5 Ways the Internet of Things Relates to Trucking

OK, get ready to blow your mind. The Internet of things, IoT, is a real thing that is going to have a real impact. Yes, the Internet of things. Haven’t heard of it? According to Forbes you aren’t alone; while the IoT is a foreign acronym to 80-plus percent of the population, it’s been around since the first ATMs hit the streets. In a nutshell, the Internet of things is a term that describes objects that are connected over the Internet. So everything from your smartphone to your electronic logging device, as well as yourself as the person using these things, are part of the Internet of things. In trying to wrap your mind around the IoT, here are just a few of the ways that the trucking industry is connected to the Internet of things.

GPS Systems

Internet of Things smartphoneAlmost every truck driver on the road today has some sort of GPS system. This might be a dashboard mounted GPS for trucks that you have purchased on your own. If you are a company driver chances are your trucking employer has pre-installed GPS tracking software in all trucks in order to monitor your location, fuel use and speed at all times. Truckers on a budget are able to buy a GPS-esque program via a smartphone app for a few bucks. Or if you are really on a budget, use the Internet service of Google Maps to find your way around town. All of these services connect truck drivers via the Internet of things, whether for better or worse.

Computerized Truck Systems

The newer model vehicles hitting the roads are becoming more and more reliant on computerization to operate. For example, mechanics are stuck using computers to diagnose problems with vehicles before making any repairs on their own. As trucks become more efficient for fuel use and long term operation, computers are going to be utilized in a greater capacity as a way to keep these trucks in check.

Electronic Logging Devices

The most notable addition to the Internet of things will be the overall requirement for truck drivers to use electronic logging devices. At the present time as a trucker you have the option of going ahead and installing an electronic logging device. By December 2017, however, you will have to have that ELD in place or be subject to a shut down. The main reason for this device is to electronically track and monitor commercial truckers in terms of hours of service and regulatory measures. Everything a trucker does will be reported to the DOT via the Internet thanks to these electronic logging devices.

Fitness Wearables and Tracking Devices

If you have a Fitbit or Apple Watch, those are part of the Internet of things. Tracking your steps and monitoring your fitness, while relaying everything to you on an app on your smartphone or tablet, these wearables require the Internet for full functionality. While Google Glass isn’t exactly hip and trendy among truckers, this is another example of wearables that will eventually make headway in the tech world.

The Future of the Internet of Things for Truckers

In the near future we are looking at using self-driving trucks, aka autonomous vehicles, to take on regional trucking jobs and local delivery services. This will have a major impact on people in that these automobiles are going to revolutionize a part of the trucking industry. Trucking jobs will be limited to over the road cdl jobs, as local jobs are handled autonomously. That’s a lot of dependability on the Internet. For instance, if the Internet system controlling a city’s local delivery system for Amazon were to get hacked or go haywire, imagine what kind of outcome that would have on the general public. Scenarios ranging from car accidents to deliveries to the wrong addresses come to mind.

Why should you care? The Internet of things is a system that is becoming more advanced and interconnected every single day. For truckers the Internet is increasingly a part of your daily trucking jobs. Be aware of the impact that the Internet of things is having on your trucking lifestyle. After all, if the Internet were to break down, as with the case in that popular sci-fi book titled “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell, how would you be able to do your job as a trucker?

From the use of the Internet for electronic logging devices, to the eventual use of self-driving delivery vehicles, truck drivers are increasingly dependent on the web. While you don’t have to get all prepper-survivalist here, you do want to be conscious of how the Internet of things relates to the truck driving industry. Rather than looking at it with a pessimistic lens, move toward trying to find new possibilities for making your trucking job easier through the use of the Internet… of things.

How to Find the Best Rigs on the Road

Ask the next trucker you talk to what they think is the best semi truck on the road today. I can guarantee you’ll get a different answer from one trucker to the next. That’s because what one truck driver finds to be impressive, or a necessity, with a big rig is going to vary greatly from the next trucker. Just as with passenger cars, every truck driver has their own ideas regarding which truck is the best for the job. In order to clear the air a little, here are some ways that you can find the best rigs for your trucking jobs.

Under the Hood

flatbed 18 wheeler truckThe first thing any trucker should look at when buying a big truck is what’s under the hood. The engine is the heart of a truck, and without a lot of power you will experience struggles with everything from climbing hills to hauling over-sized loads. You want power, but you also want an engine that is worth the money. Start by asking these questions:

  • Is it a manual or automatic transmission? Many truckers graduate from truck driving school learning on an automatic, but manual transmissions are much cheaper in terms of repairs and longevity.
  • If it is a manual transmission, how many speeds does it have? Trucks range from nine to 18 speeds; the more speeds the better as you get more control over the engine.
  • How many miles have been put on this engine? A truck might have 150,000 miles, but if only 25,000 of those have been put on that particular engine, that’s a plus.
  • Has the engine had any glitches, unexpected issues or repairs?
  • What is the maintenance schedule on the engine? You’ll want to take a long look at this to make sure you don’t see anything out of line or suspicious.

Another concern that you should look into is whether or not the engine has been fitted to pass emissions requirements. Particularly if you are taking trucking jobs in California, these emissions requirements will shut you down in seconds if you aren’t up to code. All new trucks post-2007 must be retrofitted with exhaust systems to regulate emissions if you plan to haul trucking loads in California. Other states can be expected to amp up their emissions regulations in the next decade, so be a step ahead of the game by buying a truck that is equipped for the changes.

Safety Second

The next most important thing about buying a big rig is the truck’s safety. This involves two main categories:

  • Lights
  • Brakes

A truck without either of these is driving blind and dangerously. As you know you will also fail a DOT inspection if you are operating a truck with faulty safety equipment. When you look at a new truck, make sure that the lights are in working order and that there’s enough lights to be considered road ready. Having to rewire the lighting on a truck is going to be a pain and an expense, so avoid this at all costs.

As for the brakes you need to start by inspecting the brake lines for any damage, wear or leaks. Another key point of brakes is the inclusion of a jake brake. When driving through Small Town America you will need to have a jake brake or some similar braking feature that allows you to slow down without using air. Most small towns have laws that require you to use some secondary braking system as air brakes are too noisy.

Sitting and Sleeping Soundly

Once you’ve checked out the performance and safety aspects of the truck, it’s time to get into the cab. Your first stop should be the seat. Take a load off and see how it sits. You want something that is comfortable at minimum. Some trucks such as the Freightliner Cascadia have a swivel seat option that allows you to swing your seat around while you are sitting in it. Check out the upholstery of the seat and examine for rips or tears, which would need to be replaced sooner than later. Bounce a little and see if you hear squeaks or other annoyances that would really drive you crazy mile after mile.

After the seat, the next most important aspect of the cab of a truck is the bed. Stretch out and make sure you fit on it, first of all. Roll around to examine the comfort level. Then take a good sniff of the air. If the cab has a musty, moldy smell, that’s a bad sign that something dangerous is lurking. Speaking of sniffs, find out if the previous owner was a smoker or pet owner. You don’t want to have a truck that has a hidden history of cigarette burns or pet poop stains, both of which will devalue your truck when you decide to pass it on to the next driver.

What the ELD Ruling Really Means in Plain English

So you’ve heard the news. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have come out with a mandatory change up to the way that truck drivers do their log books. The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule was deemed effective on February 16, 2016, but you have until December 18, 2017 to comply with the new method, according to the FMCSA.

Complying with the New Rule

White KLLM Trucking Company RigAt this stage the main focus is awareness and transition toward using electronic logging devices. You can still use paper logs, logging software, or automatic on-board recording devices, or you can go ahead and begin using electronic logging devices. Here’s the tricky part. Technically you have until December 16, 2019, a full four years after the effective date, to be in full compliance with the law. By that time all truck drivers will have to use ELDs. So what will that mean for you?

The ABCs of Electronic Logging Devices

ELDs are gadgets that are certified by the FMCSA to log your trips as a truck driver. These devices must also be registered and listed in a database to be kept by the FMCSA. Once you have installed a certified, registered ELD in your rig, you are in full compliance with the rule. Here is what an ELD will do:

  • It will automatically record your time when you are driving aka the truck is moving.
  • The time tracking system will be used to determine whether or not you are in compliance with your hours of service records.
  • The data that the ELDs will capture includes when the engine is running, if the truck is moving, how many miles you have driven, and the number of hours the engine was in operation.

You won’t be able to use just any old logging software, smartphone app or AOBRD in order to meet the specifications of the FMCSA. Your ELD will have to be a model that is approved by the FMCSA, and your model will come with a one-of-a-kind registration number. This way you won’t be able to switch your machine with another registered ELD.

Reasons ELDs are Being Implemented

When it comes to logging your driving and resting hours as a truck driver, there’s the chance that you could fudge a little in your logbooks. If you are using a paper log, you can easily rip out and replace a log page with a falsified log of your hours for a day. The FMCSA knows this. The DOT knows this. That is why they are working to stop this behavior through the use of electronic logging devices.

Using an ELD will make for the most accurate tracking of your hours of service. You will not be able to make mistakes, intentional or otherwise, in your log books. The FMCSA adds that you won’t have to worry about getting a fine for an incorrect log thanks to this technology.

They are also looking at the health and safety of truck drivers. We are well aware of the dangers truck drivers face due to being pushed to drive when they should be resting, or not getting enough hours off in between loads. ELDs are meant to also help improve commercial vehicle safety.

A third reason that the FMCSA is so determined that ELDs are the right way to go involves logistics and enforcement. For example, dispatchers are expected to be able to dispatch loads more efficiently with the use of ELDs monitoring drivers. As for enforcement, this is the main concern of most truck drivers. Enforcing the hours of service rules for truckers is not the most popular aspect of this regulation. After all, truck drivers aren’t robots, and when you are mandated to take a break or drive at a certain hour, no matter what your situation, then it can become an even more dangerous scenario for truckers.

Issues with ELDs

For example, what if you are stuck in a rain storm that has caused sudden flooding? Take construction zone traffic. It can easily slow a trucker down and cause them to lose an hour or two of driving time. What about if you are forced to drive through a big city during rush hour simply because your hours of service dictate you must drive at that time? Weather, traffic and the unpredictable nature of other drivers are not included in the controls and settings of ELDs.

You can’t adjust the amount of driving time or distance that you can go in a day when using an ELD. While falsifying logs is not the right way to go according to the FMCSA, it’s been done for decades because truck drivers don’t have an option. So while these new rules are meant to improve driver safety and cut back on paperwork, the fact remains that truck drivers will be wholly monitored by a federal agency that will further dictate the ability for truckers to do their jobs.

How to Adjust to Daylight’s Savings Time as a Trucker

For over the road truck drivers, figuring out the local time can be challenging. After all, when you’re crossing time zones multiple times per trip, you have to figure out the times for your hours of service. Toss in there the bi-annual time change and you’re in for quite the confusion. If you are struggling with daylight savings time, here are some tips to help you leap forward into the new season with that lost hour.

Truckers and Time Zones

Daylight savings time with sunsetIf you are a rookie trucker who is trying to work out a sleeping and working schedule, start by sticking with your home time zone. It’ll save you a ton of headaches as you won’t constantly attempt to reset your time clocks, both internally and on your dashboard. Therefore, if you keep your local time zone while taking over the road trucking jobs you are a step ahead of the time change. To do this you’ll need to:

  • Drive during the day hours according to your home time zone. If you are four hours ahead of your time zone, by the time you return home you won’t have any problems readjusting.
  • Sleep on a schedule using your home time zone so you aren’t constantly losing and gaining hours unnecessarily.

If you are already on a regular routine with your hours, dealing with daylight savings time won’t be such a problem.

Lights On and Lights Out

The main reason for changing to daylight savings time is to readjust to the extended daylight hours coming out of winter. Light, therefore, is the primary way to deal with this time change. When you are driving and working, soak in the sun’s rays as much as possible. If your driving during the morning when it’s still dark, or according to your home time zone hours, then you’ll want to invest in a light box:

  • Light boxes are small, portable, electric box style lamps. They give off a light that stimulates your senses.
  • They are typically used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder by mimicking the sunshine that people in the northern states miss out on during the fall and winter seasons.
  • You can find these sold online, in department stores or at drugstores. They are relatively inexpensive.

Use a light box in your rig to help you get moving as you start trucking, and then periodically during your breaks. Going into truck stops when you first start rolling is another way to stimulate your senses, as they are always well lit.

However, by the time it’s getting dark during your local time zone, then you should avoid bright light whenever possible. Avoid using bright lights when it’s “night time” and put up a dark shade on your cab window. Don’t turn on all of your lights after you’ve gone to bed; instead install a low watt night light to use when needed. Furthermore, avoid getting up to go into a truck stop after you have called it a night. Those super bright fluorescent lights are only going to wake you up. Also avoid using electronic screens, such as laptops, tablets, TVs or smartphones, after you have called it a night.

Prepare for Sleep

In order to be able to wake up easier in the mornings, you have to sleep soundly at night. Once you’ve managed your lighting, it’s time to look at setting up a nighttime routine.

  • Start by avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sugar at least 6 hours before you are to go to sleep. Trying to sleep when jacked up on coffee is impossible, and drinking alcohol before bed causes you to wake up in the middle of the night unable to settle into a deep sleep.

Also, get in some exercise before bedtime. Trucking is a sedentary position that leaves you sitting more hours than not. As a result, your body is unable to wind down, your lungs can’t get winded, and your nervous system lacks proper stimulation.

  • If nothing else, take a 30 minute walk after you shut down for the night. Walk until you are breathing deeply, but don’t overdo it. This will help your mind come to a restive state, while giving your muscles some much needed activity. Your body will thank you and become ready to sleep as part of your nightly routine.
  • If you are at a truck stop with a truck driver showers, or even trucker bathtubs, take advantage of these. A warm shower will help your body relax, as well as wash away the day from your mind. You’ll also come to appreciate getting into your sleeper after you’ve bathed; it will keep your bedding from getting too funky too soon.
  • Instead of watching TV or playing video games, do something relaxing and meditative. No, you don’t have to actually meditate. Read a book instead. By focusing your mind on the words in front of you, you subconsciously relax. Most truckers will get sleepy from reading, just as long as you choose something that isn’t too scary, thrilling or adrenaline pumping.

Soon enough you’ll have a great routine down for helping you cope with the daylight savings time. Hopefully by the time we have the next time change you’ll be good to go.

Follow These Truckers for a Taste of Life OTR

Finding ways to connect with your fellow truckers is much different in the 21st century compared to 30 years ago. These days you are more likely to chat on social media with truck drivers you’ve never met in person. When you want to talk to a trucker, forget pay phones; you have a smartphone attached to your hip. As a result there are dozens of ways to connect and virtually meet truck drivers online. More specifically there are several truckers who have blogs, websites, Instagram profiles and other super active social accounts. Check out some of the most popular over the road truckers on the Internet.

The Plant-Fueled Trucker

Big rig truck crossing a bridgeBobby Anderson is a popular food-centric truck driver. He has an Instagram following and Facebook page where he documents his over the road meals. As the Plant-Fueled Trucker, Anderson goes about his meals a little differently than most truckers. He doesn’t eat meat, dairy or eggs. Everything he eats is plant-based and made by himself in his truck. He’s a pro at the electric pressure cooker, and his recipes look good enough to eat. The trick to his popularity? He’s not a crunchy, granola-fed hippy dude with long hair and weedy limbs. Anderson’s a hardcore motorcycle lover with a body like a tank. He is the type of trucker you see every single day in truck stops. Rather than go by the title “vegan” Anderson simply eats a diet of plants to improve his health. It’s not a social conscious thing; it’s him trying to be a healthier trucker through food.

Trucker Desiree

If you are into Twitter, check out the handle @TruckerDesiree to find a good looking and intelligent female OTR trucker on social media. Trucker Desiree also has a website where she has been active for years blogging most of her days. The main focus of this pretty truck driver is to talk about trucking safety, human trafficking, truck drivers’ rights, and green trucking. She covers the hard stuff and digs deep with difficult subjects. Her easy-on-the-eyes sensibility attracts truckers to her blog, but it’s Trucker Desiree’s staunch position and steadfast determination to expose the truths of trucking that keep readers tuned in.

Brett Aquila at Trucking Truth

In addition to being an over the road trucker with more than 1.5 million miles behind the wheel, Brett Aquila’s also a published author. His book, “Becoming a Truck Driver: The Raw Truth About Truck Driving,” is sold on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. However, this isn’t nearly all that Aquila has to offer truck drivers. Through his extensive work history as a commercial truck driver, Aquila came across all sorts of situations, truck drivers and trucking jobs. He puts his experiences out there on his website, Trucking Truth.

Allie Knight

For a different take on the stereotypical truck driver, check out the youthful and quirky Allie Knight. Working as an over the road truck driver Allie is most famously known as that “weird chick from Boston.” That, of course, comes from her 13,000 YouTube followers that regularly check in to watch daily videos by Allie. She tapes everything from a self-guided tour of her current big rig to the answers to viewers’ questions. She’s single and fun, and she has a companion named Spike, her cat, who rides along side.

Big Cat Trucker

The most famous of the group, Rick Sylvester aka Big Cat Trucker hails from Houston, Texas with over the road trucking jobs. He kicked off his YouTube channel The Big Cat Trucker Show in 2009. A huge hit online, the Big Cat Trucker channel was more of a professionally produced video show. As a result of the success of shows including “LaceUp” and “The Big Cat Trucker Show,” Rick and his catch phrase “Go big, or go home” made his way to the top at Swift Transportation. He became the trucking company’s first ever social media brand ambassador and spokesperson. Soon after The Travel Channel contacted Rick and he scored his own web series under the prestigious brand. While there hasn’t been a new video uploaded on the Big Cat Trucker YouTube page for about 10 months, there’s more to learn here.

If you are a truck driver interested in reaching other truckers through social media, blogging or a website, the sky’s the limit in terms of opportunities. By putting yourself out there for the public including your fellow truckers, you have the opportunity to provide a valuable service to the trucking community. Whether you are a comedian at heart, someone who can sing like an angel, or you have a talent for over the road recipes, there are plenty of places online where you can share your passions with your trucking buddies. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up as a brand ambassador for a trucking company or your own trucker reality TV show.

Top 5 Most Dangerous Roads in the US

Truck driving jobs come with plenty of dangers. From road rage of other drivers to the mechanical failures of 18 wheelers, you have to be on alert for anything out of the ordinary. Stressful? Sure, but it’s a thrill and good paying job that keeps plenty of truck drivers on the road. Yet there are some roads that are well known for their dangers. Here are some of the most dangerous roads in the US that are frequently traveled by truck drivers.

The Million Dollar Highway

Road sign for winding roadColorado is recognized for being one of the most dangerous states for truckers thanks to the Rocky Mountains. Here truck drivers have to brave elevations exceeding 10,000 feet on a regular basis, in addition to stomach churning slopes and break neck curves. For example there is a 25 mile section along Highway 550 from Ouray to Silverton that rises to more than 11,000 feet higher than sea level. Passing through the San Juan Mountains and the Red Mountain Pass, the road has no guardrails protecting truckers from the shoulder-less side of the highway. If you accidentally weave toward the side of the road, see you in the next life because there’s nothing to protect you from an 11,000 foot descent. Why is it named the Million Dollar Highway? That’s up for debate. It could refer to how much money it took to pave the road, or to the amount of silver and gold that was removed from the area when the road was established.

Highway 2

In Montana there is one of the nation’s most deadly roads, Highway 2. In fact, this highway has the largest rate of fatalities in the US. The main reason that Highway 2 is so dangerous is because of its isolation. If you are involved in an accident on this rural highway, you best hope that you don’t have any serious injuries. It takes nearly an hour and a half to drive to the nearest hospital by ambulance. Furthermore, since there aren’t that many drivers around, those that are cruising along on Highway 2 are more likely to exceed the speed limit. Why not, since there’s little chance you’ll get caught or be forced to slow down by traffic? That’s exactly the mindset of drivers on this dangerous road, as well as the reason why it’s the most deadly road in the US.

Interstate 10

Running the width of the continental US, Interstate 10 is one of the most common roadways for truckers. Furthermore you don’t have to be concerned with the entire stretch of this interstate. For truckers running in Arizona and Phoenix, however, there’s reason to be concerned. Along the 150 mile expanse of Interstate 10 in between Phoenix, Arizona and the California border, you need to proceed with caution. Here more than 85 people die every year in this desert-lined roadway.

Interstate 26

Another one of America’s interstates has a bad reputation. Over the Mississippi in South Carolina is a stretch of Interstate 26 that is extremely detrimental to truckers. In the decade from 2000 to 2010 there were 286 accidents on Interstate 26, resulting in 325 fatalities. The section of the interstate near Charleston, SC where traffic increases is the deadliest. At the same rate, the interstate is lined by trees rather than guard rails, and the side slopes are particularly steep. Couple these aspects with the increased traffic and you have a double whammy resulting in one of America’s deadliest roads.

The Dalton Highway

First of all, this dangerous road has become a household name thanks to the uber popularity of “Ice Road Truckers” on TV. Everyone who is in the trucking industry has either watched the show or heard of the Dalton. While the show continually teases viewers with the possibility of dangerous conditions, the truth is the James Dalton Highway is truly one of the most dangerous highways in the US. For starters, this road is a dirt road, and any trucker knows that driving on a dirt road automatically increases the dangers. A 414 mile road stretching from Fairbanks, Alaska to the North Slope, the Dalton has been opened since 1974. Its main purpose is to supply gas and oil to businesses in the region, primarily mining operations. Many aspects make the Dalton the most dangerous road for truckers. Start with the coldest temperatures ever recorded in the US, hitting minus 80 degrees F back in 1971. That is cold!

Secondly the road weaves through steep mountains within the Brooks Range, adding danger at every turn. If you need to stop, rest or fuel up, forget about it as there is only one fuel stop located at Coldfoot along the northern end of the Dalton. To add to the danger quota, the road was actually made available to tourists in 1994. In addition to making the two-lane road even more dangerous from the likes of four-wheelers, this increase in traffic has led to approximately 10 crashes per year. Typically these are single car rollover accidents, resulting in an annual fatality rate of one.

The Fine Print of the PrePass Program

If you are trying to save time and avoid unnecessary DOT inspections at weigh stations, the PrePass Program can be your best pal. This windshield-mounted transmitter gives you the green light more often than not when you approach weigh stations. You can also benefit from PrePass if you are frequently taking CDL jobs that send you to agricultural interdiction or port of entry facilities. If you are an owner operator or independent truck driver, the PrePass Program is worth taking a look at. While you do have to pay a fee to use this service, you can deduct that expense on your self-employment taxes. Here’s what you need to know about PrePass.

The PrePass Basics

PrePassPrePass is a bypass system for weigh stations and E-ZPass facilities. There are two levels of the program: PrePass and PrePass Plus. PrePass is solely for bypassing weigh stations, ag facilities and port of entry facilities. PrePass Plus includes the ability to pay for tolls electronically in 16 states. The PrePass bypassing program is available in 31 states excluding the following:

  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Idaho
  • South Dakota
  • New York
  • Maine
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • New Jersey

In Nevada and New York there aren’t any permanent scale facilities in which you would need to use PrePass. There are 310 sites where PrePass is applicable, and you can download a system map that shows you the exact sites. Use this information to plan out your trucking route using PrePass to save valuable time.

The Costs for PrePass

As with most things in life, PrePass comes with a price. The expense for PrePass is approximately $16.80 billed monthly. However, if you are an OOIDA member you can use your ID number to get a free trial of PrePass along with a reduced rate of $14.90 a month. Otherwise there isn’t a cost to use the service. The transponder that will tell you when you can bypass scales is free. This is a small, mountable device that you will install on your windshield. You mount it using an attached adhesive-backed sticker. Depending on the type of PrePass Program you are using, you’ll have a corresponding device. You cannot have more than one type of device or be enrolled in multiple programs. The types of transponders include:

  • A PrePass device
  • A PrePass Plus device

To get the transponder begin the application process. The PrePass Program provider will send you the transponder in the mail. Once you have sent in your paperwork and your application is approved, you will be able to use PrePass within 48 hours.

Applying for PrePass

You can apply for PrePass online. If you are new to the program you will need to go through a pre-qualification process to verify your safety record as a truck driver. If you pass this process you can apply online. Otherwise you will have to fill out a paper application for PrePass. The application is two pages long with additional information required depending on which state you reside in. Credential requirements, such as a California Motor Carrier Permit or Alliance Hazmat Program Permit, are noted at the top of the form.

While you can technically complete the paper application online using a document processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, you have to add your signature to the application. If you have a computer or tablet with a touch screen you could add your signature using your device. Then you can simply email the application to sales@PrePass.com. Otherwise, you will have to print off the application and mail it in. Complete this process during your home time to save you the hassle of finding a post office.

Using the PrePass Program

After you have been successfully approved for PrePass, you are all set to reap the rewards. Here’s what to expect:

  • Drive along as usual as you handle your over the road trucking jobs.
  • When you approach a weigh station or scale, within a mile of distance your transponder will send out a signal.
  • If that scale or station is part of the PrePass Program, then your truck will be ID’d and weighed electronically.
  • The weigh station computer will verify your credentials via the PrePass Program.
  • If everything is A-OK you will see a green light, and hear an all-clear notification, via the transponder in your cab. If not, a red light and notification will tell you to pull into the weigh station.

While the PrePass Program is functional in the majority of states in the US, you won’t always get the green light. However, with 540,078 trucks enrolled in PrePass, as well as 75,854 carrier accounts, as of March 2016, you can see how popular this program is among truck drivers. You aren’t going to lose anything from being a PrePass-er, save for the monthly fee, so for many truckers it’s an added edge to improving their ROI and trucking time.

What Goes in a Log Book for Rookie Drivers

All truck drivers have to do it, whether they are over the road truckers, flatbed haulers or pulling oversized loads. You have to fill out your log book with every truck driving job, for every day you are on the road. It is a beast of burden, something you can’t leave out of your day if you are a professional truck driver. To fail or forget to get your log book in order can create all sorts of havoc for a trucker. In addition to having a completed log book, your logged miles must be correctly calculated. While electronic log devices (ELDs) are on the horizon, thanks to the FMCSA, you are still required to do your paper log in the meantime. Here is a guide to get you going.

The Basics

3 logbooksFor a truck driver log book you will need to include:

  • Date
  • Name of carrier
  • Truck number
  • Total number of miles you drove within the last 24 hours
  • The starting time of that 24 hour period
  • Any names of co-drivers
  • Shipping document information referencing the trucking carrier and commodity or load type being transported

On the “From” line you will designate where you picked up your load. On the “To” line you’ll note the destination of the load. In the instance that you drive more than one truck to complete a trucking job, you’ll have to note the different truck numbers on your log.

Working with the Graph Grid

This area of the log sheet is where you will write down your daily progress regarding your:

  • Off duty
  • Sleeping hours
  • Driving hours
  • On duty but not driving

The grid is notched off in 15 minute increments with a box for each hour in a 24 period. The four lines below the grid allows drivers to write which activity they were doing during those times. Each log sheet is for a single day.

How to Draw On the Grid

To use the grid draw a straight line horizontally across the timeline, corresponding with the four different activities. For example, if you have been sleeping for 8 hours, the line would start at that category and move over 8 hours, or boxes. When you move to another category, the line draws up or down until it meets the corresponding category. The line continues moving right for the number of boxes for that category, i.e. 1 box for off-duty, etc. The line should not be broken as every hour must be accounted for. The finished line will look somewhat like one of those life lines on a blood pressure monitoring machine at hospitals, spiking and dropping in between flat-lining.

Detailing Your Logs

After you add the time for each type of duty, you’ll need to include information about the specifics of that activity. Each time you add a line for a type of duty, down in the remarks section add corresponding notes. For example, if you have stopped for fuel, this is called “on duty but not driving,” and you’ll want to make a note for the time period of your fuel stop and the name of the fuel station. You will also need to include, the town or city, along with the state. Also include the nearest milepost and interstate or highway number. For a completed log sheet you have to account for all 24 hours. To make sure that your hours add up count your hours and see that they equal 24.

Final Tips

When buying materials for your logbooks, look at truck stops and trucker plazas. You’ll be able to find everything you need at these stores since they cater to truckers. Tools you need for completing your log book include:

  • Log sheets, either individual sheets or in an attached logbook and with accompanying carbon sheets for copies
  • A ballpoint pen or the Pilot G2 Gel Ink Pen for writing in the log books; you need a sturdy and easy rolling nib to be able to press through the carbon copy
  • A 6 inch metal ruler that allows you to make straight lines with ease
  • A small three-ring binder to hold together your completed log sheets if using separate sheets

You want to write as clearly as possible so there is no doubt about your figures and lines when it comes to DOT inspectors or your trucking employer. They have to be able to understand your writing without a doubt, or you could face criticism for inaccurate logs. Also, if you make a mistake on a log and need to correct yourself, forget using White Out. The only solution is to start over on a new log sheet. If you have a three-ring binder for holding your log book, this allows you to insert new sheets in order of their dates.

Breakdown of Operational Costs for Owner Operators in Trucking

Whether you are new to the trucking business or a seasoned pro, becoming an owner operator has likely crossed your mind a time or two. While taking full control of your trucking business offers the greatest potential for making money, it comes with a lot of costs. Your time is the biggest cost, as owner operators spend a lot more of it on running their business. After all, OOs are their own boss. You are also going to be spending a lot more money, to compensate for that extra income coming your way. Here’s a breakdown of the operational costs you can look forward to as an owner operator. Use this information to plan your budget and organize your expenses.

Overview of Operational Costs

Cost Breakdown written on road pictureFor starters, let’s look at the categories of operational costs you will incur when running your own trucking business:

  • Operating income
  • Fixed expenses
  • Variable expenses

In addition to these categories, you also want to keep track of the following:

  • Total number of loaded miles you ran in the past year
  • Total number of empty miles for the last year
  • How many gallons of tractor fuel you purchased over the last year
  • How many gallons of reefer fuel you bought in the past year

From this information you’ll want to calculate your MPG (miles per gallon) and the average price you spent per gallon. Now let’s break down the categories of expenses.

Operational Income

This category is pretty self explanatory. You are taking into account the amount of money you earned as a trucker over the last year. Start by calculating your total gross earnings. Then look at other sources of income, such as escrow funds, cash and investments. Finally, tack on any additional sources of income, such as part-time trucking jobs or side projects. Adding all of these together you will get your total operation income for the year.

Fixed Expenses

As noted by the name, fixed expenses are those that are going to remain the same throughout the year. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Your truck payment
  • Trailer payments for any and all trailers you rent, lease or purchase
  • Escrow
  • Collision and/or comprehensive insurance
  • Bobtail and/or deadhead insurance
  • Accidental insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • Licenses
  • Permits
  • Accounting services
  • Garage expenses
  • Parking expenses

Add all of these expenses up for your total operational fixed expenses for the past year.

Variable Expenses

These expenses include all of those purchases that are necessary for your business, but that are likely to fluctuate in amount throughout the year. Some expenses will be a one-off thing, while others will occur more frequently but at varying amounts. Here’s an idea of what these expenses might include, noting that for your trucking business other expenses might qualify:

  • Tractor fuel
  • Reefer fuel
  • Tractor tires
  • Trailer tires
  • Tractor-trailer maintenance
  • Tractor-trailer repair
  • Truck washes
  • Personal showers
  • Laundry services
  • Telephone service
  • Sirius radio or other satellite radio
  • Lodging/accommodations while on over the road trucking jobs when you can’t for some reason sleep in your cab, i.e. cold weather, long layover, etc.
  • Per diem meals, which are based on the annual per diem rate of the IRS
  • Loading and unloading fees
  • Tolls
  • Fines
  • Scale fees
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Taxes (road, fuel, fed, use, etc.)
  • Personal care items, such as hygiene products or laundry detergent
  • Clothing and apparel purchased for the job, such as work boots, safety glasses or gloves
  • Tools
  • Fluids for the truck
  • CB radio
  • Entertainment items, such as DVDs, TV set, DVD player, gaming console, etc.
  • Legal services
  • Dispatch and/or broker fees
  • Factoring fees, such as selling accounts receivable
  • Uncollectible receivables
  • Miscellaneous expenses

You will want to add up these expenses, which will be added to your fixed expenses for a total cost of your total operational expenses.

Calculating Your Operational Costs

At the end of every month you will want to calculate the above income and expense reports. This saves you a ton of headache at the end of the year when trying to figure out your total operational costs. Why do you need this information? Two reasons. For starters, this information, particularly the expenses, will be vital when filing your taxes as a trucker. Getting all of this information down accurately can save your tail in a tax audit. You’ll also want to keep a paper trail of all of your income and expenses just in case you are in fact audited by the IRS.

Secondly, if you go to a bank or lender and try to secure a loan for a second truck or trailer to add to your trucking business, they are going to want to see proof that their investment in your business is safe. Your annual operational costs is your trucking business’s financial statement. It will provide the banker or lender with the information they want to see to verify that your business is worthy of expansion.