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What Owner-Operators Need to Know About the Inflation Reduction Act

On Tuesday, August 16, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (Act) into law. The Act covers climate issues, taxes, healthcare, and other legislation in one bill, serving as a concise version of the Build Back Better bill.

What is the Inflation Reduction Act?

The main points of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 include:

  • 15% minimum corporate tax rate: Corporations that generate at least $1 billion in income will now have a 15% tax rate, and stock buybacks will have a 1% excise tax.
  • IRS investments: The IRS will receive $80 billion to hire new agents over the next ten years.
  • Prescription drug price reform: Medicare will now be able to negotiate the prices of particular prescription drugs, and in 2025 Medicare recipients will receive a $2,000 limit on annual out-of-pocket prescription costs.
  • ACA subsidy extension: The current medical insurance premiums under the ACA, which were set to expire January 1st, 2023, will now be extended through 2025.
  • Investments in energy security and climate change efforts: Households will receive tax credits to offset energy costs, the government will invest in clean energy production, and there will be tax credits for reducing carbon emissions.

On August 7, the Inflation Reduction Act went to the Senate and passed with 50 Democratic votes and zero Republican votes. Once it reached the House on August 12, bill 220-207 was passed.

Ultimately, small businesses and hardworking Americans will profit from this legislation through the investments in deficit reduction, increased manufacturing, lowered drug prices, and the push for corporations to give back to their community. But what does this bill mean for owner-operators within the transportation industry?

What Owner-Operators Need to Know

The Inflation Reduction Act will make significant changes to the United States environmental policies, health care policies, and tax codes. However, for owner-operators and other small trucking businesses, the Act’s extended changes to the ACA subsidies and IRS investments will likely be the most impactful.

The increased and extended ACA subsidies will allow owner-operators without employer-provided health insurance access to affordable health care coverage. Marc Ballard, who handles the NAIT’s various health care avenues, said, “We’re seeing about 90% of people who enroll can get a plan for $100 a month. Take, for example, a guy who may be 45 with a spouse and two kids, lives in Florida, and expenses a bunch of his income. … Let’s say his net adjusted income is $60,000. He grossed $200,000, but the reportable income is $60,000. He could literally be paying zero dollars for a health care plan.” Those making more money may face an increase in coverage costs by just a few hundred dollars a month.

And while the ACA subsidy changes won’t affect independent business people as much, it’s wise to use this extension period to shop for different health care plans. Freight rates are slowing due to the rise in fuel costs, and owner-operators’ incomes fluctuate as the pandemic period breaks down. So, now is the time to consider income projections and any potential family or personal status changes, which could unlock new health-expense savings.

The $80 billion investment in creating a larger Internal Revenue Service could also pose a threat to owner-operators with more frequent audits. The Associated Press did disclose that armed agents will not come knocking on owner-operators’ doors unless they are under criminal investigation for dealings in things such as contraband. Truck drivers must also be conscious of their increased chance of being audited. And while the IRS does have a backlog, the 87,000 incoming agents will quickly clear it, making time for them to look at newer returns. So, be sure to be extremely thorough when filing your taxes.

The Future is Green

The $369 billion investment in green energy will also notably change the trucking industry. In the next few years, trucking companies could receive tax incentives to purchase trucks that operate on alternative fuel sources, including electricity and biogas. Similar tax incentives will be made available for installing supportive infrastructure at trucking headquarters. The bill will also offer grant and loan programs to trucking businesses to encourage and fund their switch.

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How to Motivate Young Truck Drivers

What Factors are Most Important to Younger Drivers?

In the last few years, the trucking industry has seen a tremendous shortage of drivers. For instance, in 2018, approximately 60,800 drivers left the industry for good. This year, about 84,000 drivers have exited their careers; if trends continue, we can expect fleets to be short 160,000 drivers by 2030. The question on everyone’s mind is: “Why does the truck driving shortage even exist?”

And while there are a number of reasons, many believe the shortage is caused by high turnover rates, dwindling compensation, and the aging of the workforce. The good news is that there may be a way to combat the ever-increasing shortage of drivers, and it starts with the next generation.

Currently, young people searching for a career don’t see truck driving as a viable path, and if fleets do not work to change this mindset, the shortage will only worsen. 

But, how exactly are you supposed to appeal to younger drivers? The answers may not be what you expect.

Why are younger drivers so important to the industry?

In 2020, people learned the trucking industry’s true value and felt its impact on our country’s infrastructure. Now, as the driver shortage wages on, more and more truck drivers are retiring, but they aren’t being replaced at an acceptable rate. And when they are being replaced, it’s not by younger drivers. However, if we want to see the industry recover and the economy thrive, younger drivers may be the answer.

Millennials are now the nation’s largest generation, making up more than a third of the country’s domestic workforce. And now, they are searching for a promising career path with good pay and benefits. They may not realize that truck driving offers that and so much more. But what if we told you that fleets could also benefit from hiring younger drivers?

Hiring younger drivers will help fleets stabilize as the tide of retirement accelerates within the industry. Younger drivers will also help trucking companies slow down turnover and keep up with the high demand for shipped goods. But, to hire these drivers, fleets must first appeal to them.

How can fleets motivate younger drivers?

Many think the only way to recruit young drivers is by offering a competitive wage. However, there are more critical factors that young drivers consider before jumping into a career. In fact, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that only 40% of drivers (ages 21 to 30) consider pay to be the main factor when joining a fleet. In comparison, 60% believe other factors hold equal or even more importance in their decision. These factors include career stability, work-life balance, career benefits, and company culture.

So, as long as your trucking company can offer a positive working environment and decent benefits, finding younger drivers won’t be as hard as one might expect. 

4 tips for attracting younger drivers

Other ways to attract younger drivers include:

1. Embracing social media.

It’s an age-old truth: to reach your target audience, you must go where they go. And if you are trying to reach a younger audience, you must use social media. Research shows that 86% of people (ages 18 to 29) use social media, and 88% are on Facebook.

A great way to reach younger drivers is through social media campaigns on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. These platforms have consistently ranked highly as a thriving source for driver leads. Using social media and reaching out to your local driving schools is a great way to bring young drivers into the industry.

2. Updating your promotional materials.

ATRI found that young drivers are more likely to apply for a job with a carrier if there is more initial information and transparency. An example would be creating a job posting with explicit expectations and requirements. Your company could even benefit from posting videos and other content that help convey what a day in the life of a truck driver is all about. Almost 25% of younger drivers believe that fleets should incorporate younger adults in their non-recruitment advertisements and company materials.

3. Modernizing your benefits.

According to the CDC, truck drivers are twice as likely to suffer from job-related health issues, like obesity, high blood pressure, and problems that come with a lack of sleep. And in today’s society, health is taking priority in younger people’s lives. Simply updating your wellness benefits could be the difference between a young driver accepting a job offer and declining it.

We suggest:

  • Starting a company-wide wellness program or paying for a wellness app subscription
  • Introducing incentives for incorporating healthy habits
  • Giving discounts on health insurance premiums
  • Offering more PTO and bonus opportunities
  • Supporting your drivers’ wellness in any way you can

4. Offering consistent scheduling.

Truck driving is known for putting a strain on drivers and their work-life balance, thanks to long hours, last-minute changes, and erratic scheduling. Offering more predictable off days and consistent scheduling could attract younger drivers to your company.

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Rising Fuel Prices: An Ongoing Problem for Drivers

5 Tips for Conserving Fuel

These days, the glowing numbers on gas station signs cause drivers to wince as they pass. What once was affordable for most drivers now costs anywhere between $4 and $6 a gallon in some areas. This surge in fuel prices has become a top concern for consumers, affecting drivers and the broader economy. 

Higher fuel prices, especially diesel, strain owners and operators, affect the cost of goods that require transportation via truck, and so much more. In this article, we will look at the reason behind increasing fuel prices, who they affect, and what drivers can do to conserve their fuel.

Fuel prices continue to climb, but why?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine primarily influences today’s surging fuel prices, however, prices were on the rise well before the war. Before the COVID-19 pandemic settled in, energy producers reduced their investments and cut back on projects that were less than profitable. Once the pandemic hit, these same producers minimized output even more as the need for petroleum diminished due to quarantine restrictions.

The economy has since reopened, goods are being manufactured, and the roadways are filled once again. The reboot of society led to a surge in demand and a tightening oil market that led President Biden to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in hopes of leveling prices, but this plan failed.Once Russia invaded Ukraine, the already fragile energy market was sent spiraling downward. With Russia being the largest oil exporter in the world and the U.S.’s ban on Russian oil imports, U.S. oil reached its highest price point since 2008 at $130 per barrel.  

Oil companies are now reluctant to drill and face obstacles like labor shortages and increasing prices for parts and raw materials. On top of that, Russian petroleum product exports are being sanctioned, pushing the price of diesel higher than ever.

All of these factors contributed to the national average of a gallon of gas reaching $4.589, according to AAA. Now, every state in the U.S. averages more than $4 per gallon. In some areas, like California, they’re averaging above $6. And diesel prices retail at an average of $5.577 a gallon, which is 76% higher than last year’s average.

Who is affected by rising fuel prices?

Higher fuel prices impact not only consumer spending but also company spending, affecting many industries, including transportation. For instance, Target is the latest company to speak out about its struggles with higher costs. Target CEO Brian Cornell said, “We did not anticipate that transportation and freight costs would soar the way they have as fuel prices have risen to all-time highs.” Cornell estimates that the higher fuel costs will run the company approximately $1 billion in incremental costs this fiscal year. Walmart executives had similar concerns, “fuel ran over $160 million higher for the quarter in the U.S. than we forecasted.”

But the prices aren’t just impacting domestic costs. Companies like Tractor Supply and Amazon have noted that their import freight costs have increased over the last year. Currently, the cost to ship an overseas container has doubled compared to pre-pandemic rates. Even the airline industry is experiencing the effects of higher fuel prices. The CEO of United Airlines explained that jet fuel prices would cost the company $10 billion more than in 2019.

The ultimate worry for freight companies is how the higher fuel prices will affect the overall cost of operations. A carrier moving shipments from the West Coast to the East Coast will have to pay approximately $1,000 more in fuel costs than in 2021. If things continue in the same direction, this inflation will impact truckload shipping, ocean freight shipping, air cargo shipping, and train shipping costs, which will ultimately cause a domino effect throughout the economy.

Source: truckstop.com

5 Tips for Conserving Fuel

Conserving fuel is no longer just a want or a good deed. It’s now something we must do to save money. In the U.S. alone, the trucking industry consumes approximately 38 billion gallons of diesel annually. And 39% of drivers’ operating expenses come from fueling their rig. So, drivers must do what they can to improve their fuel economy.

Here are a few ways they can do so:

1. Drive more responsibly

Follow speed limit signs and take things slow. Studies show that every 5 mph over 65 mph yields a 7% decrease in fuel economy. You can also do things like:

  • Switch off the air conditioner (weather permitting)
  • Avoid idling unnecessarily
  • Turn off your engine when not in use
  • Use cruise control on the highways (if possible)

2. Improve your truck’s aerodynamics

Research shows that about half of a truck’s fuel is consumed, overcoming aerodynamic drag while traveling at highway speeds. Lucky, there are a few simple ways to improve your truck’s aerodynamics, including using a roof-mounted cab deflector, a deep angled bumper, or a sun visor to push wind to the top of your trailer. You can also use side fairings to avoid turbulence underneath your trailer.

3. Be conscious of the traffic conditions

Every time you have to restart your rig due to stop-and-go traffic, you use a considerable amount of fuel. So, it’s essential to use your GPS and monitor traffic conditions to get to your next location efficiently. Avoiding traffic will also help your clutch last longer.

4. Engine oil & fuel

By simply using the recommended grade of motor oil for your truck, you could improve your fuel mileage by up to 2%.

We also recommend:

  • Filling up your truck first thing in the morning
  • Pump fuel at a low setting to minimize vapors
  • Fill up well before you reach ‘Empty’

5. Conduct regular maintenance checks

Regular maintenance can go a long way in saving you fuel.

Maintenance practices include:

  • Filling up your tires and changing them when needed
  • Checking your trailer and drive axle alignment
  • Watch for any fluid leaks
  • Invest in an engine overhaul if yours is older
  • Replace any old or worn-out parts, like fuel injectors

At the end of the day, improving your fuel efficiency by 2% to 3% can help you save your hard-earned money and keep your rig running like new.

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What to Expect from Amazon Prime Day 2022

Inflation, Labor Shortages, and the Supply Chain

Every year, deal seekers prepare for the highly-anticipated sales event, Amazon Prime Day. The retail giant will hold the two-day summer sale on July 12th and 13th and offer significant savings on thousands of products. Amazon recently gave Prime members a sneak peek at this year’s best offers, which include electronics, household staples, beauty products, and more. And while members won’t know the exact details of the sale until midnight EDT on July 12th, we can guess it will be comparable to previous Prime Days.

However, unlike in past years, this year’s event will happen despite some obstacles. So, what can the industry expect this Amazon Prime Day?

Potential obstacles facing Amazon Prime Day

Amazon Prime Day is held annually and offers members a chance to benefit from exclusive discounts and extremely low prices on thousands of items. This year’s sale is coming at an opportune time with some recent issues curbing consumer spending and, in turn, threatening the success of those in the shipping industry. 

So, while more sales are anticipated, we do expect a few impediments will get in the way, including:

1. Inflation

In May, the inflation rate was at 8.6% –the largest year-over-year increase the country has seen in 40 years. The elevated rate increased the prices of goods and services and decreased consumer spending. However, Amazon swears that its member-exclusive sale will change the tide with savings on products from national brands and small businesses. And there is nothing more valuable than a great deal in a tough economy. As the holiday season approaches and more companies attempt to unload excess inventory with low prices and sales events, consumers will resume spending, and the shipping industry, including the supply chain, will recover. 

2. Supply chain struggles

While Amazon still promises that Prime Day will be full of deals for various products, there’s no denying that this year’s selection will differ from previous years. While there will still be a variety of goods, it will be far less than what members are used to due to the shape of the world’s supply chain. But the retailer isn’t giving up. They accumulated their stocks and upped their inventory by almost 47% from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022. The retailer’s sales also increased by about 8% during that same period. So, the supply chain may see further strain depending on how Amazon handles this year’s exclusive event. But, as those within the supply chain have proven time and time again, there’s nothing they can’t handle.

3. Amazon labor shortages and unions

On top of mounting inflation and unrelenting supply chain issues, Amazon is also battling some in-house challenges. If things stay on their current trajectory, the retail giant could run out of workers by 2024. This loss could cripple Amazon’s service quality and growth plans. The memo that explained the labor shortage also explained how the crisis could be delayed, including raising wages and increasing automation. Still, the only way the company could significantly change the course they are on is by altering the way it manages its employees. The company also predicts that it could lose the availability of staff in some regions by the end of 2022. This loss could damage the potential for future sales events, like Prime Day, and, in turn, take a toll on those within the transportation industry who rely on Amazon’s sales.

Amazon Prime Day still has a lot to offer consumers

At the end of the day, Amazon is offering significant discounts on Prime Day that will draw people in regardless of the state of the economy or the supply chain. The deals will be available for items like Apple AirPods, TVs, gaming systems (PS5, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch), Echo devices, Fire TV Sticks, robot vacuums, and gift cards. To get people excited for Amazon Prime Day, the retailer is also offering early Prime Day deals to drum up some business that will have people returning for the actual sale.

As previously mentioned, those working within the supply chain could feel some strain during this time of year, but there will still be much to gain. As people hunt for online deals, supply chain workers and transportation professionals will be needed more than ever, meaning job security amid a shaky economy.

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Is Another Trucking Bloodbath on the Horizon?

In 2018 the trucking industry was flourishing. Drivers were earning more than ever before, which quickly drove people into entering the career. But, in 2019, things took an unexpected turn. As things grew, the demand for trucking services declined, leading to more than a thousand trucking companies going out of business. The incident was later coined “the bloodbath of 2019”.

Now, experts are certain another “bloodbath” could be on the horizon. The question is: are they right?

What caused the bloodbath of 2019?

2017 through 2018 was a prosperous time for carriers in the trucking industry, but when 2019 rolled around, the market dried up and led to a period of contraction. This trying time was labeled as a trucking bloodbath due to the operating ratios for dry van carriers averaging over 100%. Carriers also battled oversupply, lack of demand, and fallen investments. In 2018, fleet owners thought it wise to invest in new trucks, but their investments later proved unbeneficial as 2019’s daily truckload volumes were over 4% under 2018’s volumes. Combined, these factors contributed to many trucking companies closing shop and hundreds of industry professionals without a job.

What is causing the latest trucking bloodbath?

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on global freight markets for the past two years. As we’ve attempted to move forward, the market has taken an unfavorable downturn, and the result could be as detrimental as what we saw in 2019.

Unfortunately, truckloads have already been relatively soft. While March has proven to be a stronger month in previous years, this year’s has not seen the same surge. A few factors contribute to the market’s current state, and industry professionals worry they could be enough to spark yet another bloodbath.

The contributing factors include:

1. Soft truckload volumes and spot rates

In 2020, inflation began creeping up, causing many consumers to slow down on spending and truckload volumes to lessen more and more. This slow truckload decline only worsened when Russia invaded Ukraine at the start of 2022. For the past few years, industry experts have monitored the dwindling volumes and confirmed that spot rates are also falling fast.

With too many trucks on the road and insufficient freight to load them with, spot rates have skyrocketed. In January, spot rates reached $3.83 per mile, and while they are now down to $3.42 per mile, many experts aren’t exactly sure how the rest of the year will play out.

2. Inflation and high fuel prices

As most Americans know, fuel prices, along with everything else, are higher than it’s ever been. This economic chaos is responsible for curbing consumer spending, therefore affecting truckloads and conjuring the foreseen bloodbath.

3. Consumer spending on the decline

After years spent indoors (thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic), consumer spending on physical goods has slowed, while spending on travel and entertainment has increased. Unfortunately, experiences do not drive much in the way of freight. This spending trend has taken much longer to balance out than most experts expected. In fact, in February, retail sales only reached 0.3%, and they haven’t been much better in the proceeding months.

 4. Inventory struggles

The lack of inventory has also played a significant role in why many experts believe another bloodbath is on the horizon. After the pandemic, transshipment infrastructures were clogged up, and freight velocity slowed. Many companies were left with barren shelves and unhappy customers. So, the same companies ordered more stock to safeguard themselves against inventory outages. However, this plan backfired and left businesses with more than they needed after prices spiked and consumers cut their spending habits. Now, experts believe the purchasing of goods will slow to work off excess inventory, and truckloads will continue to remain light.

Will some fleets survive the bloodbath?

So far, most of the larger trucking companies have had decent first-quarter earnings this year. According to market projections, analysts believe that the more established fleets will continue to prosper. However, smaller companies may not be so lucky.

Larger carriers don’t have to worry about spot loads or adjust pricing to account for customer rate cuts, whereas smaller fleets don’t have the same luxury. However, both small and large companies should still be cautious. In 2019, hundreds of fleets went bankrupt, three times as many as the year prior. So, when it comes to fleet survival, it really depends on several factors, such as location and client relations.

Moving forward, owners and operators can expect lower rates and an influx of new fleets entering the market, even after loads soften. And with everyone chasing after high spot volumes, fewer opportunities will be available. And as we saw in 2019, the declining spot rates, dwindling volumes, and increased prices will continue to push fleets into another trucking bloodbath. We all just have to hang on for the ride.

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What to Consider when Choosing Your Destination

Truck drivers are some of the country’s top earners and for a good reason. They work tirelessly to keep our world turning and our economy thriving. So it’s no surprise that a truck driver’s salary is competitive compared to other industries. On average, a truck driver can earn anywhere between $40,000 and $78,000 per year. But, did you know there are some states where the money for trucking is even better? However, you must be careful when deciding on where to go. In some states, the cost of living and state regulations could significantly impact the amount of money you actually make. 

Like any profession, each state offers different pros and cons. For instance, while one state may see a higher average annual pay, other factors like natural resources and geographic proximity could impact that number, ultimately making you less than the supposed average. That’s why it’s crucial to weigh all factors carefully before deciding where to reside as a truck driver.

The main factors to consider include:

1. The Cost of Living 

In most industries, the average pay varies from state to state, and, in some cases, the pay doesn’t always correspond to the cost of living within said state. Most of the time, a truck driver’s income is based on the specific route they drive, the type of freight they’re hauling, the difficulty of the job, and the company’s standards. But unfortunately, most companies don’t factor the cost of living into their wages. So, if you choose a state with a lower cost of living, your paychecks will go further.

2. Income Taxes

You must also consider the state’s income tax rates. If you want more take-home pay, you’ll want to choose a state with a lower income tax rate. As of 2020, only seven states offer no personal income tax, including Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. With these rules and regulations constantly changing, it’s wise to seek advice from a tax professional before deciding on a new job in a new state.

3. Quality of Life

While pay is a crucial factor when choosing your career and the location you’d like to work in, it should ultimately come second to the quality of life. For instance, some states offer better roads and highways, safer public rest areas and truck stops, and cheaper parking. These factors not only make your job easier, but they can help to reduce out-of-pocket costs and stress. You’ll also want to look into your state’s crime area to ensure the safety of your home and neighborhood.

4. State Regulations

Like pay, industry regulations can vary from state to state, and these regulations can impact trucking companies and drivers. And if the trucking company is on the smaller side, they could have trouble adapting due to limited resources. Unfortunately, if the company doesn’t have access to things like new equipment and personnel, these regulations could come at a high cost. If these added costs are passed on to the customers, you could see reduced pay.

5. Geography and Natural Resources

You should also consider the type of freight you’ll be hauling, the population, the geographic location, proximity to other states, international borders, and shipping ports when choosing a state to work in. You’ll also want to determine what natural resources the state you’re considering is known for since there’s a good chance you will be hauling it at some point or another.

6. Freight Volume

As previously mentioned, you’ll want to consider the amount of freight you’ll be hauling across states. The amount of cargo you handle often affects the pay you’ll receive per job. The states with the most freight being moved include Texas, California, Illinois, and Ohio.

The type of freight is also necessary to note, as it can also determine how much money you could be making.  

  • Top states for flatbed hauls: Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi
  • Top states for refrigerated loads: Texas, California, Illinois, Ohio, and Georgia
  • Top states for van loads: Texas, Illinois, Ohio, California, and Georgia

What are the best states for truck drivers?

Ready to find new territory? Make sure you get the most up-to-date information before deciding where to land. 

Here are the top five states to work in as a truck driver:

STATETOTAL JOBSAVERAGE SALARYHIGH/LOW
Kentucky6,466$72,287$107,000/$48,000
Indiana9,598$71,429$105,000/$48,000
Ohio15,146$70,880$105,000/$47,000
Pennsylvania14,369$71,491$106,000/$47,000
Delaware1,484$71,947$107,000/$48,000

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