Pros and Cons of TA Truck Stops

Every truck driver has their favorite truck stops, whether they prefer independent truck stops or national brands. TravelCenters of America, aka TA, is also known as TA and Petro Shopping Centers. That’s because Petro Stopping Centers is the brand that owns TravelCenters of America. TA was originally named Truckstops of America, thus the TA in the name. TA as a chain was established in 1972, and has since been owned by the Ryder Corporation, Standard Oil of Ohio, BP, The Clipper Group and most recently the National Auto Truck Stops chain. The latest owner was the one to change TA to TravelCenters of America. Now that you understand the name of the truck stop brand, let’s look at the reasons truckers either love or hate TAs.

Location, Location, Location

TA Truck StopThe biggest benefit to the TA brand is that you can find one in most every city in the nation, thanks to 255 locations. There’s even a TA in Ontario, Canada. In the US the states it’s easier to list the states where TA truck stops don’t have a location:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Washington DC

If you are a truck driver with a preference of truck stop loyalty, TA makes it easy to find a truck stop with their logo.

Out of Date Facilities

While there are hundreds of TravelCenters of America, that doesn’t mean they are all top notch truck stops. One major issue with TA truck stops is that some of the locations are in need of an overhaul. In line with the lack of newer truck stops, TA’s don’t provide some of the latest perks of their competitors. For example, while Petro truck stops, which are owned by the same brand as TA, have StayFit fitness centers and walking trails, these amenities are not offered at TA truck stops. Also, while the Petro truck stops have highly recommended truck stop restaurants, TA offers only decent truck stop dining opportunities.

  • One positive note about the facilities is that the repair shops at TA’s are well maintained, providing truck drivers with RoadSquad, which is the largest roadside provider of emergency trucker services in the nation.

Getting Your Grub On

Speaking of truck stop restaurants, Country Pride Restaurants are the mainstay of TA truck stops. These sit-down restaurants are located at 90 of the TA locations. Reviews of Country Pride Restaurants are middle of the road, mainly due to the out of date facilities.

Country Pride Restaurants do offer salad bars, and the chain features a StayFit option on the menu that includes sugar-free syrup and cholesterol-free egg substitute on request. Unfortunately there are only five such options on the menu, ranging from egg substitute and dry wheat toast to chopped steak and eggs, the latter of which comes with plenty of sodium and fat thanks to the chopped steak and crispy hash browns.

Meanwhile the partnering Petro offers one of the best sit-down restaurants of any truck stop—the Iron Skillet. You have to ask why there hasn’t been a takeover of the more popular Iron Skillet chain in all of the TA truck stops.

Rewarding Truck Drivers

Another perk of TA truck stops is that you can sign up and reap the benefits of sticking with this chain. TA has three different card options. You can choose between:

  • UltraONE Professional Driver
  • UltraONE Expediter
  • UltraONE Coach

Each of these three cards are noted as the UltraONE card, with UltraONE Professional Driver being the card for most truck drivers. Once you have accumulated 20,000 UltraONE points in a year, you get upgraded to the UltraONE Platinum card, which offers an increase in benefits and perks. Keep in mind that you can only have one card as a TA member in which to receive benefits. However, your UltraONE card will be fully functional at TA truck stops and Petro truck stops. Therefore you increase your opportunities to earn rewards. You can earn points on fuel and truck repair center purchases, which can be spent on complimentary showers, fax use, check cashing and beverages, as well as birthday treats and preferred parking.

The use of UltraONE can help you save money as a truck driver as showers can cost anywhere from $7 to $10 at a time. You can also use your rewards to pay for cups of coffee, snacks, truck accessories, or other in-store purchases. As truck stop purchases can easily eat up your budget, truck stop rewards will help you spend less from coast to coast. Whether you are an owner operator, independent driver or company truck driver, you will be able to benefit from truck stop reward programs, such as UltraONE at TA and Petro.

Final Vote

If you are looking for a national brand to provide you with easy access to the same truck stops across the nation, TA offers that convenience. However, if you are concerned with finding the newest amenities and truck stop perks, such as truck driver chiropractors, spas or movie cinemas, then the TA isn’t going to be up to par.

How to Eat Healthy in a Hurry: Healthy Truck Stop Snacks

One of the biggest issues with being a truck driver is finding healthy foods to eat. You are busy with OTR cdl jobs, and your time is limited. While truck stops offer sit-down restaurants with salad bars and healthy meal options, chances are you are short on time when hunger strikes. Stick with these healthy grab and go snacks the next time you need a quick fix at a truck stop.

Fresh is Best

Trucks parked at Flying J with a DennysIn terms of healthy snacks at truck stops, any time you can find a fresh fruit or veggie, go with that choice. Otherwise, look for a fruit or veggie base to an item. Here are some examples:

  • Whole fruits, i.e. bananas, apples, oranges or pears
  • Frozen bags of fruits, i.e. strawberries, mixed tropical fruit or grapes, that you can thaw out using the defrost mode on your microwave
  • Fruit packed in 100 percent juice
  • Applesauce with no added sugars or artificial colors
  • Yogurt cups with granola and plain Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, i.e. blueberries and strawberries
  • Cut up vegetables, i.e. celery sticks, baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower or bell pepper sticks

Become a Dip Stick

If you are snacking on fresh vegetables, make a quick dip using just two ingredients—plain yogurt, preferably Greek because it has double the protein, and some seasoning, such as Ranch, curry or lemon pepper. Mix a teaspoon of seasoning into a quarter cup of yogurt and use as a dip. Another healthy protein rich dip for certain fruits and veggies is peanut butter sprinkled with cinnamon. Cream cheese is another healthy dip option that can work for fruits or veggies. Season with cinnamon and honey for a fruit dip, or mix in spices to make a savory veggie dip. In order to have these healthy dips on hand you’ll need:

  • Plain Greek yogurt now available at many truck stops and gas stations
  • Peanut butter, sunflower butter or almond butter, also sold in most truck stops
  • Plain cream cheese sold for bagels at truck stops that can be stirred until nearly whipped for an easier dipping option
  • Keep your truck stocked with seasonings as a way to add antioxidants and flavors to most any snack or meal on the go.

Protein Power

Speaking of foods with protein, if you want a healthy snack that will sustain you for longer than a mile, you need to pack on the protein. However, not all proteins are created equal. You need to find protein sources that aren’t high in sodium and saturated fats. No, those fried chicken drummies won’t make the cut. Instead, when you are in a truck stop, in addition to a fresh fruit or vegetable option, grab one of these protein packed snacks:

  • String cheese or cheese cubes, preferably Mozzarella, Swiss or Cheddar; avoid processed cheeses like sandwich slices or Velveeta, and no, cheese dip doesn’t count
  • Roasted peanuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, or other nuts and seeds still in the shell; the time it takes to get these out of their shells will slow down your consumption rate
  • Trail mixes made with nuts and fruits including coconut; avoid those with added chocolate or candies

If you can’t find any of these natural foods at a truck stop, go with an energy bar. Keep in mind that a lot of energy bars on the market are full of junk, along with more sugar than a Snickers bar. Here is a list of energy bars that are high in healthy plant-based proteins and omega-3s, while low in sugar and free of ingredients you can’t pronounce:

  • Oatmega
  • Niibar
  • Perfect Bar
  • 22 Days Nutrition
  • Simple Squares
  • Sheffa Savory Bar

Unfortunately finding these high powered energy bars at your nearest truck stop will be like spotting a Leprechaun. If you can stock up on these bars between trucking trips, that’s great. Otherwise, try your hand at these energy bars that are more likely to hit truck stop shelves:

  • Kashi Go Lean Protein and Fiber Bar
  • Larabar, with top flavors including Cashew Cookie, Blueberry Muffin, Cherry Pie and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
  • Clif Bars; Black Cherry Almond is a winning flavor

Drinks All Around

If you are in a super hurry, or simply not in the mood to munch, consider some healthy beverage options. For starters, water is always an excellent choice. However, sometimes you need something extra. If you can find low sodium, 100 percent vegetable juice, such as V8, that is a decent option. Just make sure to limit yourself to one serving at a time; most bottled drinks feature at least 2 servings so check the nutrition facts. Fruit juices are typically a bad choice since the majority feature filtered out, from concentrate, juice syrups. No fiber in those, so forgo them. Instead look for smoothie drinks from brands such as:

  • Naked Juice
  • Bolthouse Farms
  • Stonyfield Smoothie
  • Silk Fruit and Protein
  • Lifeway Kefir drinks or other beverages containing kefir as the base; kefir is a fermented yogurt-type drink

Your best solution is to add a healthy beverage with a protein-heavy snack, so to prevent your blood sugar from spiking. Introduce healthy snacks into your trucking days so that by the time you are ready for a meal you won’t be so famished, and likely to overindulge on not so good for you foods.

What is DAT Solutions?

If you are a truck driver, chances are you have no idea about how your dispatchers find your loads. Owner operators and fleet owners, on the other hand, are likely to know what DAT means. DAT or Dial-a-Truck Solutions, aka DAT Services aka TransCore DAT, are the main freight posting service in North America. Established in 1978 DAT Solutions posts jobs electronically on a virtual load board. This is a major step up from the use of bulletin boards and newspaper ad sections, which were the main method of finding truck driving jobs pre-1978.

DAT SolutionsDAT, the Company

DAT Solutions does more than offer an electronic freight board. The company also provides:

  • Transportation management software
  • Fleet tracking systems
  • Fuel cards
  • Carrier monitoring services
  • Fleet compliance services

However, the primary purpose of DAT Solutions is to offer an efficient network for sourcing trucking loads throughout North America.

What DAT Does

Even if you’ll never have to dispatch your loads, it’s a wise career move to understand what goes into the dispatching process. By learning what DAT does you gain behind-the-scenes information that will help you identify with the dispatching process. Furthermore this info can only enhance your career opportunities, particularly if you ever move into the trucking role of an owner operator, dispatcher or independent driver. The more you know, the greater your flexibility and opportunities when searching for trucking jobs.

Now, what exactly does DAT do? The DAT load boards provide trucking loads for reefer truckers, flat bed trucking jobs, dry van trucking loads, and specialty trailer loads. Even more so, carriers can search according to 70 different equipment types, such as tanker trailers, drop step trailers, car haulers, or cattle haulers, to find exact trucking loads for their drivers. It is a live, real-time load board that gives you instant up-to-the-minute load information. By exclusively posting 59 million trucking loads, DAT offers the greatest number of trucking jobs of any load board. According to DAT Solutions:

  • Loads sourced via DAT Solutions come with headhaul rates 53 percent of the time
  • Trucking companies that use DAT for finding trucking loads earn $1,370 more a month per truck on average
  • In 2015 more than 200 million loads were visible for carriers, at a rate of 690,000 each business day

In order to offer such an expansive service, DAT also comes in an app version called DAT Trucker. Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store, you can download this app for free to find truck stops, rest stops, hotels geared at truckers and CAT scales. The app also lets you find diesel prices near you. However, when it comes to load boards, there is a limit at what the app provides. If you are a carrier or owner operator you can use your geographical position to access the local DAT Extended Network. The site doesn’t specifically state that you can only find truck loads nearby to your location, but that appears to be the case.

  • A quick search of the app on the Apple App Store shows mediocre reviews at best, with only 12 ratings at 2.5 stars out of 5 possible. Several reviewers state that the mapping information is inaccurate on the app, which would make the features of the app relatively useless. Proceed with consideration if you choose to use the app.
  • If you are looking for trucker apps that will help you find locations of truck stops, rest areas, trucker parking and CAT scales, a better option is Trucker Path, for free, or Trucker Path Pro for a fee

As a carrier and owner operator you can find trucking loads if you have the following information:

  • Company name
  • MC or DOT#
  • Basic contact information

This restricts users who aren’t legit in the transportation network, thereby reducing the ability for scammers to access the boards. Considering that the DAT system has been in place since the late 1970s, and with great reach among the trucking network, you can bet that DAT has worked out the kinks for the most part. If you are considering where to source some of your trucking loads, if you are in the carrier or owner position, then the DAT Solutions platform appears to be a solid place to begin. Just be weary of using the app, which seems to be rather limited in its functionality.

Another point to mention is that there are several other providers of electronic log boards hitting the market these days. From the Uber-style companies of Convoy, Transfix and Cargomatic, to applications ranging from ComFreight to Truck It Smart, truckers and fleet carriers can access trucking jobs much more simply using online devices, such as tablets and smartphones. As a result, the competition has certainly heated up for DAT Solutions. It will be interesting to see how DAT fares with the new marketplace.

Truckers Welcome: These Cities Treat Truckers Right

Are you tired of living in a city where you get a lot of grief for being a trucker? Sometimes you are treated unfairly because you drive a big rig, and heaven forbid you need to park it when you’re at home. Other times you live in a city where the best truck driving jobs are found, yet it’s also one of the most expensive cities for families. Yes, we are looking at you, New York City. So, if you are searching for somewhere to move where you can save money and improve your quality of life, here are some highlights.

States With No State Income Tax

Kenworth big rig truckAsk a truck driver which state they feel is the best state to live in as a trucker. You’ll get all sorts of opinions, ranging from Oregon to Montana. The best state, of course, is the one with a road leading to home. If you are looking for a new state of residence, consider a move to a state where you don’t have to pay state income taxes. For self employed truck drivers, including owner-operators and small carriers, this is a huge perk. So, without further ado, here are the states without income taxes:

  • South Dakota
  • Florida
  • Alaska
  • Texas
  • Wyoming
  • Washington

Tennessee and New Hampshire residents don’t have to pay income tax annually when filing their tax return. However, residents of these two states do pay income tax on dividends of investment income.

Cities Versus Rural Addresses

Now that you have narrowed down the states where you would like to move to, it’s time to look at the cities there. For starters, you will need to decide whether you want to go urban or rural. Pros and cons to consider include access to great paying trucking jobs, transportation access and the type of trucking loads in the region. For example, if you choose to live in the suburbs of Seattle, you can bank on struggling with urban traffic, crime, the 3,015-foot elevation of the Snoqualmie Pass, and plenty of seafood deliveries.

However, you will be more likely to find an array of trucking loads in comparison to living in a rural area in Washington, such as Lake Moses, where the laid-back, and relatively safe lake tourism is the biggest employer. If you’re a trucker with a family, you probably want to find a city with good school districts, attractions, entertainment and safe neighborhoods. Rural areas will offer a limited variety of everything that a city provides, but for some families, the quiet and slow nature of rural life is a major benefit. Really consider which environment will work best for you and your family. Together with your family members, list the pros and cons for each setting to help you make your decision.

Safest Cities in the U.S.

One of the overriding factors for anyone looking for a new place to live is safety. You want to feel safe and secure in your new home, especially as a truck driver. Whether you live alone or with your family, when you have over-the-road trucking jobs, the last thing you want to deal with or worry about is the safety of your personal belongings and/or family. Here are the top 10 safest cities in the U.S., according to Forbes:

  1. Plano, Texas, a Dallas suburb
  2. Henderson, Nevada, a Las Vegas suburb
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. Santa Ana, California
  5. Lincoln, Nebraska
  6. San Jose, California
  7. Mesa, Arizona
  8. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  9. Aurora, Colorado
  10. New York, New York

Note that these rankings are taken using car fatality data and violent crime data. And, no, you aren’t the only one surprised to see NYC on this list. Of course, before you make any move to any city, you will want to check out your potential neighborhood first.

Neighborhoods Permitting Truck Parking

Once you have chosen a state and city to move to with your family and your new trucking job, it’s time to consider your new neighborhood. A big issue for truck drivers in urban areas and suburban communities is truck parking. Say you are coming home for the weekend, and you are planning on parking your truck next to your house. Your trucking employer is an hour away, so you want to save yourself the trouble and time by parking it at home.

Well, if you live in a neighborhood that has a limit on vehicle weight limits, noise from trucks, or a negative attitude toward truckers, you are in trouble. If you choose to park your truck at home, you might end up getting a complaint from the neighbors, or even worse, a citation from the city. Before you make the decision to move to a new neighborhood, ask your Realtor if truckers are permitted. Explain that you would want to park your rig there sometimes, even if it’s just on the rare occasion. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

These Big Trucks Win Awards — Here’s Why

Some big rigs are just built to be winners. Others need a little extra chrome, some detailing work, and a custom paint job. In the end, all are possible contenders for the Great American Trucking Show held annually in Dallas, Texas. If you’re cruising in your trucking job and want to gear up for the competition, it never hurts to come out strong with one of the best big trucks on the market. Whether you drive a 2003 Kenworth W900/L2010, 2013 Peterbilt 389, or 1985 Two-Tone Turquoise Peterbilt 359, your truck could be a Pride and Polish champ. However, if you want trucks that earn high marks both in truck shows and on the open road, here are some winners.

Best Truck for Fuel Economy

judges-great-american-trucking-showYou’ve probably heard about the big rig nicknamed the SuperTruck. This bad boy earns that title thanks to a fuel economy of an out of control 12 miles per gallon. In an industry where a typical big rig is doing good with 6 miles to the gallon, 12 mpg, or 12.2 to be exact, blows the competition out of the water. If you are searching for a commercial tractor-trailer worthy of a blue ribbon in fuel economy, the Freightliner SuperTruck sells itself solid. It comes with:

  • Solar panels across the top of the trailer to optimize energy efficiency
  • Predictive technologies to determine how much thrust and pull a truck will need for varying inclines and driving patterns thanks to GPS positioning
  • A hybrid system state that actually makes energy when you downhill brake, and then uses this energy to charge the battery
  • An eHVAC system that operates solely off of the energy transferred from the hybrid system, which means you can run your truck’s AC for more than an hour before the engine kicks on

As this truck is billed as “the future” for big rigs, you will want to start planning now in order to afford this amazing technology.

Most Trucks Sold in US

Not surprisingly the top selling big rig brand in the US is Freightliner, makers of the SuperTruck. So if you are going for a truck with the greatest potential for finding replacement parts as you spiffy your rig up for a truck show, then the Freightliner is the way to go. Selling more than a third of all of the new semi trucks sold each year, Freightliner also has a strong hold on the market.

red-Kenworth-truck-GATS

Top Winners at Pride and Polish

However, if you are looking for a good brand of truck for entering into the annual Performance Diesel Inc. (PDI) Pride and Polish truck shows, which are a part of the Great American Trucking Show, you might want to steer clear of Freightliner. According to the 2015 winners list, Peterbilts and Kenworths, and a few Volvos, took home all of the first, second and third prizes.

There wasn’t a Freightliner to be seen in the ranks. This wasn’t always the case, as a 1999 Freightliner Classic with Harley-Davidson detail and the name of American Thunder was a major success back in the 2004 Pride and Polish truck show.

Most Futuristic Big Rig

Back to those big rigs that are more conceptual than road worthy, there is the Freightliner Inspiration. As the first self driving truck to be road tested in the US, this Daimler designed truck is already taking on the roads of Nevada. Of course when you say something about a self driving trucks, truck drivers begin to sweat over their trucking jobs.

Not to worry, as this self driving rig requires a truck driver be behind the wheel, or at least within the confines of the cab. Featuring a highway pilot system, this autonomous vehicle uses sensors, computers, radars and cameras to detect road conditions, traffic and weather. A driver must be in the cab in order to pick up the wheel when things get bumpy, literally, but otherwise the truck driver will have a great deal of freedom from the open roads of America.

As noted this self driving truck isn’t road tested yet. Yet. However with this type of dedication and investment into self driving technology for tractor-trailers, we can only see this type of truck in the near future. If you are interested in keeping up with technology as a trucker, you might want to skip over that whole SuperTruck idea and save up for the truly tech savvy. The Freightliner Inspiration is heading truck drivers into a new direction, whether truckers are ready or willing.

Yes, this is another Freightliner truck, in case you missed that. Obviously with this many irons in the fire it’s easy to see why the Freightliner trucks have the largest number of new semis on the road. While Freightliners haven’t had a strong standing in truck shows in the past few years, maybe the newer, more aerodynamic and sleek semi trucks will have a better showing.

Best and Worst States for Trucking

With the United States in the midst of a manufacturing resurgence, it should be no surprise that the trucking industry is following suit. After all, someone needs to haul the manufactured goods to where they need to go. Yes, trucking is booming in the United States, as it’s estimated that more than a half million for-hire fleets are on the road these days, helping to create a $700 billion per year industry. What’s more is that this number is only expected to increase with time.

United States mapYes, trucking is a good career field to be in these days, and with that being said, it should come as no surprise that it can be an even better field – depending on what state you’re employed in or own a business in, that is. Conversely, truck drivers in other states may not find the profession to be as lucrative or as good of a job as they would if they were working elsewhere.

On that note, we’ll take a look at some of the best and worst states to be a truck driver or own a trucking company in the country, according to a recent survey by Merchant Cash USA, an alternative financing institution. The survey consisted of about 3,300 participants that are directly involved in the industry. Factors that were included in the results below include things like regulations, cost of overnight parking, state fees, friendliness of states toward truck drivers and more.

Best States for Trucking

  1. Tennessee
  2. Washington
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Texas
  5. Indiana

Tennessee largely takes top place on this list due to the state’s lack of regulation when it comes to truck driving, thereby permitting more driver freedom. Generally speaking, the less regulation there is, the easier it is to own and operate a business, or to be an employee of said trucking business. Another big factor that helped Tennessee earn top honors was the state’s general friendliness toward truckers and the trucking industry as a whole. Tennessee’s roads are in good condition, and the state also offers favorable tax structures – the former which is a big win with drivers, the latter which is a big win with owners. Washington, Oklahoma, Texas and Indiana share a lot of the same favorable qualities that Tennessee does, which helped them round out the top 5, according to Merchant Cash USA’s findings.

Worst States for Trucking

  1. California
  2. Virginia
  3. Ohio
  4. New Jersey
  5. Massachusetts

California takes top honors as the best of the worst for a variety of factors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the key factors is the state’s strict emissions regulations. Because of this, truck owners are normally required to buy more expensive and more specialized trucking equipment to keep up with all of the clean air standards and other regulations as mandated by the state. Another big factor that paints California in a negative trucking light is its complex labor regulations, though this is more of a pain for owners than it is for individual drivers. High fuel prices also play a role in the attitude of negativity toward California from a truckers perspective. A final big factor that goes against the “Golden State” when it comes to trucking is its geography. California has a little bit of everything in its landscape, from deserts and mountains to winding highways and, worst of all, heavy traffic. This terrain makes it a challenging landscape for truckers to drive in.

While California tops the list, the other four – Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey and Massachusetts – share some of the same attributes. There are complex labor laws, complicated income tax regulations and difficult terrain to drive in, especially in the Midwest and eastern states that can become riddled with snow during the winter months.

What do you think? Do you think the top 5 best and worst states to own a trucking company or work as a trucker, as founded by Merchant Cash USA, are accurate? Or are there other states that you think should be included? Remember, despite the division that a list such as this might create, it’s important to remember that no matter where you drive, you’re in a good place. As we noted in the opening, the industry is currently booming and only likely to continue trending this way. So yes, while some states are better to drive in than others, the industry as a whole is healthy. And there’s no controversy about that at all.

How to Create More Efficiency in the Trucking Industry

Whether you are a truck driver, owner operator or company trucker, this topic is for you. Efficiency involves saving time, cutting costs and making OTR, as well as local truck driving jobs easier. So what is the magic formula for increasing efficiency in the trucking industry? As you can imagine, there isn’t a quick fix. However, there are three main areas where you can improve your position whether you are behind the wheel or the desk—load, fuel and driver efficiencies.

Loading Up with Greater Efficiency

18 wheeler riding on the interstateA truck makes money by decreasing the number of miles it takes to deliver a load. The fewer wasted miles lost to miscalculated routes, bad weather or road construction, the better. Another costly problem with trucking loads involves dispatching loads. Dispatchers have to balance truckers’ schedules, customers’ delivery times, and haul weights constantly. Finding a way to coordinate everything quickly becomes a bear.

Now we have technologies in the form of smartphone and tablet apps that are tailor made to increase load efficiency for those in the trucking industry. Take Transfix for example. This is one of many new apps on the market that is designed to improve dispatching, routing and short loads for OTR truckers. Rather than wasting miles, increasing traffic congestion, and costing customers extra expense down the line, Transfix pairs truck drivers with available loads using automated matching. Truckers can pick up loads along their current route using Transfix, which is also available in website format. Everything from payment from the customer to the transfer of paperwork is handled electronically. This is especially ideal for owner operators and independent truckers who want to make their own trucking businesses more efficient.

Fixing Fuel Economy

In order to get those loads delivered on time, truck drivers require fuel, and lots of it. A single truck holds about 600 gallons of diesel, and they typically have a 4 to 8 miles to the gallon, maybe 10 if they are a “Super Truck” by Peterbilt. That’s a lot of fuel to burn for trucking job followed by trucking job. To keep up with that kind of money being funneled into a big rig, trucking companies and owner operators are looking for real world ways to become more fuel efficient.

From governing speeds to doling out fuel economy bonuses to drivers, most trucking companies have several ways they siphon back fuel costs. But what about the EPA? How is the Environmental Protection Agency involved with trucking fuel economy? The EPA has set out a new standard for commercial heavy duty trucks that will ultimately improve fuel usage:

  • By 2018 all newly built trucks will have to increase their fuel economy by one-third or face penalties by the EPA.

The reason the EPA is behind this change involves reducing greenhouse gasses. By reducing the amount of fuel used by tractor-trailers and other heavy duty trucks, this also reduces the emissions emitted by these vehicles. Fewer emissions equals fewer greenhouse gasses. The EPA has the goal of cutting greenhouse gasses by an impactful 1 billion tons. In the process trucking companies and owner operators are going to be responsible for paying more for more fuel efficient big rigs. The benefit? Fuel savings for these new rigs will offset the expense, or at least that’s the hope.

Making Truckers More Efficient

In order to get those truck loads delivered, you need more than just fuel. You need the manpower behind the wheel to handle the trucking jobs. Truck driver efficiency is the third area where all companies and OOs can constantly improve. For starters, the tech world continues to offer all sorts of gadgets and gizmos geared at improving the way we as a whole operate. For truck drivers in particular, this includes:

  • Electronic onboard recorders and e-logs
  • Apps like Transfix, Convoy and Truck Chat
  • Chat boards and online forums encouraging truckers to share trucking advice
  • GPS systems and smartphone mapping programs for routing

Sure, not all truckers are all gung-ho for new technology, especially the constant DOT monitoring by the impending electronic logging devices. However, understanding that this technology is out there and available is the first step. Next, you have to figure out what forms of technology are going to make your trucking job easier on a daily basis.

For example, some truck drivers aren’t exactly adept with using a smartphone, wishing that flip phones would once again be the big thing. For them truck driving apps aren’t going to do much more than give them a headache and ruin their self confidence. On the other hand most truck drivers are good at using GPS systems. By looking for GPS units for truckers those truckers without dashboard GPS systems can improve their efficiency, as they aren’t stuck using paper atlases day in and day out. Technology may be a wonderful thing, but you have to know how to use it. If you are a newbie to the tech world, start small and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from other truckers.

How to Stay Healthy in Trucking and Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check

Sometimes driving a truck can be stressful just because of heavy traffic or because the truck breaks down and you can’t get your load in on time. If you already have high blood pressure, even everyday events like a traffic jam could increase it even more. If you have not yet been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you can do two things: Eat healthy, especially on the road, and have your doctor check you for high blood pressure every time you go in for a physical. It’s better to catch it sooner rather than later.

What May Raise Your Blood Pressure?

Doctor giving trucker a blood pressure testOther than traffic and breakdowns, there are six other things that could raise your blood pressure. These are the things you have control over.

Hot Tubs and Saunas: If you enjoy soaking in a hot tub once in awhile, you’re okay; however, just keep in mind that moving back and forth from hot to cold water could cause your blood pressure to increase.

Salt: Make sure your diet has no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day. While your body needs salt, too much is never a good thing. High sodium intake will increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Eat healthy, even when you are on the road and don’t add extra salt if you know the food you are eating contains a high concentration of sodium.

Decongestants: Many of the over-the-counter cold and flu medications include decongestants that could raise blood pressure. If you do need any of these, look for something that doesn’t use a decongestant unless you absolutely need it.

Weight Gain: If you find you are gaining weight because you are not as active as you once were, try to get that weight off. If you lose as little as 10 pounds, you could help to lower your blood pressure. When you notice weight gain, take stock of what you are eating. Change your eating habits or, at a minimum, what you are eating so you don’t continue to gain weight. If you just have to have that pasta, switch to whole grain pasta.

Alcohol: A glass of wine or a beer can be healthy for you, but overdoing it will increase your blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic advises that more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increases your blood pressure. Repeated binge drinking could cause a long-term increase in your blood pressure. If you can keep the alcohol to your days off and to just one or two drinks with or after dinner, you’ll look forward to the enjoyment of that drink and won’t overdo it.

Sitting: There’s not much you can do about this one, since your job requires that you sit for long periods of time. To counteract high blood pressure caused from sitting, do some light activity when you stop for breaks. This also helps you keep off that extra weight that might be sneaking up on you.

Heart Healthy Snacks

You can make your own snacks while at home, but when you are on the road all of the time, it’s hard to take those precious hours you have and use them for cooking. Of course, you could have your spouse make some of these things for you. For snacks, whether homemade or purchased in the store, choose any of these to keep you energized and healthy.

  • Fruit and nut bars or granola bars are non-perishable plus give you energy. Either make them yourself or if you buy them, watch the salt content. You can even make homemade chocolate granola if you are a chocoholic.
  • Pumpkin seeds are high in potassium and are heart healthy. However, the seed you buy in the store could be laden with salt. You can make your own seeds by lightly salting them or using a salt substitute and baking them at 175 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1.5 hours or until they brown on each side. You can also eat raw pumpkin seeds.
  • Fruit snacks make messy fruit less messy. Look for sugar free fruit snacks at your favorite grocery store or make them yourself in a food dehydrator.
  • Jerky you buy in the store tends to have a lot of sodium; however, you can make your own jerky and lower the salt content. Make beef, venison and chicken jerky for a variety.
  • Make your own trail mix so you don’t have the extra added salt and preservatives in pre-packaged trail mix. Add shredded coconut, pistachios, sunflower seeds, raw almonds, dark chocolate chips, cacao nibs, raisins and more.

Additional healthy snacks include packs of nut butter, brown rice cakes, maple-almond butter, animal crackers made of oats, almond chips, cheese crackers, and dark chocolate. Choose dark chocolate with 65 percent or higher cacao. The more cacao in the chocolate, the more bitter. If you really like dark chocolate, go for the 85 percent.

Eating healthy helps to keep your blood pressure down and keeps you out of the hospital!

Everything You Need to Know About Ergonomics Issues in Your Truck

Sitting behind the wheel of a big rig for hours on end, tarping loads for flatbed trucking jobs daily in freezing temperatures, or vibrating constantly in your seat… these are ergonomic issues. Ergonomics technically means “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment.” For truck drivers this involves figuring out ways to drive a truck and load/unload a trailer with the least amount of physical strain and stress. The goal is to improve your well-being and working environment by making your trucking equipment work with you, not against you. To improve your truck driving jobs, consider making the following changes to your trucking lifestyle.

Your Trucking Seat

Ergonomics in red lettersThe biggest threat to workplace safety for truck drivers is the truck seat. As the saying goes, if you aren’t behind the wheel you aren’t making money. Therefore as a truck driver you must be seated for the majority of your days when on over the road trucking jobs. At the same time, being sedentary is deadly. According to the NCHPAD (National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability), here are the risks you take from sitting all day behind the wheel:

  • Bone loss is quicker among people who don’t get enough physical activity. Bone mineral content and strength is gained through regular exercise, similar to the way that muscles are strengthened.
  • Individuals who have sedentary lifestyles are also the ones with the greatest rate of heart attacks. Increase your physical activity to 30 minutes a day to reduce your heart attack risk by 50 percent.
  • The leading cause for type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, which can be prevented by physical activity. Sitting for 2 hours a day increases the risk for type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.
  • Individuals who aren’t physically active regularly are more likely to be depressed, to gain excess weight and have a weakened immune system.

As a truck driver your profession requires you to sit a lot. However, you don’t have to let sitting cause grave damage to your health and well-being. Here are some ways to remedy this ergonomic issue:

  • Do 10 minutes of stretching, yoga or other weight bearing exercises when you stop to fuel up, take a bathroom break, or for a rest. Every single time. By the end of the day you will have exceeded your 30 minute minimum goal for physical activity.
  • Choose a seat that fits your body. If you are too tall, too short or otherwise incapacitated by your current trucking seat, have it modified or replaced to fit your size. A poorly sized seat will cause you to cramp, strain or sit in an unnatural position. Doing so for hours on end will cause unnecessary stress on your body, and it will lead to other physical and emotional issues.
  • Keep an open space around your seat so you can move about unrestricted and without stress. Store your trash can in the sleeper, move your snack bag to your cabinet, and get that extra pair of shoes out of the way. You need to have a seat space that does not inhibit your movements.
  • Look at your diet and make changes if necessary so you aren’t overweight or obese. Have your body mass index tested to see what your body fat percentage is, so you can be accountable to decrease it as necessary. Being obese piles on the number of ergonomic issues dealt with as a trucker.

Serious Health Risks of Truckers

Carpal tunnel syndrome, deep vein thrombosis, and back pain are the most common ergonomic complaints among truck drivers. Once you have addressed your seating issue, it’s time to look at ways to remedy these specific concerns:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when you do a certain movement repetitively with your arms and hands. For truck drivers this is steering a big rig and shifting gears. Strengthen and stretch your wrist, shoulders and fingers using hand weights and exercises throughout the day. You can also get a stress ball and squeeze that to help release tension in your joints.
  • Deep vein thrombosis occurs when you are seated in the same position for a long time and your legs are not elevated. Driving a commercial truck puts you in line with DVT, especially if you are obese or have heart disease. DVT involves blood clots in the legs, which are painful, as well as deadly if they release and go to the heart or brain. Stretching your legs whenever possible, wearing support hose and not smoking can decrease your risk for DVT.
  • Back pain will put you flat on your back, literally. Yet it’s a common threat among truckers who don’t get enough exercise to support their core muscles and back. Build up your core muscles through strengthening exercises, walking or yoga. This will decrease the likelihood that your sedentary job as a trucker will cause you back pain.

Ergonomic issues are consistent across the board for truckers who work a sedentary job. However, with some precautionary measures you can improve your body’s ability to handle these issues.