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Dennis J. Junk
Interested in cameras and telematics for your fleet but not sure where to begin? Well, here we’re going to walk you through the whole process, at a high level, of planning and implementation. This should give you an idea what you’ll be getting into, what you can expect, and how you can make sure the project pays dividends.
This is meant as a flexible outline, so we won’t use numbered bullets to suggest a rigid ordering. But many of the individual steps follow logically from the ones before, so the order isn’t completely arbitrary.
Let’s jump in.
Identify Challenges and Set Goals
You’re probably looking into cameras and telematics systems because your fleet has an issue you need to address, like growing fuel cost or spiking insurance rates, just to name a couple of the most common ones. Following the principle that you measure what you want to improve, you can begin by listing the ways your fleet could reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Cameras provide benefits in the realms of safe driving, security, and protection from liability. Telematics provide information on the vehicle’s performance, location, fuel efficiency, and even the RPM for the wheels. So, you have options for what you’ll want to focus on with your implementation.
The important thing to remember is that these are complex technologies, and you’ll be working with them in a complex environment. Cameras and telematics aren’t the type of tool where you set it and forget it. You won’t be able to simply install them and then stand back to watch the benefits accrue. Rather, you’ll need to have a detailed plan in place with both specific goals and ways to measure progress if you want to get the most out of your investment.
Research Partners and Providers
If you’re focusing on lowering your insurance premium, the first step is to contact your insurance provider and ask which approaches to performance tracking they prefer. Does the provider offer any discounts for cameras or telematics implementation?
If not, maybe they can tell you which areas to focus on, so you can improve your safety record when it comes to the metrics that will be most likely to reduce your rates. And, if your provider has nothing to offer, it may be time to shop around for an insurer who will work with you to transform your ongoing performance tracking and continually improving safety record into a lower premium.
Whatever goal you’re aiming toward, it’s a good idea to reach out to whichever partners or providers will be impacted. There’s a good chance they’ll be able to give you some guidance in your planning and decision-making going forward.
You’ll also want to begin the process of researching providers of the camera and telematics systems themselves. The first step is to generate a list of the main players in the industry. Look for third-party reviews when possible. But the main objective for now is to get a grasp on what each vendor offers, along with a ballpark figure of what your company will pay.
(Getting a sense of costs can be tricky, because most providers want to be in the room with you before they talk numbers. This is where customer reviews will come in especially handy.)
Create a Draft Proposal
Now, it’s time to document your findings on the potential benefits and costs, along with an outline of the process from choosing a vendor to implementing the solution, and on to evaluating the results. This is the document you’ll use to educate and get buy-in from stakeholders. It will also help you and your team stay on track and maintain your focus on the key milestones along the way.
Keep in mind the purpose of this draft proposal is to give you a rough sense of where you’re going with the project. Once the process is underway, the plan is certain to change. So, don’t hesitate to make revisions as you learn more about the technology and as you acquire more input from both providers and stakeholders.
Since the plan is bound to change as your team progresses through the stages, you won’t want to devote too much time to zeroing in on the details. There’s no point risking getting stuck in the weeds when any given part of the plan is apt to change anyway.
The rule of thumb is that the nearer the step, the more detail you’ll need. The farther the step is from where you are now, the more provisional, and the less detailed your outline will be. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon the plan at any stage for lack of clarity or certainty.
For at least the next two or three steps in the process, you’ll want to include achievable tasks and realistic deadlines, so you can keep the project moving forward until you’re back on more solid ground.
Get Buy-In from Executives
You may have been assigned the task of planning a camera and telematics implementation by executives in your company. Even in this case, however, chances are these executives are still going to want to know what you’ve discovered in your research and how your plan is taking shape.
If the project came about through your own initiative, this is the time to find out how much support you can count on. Your managers are going to want to know what issues you’re hoping to address, or what opportunities you’re hoping to take advantage of. Naturally, they’re going to want to see a timeline and a cost-benefit comparison. And they’re going to want to know what the implementation is going to entail. Will it, for instance, mean downtime for a significant number of trucks in the fleet?
Go into these meetings with an open mind, as this is one of the points where your plan faces a high likelihood of revision. The keys to success are that you come away with benchmarks for reporting on progress, and that you have a good idea what the executives’ expectations are and how you’re going to fulfill them.
Assign Someone to Manage the Implementation Project
The buck must stop somewhere, or the project will languish in the typical back-and-forth that plagues large organizations. The implementation will go much more smoothly if you have a single person who’s ultimately responsible. How this manager organizes her team, if she needs to do so, can be left up to her. But this person will need to:
By this point, you’ve already set the goals, answering the question of what you hope to accomplish. The manager of the project will now have to answer the question of how you’ll accomplish it. There will be a lot of moving parts, so avoiding uncertainty over who’s in charge of what will be critical to success.
Involve Drivers in the Planning
Most fleets make the mistake of informing drivers about the cameras and telematics only after most of the planning has taken place and it’s time to install the technology. The problem with waiting to bring drivers into the loop is that it lends to the perception that the new tools and new practices are being handed down from on high—and if they don’t like, that’s tough.
Especially in cases where cameras are pointing at the drivers themselves, it’s crucial that you avoid giving people the impression that you’re spying on them, trying to catch them doing something wrong so you can use it against them somehow. Once this sort of adversarial mindset has taken hold, you can be sure your drivers will fight you every step of the way.
The most effective way to get drivers to take ownership of the project is to involve them as early as possible in the planning. Let them know exactly what goals you’re hoping to achieve, along with how achieving those goals will benefit everyone in the company. Then solicit their input into how to make the project a success—and insofar as possible, let them see their input being incorporated into the plan.
If your fleet is large and getting all your drivers to planning meetings is logistically infeasible, you can have them choose representatives. It will be the responsibility of these representatives to gather concerns and suggestions from some subset of your drivers and communicate them to the team in charge of planning and implementation.
Now, it’s time to go deeper into your research of providers. At this stage, you’ll be reaching out to some of your top picks and sharing your plan with them. The biggest part of these evaluations will focus on demos they put on for you and your company’s stakeholders, so you can determine not just whether their products meet all of your specifications, but whether they do so in a way that’s intuitive.
Along with specific questions pertaining to your goals, you’ll want to ask:
Run Pilot Projects
Many providers offer the option of installing their technology in a small number of vehicles so you and your team can do a trial run before making a commitment. This is important because it’s one thing to watch a demo put on by sales representatives—it’s something entirely different to get your hands on the tools yourself.
The objective isn’t simply to install the tools and see how easy they are to use. Rather, you want to test each provider’s products with reference to the goals you established for the implementation at the outset.
It’s important not to be drawn in by fancy gizmos and whizbang interfaces. Instead, you’ll want to compare offerings based on the clarity and efficiency they deliver in helping you track (and thus improve) the metrics that you’ve already identified as critical to your operations.
Create an Installation Plan
Once you’ve chosen a provider and a set of tools, the next step is to figure out how you’re going to get these tools on all your vehicles. This is another point where you can ask your drivers for input. Keep track of how much time each installation takes so you can budget downtime for all your vehicles as you progress. You may want to do installation on clusters of vehicles, taking them off the road in groups. Or you may want to create a schedule for working on them sequentially at a consistent rate.
Getting the equipment on the trucks is just part of the challenge at this point, though. You also have to make sure your drivers know how to operate it. You can take on installation and training at the same time, instructing drivers while their vehicles are sidelined. Or you can proceed in stages, which takes us to the next step.
Train Drivers and Technicians
Here is where getting your drivers involved early on will pay off. With any luck, most of them will be excited to finally get to use the new tools they’ve been discussing for weeks. There are all kinds of venues where instruction can take place: meetings for live training, webinars, online videos and tutorials, even in-cab coaching sessions.
You will most likely collaborate closely with your providers at this stage, so it’s a good idea to find out what kind of training programs and materials they offer long before the time comes. You’ll also want to prioritize establishing channels for everyone to get their questions answered as well as ongoing incentives for adherence to your newly developed (and continually evolving) protocols.
Create a Process for Ongoing Evaluation and Improvement
A successful camera and telematics installation project doesn’t end after all your vehicles are equipped and all your drivers are trained. Indeed, you won’t know if the project has been a success until you’ve had a chance to see how far your fleet is moving toward the goals you set at the beginning.
Ideally, you’ll have regular evaluations of the system at predetermined intervals into the indefinite future. But, for now, you’ll want to set a date for at least one, which will take place after sufficient time has elapsed for the fleet to have made measurable progress toward your goals.
It will still be important to include drivers (or their representatives) in these evaluations. Not only will they have key insights into how the system is working and where it’s blind spots may be, but letting them see that their input is being taken seriously is one of the most effective ways to keep them invested in the project’s success.
The big takeaway here is that throughout the process you’ll need to remember that this isn’t a camera and telematics project. It’s an insurance-reduction project. Or a safety-improvement project. Or a customer-satisfaction project. The cameras and telematics technologies are merely tools, powerful though they may be, to get you to the goals that inspired you to take on the project in the first place.
The owner-operator of yesteryear struggled to prosper amid a complex web of Teamster pressures and over-regulation. Shutdowns and other conflicts lined the highway that led to today’s climate in which the self-employed contractor is integral to the industry and able to operate with much greater independence. From fighting for enhanced freedom to haul in its early days to stressing smart business practices later, Overdrive has championed the owner-operator’s concerns.
1950s and ’60s: Fast track to a golden age
When Overdrive launched in 1961, trucking was dominated by the Teamsters union. Even in the unregulated area, where owner-operators and small fleets had hauled commodities deemed exempt from price regulation since the industry’s infancy in the 1930s, unions exerted their organizing pressure. Overdrive founder Mike Parkhurst is said to have been driven to launch the magazine in part by a personal affront chronicled in historian Shane Hamilton’s 2008 book “Trucking Country: The Road to America’s Wal-Mart Economy.”
Then owner-operator Parkhurst was at a receiver in Mansfield, Ohio, when “a Teamster organizer informed him that he would have to pay union dues to unload his produce,” Hamilton wrote. Along with the complicated regulatory structure of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Teamsters, Parkhurst believed, “had ‘strangled the healthy growth of the free enterprise system.’”
The options for owner-operators wishing to haul regulated freight prior to the mid-1950s were limited to finding one of the relatively few regulated carriers who leased owned and operated equipment. Most operators of the time carved a niche in produce markets.
No motor carrier authority was necessary, thanks to agricultural interests securing an exemption from price and lane regulation in the first Motor Carrier Act in 1935, which directed the ICC to regulate the movement of any non-exempt freight. As a result, “a lot of your early owner-operators – especially in produce – come from farms,” said Brian Kimball of the Kimball Transportation brokerage (whose family is pictured, around 2011). “They’re hard workers. They have a knowledge of the machinery – they could repair their own equipment.”
Kimball’s father, Ed, hauled produce with his five sons in Ed Kimball & Sons Trucking. Before that he leased to different produce-trucking outfits in Florida and, by the late 1950s, typically hauled refrigerated commodities back under trip-lease arrangements. Enabled by legislation enacted in 1957, trip-leasing (running under a regulated carrier’s authority for a single trip agreement) expanded options for owner-operators. Deadhead miles were reduced as obtaining regulated backhauls became more common.
Through the 1960s and into the ’70s, in spite of the limitations to entry in the regulated market, a small-town Indiana boy could buy a truck and “make a decent living” just trip-leasing with carriers, said consultant Jay Thompson. Thompson and his brothers did just that.
After repeated scandals among Teamsters leadership under Jimmy Hoffa in the 1960s disillusioned many drivers – and more carriers began to view independent owner-operators more favorably – the average income of the self-employed driver rose above the average wage earnings of employee drivers for the first time nationally.
The exempt trucking market was “the most cutthroat business there ever was,” saidTodd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Brokers stiffing truckers was routine.” With lax ICC regulations governing carrier leases with owner-operators, many of those who leased owner-operators prior to the late 1970s had the upper hand, he said.
The 1970s: The road to deregulation
As owner-operators increased in numbers, so did their recognition within the industry. Parkhurst in the 1960s launched a national trade group, the Independent Truckers Association, and later the Roadmasters.
Avoca, N.Y.-based owner-operator David A. Margeson, who hauled exempt potatoes, was a Roadmasters member. He recalled that the organization put the owner-operator “on Main Street. Up to that time there’d been no recognition of owner-operators.”
“For the first time in history, a simple thing such as a magazine brought owner-operators together from every aspect of trucking with common interests and common goals which could be heard and shared with other truckers from coast to coast. In the days before computers and Internet services, this was a connection unheard of.” – David A. Margeson, with his 1985 Mack Superliner
He also recalled the frustration of independents, who felt the ICC had outlived its original intent. “When it was first formed and set up regulated routes, carriers had to obtain rights so that no area of the country would be left out of the picture,” Margeson said. After trucking was well-established across the nation, “to the independent, it seemed like we didn’t need that system anymore. Areas would get taken care of without it – it seemed like a hindrance to interstate commerce to have rights to a particular area.”
Owner-operators leased to regulated haulers, too, banded together to force carriers and the Teamsters to recognize them. In the Midwest, the Fraternal Association of Steel Haulers formed to fight for the union’s consideration of the “unique economic interests” they had as owners of their “own expensive equipment,” Hamilton wrote. They launched strikes in 1967 and 1970, feeling as if they were paying dues for little representation from the union.
As union disillusionment spread, volatile fuel prices and runaway inflation provided a key mobilizing force for industry change. During the independents’ shutdown during the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, a new owner-operator organization emerged, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. OOIDA focused on regulation of carrier leasing practices.
As more all-owner-operator carriers emerged and operator numbers surged in the 1970s, abuses of leased drivers were rampant, said Charles Myers. Myers was a district supervisor with the ICC beginning in 1976 in Harrisburg, Pa.
Myers recalled the typical owner-operator complaint in which an individual sets up an office, promises freight to “all these owner-operators who commit to running for him. He’d run them for a while and never pay them,” Myers said. “You’d have to come back and make a case for violation of the leasing rules of the time. Most of the time they’d just get an injunction and shut the guy down and try to get restitution for the owner-operators.” Penalties were small, so repeat offenders were common.
Congressional hearings in the ’70s exposed such practices, in part at the instigation of OOIDA. In 1979 the ICC adopted the Truth in Leasing regulations, adding “transparency to the relationships” between leased owner-operators and their carriers, Spencer said.
After a series of unsuccessful bills throughout the ’70s to allow owner-operators to compete in the regulated freight marketplace, conditions climaxed in the late 1970s. The leasing regs were hitting the books. Independents were shutting down in protests prompted by 1979’s fuel shock.
As Hamilton recounted it, the unstable economic environment was seized upon by Senator Ted Kennedy, then eyeing the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Kennedy and others pitched wholesale trucking deregulation as a solution to the problems of independent owner-operators and price inflation of consumer goods. Deregulation was achieved when President Jimmy Carter pushed through the Motor Carrier Reform and Modernization Act of 1980.
The 1980s and ’90s: An industry transformed
The new environment did not immediately translate to more pay for independents. Unrestricted as to lanes, areas of operation and freight, carriers with capital to invest in new trucks and drivers expanded quickly. As a guy with one truck, said Margeson, “we were still out of the picture, because what can we do with one truck?”
Many have characterized post-deregulation as a “race to the bottom” in terms of rates and driver pay, said Spencer. “The rising stars rejected the mold that trucking had evolved to,” largely a patchwork of regional businesses. “Everyone was going to be a national carrier,” he added. “They weren’t interested in hiring drivers who only wanted to work in regional areas with good pay.”
It’s one reason OOIDA didn’t support deregulation. “All we had to do was look at the already unregulated segment of the industry,” exempt hauling, to see where the rest of the industry would go if deregulated, Spencer said.
All the same, as competition soared throughout the ’80s, the owner-operator’s role was being established. Efficient single-truck businesses became more attractive to carriers. All-owner-operator “non-asset-based” fleets multiplied.
In the intervening years, the rise of computing and communications technology eased accounting and registration procedures. Load information became available online by the end of the century. By the early ’90s, nearly every state was a part of both the International Registration Plan and the International Fuel Tax Agreement, eliminating much paperwork. Prior to IFTA, Margeson said, “we had to send in a quarterly report for each state we ran. If we ran 32 states in a quarter, we had to make out 32 quarterly reports.”
As the industry changed, so, too, did Overdrive. When Parkhurst sold the magazine in the mid-’80s to Randall Publishing Co., the company refocused the content toward helping readers refine their business practices.
2000s up through 2010: The ‘enforcement industry’ arises
When historians look back on the first decade of the 21st century in trucking, no doubt the fuel-price shocks and the 2008 economic meltdown will play large. But some owner-operators and leasing carriers were prepared for both, having experienced variations on those themes for years.
What might figure more largely is an “industry,” as Spencer called it, surrounding safety enforcement. Since the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program emerged in the early ’80s, throwing trucking enforcement money at states – “well over $300 million a year” as of 2011, he said – intrusions into owner-operators’ businesses in the name of safety have increased.
That extended to truckers’ day-to-day relationships with law enforcement. In spite of the long-held outlaw image of the independent trucker of the ’60s and ’70s, Spencer said, “at night, the best friends a cop could have were the truck drivers. The truckers would be the first people to stop and help” in an emergency.
Margeson said the relationship “went sour from about 1985. About the only thing you could get stopped for back in the day was speeding. If you got stopped for that, they might ask you for a log book. Other than that, your DOT checks – then called ICC checks – came in the fall of the year,” and again in the spring. Today, Margeson added, it’s not unusual to get checked two or three times on a short run. “They do it in the name of safety, but now it’s more of a money deal for the states.”
Safety ratings based on compliance reviews became the norm for carriers when the SafeStat program emerged with the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2000. The events of 9/11 increased scrutiny of all drivers, whether hauling sensitive freight or applying for a general-freight lease. SafeStat’s successor, the 2010-instituted Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, took safety rating to an unprecedented level, providing monthly updates to a carrier’s safety rankings based on inspection and crash data.
At that time, the FMCSA even planned to put individual drivers under a similar public ranking system. True independents looked to receive possible dual numerical rankings as both carrier and driver.
Challenges abounded, both regulatory and otherwise: multiple hours-of-service revisions, onboard recorder mandates, tighter health restrictions for CDL holders, increasing congestion, long wait times at shippers and receivers, fraud among fly-by-night brokerages.
Partly for some of those reasons Marion, Ind.-based owner-operator Mike Long traded his independent business model for the safety net of leasing to a carrier, he said. In 2008, he leased to Landstar.
Long echoed many operators when he said he wouldn’t trade a business he calls “his life” for anything. “My dad made money in his day,” he said. “But you can still make money today, taking everything into consideration. There’s no way I’d want to run a single-rear-axle gas-engine truck on springs, no power steering, no A/C on U.S. 40” across the country.
“Certainly trucking can be a hard life,” says Spencer, “but some of the most wonderful people in the world are attracted to this business – it attracts people who want to work hard” and succeed. For that, the owner-operator career remains a prime example of the nation’s opportunities for self-employment.
Viewers often fail to see objects, such as pedestrians and other vehicles. Such failures-to-see have great importance in safety as well as in many other domains such marketing, medicine, and sports, and elsewhere. I have discussed seeing in general and why failure-to-see is so common. Here, I provide a broad overview of the specific reasons for failures-to-see. I present these in tables that are adapted from the book Roadway Human Factors: From Science To Application (Green, 2017), which discusses them in detail. However, such categorizations inevitably begin to fray at the edges. They are didactic and an attempt at cognitively simplifying the large number of visual factors affecting seeing.
The reasons can very broadly be divided into visibility and cognitive. The first table shows 5 visibility factors. External physical factors are partial or complete sightline obstructions. Physiological factors can be optical, neural, or motor. Psychophysical factors usually boil down to those affecting contrast detection. Lastly, these five entries can readily be decomposed further. There are more than 16 subfactors in contrast alone (Green, 2017).
|Physical||External Obstruction||Physical obstructions completely or partially block the sightline and prevent retinal image formation: e.g. buildings A-pillars, windshields.|
|Physiological||Optical||Optical imperfections. Blur caused by mis-accommodation and spherical aberration. Cataracts and opacity.|
|Neural||Retinal limitations, e.g., field size, photoreceptor spacing, and scatomata.|
|Motor||Eye muscle movements also reduce vision, e.g., saccadic suppression and blinking.|
|Psychophysical||Contrast||Factors that determine whether an object differs sufficiently from the background to be visible: e.g., size, adaptation level, retinal eccentricity, etc.|
In many cases, however, the cause of failure-to-see is cognitive – the viewer does not consciously see an object which is theoretically highly visible. The usual culprit is attention. The failure to see is especially likely in given circumstances. There is vast a literature on attention and cognition that provides many potential explanations for failure to see in a given set of circumstances. The table below boils this literature down to a single list of 28 cognitive failure-to-see “constructs” that are again grouped into rough categories purely for didactic purposes. Further, the chart constructs require further elaboration.
|Cognitive (Learned Adaptation)||Expectancy||Attention tuned to the location and objects of highest anticipated meaningfulness, so others not noticed.|
|Automaticity||Tasks performed with minimal attentional control, so little attentional supervision to notice difficulties.|
|Familiarity Blindness||Failure to notice scene information that has been irrelevant in the past.|
|Cognitive(Loading)||Tunnel vision||Attention concentrated in the center of the visual field, so information in peripheral vision is unnoticed.|
|Inexperience||Novices have not yet learned to reduce foveal loading by chunking or by automatic control.|
|Stress Hypervigilance||Stress focuses attention on a narrow set of information, so other information not noticed.|
|Mental Workload||Attention consumed by one task leaves less capacity to perform others.|
|Cognitive(Selection)||Inattentional blindness||Failure to notice even highly visible objects located in the center of the visual field.|
|Change blindness||Failure to notice a feature alternation in a scene that has changed over time.|
|Mind wandering (Internal distraction)||Attention is focused internally rather than to the external world.|
|Repetition blindness||Second in a sequence of two identical objects is not noticed.|
|Foreground bias||Viewers tend to fixate objects in the foreground and to ignore objects in the background.|
|Cognitive (Background)||Clutter masking||Background contours interfere with attention to foreground objects. It is sometimes a psychophysical effect.|
|Overshadowing||Attention attracted to the most salient scene object and away from other information.|
|Cue generalization||Viewers direct attention to the most easily discriminated cue, such as color.|
|Crowding||Visible objects in peripheral vision merge and cannot be identified.|
|Motion induced blindness (MIB)||Object projecting retinally stable images tend to disappear when seen against moving backgrounds.|
|Cognitive(Search)||Satisfaction of search||Termination of serial search before reaching the critical information.|
|Inhibition of return||Once a scene area is searched, the probability of making a return saccade to re-search is reduced.|
|Visual space asymmetry||Different parts of the 3-D visual space are specialized for different attentional tasks.|
|Switching Costs/Attentional blink||Switching attention from one focus to another takes time and effort.|
|Cognitive(Reduced Capacity)||Fatigue/Lack Of sleep||Difficult to define, but usually explained as lowered performance due to lack of sleep.|
|Vigilance decrement||Ability to notice information falls within the first half hour in routine tasks.|
|Low Workload/Boredom/Monotony||Low arousal level with longer time spent in a dull and unchanging environment.|
|Circadian Rhythm||Arousal lower in troughs of the daily 24-hour arousal cycle.|
|Age||Older viewers are both slower and have lower attentional capacity.|
|Cognitive (Decision)||Biases & Heuristics||Attention and decision are guided by mental short cuts designed to increase efficiency.|
|Satisficing||Attention becomes unnecessary once a reasonable solution achieved.|
The cognitive construct list is long, but the phenomena overlap considerably because they are different manifestations of our fundamental cognitive architecture and its consequences:
1) conscious awareness is limited by capacity,
2) attention is selective,
3) attention is efficient, trying to use the easiest and simplest selection criterion,
4) attention generally selects information that is most meaningful based on past experience and on expectation of the future. This overlap is why I call them “constructs” rather than variables or causes1. The criterion for inclusion in the list is only that the authors frequently use the “construct” to explain a cognitive failure-to- see. In many cases, the construct name specifies little more than an experimental paradigm, e.g. “change blindness”.
Lastly, the constructs also represent different granularities of explanation. “Inattentional blindness” (failure-to-see central objects) and “tunnel vision” (failure to see peripheral objects) are really just descriptive terms for phenomena that are ultimately caused by more specific constructs (expectation, hypervigilance, mental workload, etc.). They can be useful as umbrella terms when merely describing the functional loss, but they are not very specific. They are symptoms of deeper causes. They are not explanations.
1 The definition of “causation” is a knotty philosophical problem. In practice, however, it is often merely a “symptom” that doesn’t require an explanation. Causal reasoning normally works through a chain where symptoms have causes which then become symptoms for other causes. Here’s an example. A driver is blamed because he responded too slowly in seeing a pedestrian at night. Slow perception-response time is a symptom and low visibility is the cause. Low visibility is then the symptom, and a burned out streetlamp is the cause. The burned out streetlamp is now the symptom, and poor maintenance is the cause. Poor maintenance is the symptom… and so on. The chain stops when the symptom need not be explained. In this example, a human factors analysis doesn’t need to know what caused the streetlamp to be burned out, so the cause need not be determined. For an investigating utility company, the causal chain would continue until the poor maintenance were explained.
A major failing in trucking “defense” is that is seen as synonymous with “defensive”.
Too often trucking companies and their insurers hunker down after the accident, waiting for the bill board attorney to make their move. Worse yet, even after receiving the letter of representation, they sit by idly waiting for the plaintiff to dictate the time and place of the action.
Because too many see “defense” as meaning “defensive”. Enough!
THE NEED FOR AGGRESSIVE DEFENSE
Passive, reactive, “defensive defense” rarely if ever works. Aggressive, proactive “defenses” often do. And they do so by flipping the script on an opponent, even one that appears to be in stronger position.
Pick your example. Israel in 1966 compared to France in 1939. How did that “impregnable” Maginot Line work out?
How many times have you yelled at the TV when your favorite football team is ahead and decides to play “prevent defense”?
One of my favorite examples is from Malcolm Gladwell’s story of Vivek Ranadive, an immigrant from Mumbai who, despite having never played basketball, coached his daughter’s team to a national championship game despite only two of the girls having ever played organized basketball before.
“They weren’t all that tall. They couldn’t shoot. They weren’t particularly adept at dribbling.”
OK? So how did they do it?
Watching his first basketball game, Ranadive was struck by the illogic that after a basketball, the scoring team retreated and defended only about 24 feet of the 94 feet long court. “He thought it was mindless.”
So he applied the principle “that his team would play a real full-court press, every game, all the time. The team ended up at the national championships.”
Gladwell’s article expands the principle of aggressive defense to Lawrence of Arabia and David v. Goliath, the original pre-pay-per-view Match of the Century that has a scientific explanation. Great Read
And in case you think the full-court press, aggressive basketball only works with youth sports, ask a Razorback fan the name of Coach Richardson’s national championship style of play. Young ones—Google it.
The point is that too often trucking companies and their insurers only defend the last 24 feet of a 94 feet long contest. They concede the early going, even the middle going, and hunker down for a final skirmish.
You need to take the fight to them. Particularly after the letter of rep. Keep reading. I’ll get to it.
PROACTIVE, AGGRESSIVE TRUCKING DEFENSE
So what can you do? Hope the advertising plaintiff attorney won’t sue? Avoid antagonizing them and maybe they’ll be kind and gentle? How’s that been working for you?
Sounds ridiculous, but it is too often the “strategy”. If you can call sitting by passively and waiting for the attack a “strategy”.
BEFORE THE ACCIDENT
I’ve written and spoken a lot about pre-accident preparation, so let me just give a recap.
-Have an accident response plan in place NOW;
-Train your driver
-Thoughtfully select and train whomever is going to take “the call”;
-Preselect experts and ensure their 24/7 availability;
-Know what you need to do to preserve data—ECM, telematics, video,…;
-Review your safety plan, manual, training, …and prepare as if you will have to defend it at trial;
-Identify who is going to be the “face of the company” in a suit and prepare them.
Key—if you were on the witness stand, what evidence would you want to present? Develop it now. After the accident, it’s just back-fill.
WHEN THE ACCIDENT OCCURS
Act immediately. Investigate. Document. Get statements from witnesses. Do something!
We have an advantage that none of those daytime TV attorneys have—immediacy. We know about the accident before any of them. If we are not ready and act immediately, we will have squandered our greatest of assets.
Don’t rely on your insurer. If they act immediately-great. If not, protect yourself. In a world of high insurance rates and significant risk retention levels, it’s your money.
You can’t afford to sit by idly if your insurer delays in assigning an adjuster, opening a claim,…. One of my grandmother’s saying was, “the Lord helps those that helps themselves.” Act immediately. Help yourself.
Take the slack out out of the post-accident chain. Do something.
AFTER THE ACCIDENT
This is where the “hunker down”, “defensive defense” is tragically the norm. “What can we do except wait until they sue?” Answer—A lot.
Sue them first. If you have an argument as to liability and you’ve suffered damages (PD, cargo, downtime,…), sue them first. This gives you the jump on the cable TV attorneys by being able to subpoena records and propound discovery against the claimant who, at this point, is represented by the auto insurance company attorney.
More importantly, you have the potential to anchor jurisdiction in the location of the accident rather than allowing the plaintiff to drag you into a “hell hole” on the theory that you are a trucking company and can be sued anywhere. This can save you millions and the industry as a whole hundreds of millions of dollars.
You may even be able to prevent the claimant from if you get a judgement in your favor against the claimant. This can result in res judicata or collateral estoppel–legal terms for “you had your chance and you lost. Good bye.”
Someone recently told me that they do this. “We pursue subrogation on all our cases. We often get our money without having to sue.”
They’re missing the point. You might not want to get your money right away, otherwise you could lose being in a conservative jurisdiction. Sue them. Maximize your suit per discovery and jurisdiction.
Push back against the Letter of Representation. Shortly after the accident you will get the standard letter of representation from the advertising attorney—“This is my client. No further communications with them. What are your policy limits?”
Too often this is sent to the insurer after which it is filed it away and waiting for the inevitable. And all that time the claimant is running up medical bills from a doctor to which they are frequently referred by their attorney.
Do something. Push back. Have your attorney send a letter and say all communications are to be to them. And do more.
Include medical and employment record releases in that letter for the claimant to sign and return. Request a list of medical providers and employers. State your need for these records to promptly investigate the claim and potential prejudice if not provided. And do more.
Request that their client submit to an immediate medical examination. Again, make clear the prejudice that you will suffer is they do not agree to do so.
What responses do I get from the plaintiff attorneys when I do this? “I’ve never had this before.” Or, more often, “What right to you have to request an exam before suit?”
My answer? “None. But I’ve documented my request. If this goes forward, you and your client will have to explain why, if you were really injured, you would not let our doctor examine them.”
Quite frankly, I don’t care if they agree to it or not. If we get the exam, great. if not, we have documented the record as to our request. Documentation to challenge that ongoing treatment and medical expenses run up before they file suit.
We cannot concede an inch. We cannot make it easy for those who want to eat your lunch. That is exactly what “defensive defense” does.
Learn the lesson—full court press in defense of your company.
Unscheduled maintenance and breakdowns have been a rising cost issue since early 2020, but now the issue of inflation appears to be rearing its head. Costs have been spiraling upward for quite some time.
In June 2020, FleetNet reported Q1 2020’s cost for a mechanical repair was $491, 30% higher than repairs in Q4 2019.
The arrival of COVID-19 worsened the costs, not because the raw materials behind steel and rubber became more rare, but because the supply chain slowed at first and is now currently experiencing congested ports and backed-up orders.
Costs for actual parts are also going up, along with the labor costs associated with breakdowns and even regularly scheduled maintenance.
“The increases in costs for parts and labor reflect the changes taking place in the North American economy,” said Dick Hyatt, Decisiv president and CEO. “Ongoing economic growth has led to a rise in freight volume and demand for carrying capacity. That is also being driven higher by the need to replenish supply chains that have been depleted due to manufacturing and distribution shutdowns during the pandemic.”
Hyatt said increased transport demand pushed up vehicle mileage and usage.
The heavy parts, as well as the electrical parts, went up by doubles digits. Lighting systems increased 17.4% in Q2 from a year earlier, transmissions costs were up 16.4% in the same time frame, and brakes costs increased 11.1%.
Emily Hurst, manager of data and analytics at FleetNet, said fleets seeking to cut costs need to mimic the habits of the best-in-class fleets in the TL, LTL and tanker divisions.
Such habits could include reinforcement and better insulation put around electric wiring and lighting lines to prevent problems that put out lights.
The Decisiv/TMC North American Service Event Benchmark measures results in 7 million commercial vehicles operating in the United States and Canada, serviced by Decisiv’s SRM platform. The surveys on unscheduled maintenance and general costs were both released before TMC’s fall meeting.
A group of researchers from Northeastern University and the University of Arkansas issued a report this February “Did Electronic Logging Device Mandate Reduce Accidents?” which analyses the effects of the electronic logging device mandate, and they reached two main conclusions:
The report mostly focuses on smaller carriers and owner-operators who were considered the most impacted by the mandate, since larger carriers were likely already using ELDs or AOBRDs.
Although there were fewer hours of service violations, crash numbers saw little impact by the enforcement of the ELD mandate.
The report studied drivers between January 1, 2017 and September 1, 2018, which included:
For the pre-enforcement period, researchers said there was an average of 1,717 truck crashes a week. That number spiked during the soft enforcement period (December 17, 2017, to April 1, 2018) to 1,912 crashes a week. After April 1, the number dropped to an average of 1,703 crashes per week.
Based on this data, the researchers conclude that these numbers do not point to any obvious reduction in accidents due to the ELD mandate.
While accident rates appear unchanged, the report says, unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding appear to have increased over the same period of time. These unsafe driving behaviors were found to be in response to productivity losses caused by the mandate.
According to the report, unsafe driving violations:
“We find that the ELD mandate unequivocally enhanced HOS compliance,” the researchers write. “However, the ELD mandate did not noticeably improve safety, and we are able to produce no statistically significant evidence that ELD adoption by the smaller firms corresponded to any reduction in accident rates.”
Fleets using in-cab cameras said they pay for themselves within months, as video exonerates drivers in crashes and drops insurance premiums.
When Keith Wilson proposed having an in-cab camera system for the trucks at Sharp Transport, the idea did not go over well with some drivers.
The system raised privacy concerns with drivers, not least of which was the fear that in-cab cameras would record while the truck was parked and the driver was sleeping. A few drivers threatened to quit the fleet if Sharp went ahead and installed the rectangular units, which would produce four different camera angles from the cab.
Wilson, Sharp’s director of safety and recruitment, knew he had to address the concerns before he implemented the policy change. After proposing the idea, Sharp contacted the chairman of the driver council the next day, said Wilson. “We met with the [council] a few weeks later to discuss and answer questions.”
“We showed them everything the camera did, and everything they did not.”
The list of concerns soon narrowed, with drivers asking if the cameras would be able to peer into the sleeper areas.
“The biggest objection obviously was the driver-facing cameras,” said Wilson. “We showed them everything the camera did, and everything they did not.”
One thing the cameras do not do is record when the keys leave the ignitions, Wilson said. The cameras even go inactive if a truck is idle for three minutes. And most important to drivers, the unit did not record the sleeper area, he told drivers.
Out of 150 Sharp Transport drivers, only three left the company after in-cab cameras were installed, Wilson told a WorkHound webinar last summer.
Then the policy paid off. Costs went down, and the cameras “paid for themselves.” Wilson said it only took eight months for the return on investment.
For truck drivers, often blamed for accidents, the in-cab video became a useful piece of evidence to show the police. Sometimes truck drivers were exonerated “on the spot” following an accident, after police reviewed the video, Wilson said.
“It changes the narrative really quickly,” said Wilson.
The video benefits
Alan Drazen, vice president of Simco Logistics, said its Samsara-branded video cameras have indeed exonerated the company’s drivers. But Drazen pointed to other benefits from the cameras, as well.
“The biggest change for us was the culture change,” said Drazen.
From safety to “harsh events” such as sudden braking, the cameras have proven their benefit by improving the company’s safety record, Drazen said.
The New-Jersey-based company has 160 trucks, Drazen said. The Samsara in-cab cameras have cut use of personal electronic devices by about 90%, he said. The video cameras, which can upload videos immediately after a harsh event is detected, are also used for driver coaching, tips and discipline.
As for privacy concerns, the drivers still have them, even though Simco has no overnight drivers. But Drazen tells the drivers that video is only uploaded to him under certain circumstances.
“If they don’t do harsh events, we’ll never see [the drivers],” said Drazen.
In three years of usage, Simco’s insurance premiums have dropped, Drazen said, as the company’s “culture of safety” grows.
“Right now, we are paying about 60% of what we were paying before the cameras,” said Drazen. “And [insurance premiums have] been dropping every year.”
Drazen said Simco agreed to a five-year prepayment for the Samsara cameras and service. The ROI was quickly recognized.
“We got a full recovery in costs in 18 months,” said Drazen. “It’s unbelievable.”
Drazen said he now promotes the cameras to other fleets.
“It makes it safer for everybody,” said Drazen.
Wilson said the time from idea to implementation of in-cab cameras relatively short, and the ROI came quickly.
“The proposal and vetting process took about a month to complete. Two weeks to finalize the financial aspect, a week to have shop personnel trained to install,” Wilson said. “We estimated three months to install in all units.”
From skepticism to support
The cameras can notify dispatch offices immediately after a harsh event. In Samsara’s case, the cameras can upload video immediately via cellular networks.
Samsara is aware of the concerns drivers have at first. The company has a blog that offers nine tips “for getting driver buy-in on dash cams.”
As with Sharp Transport, the first strategy advised was meeting with drivers and transparency. And during those meetings, showcase real exoneration footage, the blog states.
“We got a full recovery in costs in 18 months. It’s unbelievable.”
“Successfully exonerating drivers is the most powerful way to get skeptical drivers in support of dash cams,” the blog, written by Samsara product marketing manager Eleanor Horowitz, said. “If you have an example of a near-miss or not-at-fault collision that was captured during a pilot, share the footage with all of your drivers.”
Wilson said there is no legal precedent that favors violations of privacy for company-owned vehicles.
“We did have to compromise with our owner-operators,” said Wilson. “They agreed to have the cameras installed on all of their vehicles with the option to have the driver-facing camera turned off.”
Privacy issues aside, Samsara makes the lure of decreasing accidents and premiums the main selling point in the promotion of the cameras. The company, on its blog, cited a June report by Frost & Sullivan. The report noted the FMCSA estimates that 71% of large-truck crashes occur due to driver distraction.
“Unsafe practices, including texting or calling while driving, increase the likelihood of crashes,” the report reads. “They also affect a fleet’s brand image and reputation, while creating challenges related to driver retention.”
Frost & Sullivan concludes that the U.S. and United Kingdom market for such cameras will grow by 22.2% from 2018 to 2025, surpassing 3.5 million units by 2025.
Wilson said Sharp’s accidents have dropped 125% since cameras were installed, and part of the reason is the psychology involved.
“Just having the camera in-cab changes behavior,” said Wilson.
Years of rising insurance premiums have pushed fleet operators to their limits, with many insurance carriers mitigating costs through dramatically increased deductibles and reduced coverage, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. Yet, a growing number of carriers are reining in insurance spending – without taking on excess liability – by leveraging advanced fleet safety programs.
Powered by artificial intelligence, global positioning systems and other technology, today’s safety platforms are helping organizations not only to reduce outlays for insurance premiums and settlements, but also to incur fewer citations, conserve fuel, reduce wear and tear on vehicles and, most importantly, experience fewer accidents.
The right tools can help drivers protect themselves and others from accidents. When an accident does occur, telematics and smart cameras can provide a record and valuable context of the event. Even when a fleet’s driver is at fault, a strong safety program demonstrates an organization’s commitment to safety and can aid in negotiating a settlement.
Follow these seven steps to create a fleet safety program or transform a mediocre system to be state of the art.
1. Evaluate your organization’s telematics
There is a reason that more than half of commercial vehicles in the United States use telematics devices. Data tracking is essential to identify challenges and give managers visibility into driver behaviors and vehicle operations. The more detailed the data collection, the clearer the picture and its applications to shape ongoing improvements and driver coaching.
Fleet technology has expanded past basic location tracking (although that remains an essential element) to now record or flag incidents of unsafe driving. A system can warn drivers when they exceed the posted speed limit, for example, and can be set to alert managers by text or email of speeding or other incidents. Smart dash cameras not only reveal unsafe driving but also help defend against false claims. The most advanced dashcams record multiple views, which can reveal reasons for hard braking or sudden lane changes, potentially proving that a driver was paying attention and acted to avoid an accident.
2. Identify your safety challenges
Telematics systems that integrate smart cameras reveal which drivers are following the rules and which are breaking them. Fleet managers can share this hard proof with individual drivers to identify each person’s opportunities to drive more safely, such as complying with a smartphone policy or paying special attention to traffic signals and posted speeds. After installing smart cameras, fleet managers often discover issues that had gone undetected, such as inconsistent seatbelt use.
3. Close telematics gaps
Is your technology collecting the necessary data to address all your safety needs? What about other telematics applications, such as informing operational adjustments to improve fuel efficiency or reduce wear and tear on vehicles and equipment? It may be a worthwhile investment to add forward- and driver-facing video capability, to begin tracking engine idling or to evaluate a driver’s route selection, which can affect fuel consumption and customer wait times as well as vehicle wear.
4. Establish challenge-based goals
The transparency that telematics and video evidence bring to the table can help managers cut to the chase in confronting drivers about their unsafe practices. Rather than delivering a laundry list of safety mandates for all drivers, tailor goals to the individual’s problem areas. Driver A may need to focus on coming to a full stop at stop signs, while Driver B needs to stop speeding and learn to buckle-up behind the wheel. Set achievable goals and use your fleet safety technology to confirm progress.
5. Update your driver safety policy
A baseline of expected behavior helps drivers maintain safety by following the rules. A policy also lets the organization explain what data it collects and why, including how management will use data to reach its goals. Spell out training requirements, authorized uses, maintenance expectations and background check authorization. Require employees to acknowledge the policy. Explaining in the policy how telematics enables the company to enhance safety, save money, verify compliance, improve customer service or meet other objectives can increase employee buy-in.
6. Benchmark the fleet
Take some time to document how each driver typically performs before launching into an improvement campaign. This is also a good time to benchmark vehicles and equipment for later comparisons of fuel consumption, wear and other metrics.
7. Coach for long-term improvement
The technology is in place, safety challenges identified, and drivers know and understand which behaviors need improvement. The final step is to check in regularly and review their performance, marking progress against earlier benchmarks.
Some organizations hold up their best-performing drivers as examples to others, awarding gift cards or other recognition on a regular basis as an incentive for consistent, safe driving. A sense of friendly competition can help employees view cameras and telematic devices as tools to meet shared goals, protect drivers from false claims, and verify the quality of their driving. With the right telematics partner, a fleet safety program can be the answer carriers seek in the quest to counter rising insurance costs. By following the seven steps and leveraging today’s advanced technologies, fleet operators will reduce accidents and make the roads safer, while at the same time reduce risk and qualify for lower premiums.
The Biden Administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress have the opportunity to reshape trucking regulations this year. Looking at what the Obama and Trump administrations left unfinished can show a potential roadmap to changes on the horizon.
From driver classification laws to hours of service changes to safety technologies and insurance minimums, the Biden administration and Democrat-controlled Congress have the potential to reshape trucking regulations over the next few years.
With the slimmest majority possible in the U.S. Senate and just a 10-vote advantage in the House, there could be pressure on the Democrats to push through new regulations and revisit Obama-era changes that the Trump Administration put off or canceled. The Biden Administration has already put a hold on some late-2020 trucking proposals’ by Trump’s DOT — including a pilot program to look at allowing drivers to pause their on-duty driving period.
Other Democrat-led ideas, such as increasing the minimum insurance for trucking companies, could get rolled into an infrastructure bill that Democrats expect to push for this spring.
Based on interviews with industry experts and past coverage of the FMCSA and DOT, FleetOwner has highlighted 10 pending or potential changes to the trucking industry worth keeping an eye on in 2021.
Driver classification laws: On hold
The Trump administration’s Department of Labor-proposed rule that aimed to clarify the difference between an employee and an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act has been put on hold by the Biden administration. Democrats have argued that this law would make it easier for employers to classify workers, such as truck drivers, as contractors to avoid paying benefits and employment taxes.
Insurance liability increase: Likely
The minimum insurance requirement for heavy-duty vehicles hauling non-hazardous freight stands at $750,000. In 2020, the U.S. House’s $494 billion highway bill included an amendment that would increase the insurance minimum to $2 million. With Democrats in control of Congress and the White House, expect this proposal to be part of any future infrastructure bill and $2 million could be the floor — not the ceiling — of proposed requirements.
Speed limiters: Likely
The Trump administration shelved the Obama administration’s proposal to require speed limiters on large trucks. Democrats pushed for this to be part of the 2020 infrastructure bill that passed the House. This is expected to be part of the 2021 proposal or return as a proposed rule from Biden’s DOT.
Automatic emergency braking: Likely
During the Obama administration, passenger vehicle manufacturers agreed to include automatic emergency braking (AEB) on all new cars and light trucks by 2022. AEB could be mandated for new medium- and heavy-duty trucks as part of an infrastructure bill out of Congress or by the DOT.
Sleep apnea screening: Likely
Another Obama-era rule proposal eschewed by Trump’s DOT would require obese drivers to be screened for sleep apnea, which some studies have shown affect about a third of commercial drivers. In the old proposal, drivers with a body mass index of 40 or higher would be flagged for screening and others with a BMI of 33 or higher could be subject to screening if they meet other criteria. Expect this to be a Biden-era priority.
Trailer underride side guards: Possible
Expect the new DOT to take a serious look at strengthening rear-underride guards for trailers and considering adding a requirement for guards on the sides of trailers. The trucking industry and safety advocacy groups have been at odds over underride guards for years. Bipartisan legislation to add the requirements was last proposed in 2019 and saw pushback from trucking groups that said it would cost the industry billions of dollars. This could be part of an infrastructure bill or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) could propose a rule.
2020 HOS changes: Here to stay, but…
The new hours of service (HOS) rules that went into effect in September 2020 are likely to stick around in some form. The significant HOS changes expanded the short-haul exception to 150 air miles and a 14-hour work shift; expanded the adverse driving conditions exception by up to two hours; redefined the 30-minute break requirement; and modified the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to combine at least seven hours in the sleeper with off-duty time. In December, Congress directed FMCSA to analyze how the new rules impact highway safety compared to the old rules. Scopelitis Transportation Consulting (STC) anticipates the Biden Administration to want even more analysis. David J. Osiecki, president of STC, told FleetOwner that he doesn’t expect rolling back the 2020 rules to be high on the new DOT’s priority list.
Pause the HOS clock pilot: On hold
A proposal that didn’t make it into last year’s new HOS rules, which would allow drivers to pause their on-duty driving period with one off-duty period up to three hours, was introduced late in the summer. FMCSA proposed a pilot program to study the proposal. That is among the midnight regulations put on hold by the new administration.
Under-21 interstate drivers pilot: On hold
The American Trucking Associations-backed pilot program to evaluate allowing commercial drivers younger than 21 years old to operate CMVs in interstate commerce is back under review since Biden was sworn in. Younger commercial drivers are currently allowed to work in intrastate operations. It now appears their opportunity to join the interstate commerce workforce will have to wait as the pilot program is reviewed.
CSA: Expect refinement
The Trump administration tried to put its stamp on the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scoring system but did not get a rule published in time. FMCSA worked with the National Academy of Sciences to look at some statistical challenges within that system and recommended the Item Response Theory in 2017 as an alternative to the CSA Safety Measurement System scoring method. Expect the new DOT to continue to look at refining CSA, which has now entered its second decade — and third presidential administration. Changes could come in an infrastructure bill, or FMCSA could look at other ways to refine the program.
Being a carrier can be highly rewarding except when you struggle to find truck loads. And, not just any truckloads, but the right ones: those that work with your schedule and in your preferred lanes.
The good news is, there are strategies and tools to find profitable jobs that keep you running and expanding. Take advantage of these 10 suggestions to find the right loads for your particular operation.
1. Decide who you want to work with.
Understanding the makeup of your ideal customer is the foundation of your business. While it might be tempting to take any job that pays, not being specific enough can leave money on the table. When looking for the ideal customer, keep in mind the following things:
2. Use a load board.
A good load board is the best tool you can have for your business. But a word to the wise: when it comes to load boards, you get what you pay for. While you might not shell out a cent for access to that advertised “free” load board, it could still cost you. Many free boards don’t include critical information such as costs or even lanes. Fraud can also be more prevalent on these boards. Scammers can steal a broker’s identity, book a load demanding up-front payment, and then take the cash.
To find a reputable, high-quality load board, look for:
3. Work with a freight broker.
When used in tandem with a load board, freight brokers can be your best friend when it comes to snagging the best loads and finding the most convenient lanes for your purposes. Freight brokers connect shippers to truckers and are excellent sources for jobs, especially if you’re just starting in the business. The best part is that freight brokers do most of the legwork for you, from negotiating shipping rates to handling certain administrative tasks. Building a relationship with a reputable freight broker can be a smart long-term investment that brings you consistent, quality work.
If you’re thinking about partnering with a freight broker, be sure to understand the costs. Good brokers should be upfront about commission fees and transportation costs.
4. Get approved for “Book It Now” loads.
If you have a network of brokers you know and trust (and who regularly use your services), Truckstop.com’s “Book It Now” instant load app can save you time and money. Book It Now connects you to a pre-vetted load that fits your equipment, pricing, and lanes without having to search multiple apps or platforms. The app gives you all kinds of data from the broker, so you have accurate load details with the flexibility to book at any time, day or night. This means you know exactly what to expect before hitting the “okay” button.
Book It Now is free for carriers. Just fill out the email template to let brokers know that you’re qualified, ready, and able to help them out.
5. Analyze information.
Data is king when it comes to finding your ideal loads. Quality load boards should offer in-depth information, such as broker contact info and location, rate trends, lanes, and type of loads. The Truckstop.com Load Board offers plenty of data, highly accurate and current, making it easier to figure out costs and profits for every load.
6. Run a backhaul search.
Running a backhaul search means you’re working backward. In other words, you’re looking at the destination to see what kinds of outgoing loads might need transport. By doing this, you can get a list of truckloads to sort by rate, miles, and shipping company. Many carriers find backhauling extremely valuable, especially when more loads are coming out than going in. It’s also a smart way to break into new lanes.
7. Sell yourself.
When asking yourself how to book truckloads, be proactive rather than reactive. Let brokers and shippers know that you’re available for hire and can deliver their goods on time. Do you have a hazmat certificate? Do you specialize in moving heavy freight? Don’t keep it a secret! Head to your favorite load board, post your truck and add as many details as possible to help others find you with their most important search terms.
8. List more than one type of transport.
Just because you drive a reefer, flatbed, or dry van doesn’t mean you can’t do a little cross-cargo listing. Consider using your refrigerated truck to haul dry goods if there aren’t any perishable goods to carry. Or, maybe your flatbed can haul other heavy items. Obviously, it won’t work for everything. You can’t carry ice cream on a flatbed. But with a little creative thinking, you might find extra loads you hadn’t considered before. Also, if you restrict your search to only full truckloads, you could be missing out on less-than-load (LTL) options. Will you be paid less for that job? Yes. But you’ll also be building good customer relationships for down the road, and you can fill your truck with other LTL loads to make more money and be profitable on that haul.
9. Register as a government contractor.
Private companies aren’t the only ones on the hunt for haulers. Government organizations also outsource transportation needs. We aren’t just talking about the federal government, either. Local city governments need things hauled, as do county municipalities and state agencies. In every part of the country, there’s a government entity that needs to move something. The only challenge with these jobs is that you need to register as a government contractor, which requires a few extra steps. If you want to avoid the paperwork and other requirements, consider partnering with a company that already has a government transportation contract.
10. Work with truck dispatchers.
Truck dispatching services are another route to finding the right brokers and shippers. Some dispatchers go a few steps further, offering administrative assistance in accounting, billing, and collections. While you’ll have to pay a bit extra for these, you get time back that you can spend focusing on the road or with family.