More Bang For Your Buck: Trucking Industry Deals from Around the Web

hot-dealsWhether your gut needs to be downsized, your empty belly filled or your alternator replaced, there’s probably a deal out there that can help you keep more of your hard-earned cash in your pocket.

LTL.com has searched the web for savings opportunities for truckers. See what we’ve found and click the red button in the upper right to add a comment if you know any good ones we haven’t listed here.

Free Fitness

It’ll cost you some sweat, but Travel Center of America’s and Petro’s fitness rooms, walking/running trails/maps, basketball hoops and outdoor fitness areas (as shown on this map) won’t set you back even a dime.

Explore 120 walking/running trails, shoot hoops at 17 sites, or workout at any one of 45 fitness rooms. And TA and Petro continue to add new trails, hoops and fitness areas so stay tuned for even more places to get pumped up for free.

Restaurant and Lodging Discounts

If you own a fleet, you might want to look into The Corporate Lodging Card, which can get you up to 40% off lodging rates at a wide variety of motels, including Super 8, Days Inn and Best Western. There’s a lengthy discussion here, on the TruckersReport.com forum, about whether or not it’s worth the investment.

It’s not just for retirees. Anyone age 50 or over can get an AARP card, and it’ll get you discounts at dozens of restaurants, including Denny’s, Dunkin Donuts and Papa Johns – and at dozens of motels, including Best Western, Days Inn and Econolodge.

There are more restaurant deals on ParkMyRig.com. Go to their site and click on “Trucker Discounts” in the navigation bar at the top of the page for deals at Golden Corral, Ryan’s, Dairy Queen and more.

Parts, Labor, LTL Space Deals

On Surplus-Solutions.com, operators can save as much as 40% on heavy duty trucks parts costs over a dealer shop’s direct price. The site also offers discounts on repairs labor. Read more about both these deals in this Overdrive.com article. Also in that piece is info about OneMorePallet.com, a company that offers a Priceline.com approach on LTL space, letting shippers name their price.

Car Insurance

Save some dough protecting the other vehicle in your life. If you’re a member of AITA, OOIDA or any other professional organization, be sure to call and ask if they can give you a special discount code to enter when filling out your quote for car insurance.

And read this article on Yahoo! for more ways trucking industry folks can get the best deals on insurance for their cars.

Free Parking Sites

Some TA locations offer Preferred Parking sites. The first two hours of parking in these sites is free, and if you need more time, there are a few ways get it – also for free:

Get 24 hours of free parking for every 50 gallons of fuel you buy, up to a maximum of 72 hours of parking (3 days), at a single location.

Get up to 24 hours of free parking when you spend a minimum of $20 in the store, restaurant or service area at the Preferred Parking location.

TA UltraONE Platinum Members receive 24 hours of free parking per month at participating Preferred Parking sites.

Deals for Newbies

If you’re just getting started with long-haul, you’ve probably noticed how much gear long-time long-haulers use in their home away from home. Some things are just indispensable for living comfortably and economically on the road.

At GotTruckerStuff.com newbies can find package deals that put all those must-haves together in one box and then ship straight to your home or a terminal. They also offer deals deals that long-time truckers can appreciate on this page.

Find free iphone apps for truckers on their site too: scroll down to the bottom of the page to find apps for weather, traffic, road conditions, fuel price tracking and even an app that provides mobile scanning so you can get paid faster.

In the Market for a GPS Unit?

TruckersStore.com sells truck accessories and on-the-road gear. You can see a list of their email specials here. They also sell discount open box and overstocked items, for example, a PC Miler 750 Truck Routing GPS with 7″ LCD Screen with list price of $225.95 was returned in the original box with all accessories and manuals and is marked down to $195.95. And just to sweeten the deal you get free shipping on open box and overstocked items.

Discounts for OOIDA Members

If you’re an OOIDA member, you qualify for dozens of discounts on everything from tires to gauges to Jeep vehicles, tax services and expense tracking software. Membership is $50 and you can see a full list of all OOIDA’s trucker deals and discounts here.

Membership in the American Independent Trucker Association is Free…

…and that membership allows you to sign up for one of two programs to get discounts on NAPA parts:

For Independent Owner Operators

Get a NAPA Preferred Customer Card when you sign up online or by phone. The card gets you fleet pricing on parts at any of the 1600+ participating NAPA locations nationwide.

For Fleet Owners

To get started on this program you only need an account with your local NAPA location. AITA Fleet Affiliates get discount pricing on day to day purchases at their primary NAPA location. They also get a quarterly 4% rebate, which is paid on qualifying purchases once minimum requirements are met (see your NAPA store for details).

This program also allows fleet owners to take advantage of the NAPA stocking program, which offers obsolescence protection, overstock protection, line changeovers and other features.

What are Carriers Seeing on Your PSP Report?

When Martin Jez started exploring his options for leasing to a carrier, he was in for a surprise. A recruiter told him his CSA score was about 300 and that he’d been denied a lease because of it.

Jez’s business partner, also his wife, tracked down his Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) report which showed only four inspections and no crashes. Their company, Jez Trucking, had only one out-of-service incident, and its carrier profile in the CSA Safety Measurement System showed no percentile ranking (or “score”) in any of the five public Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

Altogether, on the surface, there was nothing to explain the high CSA score.

As the Jezes attempted to find the source of the discrepancy, Martin was making progress on arrangements with a potential lessor, one that takes a different view of the PSP.

“That carrier, Texas-based RoadMasters Transport, Jez felt was more suited to the reality that an incoming driver’s prior violations don’t contribute to the new carrier’s CSA score,” according to this article on OverdriveOnline.com.

The article also explains that the root of the problem appears to be a matter of how FMCSA weights more recent violations. In any case, Jez’s knowledge of the problem made it possible for him to better explain his situation to prospective carriers.

It’s a cautionary tale for any driver exploring new opportunities: know your record and be able to defend any anomalies.

How to Check Your PSP Record

Every commercial driver has a PSP record. If you check yours and find information that’s inaccurate, you can contest the data by visiting FMCSA’s DataQs online system.

Also, if a carrier cites your PSP record as the reason you’re not being hired, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to a free copy from that carrier.

There are two ways to get your record:

1. For $10 through FMCSA’s DataQs system

2. Through a DOT Privacy Act request. This is free, but more of a hassle:

Send a written request via fax (202) 385-2335, email at foia@fmcsa.dot.gov, or snail mail: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Office of Information Management, MC-RIS, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, D. C. 20590.

Include your name, address and telephone number and specify you are looking for FMCSA Pre-Employment Screening Program data that is linked to your CDL, and include the number and licensing state.

Make explicit you are requesting the information under the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act.

Also, be aware that carriers access info about your record via a variety of data aggregators. You can see that list and where to appeal mistakes here.

Tips for Maintaining Your PSP Record

A big part of Jez’s problem came from having recent and heavily-weighted violations. Be smart by focusing your efforts to avoid violations that red flag your carrier and prompt a visit from the DOT, the ones that fall under “Unsafe Driving” and “Fatigued Driving.” These are two of the seven BASICs, the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories.

The other categories are driver fitness, alcohol and drugs, vehicle maintenance, cargo securement, and crash history. When you receive an inspection, the officer evaluates you based on these categories. Each one generates a separate score and these are combined as your CSA score.

In this article, TeamRunSmart.com gives you the whole rundown on the BASICs and the six different kinds of inspections you need to be ready for.

The Kind of DOT Attention You Don’t Want

Small things like a flapping tarp or broken light are the kind of minor infractions that catch the eye of officers. Take a close look at your rig every day to make sure you don’t give inspectors an excuse to call you over.

On Roadtrucker forum, Enid Neel of BigSemiTrucks.com says he “knows an officer who would pull guys in if their dash was cluttered. He figured if you were throwing junk on the dash, you might be careless in other areas too.”

Update Your Motor Carrier Form MCS-150

Part of how your CSA score is calculated depends on how many trucks you have and how many miles you run, information collected by the MCS-150. Info on this form also allows the FMCSA to connect you with your record in its databases, so another reason to submit this is to make sure they have your current e-mail and snail mail addresses.

The Seat Belt Gotcha

One of the most easily avoidable violations is failing to wear your seat belt. Don’t unbuckle it until the officer has arrived at your window and has asked for your paperwork. It’s a 7-point violation if you remove your belt before the officer sees that you were in fact wearing it, especially if your engine is still running.

Protect Your CSA Score

Wayne Schooling on TenFourMagazine.com recommends some homework for truckers who want to protect their CSA score: First, get a pocket version of the DOT regulations. Also, understand how the FMCSA assesses points under CSA.

And since every inspection affects your score, keep copies of all your inspection reports. Finally, join an association. “Every driver should have someone to turn to,” he says, “such as the NTA, to get the help they need.”

Inform Yourself About CSA Scores and the PSP

JJ Keller’s FAQs about the CSA. Find dozens of detailed answers to questions about violations and scoring, how FMCSA uses your data, who’s affected by the legislation and how, what triggers an intervention, etc.

What Truckers Need to Know about CSA and Insurance. An interview with trucking insurance experts Rusty Vollmer and Charles Clowers.

Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) explains how to enroll in the PSP.

This article, “Inconsistent Enforcement: CSA’s Heat Index”,  includes a map of the states that are the toughest and weakest on truck and driver inspections. It’s part of a year-long series Overdrive published on the CSA and includes a dozen articles about the law and what drivers and carriers should look out for.

Commercial Carrier Journal and Overdrive Magazine published an in-depth series on the DOT’s CSA program that analyzes two full years’ worth of data. You can access that info here: http://www.ccjdigital.com/csa-data-trail

What do Truck Drivers Want?

Fleet owners are wondering more and more these days. The driver shortage is a story that’s made the mainstream lately with coverage on CBS News and CNN.

Some say a shortage is not really the problem. In a report compiled by Bridgestone, Joe Rajkovacz of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) says what’s really going on is churn, that there are plenty of drivers but companies are failing to keep them.

“Turnover rates of 130% or more are common,” he says, “and that’s because trucking is not a very attractive profession for most people today. Drivers want respect. They want home time. And they want pay that makes it possible for them to share in the American dream.

That’s one man’s take. What do you say drivers want? Leave your comment below.

Click here to read what industry experts are saying….

Driving Skills for a Smaller Fuel Bill

iStock_000008984856XSmallCarlos Cruz, a struggling lease-operator, was ready to turn in his keys after a few months on the road. But as a last-ditch effort, he decided that on this final trip to the terminal, he’d follow all the advice about fuel efficiency he’d been hearing from trucking business gurus and see if it allowed him to recoup expenses and increase his take-home pay.

The experiment was a success, so much so that he decided to give his business another month. After 30 days his fuel mileage went from the 6.2 to 7.8 miles per gallon, a 1.6 mpg improvement that more than quadrupled his net revenue.

That was three years ago. Today Carlos continues his lease deal and can afford to live well on his income.

Details of his story are in Jim Park’s column on TruckingInfo.com, but the three habits he says make the biggest difference are:

  • Slowing down from 65 to 55 mph
  • Never idling
  • Becoming a “progressive shifting machine.”

He also says he’s forgotten where the cruise control switch is, although other fuel efficiency experts say cruise control has its place.

For example, Detroit Diesel application engineer Chuck Blake points out in this article that cruise control gives drivers a break from active driving and may be a tad more efficient on flat roads. “A really good driver can always out-perform cruise control,” he says, “but it’s tough and it’s tiring because you’re always working.”

On the other hand, the electronic control module (ECM) is not as good at telling the difference between a hill and a headwind, Blake says. All it knows is that some external force is slowing the truck down, and it’s going to feed as much fuel to the engine as it needs to maintain the set roadspeed.

A fuel-efficient driver lightens up on the gas pedal when full power isn’t needed, like when cresting a hill. “He can see the top of the hill, and backs off the throttle as he goes over the top”, Blake says. “Sure, he gives up a few miles per hour, but the fuel savings is phenomenal.”

Running full throttle to the top of a hill means wasted fuel when you’ll only need to apply the brakes as you descend the other side. “Kick it out of cruise as you near the top, and let gravity help you,” he says. “You’ll make up the lost road speed quickly enough on the way down.”

On Land Line magazine’s website, an article on lead foot rehab says fuel efficiency starts with a visit to a reputable shop where they can check the ECM for valuable stats that help you most effectively modify your driving technique. Look for data about engine RPM, time in gear, idle time, percent fuel use, fuel used idling, load factors, PTO time, PTO fuel used, speed vs. rpm, and engine load vs. rpm. The stats may also point to programming tweaks that will help reduce fuel consumption.

Overdrive.com’s 67 Fuel Tips to Boost Fuel Economy recommends more good driving habits:

  • Avoid revving the engine between shifts. Ease into each new gear, and don’t be in a hurry to climb through them.
  • Adjust shifting patterns. Download engine data to compare your shifting behaviors – RPMs at shift point – to the optimal RPM “torque bands” for your engine. Adjusting your shifting to fit the make and model of engine can make a big difference. Every 1,000-RPM reduction in engine speed delivers a 1 percent gain in fuel economy.
  • Run in your engine’s “sweet spot.” Once you reach cruising speed, operating in the peak torque zone gives you optimum horsepower, so the engine runs most efficiently. It takes only about 200 horsepower to maintain 65 mph.
  • Lower your average highway speed. Every MPH over 55 equals a 0.1-MPG drop in fuel economy.
  • Anticipate traffic signals. If you can approach slowly and avoid a complete stop, it saves fuel and reduces equipment wear.
  • Minimize AC use. Running the air conditioner delivers a 2⁄10 to 4⁄10-MPG hit. (However, some efficiency experts say that, over 55 MPH, the drag created by open windows hurts mileage more than the AC.)
  • Use truckstops atop hills. Driving uphill toward the truckstop allows natural deceleration, and going downhill to re-enter the highway requires less fuel.

Besides driving habits, dozens of other factors impact mileage. Overdrive’s 67 tips article will give you many more ideas. Also see Caterpillar’s Tractor-Trailer Performance Guide for an even more thorough guide to troubleshooting aerodynamic issues, route selection, tires, gearing, transmission, engine cooling requirements and more.

Get More Exercise on the Road

iStock_000001117145XSmallMaking time for regular physical activity is hard for anyone, but for those of us who travel a lot – especially truckers – it’s especially tricky.

It’s Not Just About Weight Loss

But if you can get motivated and find a way to make it happen, you can look forward to sleeping better, enjoying a happier mood and staying awake more easily, either behind the wheel or behind a desk. Exercise reduces blood pressure, decreases cholesterol and helps you live longer too.

Fitness Ideas For Truckers, Drivers and Desk Jockeys 

Whether it’s driving, answering phones or using a computer that keeps you on your butt all day, there are ways to get moving. Every little bit helps. Force a little extra walking by parking farther from the restaurant, take the stairs wherever you can, stretch your arms and pick up your feet at the stoplight. Here are some other ideas we found on the web:

Make a plan. On BodyBuilding.com, you can choose from a variety of fitness plans tailored to all kinds of lifestyles. Read tips for stretching and how to work each of your muscle groups, find dozens of articles to help get you motivated, and search the thousands of threads on their forums for comments from others have dealt with your exercise issue. TruckersReport.com features an exercise forum and this thread offers ideas for getting exercise on the road, including karate ricks to get your heart rate up.

Get a workout in the parking lot. Trucker Burnie Miller spends only eight minutes a day doing Russian kettle bell swings. It’s all he needs to stay strong, toned and to burn enough calories to keep his gut size in check (in conjunction with his Hunger Free Trucker diet, which you can read about here). And Team Run Smart spells out a cardio and strength routine on their site that can be done in 20 to 30 minutes.

Use your own body weight to get stronger. Here’s a trucker workout that can be done in 10-15 minutes, without any equipment. It’s from TheHealthyTrucker.net.

Try exercising in your cab. Abdominal squeezes, shoulder shrugs and heel raises can all be done without getting out of the driver’s seat. A trucker named Joe Martin has created a video called “Truckersize” showing you how. You can learn more about it and buy it here.  On this forum is a long thread with lots of people describing the exercises they do in their cabs. And here’s a video on YouTube showing you how to get isometric exercise sitting in front of a steering wheel.

Fit in more walking. Take a 10-minute walk around the parking lot at every stop and by the end of the day you’ve burned more calories than if you’d just filled up and got back in the truck. In a pinch, you can even walk laps in the cargo of your truck. Some truckers even stop a little more often to fit more of those walks in to the day.

Use your feet to do some exploring. You can download an app for finding walking trails that also offer room to park a rig. And at Traillink.com you can search by city for even more trails.

Get inspiration from people who’ve already done it. Read the story of John Drury, a truck driver who used to spend 70 hours a week behind the wheel. About the time his weight reached 400 pounds, a good friend died of complications from diabetes and Drury started making changes. Another trucker explains how he stays in shape driving nights and how 15- to 20-minute power naps help him do it.

New HOS: Savings Lives? Or Just Making Life Harder?

iStock_000004045744XSmallWhere do you stand on the new HOS?

If you’re reading this blog, odds are you don’t look kindly on the increased regulation that’s being enforced as of July 1. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration claims the changes will save 19 lives and prevent 560 injuries each year, those claims are disputed by many in the industry. Some predict losses in productivity and a pay cut for truckers.

The changes are stirring up plenty of controversy. If you want to get your blood pressure up, check out some of these stories:

  • Transport Times features an editorial showing that data gathered by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) disputes FMCSA’s estimates of industry impact. While the FMCSA projects savings of $133 million, ATRI’s projections have the new HOS regulations costing the trucking industry $189 million.
  • Fleetowner.com reports the findings of an analyst who predicts new HOS will make it harder to hire truckers and create a 2% to 10% productivity decrease in the industry.
  • Supply Chain Digest’s website offers a report about the American Trucking Associations’ claim that the FMCSA bent its evidence to support its own agenda.
  • The story’s been covered by national news outlets, and you can see Commercial Carrier Journal’s website for links to stories in the Wall Street Journal, on NBC and NPR.

Others in the industry are looking at the issue more pragmatically. You can find articles about exactly what the changes are and how best to work within the new law on these websites:

What do you think about the new HOS? Will they change how you work?