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Older Drivers: How to Stay Safe Behind the Wheel

It’s officially the first week of December, which means it’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week! This national celebration was initiated in 2009 by the American Occupational Therapy Association to start a conversation around older driver safety. According to the CDC, there are currently 45 million motorists over the age of 65. In one year alone, approximately 250,000 of those older drivers were involved in vehicular accidents that resulted in severe injuries, and another 7,700 tragically died in traffic accidents. 

This week of awareness sheds light on those driving for personal reasons as well as our nation’s truck drivers. When long hours on the road are combined with harsh winter weather or age-related medical conditions, heavy-duty hauling can be dangerous to you and those around you. For these reasons, it is vital to recognize when the risks of driving outweigh the benefits and to learn different ways to stay safe in the meantime.

6 Safety Tips for Older Drivers

Older drivers are not only twice as likely to suffer from medical conditions that impair their driving skills, but they are also at a higher risk of getting injured or even dying in a car accident. However, these numbers don’t mean that those 65 and older have to fear getting behind the wheel; they just need to drive more cautiously, practice good judgment, and follow the CDC’s tips for older driver safety.

These CDC safety tips include: 

1. Obey all traffic laws. 

Follow speed limits and traffic signs, wear your seatbelt, and never drive under the influence. This is important for drivers of ALL ages.

2. Only drive under favorable conditions. 

If feasible, only operate your vehicle during the daytime and when the weather is decent. 

3. Keep an open line of communication with your doctor. 

Discuss any medical concerns or issues with your healthcare provider and determine if they could have an adverse effect on your driving. In terms of medication, determine if any potential side effects, such as dizziness or drowsiness, could interfere with your driving.

4. Have your vision and hearing checked at least once a year.

If either is impaired, be sure to obtain the proper prescription for your eyewear or hearing aids. It is imperative that you wear your glasses at all times when operating your semi truck.

5. Plan your route in detail. 

Before hitting the road, make sure you know exactly where you are going, what alternative routes there are, and where rest stops are along the way. It is always a good idea to have an up-to-date map with you as well. 

6. Adapt your truck to fit your needs. 

If allowed and/or feasible, add installable features or adaptive devices to your vehicle to help with proper vehicle maintenance.

By following these tips and regularly assessing your driving habits for any concerning shifts, you can continue driving safely and avoid at-fault accidents. However, if you notice any changes in your reflexes, vision, hearing, or physical or mental well-being, it’s essential that you stop driving and talk with your doctor. 

Click here to learn more about medical conditions that may affect your driving.

Observe Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

This week celebrates the role that transportation plays for older drivers and their communities. To celebrate Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, reach out to your favorite, experienced driver and start a dialogue about their safety and others. Drivers can observe this week by following the top six safety tips as recommended by the CDC.


Pro tip: Use the hashtag #OlderDriverSafetyAwarenessWeek when posting on social media this week!

6 Tips for Starting Your Own Trucking Business

Have you ever thought about starting your own business? How about starting your own trucking business? If you answered yes, you are in luck because there’s never been a better time to get started.

As the popularity of online shopping rises and the world’s shipping demands rapidly increase, owners and operators alike can anticipate more opportunities on their horizons. To meet the growing demands of consumers, the American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates that the trucking industry would need at least 900,000 new drivers on the road. These factors, plus the current driver shortage, strong freight market, and increased transportation rates, equal an abundance of opportunities for those wanting to start their own trucking business.

So, how exactly do you get started?

6 Tips For Starting Your Own Trucking Business

While running your own fleet operation can come with a number of enticing benefits, it can be challenging to get everything started if you don’t have the proper tools for success. 

Below, we’ll break down the steps you need to take and discuss how to create a solid trucking business.

1. Plan and prepare.

Not surprisingly, starting a business takes a significant amount of planning and preparation, regardless of having zero industry experience or years under your belt.

Some things to think about and plan for include: 

1) The name of your trucking business

Choosing a proper name for your business is crucial. Once you’ve decided on a name and checked to ensure another company is not using it, be sure to acquire a DBA if you chose a “fictitious name” or an LLC if you are operating under your name and/or professional alias. 

2) What’s your target market

Establishing your trucking business as a “niche carrier” (e.g., local hauler vs. refrigerated hauler) is vital if you want to avoid competition, optimize your opportunities, and streamline the costs and resources you’ll have to prepare for.

If you’re stuck deciding on your company’s niche, ask yourself:

  • Which industries, companies, and/or products do I find interest in? Is it in my target location? What’s my competition, if any?
  • What does this niche require in terms of product and logistics? Am I capable of meeting these requirements?
  • Who would my customers be? How will they benefit from me versus another company? How would I benefit from them?

3) Identify your rates

Deciding on your company’s rate can be a challenge. Your rate should generate profit, cover any costs, and compete with any neighboring competition.

To calculate your rate, follow these steps:

  • Choose your desired area and freight lane
  • Go to the local load site and find 10 loads going in the same direction
  • Contact the brokers of the 10 loads and inquire about how much they are paying
  • Calculate the average amount and add 10-15% to determine the price shippers are billed
  • Now, repeat these steps for shippers going in the opposite direction

2. Obtain the proper paperwork.

As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to obtain the proper permits and legal documentation needed to operate. This paperwork will vary based on the type of niche your company is.

Potential permits and licenses include:

  • US DoT and Motor Carrier (MC) Authority Numbers
  • Unified Carrier Registration (UCR)
  • International Registration Plan (IRP) License Plate
  • Heavy Highway Use Tax Return (Form 2290)
  • International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) Permit
  • BOC-3 Form
  • Weight/Distance Travel Permits
  • Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC)
  • Electronic Logging Devices

3. Create a business plan.

For any business, a detailed business plan is an essential tool for success. A comprehensive business plan should detail sales and marketing strategies, operational activities, a pricing breakdown, your fleet management plan, company goals, a resource breakdown, and any other business processes that will help keep you organized as your business grows. 

A complete business plan may also include:

  • The company description
  • A market analysis and service business analysis
  • The company’s sales strategy and financial projections
  • A personnel plan with management and organization details
  • An executive summary
  • Any key activities, partnerships, & resources
  • Your customer segments
  • Any value propositions
  • Your company’s cost structure

4. Purchase company assets and insure them.

If you have substantial funding, now is the time to purchase your company assets, including your commercial vehicles. And while there is nothing wrong with getting the best deal, don’t neglect the quality of your purchases. When getting started, paying a higher price for a brand-new truck may not sound appealing; however, this will save you money down the road with less required maintenance and fewer repairs.

If you choose to buy a used heavy-duty truck, you should investigate the vehicle’s maintenance history and look for/at:

  • Signs of damage
  • Rust or deterioration
  • Proper tire tread
  • Mileage and other gauge readouts

Once you have purchased your assets, be sure to insure them immediately. By obtaining insurance, you protect yourself and your company against financial burdens and risks, including vehicle damages and employee injuries.

5. Hire your employees.

Who you bring onboard is arguably one of the most important components to growing your business. There are a few ways to handle the hiring process. Still, it’s recommended to go through certified screening procedures to determine if a potential employee holds any violations, crash reports, or unfavorable record hits.

Certified screening procedures include:

  • Running the applicant’s CSA profile and a thorough background check
  • Conducting a detailed in-person interview
  • Completing on-the-job tests and evaluations

6. Now, grow your business.

Now that most of the nitty-gritty details are taken care of, it’s time to grow your business! For optimal profitability, diversify your business and never allow a single client to account for over 20% of your revenue, meaning you should have at least five consistent clients. If you need more clients, you can use online tools, including freight boards, a company website, industry networks, and/or social media. With your company’s website and social media accounts, be sure to keep things professional, up-to-date, and consistent with relevant content like services, hours of operation, and company details. If you post any photos and/or videos, only use high-quality content and take the opportunity to interact with your followers any chance you get.

Other tools trucking companies use for growth and success include: 

  • Fleet management software
  • An ELD solution
  • Real-time GPS tracking, geofencing, and facility insight reports
  • AI-powered dashcams

These tools can optimize your company’s time, cut down excess expenses, help improve your driver’s productivity and safety, simplify insurance claims, and protect your business. Plus, they keep downtime to a minimum and keep clients happy, encouraging them to spread the word about your company.

Get started with Mission Financial.

When starting your own trucking business, it’s essential to obtain proper coverage. At Mission Financial, we not only offer direct lending, but we also offer dealership lending. Our specialized loans cover first-time owners/operators, drivers with limited experience, and owners/operators with bad credit, bankruptcies, child support, or tax liens, plus small fleet loans. 

To obtain a loan from Mission Financial, you will need to complete and submit three online forms, including a credit application, vehicle spec sheet, and sales order.

Top 10 Truck Driving Jobs

Take a moment and think, what is one industry that has been behind the success of every other business in the world? That’s right, the trucking industry. 

There’s no denying that the profession of trucking has and continues to be one of the largest contributors to the American economy. Without it, millions of hardworking individuals would be without a job, and other businesses, like Amazon and Walmart, would collapse due to limited resources and the inability to ship. Different vital industries like construction, oil and gas, and automotive would also suffer greatly without trucking. And without the success of these enterprises, America’s economic infrastructure would ultimately give way. 

-> What Would Our World Be Like Without Truck Drivers?

So you see, truck drivers indeed are the backbone of our society, the oil that keeps the machine running smoothly, if you will. Fortunately, the essential occupation doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, making it one of the most secure jobs in the world. The only thing left to do is pick the type of driver you would like to be. No pressure.

What are the Different Types of Truck Drivers?

Flatbed Truckers 

Built differently than traditional tractor-trailers, flatbed trucks typically require additional training or education to execute safe and effective operations. On top of that, their drivers must thoroughly understand what they will be hauling and how to secure it properly since flatbed loads must be secured differently from tractor-trailer cargo. Typical freight includes vehicles, military vehicles, oversized freight, and oddly shaped cargo that doesn’t fit well on other truck types. Fortunately, since flatbed trucking is more demanding, it typically offers higher pay than different driving positions.

Dry Van Truckers 

Dry van trucking is an excellent position for those entering the occupation with minimal experience. These drivers are typically responsible for single trailer rigs that contain items like non-perishables and dry goods. A bonus for this title is that drivers are often not accountable for unloading upon arrival.

-> Buying vs. Leasing a Semi-Truck: An Owner Operator’s Guide

Tankers 

If dry goods aren’t your thing, you may be interested in becoming a tanker. Tankers primarily transport a variety of liquids, including gasoline, chemicals, and even milk. However, there are times that tankers will also be responsible for hauling dry products like cement or sugar. But in some cases, these drivers could also be dealing with highly explosive chemicals and gases. Since moving this delicate cargo can be, in some ways, dangerous, special training is required before starting this job.

Freight Hauler 

Otherwise known as commercial truckers, freight haulers specialize in moving cargo that does not fit into a specified category like reefers and tankers. These drivers need to be flexible and good with change.

-> Post-Pandemic Era for the Freight Industry?

Refrigerated Freight (Reefer Drivers) 

Refrigerated freight truckers have a pretty strenuous position. They are responsible for hauling loads that need to be kept at specific temperatures, like food, meats, highly perishable goods, medical products, and body products. That all being said, it’s crucial that reefer drivers know how to regulate the trucks’ temperatures, monitor for fluctuations, and adequately store freight for best refrigeration and temperature stability. Like flatbed drivers, reefers are often paid more than other types of drivers due to the amount of responsibility they are charged with.

Local, Regional, and OTR Drivers 

Local, regional, and OTR drivers are labeled or defined by the mileage they acquire. While local drivers only haul within a city, regional drivers often move freight throughout an entire state or metropolitan area. For OTR drivers, they have the potential to be given routes across the United States.

-> Why Owner/Operators Should Run Hard This Holiday Season

Auto Haulers / Car Haulers 

Auto haulers, are given special trailers that can hold an abundance of various automobiles. Where they are taking these automobiles varies. Drivers may be transporting from auctions, local vehicle lots, or ports; you name it. With tens of thousands of dollars on the line, you better believe this job comes with a more than fair wage.

Hazardous Materials Drivers 

The typical hazardous materials driver will haul fuel, compressed gas, chemicals, waste, and other flammable/combustible materials. It’s crucial for drivers to be knowledgeable about the contents they’re hauling and how to handle them safely in the event of an emergency. To ensure everyone’s safety, special training, certifications, and/or permits will be required.

-> 5 Things Owner/Operators Should Do to Achieve Success

LTL Freight Truckers

 LTL, or Less Than Truckload, drivers move smaller freight and don’t need to go as far as standard shipments. With their cargo being on the smaller side, they will typically have multiple stops to make in one day and are generally responsible for unloading their own freight.

Low Boy 

The trailers that sit close to the pavement and the truckers who drive them are low boys. These rigs sit lower to accommodate taller equipment or cargo and provide stability with a lower center of gravity. In most cases, these trailers are hauling overly large freight, like manufactured homes, construction equipment, etc. However, these low boys don’t fly solo. They often are escorted by vehicles with flashing lights and signs that read something like ‘Caution’ or ‘Oversized Load.’

Which Type of Truck Driver Should I Choose? 

It’s clear that trucking is not only a high-demand profession, but it is a career that offers flexibility, the opportunity to travel, and the chance to meet and develop camaraderie with fellow drivers. Regardless of your age, gender, or educational background, your chances of achieving success are just as probable as the next. Best of all, the variety of job titles allows you to choose an occupation that best suits your life.  

Before deciding, you’ll want to consider personal factors such as your location, risk tolerance, situation, and experience. For example, if you’re new to the industry, you won’t want to dive headfirst into something like transporting hazardous materials.  There is a great likelihood that you will hold multiple positions with various skill requirements throughout your career. So, use this list as a guide to discover where to start or where to go next. 

Want to know how much truck drivers make? Download our infographic!

How to Retain Your Top Drivers During a Shortage

This past year came with several challenges and transformed the shipping industry in more ways than one. Since July, truckload rates are up 40-50% and rising due to retailers’ attempts to restock their inventory to meet the heightened demand. With these businesses reopening and the need for shipping at an all-time high, now is the perfect time for truckers to find multiple offers for work.

However, despite the wealth of opportunities for drivers, many companies are experiencing high turnover rates. Not only that, but the industry is facing a driver shortage that many professionals feared at the start of the pandemic. While these scenarios don’t seem ideal for operators, there are ways to ensure driver retention. Here are some best practices for retaining your best drivers. 

Finding the fix for the national driver shortage 

1. Invest in your drivers.

In most industries, having the best equipment and supplies is essential to running a successful business and retaining employees. Inadequate equipment and low maintenance are significant reasons why many truckers are abandoning their fleets and employers. 

It’s proven that when companies provide new equipment and proper maintenance, drivers can work more and, in turn, earn more money. If your goal is to keep your employees on and happy, you may want to consider investing in them and the tools they need to succeed. 

The top investments to make include:

  • Newer truck models. 
  • Comfortable seating.
  • Auxiliary power units (APUs).

2. Set clear communication standards.

Many would agree that establishing communication standards is key to having a healthy work environment and a functioning team. In the trucking industry, clear and concise communication is invaluable. To improve retention and team-building, opt for two-way communication with direct channels and consider instilling committees to handle any feedback or peer input to allow for internal cohesion. Over time, you will see improved efficiency and excellent communication skills.

Employment Challenges Facing the Trucking Industry 

3. Offer competitive pay.

Possibly the most obvious way to retain your drivers is through competitive pay. Many owners and operators found pay to be the single factor that drives retention downward. Try offering pay based on a guaranteed minimum mile per week versus the non-reliable high pay per mile. A set mileage will provide your drivers with more stability and keep them happy and willing to do their job. You should also consider offering health insurance packages and/or retirement plans, depending on the size of your fleet. The more you can contribute financially; the more inclined your drivers are to maintain their loyalty.

4. Prioritize health.

Approximately 50% of drivers consider their health one of their top three concerns when considering joining a new fleet. That being said, it’s essential to promote good health by equipping all trucks with functional exercise equipment, offering wellness programs that encourage healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle, and scheduling free health screenings for all drivers. These screenings will ensure optimal health and act as preventative care that keeps your drivers on the road and out of the doctor’s office.

Staying Healthy on the Road

5. Set realistic expectations.

When it comes to any job, transparency and clear expectations are a must; this standard does not change in the transportation industry. Within the first 90 days of employment, drivers will be able to tell if a job is genuinely how it was described, meaning misrepresented positions could lead to higher turnover rates. To avoid this, be upfront with new drivers about the number of miles they can anticipate, compensation, and company culture. 

Another way to ensure retention is by instructing recruiters to provide accurate information when finding fleet operators. Instead of paying your recruiters on a “per hire” basis, offer a flat salary to encourage finding the best candidates instead of collecting drivers like bounties.

6. Support your employees.

Lastly, be sure to reward your drivers’ performances. Offering support and encouragement may seem fickle, but it can be the difference between a semi-operational and fully operational fleet. Experts have gathered that a 10% raise could cure the current driver shortage, although many drivers say that a simple show of appreciation could hold the same power as a raise or promotion.

It’s true, a supportive company culture can lead to excellence through and through. Instruct your fleet managers to monitor your drivers’ key performance indicators or KPIs and their performance through data-driven observations, such as positive customer reviews. You should also consider implementing safe driver programs that reward your fleet operators for minimal idling and safe driving practices.

Tips for Preparing Your Semi-Truck for Summer

Are you ready for a hot semi-truck summer? The warm weather is already here in some places, and truckers need to prepare their vehicles for what lies ahead. While most of this information may seem common sense, it serves as a good reminder for even experienced truckers to take proactive steps to prepare for the coming months. 

With more than 15 million trucks and 2 million tractor-trailers on the road, owner/operators need to take special care of their equipment at all times. Here are some things truckers should keep in mind this time of year:

1. Do a summer maintenance checkup

Truckers traditionally make preparations for the harsh winter weather, while summer conditions are sometimes overlooked. Hotter temperatures may mean a new set of measurements and calibration to ensure each component is set to work properly.

Tires

Colder temperatures compress air within the tires, giving off the impression that the tire pressure is too low. Some drivers will put more air into the tires to account for this change. However, once the weather begins to warm up, the air decompresses and can make tire pressure too high. As temperatures rise, do a tire pressure check to set a new normal.

Battery and Engine

Batteries struggle to work their best in cold weather, so keeping a solid charge during the warmer months is usually not a concern. Truckers should double-check their battery, though, heading into summer to ensure it works properly. Sometimes excessive heat can drain a battery, so monitor its charge regularly. Truckers also need to verify their truck engines stay cool as well. Inspect the truck’s coolant levels and hoses to avoid overheating and replace any suspect parts before they break.

AC

Spending all day in a truck without air conditioning sounds like a nightmare. Check internal cooling systems as summer starts, looking for leaks or cracks in the tubing. Get any parts replaced in order to have a comfortable ride no matter how hot it gets outside.

2. Be ready for emergencies

All experienced owner/operators know to be ready for whatever comes their way. That includes creating an emergency kit that can help when something goes wrong. An emergency kit should include items to help truckers survive and recover whenever an emergency happens. 

Some key things to have in an emergency kit:

  • Several days of food and water
  • Extra clothes
  • Cash
  • Cellphone and charger
  • Flashlight
  • Toolbox with tools of varying sizes
  • Flares
  • Swiss Army knife

It’s also a good idea to keep a first-aid kit in the truck. Use the beginning of summer as an opportunity to check that everything in the kit is current and replace any items that may have expired.

3. Take care of your health

It is vital that owner/operators take care of their physical and mental health at all times. During the summer months, truckers should wear sunscreen each day, even if they do not plan to spend much time out of the cab. While some truck windows protect from harmful UV light, truckers may often find themselves outside and need that layer of protection.

Truckers should also stay hydrated, drinking water and other healthy drinks while avoiding soda. Staying hydrated will help keep drivers alert while driving and avoid any possible distractions from feeling thirsty or dehydrated.

It’s also important to focus on regulating emotions on the road. The summer typically means more drivers on the road, especially on weekends. This may lead to increased traffic or more inexperienced drivers trying to navigate the increased traffic. Truckers must remember this fact and attempt to stay calm during stressful driving situations.

Preparing for a Busy Year

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to fade away, more and more people this summer are expected to travel. Even with increasing gas prices, there is expected to be a significant amount of traffic on the road as people want to leave their homes after spending much of the past year stuck inside.

Both owner/operators and other truckers must be prepared for this surge and ensure both their trucks and themselves are prepared for what comes ahead. For many truck drivers, the summer season may be seen as a respite from the snowy and icy conditions of winter. Summer brings its own challenges, but by taking the steps mentioned above, they can feel prepared and ready to take on the coming months.

7 Crucial Tips for Truck Tire Maintenance and Repair

Why it’s important to choose the right tires for your semi-truck

Every trucker has heard it a million times: The tires are the only part of the truck touching the road, so take care of them at all times. This advice has become so commonplace that it likely gets overlooked among the wide range of safety and performance checks drivers make each day before hitting the road.

It is imperative, though, that truckers ensure their tires work at peak performance at all times. A damaged tire presents an immediate safety concern for the driver and other motorists on the road. Let’s take a minute and look at what truck drivers should look for in their tires and the best ways to maintain them for safety and efficiency.

How to Pick the Correct Tires for Your Truck

The best tires for each driver depend on the type of truck piloted and the driver’s typical routes. Advances in tire technology continue to provide benefits, but even then, truck drivers may not be comfortable with some of the performance or cost tradeoffs that happen.

The traditional dual tire structure remains the most popular, but wide-based low-resistance tires continue to grow in popularity. As their name suggests, these tires provide less resistance than traditional tires, offering drivers improved gas mileage. When the price of diesel fuel is low, these types of tires are used less, as they need to be replaced more often; however, when the price of fuel climbs above $4 per gallon, they may become more cost-efficient over time.

How to Take Care of Your Truck Tires

No matter what type of tires you use, it is vital they work properly. Here are some tire maintenance checks all drivers should regularly make.

  1. Check air pressure.

Over- or under-inflated tires can reduce the performance of a truck and alter how it drives or reacts in an emergency. Drivers should manually check their air pressure before every trip to ensure it meets the manufacturer-designated standards. Larger fleets should consider using tire pressure monitoring systems (TMPS) and continuous tire inflation systems (CTIS) on trailers. While they bring an added cost, these systems ensure tire pressure remains safe and consistent.

  1. Check tread depth.

Along with air pressure, the depth of tire treads should be checked before every trip. The standard way is to put a penny with Lincoln upside down between the treads. If Lincoln’s face is visible, it is time for a new set.

  1. Rotate tires.

Based on where they are on a truck, tires can receive uneven wear and tear on the tread. Rotating tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles can help expand their life span. Along with rotating tires, complete a full three-axle wheel alignment as well. While these measures may seem tedious, they go a long way in keeping tires on the road.

  1. Ensure proper wheel torque.

This is easier than it sounds. Wheel torque is the simple act of adjusting the lug nuts on your wheels. Wheels that are either too tight or too loose can cause damage while driving, so take a few minutes and check each one before you start a trip.

  1. Practice good habits.

Tires are designed to perform a certain way. Driving too fast, making hard stops, or accelerating too quickly can quicken tire deterioration. Continue to drive in a safe manner that follows all road laws and best practices to protect tires and other valuable equipment.

  1. Fix problems when they happen.

For busy truckers, it can be easy to neglect small items that need fixing. Too often, these smaller problems grow into larger ones that can increase the cost of repairs. If you notice something is wrong with a tire or any part of your truck, make an effort to fix it as quickly as possible, so it does not turn into a larger problem.

  1. Stay up to date.

New information about tires and other preventative safety measures constantly change and are continually updated. Even experienced drivers need to ensure they have all the latest training and adhere to new standards and laws when driving. Drivers can never have enough training, so put yourself in a continuous learning state to enjoy long-term success.

Drivers today must work within several standards and regulations to properly operate on the road. This can feel like a lot at times. These steps are important, and taking smart care of your truck and its tires will provide sustainable financial benefits for you and your operation.

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