Just the (Basic) Facts About Getting Into Trucking

Ready to take the plunge and become a truck driver, but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place. Here are several tips and information about the trucking industry that will help you make a decision. And when you’ve got all the requirements fulfilled, please click on the “apply now” button on this page!

  • Trucking requires a commercial driver’s license. This is the most basic of all prerequisites to becoming a trucker. A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is needed to operate any vehicle that is over 26,001 pounds. There are three classes of CDLs: A, B, or C. A class A CDL is the most common. You can also take additional tests to add endorsements to your license. To get your CDL, you will be required to take a written and road exam. Many people choose to enroll in a trucking school or training program to prepare them for the exam, but you can also obtain study guides to help you pass the exam without getting into a program. The Trucker’s Report lists three top driving schools to consider when looking for the best option.
  • You’ll also need to take the Federal Motor Carrier Safety exam, which includes both a written and a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical component that checks your sight and hearing. You’ll need to pass the physical exam once every two years to maintain your license. The DOT physical is conducted by a licensed medical examiner.
  • You may be asked to take random drug and alcohol screenings. This is required to keep the roads (and you) safe.
  • Trucking is a very physical job. While you might think it’s mostly sedentary, there are some physical aspects of the job that will require you to put in some heavy manual labor. You will be asked to load or unload freight at some point. You’ll also need to slide the tandems, raise and lower the trailer jacks, and throw on heavy winter chains.
  • Consider buying or leasing a truck. These are generally your two options. You can take out a loan for your semi, or you can get a commercial truck lease. Both will have you making monthly payments towards the balance of the truck, which will cost anywhere from $30,000 to $250,000. If you choose to lease the truck, the company who owns the lease is responsible for most of the repairs and maintenance. Typically, leasing payments are lower than loan payments, and you won’t be required to make a down payment. But if you own your vehicle, you can make modifications, plus you will actually own the truck after you finish making your loan payments.
  • You’ll need to maintain a clean driving record. Having several moving violations or even a single DUI can prevent you from working with many carriers.

Having a CDL and a clean driving record means unlimited opportunities in the trucking industry. When you are ready to advance your career, apply with us!

Top Twenty-Five Trucking Songs

There’s nothing better than jammin’ to some classics while on a haul through the mountains or on a long winding highway. As the truck hums, the music fills the cab, and the sounds of Jerry Reed or Dan Seals’ voice makes you nostalgic for another time and place. There are so many albums to pick from, but we managed to narrow the list down to our favorite top twenty-five trucking songs:

    1. Willie Nelson, On the Road Again
    2. Duane Edy, 40 Miles of Bad Road
    3. Kay Adams, Little Pink Mack
    4. Dan Seals, Big Wheels in the Moonlight
    5. Red Sovine, A Truck Driver’s Prayer
    6. Merle Haggard, Truck Driver Blues
    7. Dave Dudley, Cowboy Boots
    8. Dave Dudley, Six Days on the Road
    9. Alabama, Roll on 18-Wheeler
    10. East Bound and Down, Jerry Reed
    11. C.W. McCall, Convoy
    12. Red Sovine, Teddy Bear
    13. Ronnie Milsap, Prisoner of the Highway
    14. Eddie Rabbitt, Driving My Life Away
    15. The Willis Brothers, Give Me Forty Acres To Turn This Rig Around
    16. Stompin’ Tom Connors, Bud the Spud
    17. Kathy Mattea, 18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses
    18. Janis Joplin, Me and Bobby McGee
    19. Claude Gray, How Fast Them Trucks Can Go
    20. Kitty Wells, Truck Drivers’ Sweetheart
    21. The Kendalls, Thank God for the Radio
    22. Buck Owens, Truck Driving Man
    23. Roy Drusky, Long Long Texas Road
    24. Red Sovine, Giddy Up Go
    25. Red Simpson, Roll Truck Roll

It was hard to pick just twenty-five when there are so many classics. Which albums or songs do you love? Do you prefer the old classics to new artists? How do you like to listen to music on the road? Let us know in the comments!

Should E-Log Devices Be Mandatory?

A new proposal issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that electronic log devices should be mandatory. The proposal covers all drivers who prepare hours-of-service records of duty status.

The proposal was green-lighted by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which spent seven months reviewing the terms.

According to the FMCSA, within two years all drivers need to be using Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). The only exception is for those drivers using devices that meet the current automatic onboard recording device standard. These drivers will be able to use those devices another two years.

The FMCSA’s reasoning behind the requirements includes a reduction of a massive amount of paperwork that is involved with traditional methods. The industry will save about $1.4 billion a year in paperwork alone.

Another $400 million will also be saved in annualized safety benefits from preventing fatalities and injuries each year.

“By implementing Electronic Logging Devices, we will advance our mission to increase safety and prevent fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “With broad support from safety advocates, carriers and members of Congress, we are committed to achieving this important step in the commercial bus and truck industries.”

Impaired driving was a factor in more than 12 percent of the 129,120 total crashes that involved large trucks or buses in 2012.

The proposal also included a provision to protect drivers from harassment by motor carriers using information from an ELD. It establishes a procedure for filing a harassment complaint and creates a maximum civil penalty of up to $11,000 for a motor carrier that engages in harassment of a driver that leads to an hours-of-service violation or the driver operating a vehicle when they are so fatigued or ill it compromises safety. The proposal ensures that drivers continue to have access to their own records and require ELDs to include a mute function to protect against disruptions during sleeper berth periods.

For those concerned about privacy, the FMCSA said that ELD records will continue to reside with the motor carriers and drivers. Electronic logs will be made available to FMCSA personnel or law enforcement during roadside inspections, compliance reviews and post-crash investigations.

What do you think about the new proposal? Are you using an ELD, and if so, do you like it? Let us know your thoughts below!

 

Preventing Trucking Accidents and Ten Reasons Why Accidents Happen

It is estimated that 9% of all traffic fatalities involve commercial vehicles. And while 80% of accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, are the fault of the non-commercial driver, it is the trucker’s responsibility to help prevent the other 20%. In 2010, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that 3,400 people died in accidents involving semi-trucks, and that fatalities rose 8% compared to 2009.

To prevent accidents, it’s important to understand what causes them. According to the Department of Transportation, the top ten causes of trucking accidents include:

  1. Driver fatigue.
  2. Debris on highway.
  3. Hitting a stopped vehicle from behind.
  4. Driving off the side of the road.
  5. Speeding.
  6. Poor road conditions due to bad weather or maintenance.
  7. Loss of control.
  8. Mechanical failure.
  9. Shifting cargo.
  10. 10.  Lane drifting.

Trucking is a high-risk job that involves constant attention to your vehicle, your driving, and other vehicles on the road at all times. Even one second of daydreaming or a moment of intense fatigue can lead to an accident. These accidents can cost both the driver and the trucking company dearly, leading to injured employees, loss of life, inventory loss, damage, production delays, liability and insurance costs, and lost business. It is estimated that one fatal crash can cost over $3 million, while non-fatal crashes cost about $62,000. Here are the top ways truckers can reduce accidents and save lives:

  • Drive the speed limit and gradually slow down before work zones. Be on the lookout for construction workers on the side of the road and watch carefully for signs that herald a sudden decrease in speed.
  • Don’t drive fatigued. It’s difficult to stay alert on the road when the hum of the engine and the warm sun can cause drowsiness. But knowing that even one second of drooping eyes can result in catastrophe should be serious enough to keep you alert. Pull over for quick naps when you can, get a full night’s sleep, and minimize caffeine to avoid crashing. Sticking to a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables will also alleviate fatigue, along with drinking plenty of water.
  • Watch for debris on the road. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you in case they swerve to avoid debris, leaving you ample time to also avoid it.
  • Watch for problem drivers. Everyone is distracted these days by their phone, eating, putting on makeup, or by other passengers in the car. Keep an eye out for vehicles that are drifting into your lane or swerving intermittently.
  • Use your turn signals and allow plenty of time to change lanes. Always check every mirror before making a switch and watch your blind spots.
  • Keep abreast of weather conditions and slow down for ice, rain, and snow.
  • Inspect, inspect, inspect. Perform a thorough inspection of your truck before and after long hauls, paying special attention to brakes and tires.
  • Make gradual stops.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum. Don’t wear ear buds, talk on the phone, or eat while driving. Pull over if you need to make a phone call.

What recommendations do you have for accident prevention? Let us know in the comments

Preventing Trucking Injuries

Every worker who uses their body in some capacity at work is vulnerable to injury. Muscle sprains, falls, falling objects, improper lifting techniques, and other accidents are the most common causes of accidents at work. Due to the nature of their work, truckers must be especially vigilant when it comes to injury prevention, since they can be injured while unloading freight and while driving.

A recent report from Washington noted that the most common trucking injuries include:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders: the upper back and neck are especially prone to injury when a trucker is loading and unloading freight. The constant vibration and jerking of the truck while in motion also contributes to these injuries.
  • Falls: falling from the truck and falling down stairs were both cited as frequent causes of injury. Truckers also reported falling on ice while changing a tire or walking around the truck.
  • Vehicle-related injuries: more than half of truck driver fatalities are from accidents on the road. When it comes to accidents, there are four main causes, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
  • Driver error. This is the most common cause of accidents. Driver error can result from fatigue, mind-altering substances, distraction, and poor training.
  • Equipment malfunction. Sloppy inspections, defective parts, and improper maintenance of brakes and tires contribute to malfunctions.
  • Incorrectly loaded freight. This throws the trailer’s weight distribution off, affecting how the truck maneuvers and handles on the road. It can also cause the truck to tip.
  • Bad weather. Icy roads, debris, rain, and other hazardous conditions can affect steering and handling.

Since an injury could be career ending for truck drivers, it’s important to stay safe on the job at all times. Here are a few tips:

  • Take frequent rest breaks and stretch. Avoid drinking too much caffeine or taking OTC stimulants, as this can cause you to “crash” and become exhausted while on the road.
  • Wear back braces and always use mechanical aids to lift heavy loads.
  • Ensure loading docks are clean, dry and free from spills.
  • Never be on the opposite side of the truck while it is being loaded or unloaded.
  • Properly secure loads with straps or bands to ensure they loads don’t shift. Utilize load bars, vertical supports, and load straps to ensure the load arrives in the same way as when departed.
  • Never be downhill of a moving load.
  • Wear a high-visibility vest when exiting your truck at all times.
  • Use three points of contact when entering and exiting your truck. Don’t jump down, as this puts added pressure on joints.
  • Don’t stand on your wheel to service your truck.
  • Immediately report unsafe conditions of equipment.
  • Always wear proper footwear.
  • Inspect belts and straps for wear and tear before using them.
  • When tightening down binders or chains, watch for slips and breaks.
  • Slow down before a corner, and never allow the trailer to push the truck.
  • Do not run hills.
  • Maintain brakes, wipers, turn signals, and lights.
  • Perform a thorough inspection before and after long hauls.
  • Do not drive next to another truck.

What are some safety tips you have picked up along the way? Please let us know!

 

 

Best Roadside Diners

Packing your lunch full of fresh fruits, cold meats, and sliced veggies is an excellent way to eat healthy and save money while on the road. But if the sight of those plastic sandwich baggies floating around your cab is making you dread today’s PB&J, consider stopping at one of these delicious diners found on America’s highways. These restaurants aren’t your average dried-egg-and-greasy-bacon plate establishments that will cost you many Tums later. In fact, many of them serve up heart-healthy options. So swing into the parking lot, pull up a stool, grab a glass of ice tea, and get ready to dig in at any of these top-rated restaurants:

  1. Iowa 80 Kitchen, Walcott, IA. Home to the world’s largest truck stop, Iowa 80 also houses a world-famous kitchen with a 50-foot salad bar. The kitchen serves up light-as-air pancakes, crispy bacon, and other tantalizing meals, 24/7.
  2. Soulman’s Bar-B-Q, Van, TX. Situated on Interstate Hwy 20, this BBQ joint has an aroma of sweet meat smoke that wafts for miles into a hungry trucker’s cab. Ribs are fork-tender, and the brisket is like butter. There’s also smoked turkey and chicken that you can pile high on doughy sandwich bread.
  3. Gott’s Roadside, St. Helena, CA. Some people call it the most heavenly roadside food ever. This diner is known for its glorious garlic fries and rich cheeseburgers.
  4. The Griddle, Winnemucca, NV. Cruise along Highway 95 until you hit the Griddle, a place that features homemade pies, pastries, and waffles. The house specialty is a roast turkey sandwich on rye with cranberry sauce.
  5. Matt’s Big Breakfast, Phoenix, AZ. This famous establishment features omelets made-to-order, crispy hash browns, and rosemary fries.
  6. River City Grill, Yuma, AZ. This tiny restaurant features a variety of food, including Jamaica jerk chicken, seafood gumbo, and wild raspberries and salmon.
  7. Ariston Café, Litchfield, IL. Open since 1924, this diner is known for its melt-in-your-mouth steaks and chicken.
  8. White Hut, Springfield, MA. If you’re craving a burger and you’re in another state, White Hut is worth the drive. They also feature ice-cold root beer floats and hot dogs.
  9. Mickey’s Diner, St. Paul, MN. This famous diner can be seen as a backdrop in many movies. But its regular job is being one of the best diners in the U.S. Hand-dipped malts and secret-recipe pancakes are just a couple of items on the menu at Mickey’s.
  10. Blue Benn, Bennington, VT. The eight-page menu at Blue Benn features Indian pudding, baked custard with cornmeal, and huge burritos that can satiate the biggest of appetites.

What’s your favorite roadside diner? Let us know in the comments!

Incredible Facts About Trucking

Trucking is one of those professions that can lay claim to being the backbone of the American economy. Without truck drivers, commerce would grind to a halt. Americans wouldn’t have access to fresh milk and produce, electronics that keep our world humming, and medical devices that save lives. Each day, thousands of shipments are delivered by the competent hands of our nation’s drivers, who take to the roads in freezing rain, snow, high winds, and rocky terrain, with an endurance that matches those of the hardiest laborers. Here are sixteen incredible facts about this industry:

  • Many truckers have clocked over a million miles and counting. The average driver books about 105,000 miles a year. If you are one of them, please tell us your story below in the comments!
  • There are over 3 million truck drivers in the U.S.
  • Trucking makes up the largest portion of the American transportation industry – about 27 percent. Top goods that are hauled include clothes, food, furniture, and machinery.
  • Truckers use up to 50 billion gallons of gas each year, which accounts for about 12-13% of the nation’s fuel consumption.
  • About 84% of trucking-related accidents are the other guy’s fault (the car).
  • A truck’s engine is six times bigger than a car engine, and can go up to one million miles.
  • One out of nine truckers is an independent driver.
  • The income for a driver has increased continuously each year, with $55,000 being the average for 2013.
  • Businesses choose trucks for 82 cents out of every dollar they spend on shipping.
  • A fully loaded truck weighs about 80,000 pounds.
  • Almost 62% of trucking hauls are 100 miles or less.
  • 78% of freight in America is driven by trucks.
  • The average daily run for a long-haul driver is 500 miles.
  • In 2015, the freight transportation industry is predicted to carry 18 billion tons of freight, generating $1.3 trillion in revenue.
  • Total tonnage volumes will grow by 32%.
  • Trucking exclusively serves over 80% of all communities in the U.S.

Do you know an interesting fact about trucking? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Maintaining Your Truck and Getting Ready for Spring

Maintenance is an essential part of owning a truck.  If you are proactive and take care of leaks and fluid replacement before they become big problems, you will avoid major breakdowns on the road and help keep your truck in tip-top shape.  Here are several tips to remember when performing truck maintenance, including how to get your truck ready in time for spring weather.

  • Perform a thorough inspection, from top to bottom.
  • Check all electrical connections for fraying or poor connections.
  • Spray battery and starter with a spray grease to maintain peak performance of the charging system.
  • Check axle seals, wheel seals, and lubricant for leaks.
  • Look for corrosion and stress cracks in the steel suspension metal.
  • Keep air tanks drained and air dryer maintained.
  • Balance tires and get your oil changed.
  • Grease your slack adjusters and kingpins.
  • Replace u-joints and drag links.
  • Look for loose, exposed, or hanging wires.
  • Inspect hoses for bulges and weak spots.
  • Check radiator for leaks.
  • Clean your hard surfaces. Mix vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and water to make a solution. Using a soft cloth, spray the mixture on hard surfaces and gently scrub away the dirt.
  • Clean your upholstery. Mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Shake well and apply mixture to stains on upholstery. Then apply baking soda, dishwashing liquid, and hydrogen peroxide until it forms a paste. Allow solution to soak in, and then scrub away with cloths or towels.
  • Change fuel filters.
  • Check windshield for cracks.
  • Ensure every light on your truck is working, and replace bulbs as needed.
  • Replace wiper blades. After this tough winter, your truck will need it.
  • Top off antifreeze, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid.
  • Drain water separator.
  • Check and replace pump filter.
  • Test for bacteria and contamination in fuel and storage tanks.
  • Check exhaust system for leaks.
  • Give your truck a deep wash and wax, making it super shiny, clean and ready for spring.

What are some tips you have for regular truck maintenance?  Leave them in the comments!

Dealing with Stress on the Road

Stress can heavily impact your life in major ways. The American Medical Association has noted that stress is the basic cause of more than 60% of all illnesses and diseases. It contributes to high blood sugar, muscle tension, headaches, insomnia, weight gain, decreased libido, alcoholism, suicide, drug abuse, digestive disorders, asthma, and paranoia. Regardless of the amount of stress, the body reacts the same: with a cascade of over 1,400 biochemical reactions that impair cognition and affect every basic function of the body. This can happen several times a day, with long-term debilitating effects. Truckers can be especially vulnerable to stress since their work takes place on the road, where anxiety is especially high. Here are several tips for dealing with stress:

 

  • Deal with stress in the moment. Don’t wait until the end of the day to think about the pileup of bad things going on in your life. Handle one small thing at a time. Nine times out of ten, worrying and fretting won’t change anything about a situation. Take stock of what you need to consider, make the decision, and move on with the understanding that you will be responsible for the consequences. Ask yourself the question, what’s the worst thing that can happen? And can you handle that very awful thing? If so, you’ve imagined the worst, and it’s probably not as bad as you think. Then there can’t be much more worrying to do.
  • Analyze how you cope with stress. Often, the coping we do is even more harmful to our bodies, further compounding the effects of stress. Overeating, consuming alcohol, smoking, driving recklessly – all of these actions are ways we cope. Try to find healthier ways to manage stress, including exercising, talking it over, cleaning, getting a massage, crunching on carrots, or writing all your thoughts down.
  • Deal with the problems that are continual stressors. Do you have a friend who constantly upsets you? Are you in a lot of debt? Are you having relationship problems? Tackle these issues head-on instead of putting them off, where the tension will continue to build. Enroll in a debt management program. Seek counseling with a loved one. Talk to the friend. Once you tackle the smallest problems, the little ones are easier to handle.
  • Take time for yourself every single day. That doesn’t mean sitting down in the front of the TV. We’re at our best when we engage our minds, as clichéd as that sounds. Do something that keeps you active, whether it’s reading, playing games or exercising. Take some time to recharge. Call an old loved one over the phone. Reconnect with a lost friend. Write down every single great thing you’ve done over the last few years, even the small things.
  • Eat healthily, eat healthily, eat healthily. The number one thing you can do to alleviate some stress in your life is to eat a healthy diet. We are what we eat. Keep away from processed, fried foods and sodas. Stick to plain old water. Reduce the amount of caffeine you intake. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and foods high in protein and fiber. You’ll be able to cope with stress much better if your body is well-nourished.

 

What are some ways you deal with stress on the road? Leave it in the comments!

Tax Tips and Deductions: What Every Trucker Should Know

Of all things in life that are certain, taxes are probably near the top of the most dreaded. Each year truckers pull out their receipts and logs to catalogue earned income and figure out deductions. But because nearly $1 billion is left on the table after tax season, it’s important to know all the deductions you qualify for. Here are our tax tips:

 

  • Don’t forget these critical deductions: association dues if you belong to one; ATM and check order fees; cleaning supplies such as Windex or Rain-X; interest on credit cards and business loans; any and all office supplies, such as paper clips, pencils, pens, and paper; access fees for satellite and Internet; fees from DOT physicals and drug tests; mortgage interest and real estate taxes; steel-toe boots; work gloves; load board subscriber fees; industry magazines; dry cleaning costs for uniforms; tolls and fuel (if you are on the job); and tools such as duct tape, flashlights, hammer, pliers, and screwdrivers.
  • Non-deductible expenses are those that were reimbursed by your employer. Other non-deductibles expenses include commuting costs, vacation, interest on personal loans, and everyday clothing.
  • You can’t deduct income lost as a result of unpaid mileage, and you can’t deduct for downtime.
  • To claim a deduction, you must have a “tax home,” or a permanent location where you receive mail.
  • The IRS allows drivers to deduct the specific amount of the costs of their expenses while on the road, called a per-diem cost. Check to see what the per- diem cost is before you file.
  • Fuel that is paid out-of-pocket can be deducted as long as it exceeds $100.
  • Truck owner-operators can deduct the cost of insurance premium payments, leasing fees, and interest payments made. They can also deduct the annual depreciation amount of their truck.
  • Handwritten receipts can be presented as long as they are not excessive and are considered normal for business operating expenses.
  • Prove how many days you were away from home (to calculate per-diem costs) with your logbook. You don’t need to save every meal receipt.
  • Per-diem costs can be used for company drivers as well.
  • Donations to a charity are deductible.
  • Always keep meticulous records and stay organized. When you can, keep every receipt just in case.
  • Self-employment payments can be made online or by phone using debit or credit cards, or through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). You can also pay by check made out to the “United States Treasury” and include Form 1040-V.

These tips are meant to be a guide, and not a substitute, for a tax professional’s advice. What other tips have you found regarding trucking and taxes?