Whether it is the first or twelfth time, deciding to purchase a semi-truck is a big decision for any owner operator. There are things you’ll want to make sure you learn about the truck itself, the previous owner, and information you’ll need to gather to apply for a loan.
Find out some important things to consider when searching for your next commercial vehicle.
Consider the Costs
When considering what type of semi-truck to purchase, wise owner operators will analyze the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This calculation will include the cost of the truck throughout the entire time you plan on owning it, which includes considering the price of purchase, maintenance, warranty, fuel, insurance, downtime, as well as resale value. Taking the time to analyze TCO will give you a better understanding of how much a certain truck will cost in the long run, and it will also allow you to compare different trucks more critically. For example, one truck may cost less upfront but that does not mean it will be cheaper in the long run.
Apart from TCO, there are other “soft” costs to consider when choosing your truck. It is important to consider safety, connectivity, comfort, and other features of the truck that are harder to calculate into a dollar value.
Be Sure to Ask Questions
When buying a used truck, if it often difficult to remember all of the right questions to ask the previous owner. By not asking all questions prior to purchase, you run the risk of the truck experiencing unexpected problems later on. To ensure that the truck is in proper shape, it is important to ask for the following information:
- How often did the previous owner change the oil?
- Are copies of the truck’s maintenance records available?
- Who did the truck’s maintenance?
- What is the condition of the tires’ tread depth?
- What is the engine’s history and have there ever been any issues?
- What is the state of the drivetrain, rear-ends, wiring, suspension, and transmission?
- Have samples of the oil from the engine and transmission been analyzed?
Make Sure You Qualify for a Loan
Purchasing a commercial vehicle is not something to do on a whim. It is important to be sure you know where you stand financially and have the necessary documents in order before you try to apply for a commercial vehicle loan. Here are four questions to ask yourself when considering applying for a loan:
Do you have at least three years of verifiable driving experience?
Commercial lending companies often require drivers to have at least 2-3 years of CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) experience before acquiring a loan. Loans often come with lower contract rates for drivers with more experience.
Have you set aside funds for your down payment?
Most loans will require a down payment of at least 20 percent. However, this can also vary due to credit score, credit history, or other variables.
Do you have a co-signer?
Not everyone needs a co-signer or co-applicant to acquire financing for their next truck. However, those with negative marks on their credit will have an easier time getting approved if they sign with someone with good credit who also has a Commercial Driver’s License.
Have I gathered the other necessary stipulations for truck financing?
Every financing company will have a list of required stipulations you must provide to get approved for a loan. These typically include references, bank statements, and proof of insurance. Once you have found the truck you wish to purchase, you will also be required to provide a written quote, which typically includes the price, photos, title and vehicle registration, and other truck-specific stipulations.
Choose the Right Semi-Truck
If you can answer “yes” to these four questions, you are well on your way to obtaining your perfect truck. Purchasing a new or used semi-truck is an exciting time that can even help advance your trucking career. However, without proper attention to detail, you run the risk of not acquiring the necessary financing in time and missing out on the truck you really wanted. By taking these things into consideration and using them for future purchases, you will easily be able to find quality vehicles for years to come.
Greenhouse gas and carbon emissions are becoming more and more of an issue across the country. Fuel emissions from vehicles account for a large percentage of air pollution that occurs in the U.S. In fact, in California, 37 percent of greenhouse gas and criteria emissions come from commercial trucks and buses. Additionally, a fifth of all emissions in the state come from diesel fuel.
Across the country, the federal, state and local governments are creating initiatives to promote cleaner air for everyone and the planet. These projects involve everything from setting higher standards for technology, to providing incentives and grants to drivers.
California Initiatives to Reduce Emissions
California is leading the way in creating clean-air initiatives that work to minimize the pollution released into the air from cars, commercial vehicles, and other sources. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is California’s primary agency committed to protecting public health from the negative effects of air pollution. This organization works throughout 35 local air pollution control districts. It also leads the state in addressing worldwide climate change issues.
In 2012, CARB released the landmark Truck and Bus Regulation, which called for commercial trucks, including semi-trucks and buses, to be upgraded and replaced over time with less-polluting trucks throughout the state. This is because these high-polluting trucks are responsible for 90 percent of diesel pollution and 80 percent of smog-forming pollution. CARB hopes that in 2023, California’s trucks and busses will be 90 percent cleaner than in the year 2000.
Getting enough low-emission commercial trucks becomes a challenge due to the high cost of these new trucks. Since many are still in testing phases and supply is low, the cost of these vehicles is out of reach for many freight owners. To help with the cost of upgrading to a cleaner truck and reach their goal of getting as many low-emission commercial trucks on the road as possible, The California Air Resources Board has launched the California Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP). This program allows truckers and fleet owners in California to invest in low-carbon electric trucks faster than would be possible otherwise.
What is the HVIP Project?
HVIP is a unique program that hopes to replace traditional trucks and buses with low-carbon hybrid and electric commercial vehicles quickly by offering vouchers to qualifying freight owners. Because the largest barrier most freight owners face when it comes to supplying their drivers with updated, low-emission vehicles is the high price of these trucks, this program could greatly benefit them. With the help of a grant, owner operators can start making less of an environmental impact sooner rather than later.
As of 2019, HVIP has been able to replace more than 3,500 medium- to heavy-duty commercial vehicles. This has led to a 30 percent growth in the nation’s early market of zero-emission and hybrid vehicles. It has also helped create jobs, increase the demand for these technologies, and advance the zero-emission truck industry.
Clean Air Action Plan Technology Advancement Program
Another initiative aimed at progressing technology faster in hopes of sustaining the environment is the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan Technology Advancement Program (TAP). This initiative, based out of Long Beach and Los Angeles, is committed to encouraging the development of emission-reducing technology and getting that technology to the port market as fast as possible. They work closely with developers and port industry partners to help test, commercialize, and promote the widespread adoption of technology that will help keep the air clean at ports around the world.
Early Adopter Truck Incentive Program
The Port of Long Beach as well as the Port of Los Angeles are expanding their initiative to help get truckers behind the wheel of less-polluting rigs by giving dozens of truckers up to $100,000 each to upgrade their trucks. Known as the Early Adopter Truck Incentive Program, this concept has earmarked $14 million to help pay for new, lower emission, natural gas-powered trucks. To receive funding through this program, truckers would have to be members of the ports’ truck registry, and they would have to agree to scrap their existing truck.
Promoting a Healthier Planet
The future of trucking looks bright thanks to advancements in AI technology, the rise of electric trucks, and environmental initiatives that help to improve these commercial vehicles as well as the planet. Because of HVIP, TAP and similar programs, we can expect more fuel-efficient, responsible trucks on the road, which means owner operators and other drivers are safer than ever before. And since these new trucks are producing fewer emissions, citizens of California are able to breathe easier and create a better world for future generations. Hopefully, the combination of government initiatives and advancements in technology will be enough to preserve the planet.
Excitement is building in the commercial trucking industry as people wait for the leader in platooning, Peloton, to announce the release date for its two-truck platooning system, PlatoonPro. In hopes of temporarily satisfying truck enthusiasts, the company released a list of the safety measures they have put in place to make sure their platooning technology will increase safety for truckers and other cars on the road. Here are some of the ways Peloton is ensuring their tech will make driving safer once it is released.
What is Platooning?
Platooning is a new way we are seeing artificial intelligence working in the trucking industry. This technology is a legal, digital way for a fleet of trucks to communicate with one another using a wireless internet connection. When the front truck brakes, the truck behind can automatically brake or slow down to avoid a collision. Reaction time is improved, allowing trucks to follow more closely behind each other compared to manual driving or cruise control.
Platooning is spreading rapidly thanks to the technology being adapted by numerous truck manufacturers. Companies now working to equip their trucks with platooning technology include Tesla, Volvo, Daimler Truck North America, and many more.
Expanding Upon Proven Technology
In their article, Peloton states that its goal is to make platooning safer for truckers than ever before. That means the moment they hit the button to activate the platooning feature of their truck, their risk of collision or accident should decrease dramatically.
From safety systems to air disc brakes, Peloton’s goal is to not disable any preexisting technology when platooning is enabled. Instead, they are building upon these proven safety systems to make platooning even safer. They also plan to hold their trucks to a high standard with strict maintenance and inspection requirements that will ensure all trucks are in working order before hitting the platoon button.
How New Platooning is Increasing Safety
Apart from proven technology already found in commercial vehicles, the new platooning system will also add features not commonly seen behind the wheel of a semi. Features of Peloton’s new system will include:
One of the biggest aspects will be the new vehicle-to-vehicle direct communication. This technology will be possible due to industry-standard digital short-range communications (DSRC.) This will allow two trucks to accelerate, slow down, and brake together. With this technology, truckers will be able to follow closer than ever before without having to worry about reaction delay. This will decrease fuel consumption, allow for more space on the highway, and make driving easier and safer.
- Platoon ProXimity Dissolve
Platoon ProXimity Dissolve will use camera sensor data and radars to gage traffic conditions in front of the leading truck during a platoon. In case traffic becomes too dense, or if a car cuts in front of the lead truck, the following truck automatically slows down to create more space. This allows all drivers to avoid any situations that may require hard and sudden braking during a platoon.
Platoon Dissolve allows the following driver to manually dissolve the platoon. With the follow-truck system, the driver can slowly increase the gap between the two trucks until there is enough space to safely start controlling the brake and accelerator pedals.
- Display Awareness Video and Info Display
To help the following trucker have a better understanding of what is going on ahead, PlatoonPro features an Info Display in the dash. This display will provide a live video feed from a forward-facing camera in the lead truck, so following drivers will be able to see changing road conditions, upcoming traffic, ramps or bridges, and any other objects up ahead.
To help promote efficient communication and teamwork between drivers, the new platooning system is equipped with a hands-free driver-to-driver radio that can be activated with a foot pedal. This will help with synchronizing lane changes, upcoming road changes and when to dissolve a platoon.
Because platooning systems could potentially be hacked or tampered with from outside sources, it is important that these systems have top-notch cybersecurity to keep truckers and surrounding drivers safe. This system has been highly tested to prevent hacking and will immediately dissolve if a system becomes jammed.
Future of Platooning
Platooning is still in its early phases and requires more research before all 50 states will allow it. Only half of the U.S. currently authorizes the technology, but companies like Peloton are embracing industry standard testing. Substantial in-lab and track testing must be done first before moving on to on-road testing in order to maximize safety standards. As more and more companies continue to do this, then more states will continue to change their laws.
The trucking industry is vital for small towns and big cities all across the country. However, the environmental impact of so many big rigs on the road can deplete the earth’s resources over time. These same resources, like expensive diesel fuel, also cost fleet owners thousands of dollars every year. And with many countries setting goals to ban gas and diesel-powered vehicles in the near future, electric solutions must be made available to the long-haul trucking industry. This has created a race between trucking startups and well-known manufacturers to create the best electric semi-truck before the competition.
How Trucking Impacts the Environment
When it comes to environmentalism, semi-trucks often have a bad reputation. The stereotype of gas-guzzling trucks that produce endless dark smoke is well known. And while there may have been some truth to their reputation in the past, it is becoming less and less true.
The Environmental Defense Fund states that freight movement accounts for 16 percent of all corporate greenhouse gas emissions. This number, which also includes air and water-based transport, would have looked much different a few decades ago. Because of innovations already available, trucks are producing far less emissions than ever before. In fact, it would take 70 of today’s trucks to produce the amount of one truck from 2002.
Recent innovations have also led to trucks being more aerodynamic, which allows truckers to save thousands in gas every year. Simple tweaks to bumpers, side mirrors, tire technology, and truck skirts have led to less fuel consumption and a longer lifespan for trucks.
Even though trucks are running more efficiently than ever, there is another reason to look forward to electric trucks coming onto the market: Never worrying about fuel costs again. Diesel fuel, which was averaging at $3.50 per gallon in 2016, led to huge bills for fleet owners. A trucker traveling 120,000 miles in a year would result in a $50,000 to $60,000 spend in diesel fuel per year. That means two years of gas would cost the same as a new sleeper tractor trailer. Of course, diesel prices are less than they were in 2016, but the large investment in gas is ever-present in the trucking industry. However, with electric trucks, stopping to fill up on diesel would shift to plugging the trucks in for a quick charge, which has the potential to cut fueling costs in half.
These innovations in electric trucks are coming faster and faster to meet the needs of countries that have set goals to eliminate gas and diesel vehicles. For instance, the UK aims to ban all gas and diesels cars and trucks by 2040. That gives them only 21 years to create a power grid that can sustain the electric vehicles, as well as find solutions for the trucking and travel industries.
Here are a few trucking companies paving the way to electric semi-trucks.
Nikola Motor Company
Nikola Motor Co., an American trucking startup founded in 2014, has been working on fully electric-hydrogen powered semi-trucks. To date, they have created prototypes for three trucks, each designed for a different purpose and to meet the needs of specific regions. So far, Nikola has produced a sleeper available in North and South America, a day truck for the Americas, and a day truck specifically for Europe, Asia, and Australia. Nikola states that their trucks will sport 1,000 horsepower engines with a 500-1,000-mile range per charge. Additionally, drivers should expect a charging session to last only 20 minutes.
Nikola currently has $13 billion in pre-order reservations for its truck. And while an official release date has not been announced, the company is planning to feature demos of their trucks at the World Nikola event in Phoenix in April 2019.
Elon Musk’s company, Tesla, has been hard at work perfecting their electric semi-truck, the Tesla Semi, which was first revealed in November of 2017. According to Tesla, their semi, which comes with four motors, will be able to go from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds. They are said to have a 500-mile range on a single charge. And because most semi-truck hauls are under 250 miles, that means drivers can make an entire round trip without stopping to charge.
The Tesla Semi is scheduled to be released later in 2019, but it has already been pre-ordered by the hundreds by big-named brands. Some companies ready to embrace the new Tesla trucks include Albertsons, the parent company of Safeway, Shaw’s, Vons, Pavilion, as well as Walmart, Pepsi, FedEx, and dozens more.
The Rising Competition in Manufacturing
Nikola and Tesla are not the only two companies working to bring electric semi-trucks to highways everywhere. BMW and Daimler have both been working on their electric cars and semi-trucks. In fact, BMW is already using their electric semi for short distances at their headquarters in Germany.
Ford recently released a concept for its own electric semi-truck that they plan to call the F-Vision. Volvo has also released a concept for a completely cabless, autonomous electric semi, called Vera. As for these two concepts, no release date has been set.
The future looks bright for transportation. With so much innovation hitting the market, the trucking industry is evolving to be safer and more environmentally friendly every day.
The impact of the trucking shortage and how it can be fixed has been the primary topic of the trucking industry since the shortage began. To help fill more trucking positions, many trucking companies have upped the annual salaries they offer. In fact, a study published in 2018 revealed that the median salary for a truck driver has risen 15 percent since 2013. That is an increase of $45,000 to $53,000 per year. For a private fleet driver, the average salary has increased around 18 percent, which means these drivers are now taking home over $86,000 a year. However, even higher salaries are not enough to recruit the number of truckers needed to end the shortage.
Trucking Industry Must Meet Millennial Demands
As long-term truckers begin to retire, it is clear that the only hope of hiring enough drivers to sustain the industry is to meet the unique requirements of the millennial workforce. These workers, born between the 1981 and 1996 are not just after high-paying jobs. Instead, they are far more concerned with a job’s work-life balance potential. Work-life balance is so important to this new generation of workers, that it has surpassed compensation as the main factor a person considers when applying for a job.
In fact, a recent survey on the topic shows that 64 percent of workers said a work-life balance is the most important factor for job satisfaction, followed by job security (59 percent) and then compensation (54 percent.)
Creating a Healthy Work-Life Balance in the Trucking Industry
Trying to create an appealing work-life balance within the trucking industry can seem challenging. The long hours of driving, weeks away from home, and the not-so exotic locations along the highway can all be deterrents to the next generation of truck drivers.
Some industry experts ponder if requiring truckers to only drive regionally would be a valid solution to the problem. Instead of one trucker taking a haul across the country, truckers could trade off at designated stops, ensuring that every driver is able to make it home for dinner each night.
However, this solution may cause more harm than good. Alternating truckers and transferring loads between trucks would increase time and expenses for each haul. This difference in price could mean a jump in price on groceries and consumers goods as well.
How Drivers Can Improve Their Lives on the Road
While no work-life balance solution has been created, there are a variety of things truckers can do right now to improve their work-life balance. Here are a few things truckers can do every day to improve their quality of life on and off the road.
When driving down a seemingly endless highway for hours on end, it can be easy to zone out and go into autopilot mode. Keeping your mind stimulated is key to enjoying your travels instead of counting down the minutes until you arrive at your next stop. Luckily, there are plenty of audio-based ways to keep your mind engaged while you drive.
- Audiobooks: Audiobooks are a great way to catch up on the latest titles while you’re on the road. With the average book giving you up to 8-13 hours of audio, even just one audiobook can keep you entertained through a long night’s drive.
- Music: Listening to the radio can be a great way to stay engaged and entertained during a long trip. However, if the radio has too many commercials or plays the same songs over and over, there are a variety of better options out there. With new advancements like Satellite Radio and streaming services on your phone, you can start a station that only plays your favorite artists.
- Podcasts: Podcasts are another great way to stay entertained during long trips. Now, there are podcasts covering just about every topic from true crime, news, fishing, sports, and anything else you can imagine. Keep your mind engaged by getting hooked on a new story, laughing along with a comedy podcast, or learning new things about your industry or hobbies.
Trucking obviously requires a lot of sitting still. Sitting in one position for hours can take a toll on your neck, back and legs. However, taking periodic breaks to work out your muscles and burn some calories can help both your body and mind. Whether it involves stretching, going for a jog, doing some push-ups, or taking a long walk, find a small routine that works for you. Getting some exercise in also releases endorphins to help keep you happy and comfortable when you get back in the truck.
Work Hard and Play Hard
When you are finally home after a few days or weeks away, be sure to soak up all the time you have with your family or friends. It can be easy to get bogged down with a long list of chores that need to be done or errands you need to run. Those things are important, but if you don’t allow yourself to have some fun with your kids, enjoy your favorite homemade meals, or go on a date with your spouse, your entire time at home can seem like even more work. Remember what makes your job as a trucker worth it and be sure to give those things and people the time they deserve.
When you are back on the road, be sure to take a little bit of home with you. Take a picture of your family to put on your dash, and bring along some of your favorite homemade snacks for the road. Also, don’t forget to stay in contact with the ones you love. A daily phone call home can go a long way with keeping you connected to your family.
Having a healthy work-life balance as a trucker may be difficult at times, but it is not impossible with the right habits. In the future, commercial trucking companies will have to have more of an emphasis on balancing work and life to appeal to millennials.
Prices on consumer goods are on the rise for a variety of reasons. From new tariffs against China upping prices on technology, tires and other imported items, to inflation, there are many reasons we may be seeing higher prices on the things we buy every day. But could the trucking shortage also be a contributing factor? Especially when it comes to the rising prices of groceries, there is reason to believe the deficit of truckers could be directly related.
Grocery Prices on the Rise
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food prices will increase by 1-2 percent in 2019. This was a common trend for many decades; however, the rise of food prices has slowed over the past few years. Now, these prices are back on the rise, with notably higher prices on groceries of all kinds.
The price of dairy products is projected to increase by 3-4 percent, vegetable costs will rise 2.5-3.5 percent, and both bakery and fruit prices will increase by 2-3 percent. As for meat, all costs are expected to rise by from 1-3 percent, with the exception of pork, which could actually drop in price by .75 percent.
What is Causing this Raise in Prices?
The rise is grocery prices could be due to a number of factors. From oil prices to overseas trade, a variety of things can spark a cost increase at the grocery store.
High Oil Prices
Oil prices can affect grocery store prices in two different ways. High oil prices often lead to increased shipping costs, which results in higher grocery prices. Because of the higher oil prices, food that gets transported across long distances costs more to ship, so grocery stores have to charge their customers more. Oil prices are constantly in flux and are influenced by several complex factors of their own.
Oil can also affect farming, which can make groceries more expensive as a result. Oil byproducts are an important part of fertilizers, and their price accounts for 20 percent of the cost of growing grains.
Climate change can cause extreme weather conditions that harm crops or make them much more difficult to grow. Because of greenhouse gas emissions, the hot air can absorb moisture and cause it to rain less, drying up ponds and lakes. Additionally, when it does finally rain, the water runs off the land and doesn’t get absorbed by the crops. These factors force farmers to invest more money into yielding a smaller number of crops and selling them to market at a higher price.
U.S. Government Subsidies
Because it is used to create ethanol, a large percentage of the U.S.’s corn production is subsidized. Currently, 40 percent of corn crops go to producing ethanol, which is a huge increase from 2000’s six percent. This means less corn is going to the food supply each year, causing the prices at the grocery store to rise.
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization also has a say in the world’s corn and wheat stockpiles. Because many developed countries like the U.S. and countries in the EU subsidize their agricultural production, they have an advantage over poorer, developing countries. To compensate, the World Trade Organization limits the amount of stockpiling a country may do. However, this means that in a shortage, prices of corn or wheat could rise dramatically in the U.S.
How Does the Truck Driver Shortage Contribute?
In recent announcements, brands including Mondelez, Hershey, Nestle, Unilever, and Coca-Cola stated they will need to increase prices in 2019. These price hikes are in reference to two factors: Higher ingredient costs and increased freight expenses.
A detailed analysis revealed that the cost of a refrigerated truck moving from Washington State to New York rose by 18 percent in only a few weeks. So, a shipment that costed $8,450 jumped to $10,000 a few weeks later. In addition, a truckload heading east out of California saw prices rise by 25 percent during the same time period.
So, what does this have to do with the trucking shortage? Because there are less truckers on the road, the demand for qualified drivers is boosting prices across the board. The cost to transport food across the country has risen, and those higher prices are reflected in markets and grocery stores as well.
American Trucking Associations says the industry is lacking at least 50,000 drivers. If the trucking shortage continues on its current path, that number will be at 174,000 by 2026. And in a decade, it could take 890,000 new drivers to adequately close the gap. Now more than ever, trucking companies are on the lookout for new, qualified drivers to help keep grocery prices low and the economy healthy.