATH Act created new problems with the IRS and its ability to process data, because the due date for 1099-MISC forms those same workers would have to file wouldn’t be due until March 31. In order to skirt this issue, the new version of 1099-NEC, available on the IRS website, contains a new box for indicating non-employee compensation (NEC). Note, the 1099-NEC form isn’t replacing 1099-MISC. Rather, it’s a supplemental form that deals with NEC. As we’ll explain later, 1099-MISC is used to report many different types of miscellaneous income, and for that reason, it still remains in use for employers, businesses, and non-employed contractors alike.

How This Affects Fleet Owners and Drivers

If you work for a fleet or are a fleet owner yourself, it’s important to acknowledge this change. If you’re an operator, this will be the form you’ll have to fill out and supply to both the government and your contract supplier, which is slightly different from the 1099-MISC you’ve likely filled out in previous years and will have to fill out again this year. If you’re a fleet owner, this will be the form you’ll have to issue to your independent contractors in 2020.

Form 1099-MISC, which most seasoned owner/operators should be familiar with, is what’s called an information return businesses of all kinds use to report payments to outside independent contractors. This form is also used for other types of income payments like royalties and rent payments, which only applies to certain types of businesses. Any contractor who makes more than $600 from one particular source will receive a 1099-MISC from that source. For the most part, the 1099-MISC is filled out a lot like form W-2, except it has extra boxes for giving information about non-employed contractors.

The 1099-MISC form is an information return used to report types of payments made to independent contractors. Payments included can come in the form of royalties and rents as well, but for most O/Os, this form will be used to assess what you owe based on what outside businesses paid you during the last fiscal year.

Here’s a full list of income types that can be reported on a 1099-MISC:

  • Royalties
  • Rent
  • Fishing boat proceeds
  • Medical and health care payments
  • Substitute payments in lieu of dividends or interest
  • Crop insurance proceeds
  • Excess golden parachute payments
  • Gross proceeds paid to an attorney

So, What Do You Report on 1099-NEC?

1099-NEC is for reporting non-employee compensation. These include the following taxable payment types to independent contractors: fees, commissions, prizes, awards, and other forms of potentially non-monetary forms of compensation for services rendered. For every 1099-NEC, there are multiple copies that need to be sent to the proper parties.

Use this checklist to make sure your 1099-NEC copies get sent to the proper places:

  • Copy A: Send this copy to the IRS
  • Copy 1: Send to your state tax department, if your state collects income tax
  • Copy B: Send to your independent contractor
  • Copy 2: Send this copy of the state return to your Independent contractor
  • Copy C: To be kept for your business records

Have More Questions about Taxes?

Taxes can be difficult to manage, which is why we make a point to keep our readers updated on the latest changes to tax code and different financial strategies for owner/operators. If you’re interested in what truckers have been doing to find enough capital to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, read our blog on short-term financing. Keep up to date on the state of trucking in America by reading our posts on supply chain and employment topics, which you can find here. If you’re new to trucking, and want to get started with your own fleet or your own rig, contact us with any questions you might have and we can help you get started in a brand new career.

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