Trump Drops Fuel Efficiency Research from Budget

White house and lawnThe recent visit with trucking associations representatives and truck drivers at the White House has made great gains in the trucking industry. Everyone just loves the pictures of Trump behind the wheel of a big rig, the Interstate One to be exact. And while the topic of discussion was centered on health care for truck drivers, other topics could have been brought to the meeting. For starters, in the proposed budget the Trump administration is nixing the programs for advanced vehicle technology research. The problem is, this technology is doing more than saving the environment. It’s instrumental in helping the trucking industry keep rolling without letting rising fuel costs eat away at profits.

Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program

In Trump’s new budget proposal the administration has promised to increase military defense and border security funding by $54 billion. At the same time, programs that landed on the chopping block include clean energy programs and environmental protection at the least. According to the new budget the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program provided funding through so called “green loans.” These loans bolstered US manufacturing facilities that support higher efficiency standards.

The program has been used to successfully back projects like fuel efficiency technologies in vehicles. Backed by the Title XVII Innovative Clean Energy Projects loan program, the program has issued $32 billion in loans, with only 2 percent losses of commitments aka loans that weren’t paid back. The programs supported by these loans have reduced carbon dioxide, while promoting clean energy. But that’s not all the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program has done for the transportation industry. It is also promoting research that will help advance truck driving technology to improve fuel efficiency. At face value you look at a program like the ATVM and think that it’s obvious why Trump would drop it, given his stance on climate change and the environment. However, this is where the problem lies.

Trucking and Fuel Technology

In addition to being a green, clean energy program the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing has another purpose. The other less obvious purpose of fuel efficient technology is to reduce the amount of fuel used, and therefore paid for at the pump. If you can haul a load on 4 miles a gallon of diesel, but your competitor is running at 6 mpg fuel capacity, they are going to come out ahead every single haul. In the trucking industry fuel makes up more than 30 percent of expenses for trucking companies like Central Oregon Trucking Co., John Christner Trucking, and Heartland Express. To make ends meet, trucking companies have to do whatever it takes to cut diesel expenses.

Fuel efficient technology is the perfect solution for the trucking industry, which is why it’s so disappointing to see the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program on the way out the door. In order to keep pressing forward with fuel efficient tech, the US has to make it a priority. And by cutting it out of the budget for government spending, well, that’s not making it a priority. It is taking away from the trucking industry in a time when trucking needs all the help it can get.

What to Expect

The good thing is that the proposed budget is just that, a proposal, and it has to get approved, passed, voted through, and enacted. During that lengthy process there is a good chance that the ATVM program will stay put, just like some of the other proposed eliminations. Call it politics, and it also shows that the trucking industry has a chance to have its voice heard regarding fuel efficiency tech programs. What we need is an advocate group for truck drivers and trucking companies, along the lines of the American Trucking Associations, that will step up and call out the administration on this oversight.

It is clear that the administration hoped to knock out any budgetary spending on so called green energy programs. This is what you want to see from POTUS given his stance on putting America First through economic and military power. But the problem is that these green energy programs have the potential to turn the trucking industry around. If we can continue to improve fuel economy the trucking industry will be able to get more hauled on less, which will only boost the US economy. Those in support of trucking need to speak up and make sure programs geared at helping the industry stay in place.

 

5 Ways to Get Health Insurance Coverage for Truckers

doctor with stethoscopeOne of the first questions truck drivers have when searching for the highest paying trucking jobs is whether or not health insurance is available. As far as truck driver benefits goes health care coverage ranks at the top of the priority list. Yet with the current Presidential administration on the verge of dropping the Affordable Care Act the question of health insurance coverage is at the forefront of many truckers’ and trucking company employers’ minds. Find out how you can find health insurance for truck drivers to determine the best option for your situation.

Obamacare

Is Obamacare even an option anymore? It is, actually. A visit to healthcare.gov will let you search for the marketplace in your state, if applicable, where you can find your own health insurance. However, there is a slim chance that you can enroll today, unless you are pregnant or losing health care coverage, or if you qualify for low-income health insurance coverage. This means you will have to wait until the next open enrollment period to be able to apply and get health insurance using this method.

  • In the meantime you can check out the price of health insurance plans in your area using the 2017 health insurance plans and prices tool. This way you can at least get an idea of how much your coverage would cost when you could enroll.
  • The enrollment period for Obamacare will be from November 1 to January 31, 2017.

Health Savings Account

A more popular option for individuals who are in good health and want more control over their health insurance benefits is a health savings account. This savings account is associated with a high-deductible health plan or HDHP, so it’s not ideal if you want a low deductible. However, you will pay less each month for your health care coverage, so it balances out. The money you contribute to your medical savings account is not taxed by the federal government, and if it accumulates interest this isn’t taxed either.

If you need to use your insurance benefits for a doctor’s visit, prescription drugs, or surgery, you have money to cover your expenses through your HSA. It allows you to save your own money with interest to be used to pay for medical expenses when needed. If you opt for a HSA ask your trucking employer if this is optional at your trucking job, or check out HSA Bank to find out how to get started. You can also check with your affiliated religious organizations to see if the church offers HSA, which is an option in several states.

OOIDA Trucking Insurance

One misconception that truck drivers and owner operators have is that the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) provides trucking insurance. OOIDA does have networks for trucking insurance, but this does not include health insurance for truckers. You can, however, purchase individual insurance products, such as vision, dental, prescription drug plans, life insurance, and accident coverage. If you want to supplement a slack health insurance plan, or you strictly want particular products OOIDA can help. Of course you will have to be a member of OOIDA to receive access to these benefits.

Insurance and the NRA

That’s right, you read that correctly, the National Rifle Association provides access to health insurance for its members. NRA Healthcare Marketplace offers endorsed health care, but it’s not the same as full-on health insurance. Like OOIDA, the NRA offers access to several products including long term care, prescription discount card, Medicare supplement, hospital help plan, and cancer care insurance plan. This type of piece-meal coverage is good for filling the gaps if you know you have certain health issues or medical conditions, and you are unable to sign up for Obamacare due to lack of coverage in your area or the high premiums.

Group Health Insurance

For most truck drivers hauling for the top paying trucking companies like Arka Express, Brown NationaLease or Dot-Line Transportation health care is available as a benefit. When you search for OTR trucking jobs ask your recruiter about the health insurance options. Get all of the details including how long you have to be employed full-time before your insurance benefits will be available. At the same time, if you can get on the group insurance plan at the trucking company where you are employed you will be able to get healthcare coverage at an affordable rate. This is thanks to the group plan, which reduces the financial risk of the truck drivers being covered.

Issues with Getting Covered

Truck drivers are more likely to suffer from health problems due to the nature of their trucking job, in comparison to other occupations. As a result, it can be costly to insure truck drivers on an individual level thanks to pre-existing health problems, such as diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure. By getting on a group policy you stand a much better chance of getting affordable coverage. Keep in mind in a group plan your insurance premium will likely increase if another person in your group has a medical condition or becomes a high risk insured trucker. However, as a truck driver you want to have good health insurance coverage to protect your health on down the road.

 

FMCSA Checklist for Choosing Your New E-Logging Device

Electronic logging device at truck stopTime will tell if electronic logging devices will be mandated in the trucking industry. In the meantime all you can do is sit and do your research. Start by finding out about the best e-logging devices on the market. Then read up on the ELD features or functions that will be included in your new e-logging device. If you aren’t sure if your device has all of the required bells and whistles, we have you covered. Here are some of the most important functions your ELD must have to be in full compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Timing, Timing, Timing

Considering that your ELD will be monitoring your hours of service rules, you must follow very specific timing guidelines. The FMCSA requires that your electronic logging device:

  • Records your driving time at 60 minute increments
  • Keeps your driving data for your last seven consecutive days, as well as for your current 24 hour log
  • Requires you to certify your records every 24 hours

Note that these are the minimum requirements. You may choose an ELD that keeps driving data longer, records driving time more often, and requires certification more frequently. That is up to you, just as long as you meet the basics.

Record Keeping Facts

Your electronic logging device must keep the proper data. After all, this is one of the latent reasons truckers are using e-logs, for big data collection. When your ELD records your driving for the day, it must note the following:

  • Your driver identification by name and number
  • Your current engine hours
  • The current date and time
  • Your present location
  • The mileage of your truck

Again, these are the minimum record keeping requirements. You will also need to be able to print out your daily logs when necessary. Therefore, your device should have a printer connection, and you will need to get a printer that works with the device. If you do not want to get a printer for this purpose, you can choose an ELD that allows you to save and share your logs as an electronic data file. And for those of you still adjusting to Daylight Savings time, all ELDs must be synchronized on the Universal Time Clock (UTC).

ELD Vendor Essentials

When you purchase your electronic logging device you are required by the FMCSA to receive the following:

  • A user’s manual for the specific model you are purchasing
  • Instructions on troubleshooting
  • Instructions on how to keep records when your device is not working properly
  • Instructions for connecting your ELD to the DOT for electronic transference of hours of service logs

These are required by law to be included in your purchase. If you do not have this information you won’t likely be able to maintain compliance, even when you own an electronic logging device.

Cheats and Shortcuts

One of the main reasons that the trucking industry is moving away from paper logs and in favor of ELDs is because of cheats and shortcuts. When using paper log books truck drivers can easily doctor their logs in their favor, adding an hour here, deducting an hour there as needed. ELDs are set to abolish all of that mess, and when that happens truck driver safety should improve. At least that is the goal. It is also why the FMCSA requires all ELDs in compliance to be tamper resistant. You cannot use an electronic logging device that allows you to modify or delete your driving logs.

If you try to say that someone else’s logs are on your device, you will have to review those records and acknowledge whether they are yours or not. You can’t simply say that those records were another driver in order to get them out of your way. Your driving e-log is intended to be a transparent record of your routes day after day. So if you make an error, just accept your mistake, edit your e-log and move on. If you do make a mistake, you can edit your e-logs. However, this requires you to maintain the original record of your e-log, while also documenting why you made the edit. Consider it a learning lesson, and try to avoid making the same mistake twice. Furthermore, if you share a truck with another driver you must have the ability to open your own account on the ELD. This way there is little room for driver recording error.

Preparing for ELDs

Whether you are a truck driver for BTC, Comcar, and JBS Carriers Inc. or some other top rated company, ELDs are coming for you. By December the trucking industry will implement ELDs unless there is some seriously major changes that take place among the upper levels between now and then. So prepare for the inevitable and make sure you have all of your ELD ducks in a row.

 

Trucking Industry Seeks Big Data to Improve Safety

White truck riding next to concrete barrierFinding ways to make trucking safer and more efficient is the priority for all trucking companies and drivers. One way this is taking place is via big data. As you can concur, big data is more than just some contact information and driving records. Big data incorporates all of the information within the trucking industry. To how much the price of diesel was six months ago, to the number of near accidents in a year, every single piece of information is gathered as big data. Learn more about how the trucking industry hopes to use big data for highway safety initiatives.

Big Data in a Nutshell

Big data is a technical term that represents all of the information gathered about you and every other driver. This information, such as your CSA score, driving history and drug test results, is compiled and analyzed to look for patterns. In doing so, data analysts can look for patterns and try to prevent accidents or other problems. While you are an individual truck driver, chances are that across the board, your actions are on par with the actions of other truckers on the road. Therefore, by reviewing your data and other data among drivers, those using this information can make assumptions that are valid and true. It’s simply much easier to use big data than it is to independently interview and monitor every single trucker to get this information.

Big data is nothing new, and it certainly isn’t limited to the trucking industry. Every industry on the planet uses big data these days. Thanks to the internet and computer technology, we can compile data faster than ever before, which allows us to benefit from the knowledge that big data grants us. This type of information has been used since the first census takers. It allows entire industries to make changes without taking huge risks. In the case of the trucking industry, big data will hopefully help to make the workplace safer for truckers for companies like Arnold Transportation Services, FFE Transportation, and Saia LTL Freight.

FMCSA and Big Data

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) have been working on ways to gather and analyze data for a while now. One such project is the FMCSA driver drug and alcohol testing clearinghouse, which will be one massive database where all screening results are compiled. This clearinghouse was recently put into action, so it will be some time before we can learn anything from this big data. However, there is another even more substantial way of gathering big data in trucking.

Electronic log books will be the kick starter of the big data gathering campaign. When the trucking industry starts to accept e-logs on a grand scale in December, the trucking industry will have all kinds of data to play with. Your daily logs keep track of the finest details from where you fueled up to which roads you took for your route. This information will all be broken down according to data variables. Each of these variables will be tested and compared to see what the FMCSA can make of it. The goal here is to find ways to make highways safer.

From truck driver data taken from e-logs, all sorts of information could help make that a possibility. For example, understanding which roads are chosen by truckers could help to streamline spending on infrastructure. Data, such as the times of the day and night when drivers are most likely to be into a crash, will also help the industry to restructure driving schedules for safety reasons.

Right now the CSA scorecard is in transition. However, we can be certain that if, and when, the CSA program is put back into action it will be reconfigured to account for big data. The CSA system is one of the top ways that the FMCSA analyzes big data in the trucking industry. As the CSA stands now there are too many circumstances, mainly the accessibility of scores and lack of transparency for those who are getting scored, that prevent the scorecard from being a good source for big data. If the FMCSA could correct some of the validation points, such as offering more transparency for incident reports, this has the potential for being a major source of data for trucking. Hopefully this is one of the situations being addressed by the new Presidential administration.

Your Data in Action

How will all of this big data be used? The main reason for gathering big data is to use this information to understand a large group of people in a short amount of time. While it is not possible, for example, to ride along with every truck driver in the US all day long, we can use data points from different drivers to help gain an overall perspective of truck drivers. This is sampling, and it’s the same thing that is used for surveys and other data gathering techniques.

For truck driving in particular, this big data has the ability to highlight weak links and missing areas for highway safety. We can finally have some numbers to prove, or disprove, claims about safety for truck drivers. This data will also help the industry and the FMCSA to create more useful programs for highway safety. Every group from trucking insurance companies to dispatchers will be able to understand truck driving more clearly. We will see how well received safety devices, such as side guards, are for truckers, without having to wait for decades to see results in action. While you may feel uneasy knowing that so much of your information is being tracked for big data, it is for your own good and it’s nothing personal.