Category: Semi Truck

How to Pay for CDL Driving School

how-to-pay-for-CDL-driving-school

In today’s job market, the decision to earn a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) is almost a no-brainer.  Every day, the need to ship goods all around the country grows and qualified truck drivers are in increasingly high demand.  To keep up with the demand for truckers, trucking companies are offering more and more incentives to attract drivers like higher pay, sign-on and other bonuses, and shorter routes for more regular schedules.  These opportunities can be yours if you earn your CDL. But how do you pay for the training?

 

Depending on the school and region that you get your CDL, it generally will cost anywhere from $3,000-$7,000.  Other factors that can affect the cost are how much time is spent in the classroom and on the road, the reputation of the school and whether or not the class includes board for the duration of the class for students who need it.  

If you don’t have thousands of dollars to pay for your schooling up front or don’t want to spend years pinching your pennies to save for it, there are several options available that’ll help you make your dream of driving a truck a reality.

 

Financial Aid

Many schools offer financial aid to help pay for a CDL for those who qualify.  They may offer private grants, federal grants, scholarships, and if you are a veteran who is eligible for the GI Bill, you can use those funds for your training.  Some schools allow you to finance through them, but get all of the facts before you sign. Their interest rates may be extremely high compared to your local credit union.

Take Out a Loan

If you have good credit and have something of value for collateral, you may be able to take out a loan from a bank or credit union.  If you do this, be sure to shop around for the best rate. However, taking out a loan can be extremely risky. What if you’re halfway through your training and you realize that becoming a truck driver isn’t for you?  Now you’re left with a loan to pay back and if you can’t, you risk your good credit and losing your home, car, or whatever you used for collateral.

 

Shorter Course Duration

There are schools that offer less expensive, speed courses to get your CDL.  Sure, this can save money but quickie CDL training is less desirable to employers who want to hire drivers who know what they’re doing.  If you’re taking a two-week course, you’re not going to get the same thorough training that you would in a more comprehensive course. It also means you’re not getting much driving time.  It’s important for your own safety as well as the safety of others, that you get extensive training before you hit the open road on your first job. Trucking companies don’t want truckers who speed through a short course; they want drivers who have taken the time to learn.  Training from a good, comprehensive training program will help land you a better job and be a better driver.

 

Paid CDL Training

Paid CDL training is company-sponsored CDL training.  These schools are usually owned and operated by trucking companies who will pay for your schooling as long as you agree to work for them for a period after you’ve been certified, usually 6 months to a year.  Some may require you to pay them back during the contract period in which you’re working for them or some may have you pay up front and they’ll reimburse you upon completion. Companies who do tuition reimbursement may not pay you a lump sum when you’re done.  Instead, they may pay you $100-200 a month until it’s paid off which can take a long time.

If you don’t want to be locked into a contract, pay upfront and be reimbursed after you’ve earned your CDL.  You could possibly lose your reimbursement but have no obligation to work for the company if you change your mind.  However, getting locked into a contract with a trucking company shouldn’t automatically be a bad thing. When you earn your certification, you’ll be a rookie.  Any company who hires you is taking a chance that you’ll be a safe and productive driver for them. It’s a good idea to stick around for the first year and not only learn the ropes but to show potential employers that you have longevity.

Paid CDL can be a great option.  The company is investing in you, and they want their drivers to be able to do the job well and to drive safely so they’ll take the time to train you properly.  If they’re not doing that, they’ll lose money on their investment.

The company will also be training you on the equipment you’ll be be driving and teach you their own procedures which will make your first day on the job go much more smoothly.  

 

Be Sure

Do plenty of research to determine if driving a big rig is for you.  While it’s difficult to be certain until you get behind the wheel and on the road, if you can look closely at all of the angles ahead of time, you might save yourself some money.  There’s ample information online about the ups and downs of life as a truck driver. If you know someone who drives a truck, ask if you can ride along for a day and get a feel for what it’s like.  Driving a truck is not an easy job but it can be rewarding and lucrative.

 

Before you decide which route to take, research the trucking companies in your area with a good reputation and that you plan on applying at when you graduate.  Do they have their own trucking school? If you choose their school and they pay for your CDL, you’ll be hired when you’ve successfully completed the course.

If you choose to pay for it yourself, check out several schools thoroughly before you commit to one.  They’re not all the same and you should choose your school by what you’ll get out of it―not merely your CDL but the individual attention and ample classroom and driving time they have to offer.  Classroom time is important too but driving a big rig is something that requires hands-on learning.

Earning your CDL can be the first step to a long and successful career in the trucking industry.  Whether you want to join a large trucking company or you aspire to be your own boss as an owner/operator, it all begins with your CDL training.  With all of the incentives and aids to help drivers afford training, your rewarding career in trucking can be just around the corner.

If you’ve earned your CDL and you’re looking for that first great job, look no further than Trucker Search.  Trucker Search gives truckers a place to post their resumes where they can be seen by thousands of potential employers, as well as search the database of hiring companies themselves.  It’s a fantastic resource for truckers who are just starting out or seasoned drivers looking to find a new job. Start your search today at TruckerSearch.com.

 

What is a HazMat Certification?

what-is-hazmat-certification

To be successful in any field, it’s important to be a hard worker, safety conscious, and versatile.  Versatility in a truck driver is the ability to adapt in order to get a job done, whether it’s taking on a new route, literally going the extra mile, or being able to haul any load.  In order to be able to haul anything, CDL endorsements are needed, each requiring additional testing. The CDL endorsements are T (Double/Triple Trailers), P (Passenger Vehicles), N (Tankers), H (Hazardous Materials) X (Tanker plus Hazardous Materials), and S (School Bus).  Hazardous materials are potentially dangerous cargo that falls into one or more of the following categories:

  1. Explosives
  2. Gases
  3. Flammable Liquid and Combustible Liquid
  4. Flammable Solid, Spontaneously Combustible, and Dangerous When Wet
  5. Oxidizer and Organic Peroxide
  6. Poison (Toxic) and Poison Inhalation Hazard
  7. Radioactive
  8. Corrosive
  9. Miscellaneous

 

Because of their potential danger, hazardous materials need to be handled differently than other materials.  Besides proper handling procedures, drivers need to be trained on what to do if there’s an accidental spill.

Having a HazMat certification makes drivers more marketable. Trucking companies look for truckers who have obtained their HazMat certification because they want drivers who can drive any load, even if they rarely handle hazardous materials.  Typically, drivers with their HazMat certification find jobs quicker and earn higher pay because they are in higher demand and there’s less competition.

Since 9/11, those looking to be certified to haul hazardous materials have faced strong scrutiny due to the increased threat of hazardous materials being used to cause harm to the public. Strict requirements have been put in place.  In order to transport any materials that are deemed hazardous, a hazmat certification is required. HazMat Certification applicants must have:

  • A current CDL
  • Proof of full legal name
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent legal presence
  • Proof of identity and date of birth
  • A Social Security Number
  • A valid DOT medical card

 

And must also:

  • Pass the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Knowledge Test
  • Pass a TSA criminal background check
  • Pay all associated fees

 

These requirements vary from state to state and individual state requirements can be found here. The HazMat test covers Federal and State HazMat regulations, how the various materials are transported, and the proper way to safely load and unload them.  

Failing to pass the HazMat test or meeting the aforementioned endorsement requirements has no effect on a driver’s CDL.  The TSA will notify applicants whether or not they have been cleared after they receive all the information they need for a criminal background test.  A failure can be appealed as long as it is done within 60 days.

Obtaining a HazMat Certification is a great way for drivers to expand their knowledge and open more doors.  Specialized truckers who can handle any job are always in high demand.

For drivers with a HazMat Certification, Trucker Search can be a useful tool in finding hiring companies looking for HazMat drivers.  It has searchable jobs so truckers can see exactly what hiring companies are looking for and it allows truckers to post a resume that includes all qualifications along with any added endorsements.  It’s a web-based service that’s quick and easy to use and a vital tool for truckers in search of great companies to work for. Start your search today at TruckerSearch.com.

 

Sources:

 

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Nine_Classes_of_Hazardous_Materials-4-2013_508CLN.pdf

 

https://www.dmv.org/articles/how-to-apply-for-a-hazardous-materials-endorsement/

 

https://www.dmv.org/cdl/hazmat-endorsement.php

 

https://www.dmv.org/apply-cdl.php

 

Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions

manual-versus-automatic-transmissions

Whether driving a tractor-trailer truck or your own passenger vehicle, there are some people who enjoy the complete control they get by driving a manual transmission vehicle while others prefer the ease and simplicity of an automatic.  In the personal vehicle market, fewer and fewer people are opting for manual transmission vehicles, in fact, you might be hard-pressed to walk onto a lot and find one.

In the trucking industry, manual transmissions have always been the standard.  With as many as 18 gears to shift down, tractor-trailer trucks can be tricky to learn, especially for those who are inexperienced with driving a manual transmission vehicle.  Recent trends have shown an increase in automatic transmissions coming off the assembly lines and hitting the roads, but which is better?

Manual transmission trucks are, of course, ones that the driver manually shifts the gears.  Automatic trucks come in either fully automatic like an automatic car, or Automated Manual Transmissions or AMTs that have a gearbox shifted by a computer.  

 

Control

For many, preference comes down to control.  Being in control of when to shift up or down gives the driver more control over the truck.  One of the biggest complaints about Automated Manual Transmissions is that they accelerate too slowly.  The computer works its way through the gears efficiently as it is programmed to do, a driver would manually shift faster to gain momentum faster.  

 

Ease

AMTs are simply easier to drive.  When a driver doesn’t have to concentrate on shifting, he or she can focus on what’s happening on the road ahead. AMTs are considered to be safer than manuals that take greater focus.  In heavy traffic, Manual Transmissions can be downright tedious. Not having to constantly shift gears as you creep along can make dealing with stressful traffic a little easier.

Shifting through all the gears can be tiring as well, although many drivers feel the opposite is true.  Some people feel that driving an AMT is too relaxing and being too relaxed when  driving a big rig can lead to drowsy driving and falling asleep behind the wheel.  Drowsy driving is a huge problem for truckers who spend hours on end driving the country’s highways and is a leading cause of highway accidents.  

 

Fuel Economy

Experienced truckers are generally good about driving to save fuel.  If they’re owner/operators, fuel costs are one of their biggest expenses and for truckers who work for trucking companies, there are bonuses for adhering to the company’s fuel economy standards.  When the computer is doing the shifting, gas mileage is maximized and the savings can be considerable, especially when the drivers are less experienced.

 

Driver Shortage

The U.S. is currently experiencing a severe truck driver shortage that is having an impact on shipping costs nationwide.  For this reason, truck companies are looking to Automated Manual Transmissions or Automatics as a way to bring in more drivers.  As the number of manual transmissions in cars diminishes, so does the number of young people who have ever driven a manual. Manual transmissions are seen as a hindrance to younger applicants who may find the thought of driving a manual transmission truck intimidating.  AMTs are easier to be trained on, and the ease of training also shortens the training period.

The current average driving age in the U.S. is 55 with more drivers retiring than coming in to take their places.  AMTs and Automatics allow older drivers to drive longer.  When arthritis might stop a driver from being able to shift as they once did, an AMT makes it possible for them to put off retirement, which is a huge help to the industry.  

 

Although lovers of Manual Transmissions may not like it, Automated Manual Transmissions are the direction the industry is headed due to their ability to save money through fuel economy, driver recruitment, driver retention, and safety.

 

Whether you drive a manual or automatic, Trucker Search provides a way for truckers to find a great company to work for or for shippers to find great truckers to join their team.  Go to Trucker Search and begin your search today.  

Sources:

https://truck-school.com/wordpress/how-many-gears-does-a-semi-have/

http://www.startribune.com/last-bastion-of-stick-shifts-semis-are-going-automated/492556851/

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/09/576752327/trucking-industry-struggles-with-growing-driver-shortage

https://www.trucker.com/equipment/amts-yes-or-no

 

Trucker Safety

trucker-safety

Driving a truck is one of the most dangerous jobs you can have.  With more and more distracted, impaired, or drowsy drivers on the road, it’s really no wonder that crashes involving large trucks have been on the rise in recent years.  In 2016, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes rose to 4,213 from 4,074 in 2015, an increase of 3%.

When truckers aren’t driving, they face potential dangers while parked and sleeping during long-distance hauls, and even if all goes smoothly, there are potential scams that target the trucking industry that they need to be alert to.

Whether on the road, at a truck stop, or in the work process, truck drivers need to always be aware of potential dangers.

 

Overnight Parking

Overnight parking is a necessity for long-haul truckers.  There are Hours of Service regulations to prevent truckers from working too many consecutive hours risking falling asleep behind the wheel. Finding a safe place to rest is essential.  

When parking overnight:

  • Look for a well-lit area to park.
  • Look for a place that is open 24-hours-a-day.
  • Park near other drivers.  You’ll be less of a target for thieves if other people are nearby.  
  • Carry protection.  Make sure that whatever you choose, you know the proper way to use it!
  • Look for a parking space that is easy to leave in a hurry.  Pull-through parking spaces allow you to leave an area quickly if needed.  
  • Always lock your truck when you leave it and when you’re in it.
  • Be confident.  If you carry yourself with confidence, criminals and scammers may leave you alone.
  • Look around when getting in and out of your vehicle.  
  • Keep your cell phone with you and charged at all times.
  • Report anything suspicious.

 

On the Road

The reason for being a safe driver isn’t just about avoiding injuring yourself or others, it’s also essential to do your job well and make deliveries on time.  

  • Don’t change lanes more than you have to.
  • Follow the Hours of Service restrictions.  If you’re feeling drowsy, stop to stretch, take a cat nap or have a cup of coffee.  Don’t ignore drowsiness or use drugs to keep you awake.
  • Give others space.  Assume that everyone else is a terrible driver who may cut you off.
  • Keep your truck maintained to avoid breakdowns and accidents.
  • Drive for the weather conditions.  Even though you have a deadline, you must adjust your driving for bad weather or risk not getting to your destination at all.

 

Scammers

Larger companies are generally well-regulated and you don’t really have to worry about them scamming you.  While most smaller companies are reputable and try to build a successful business, there are disreputable ones that will do things that risk the safety of their drivers. Things like requiring them to drive more hours than are allowed, using vehicles that are not able to pass inspections, lack of appropriate insurance to protect their drivers and loads, or exceeding the weight restrictions on loads.  These companies will often hire drivers as independent contractors rather than take them on as full-time employees in an attempt to bypass regulations by OSHA, the IRS, and the DOT.

If you manage a fleet of trucks, you need to be on the lookout for:  

  • Someone with info on one of your trucks claiming to be a repair shop in need of payment for a non-existent repair.
  • Someone who has gained info on one of your drivers claiming to be the driver who has broken down and is in need of money to be wired for repairs or a tow.
  • Someone claiming to be a tow truck driver needing payment for a tow that was never done.

 

Truckers should also be alert to anyone pretending to be a police officer or DOT official.  These scammers state some kind of violation and demand immediate payment. Always check credentials and if there’s a violation, tell them your employer will take care of it.  Never give out any banking information or MoneyCodes.

 

A career in the trucking industry can be a rewarding and lucrative one.  However, it’s important to always be on the lookout for unsafe conditions, potential dangers, and fraud.  Trucker Search, a leading trucker job search website, yields detailed information on companies looking for drivers. Truckers can make an informed decision and it’s a great resource for finding a great company to work for.  Go to Trucker Search today to see all it has to offer.   

 

Source:

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2016

 

Health Pitfalls of Being a Trucker and How to Avoid Them

health-pitfalls-of-being-a-trucker-and-how-avoid-them

Being a truck driver brings with it the stigma of being an extremely unhealthy profession because the majority of the time, drivers are sedentary and frequently eat fast food.  It’s true that long hours behind the wheel can lead to a whole host of physical and mental issues but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are steps drivers can take to improve their health and counteract the negative effects the profession may bring.

 

Medical Issues

Heart Disease and Obesity

Fast food is notoriously high in fat, calories, and sodium and when mixed with lack of exercise, it is a recipe for heart disease and obesity.  

High Blood Pressure

When you get your certification, the DOT tests your blood pressure and if it’s over the limit, you may only receive a certification for a year or if it’s too high you may not be certified at all.  

Back and Neck Injuries

Sitting in a truck cab for hours on end can cause painful injuries to your spine.   Back injuries can also occur during the loading and unloading of freight.

Sun Exposure

Just because you’re inside your truck, doesn’t mean you can’t get sunburned.  Prolonged sun exposure can also result in skin cancer.

Lung and Breathing Problems

Constant exposure to diesel fumes can cause lung and breathing problems.  Smoking is high among truckers which, as everyone knows, causes lung cancer and COPD.  

Accidents

Being a truck driver is one of the most dangerous professions, mainly due to highway accidents with driver fatigue as one of the leading causes of most accidents.  

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea happens when you stop breathing for short periods during sleep.  It can be caused by obesity but also occurs when fluid collects in the legs while sitting for long hours and moves to the neck at night.  Interrupted sleep at night can make you tired during the day which can cause dangerous driver fatigue.

Blood Clots

Sitting for long periods of time can cause blood clots that can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.  

 

Other Problems

Addiction

Some truck drivers use drugs like amphetamines and cocaine to stay awake during long hours on the road.  

Depression

Long hours alone in the cab of a truck can be lonely and cause depression.   However, depression isn’t always caused by loneliness and it may be due to a medical issue.  

 

What You Can Do

While the list of health problems that occur most often for truck drivers is long, the good news is they can be turned around with a little work.  

Exercise

It may be difficult to do because you’ve got deadlines, but try to fit in at least a half hour of aerobic exercise each day.  Walk before work, during your lunch break, or whenever you can squeeze it in. Taking breaks to stretch your legs and walk can help prevent blood clots and sleep apnea too.  Get a gym membership at a national gym chain and you can usually use your membership at any location in the U.S. As part of your route-planning routine, map out gym locations where you may be able to fit in a workout.  Bring small exercise equipment like workout bands or small hand weights to keep in your truck to use when you have the time.

Regular exercise is also helpful in building a strong core which will help prevent back and neck injuries.  

A Healthy Diet

Avoid fast food as much as possible.  More and more fast-ish food restaurants are popping up for people who are health conscious so unhealthy foods don’t have to be your choice on the road.  They use fresh ingredients, lean meats, and have vegetarian options.

An even better choice would be to pack meals, snacks, and drinks from home which allows you complete control over what and how much food you’re putting in your body.  

See Your Doctor Regularly

Regular checkups help you keep a close eye on your health and address any concerns with your doctor.

Wear Sunscreen

When you’re behind the wheel, especially on sunny days, put on sunscreen to protect against sun damage.

Quit Smoking

If you’re a smoker, quit.  Your employer or insurance provider may pay for help for you to become smoke-free.

Don’t Take Drugs

There are better ways to prevent driver fatigue than taking stimulants.  Getting regular sleep, having a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise will increase your stamina during long hauls.  If you feel you have a dependency on stimulants or any other drug, see your doctor or call Narcotics Anonymous for help.

Get Some Company

Dogs are great companions during long hauls and many truckers occasionally bring along their spouse to keep them company.  If you feel like you suffer from depression, see your doctor or therapist for help.

 

Driving a truck doesn’t have to be an unhealthy profession.  If you take the time to put your health and wellbeing first, you can maintain a healthy and balanced life.  By eating better, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight, you have a better chance at a long and successful career in the trucking industry.   

If you’re a seasoned trucker or new to the industry, Trucker Search can help you find just the job you’re looking for.  Trucker Search is an online tool that helps truckers find great jobs all over the country and helps companies find you.  Go to Trucker Search and start your search today!

Green Trucking: How to be a More Environmentally-Conscious Trucker

green-trucking-how-to-be-a-more-environmentally-consious-trucker

 

People throughout the world are becoming more conscious of the impact they make on the planet.  From recycling to composting to using reusable bags at grocery stores, people are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints and create a greener planet for future generations.  
Let’s face it, trucking is a highly pollutive industry.  Medium and heavy-duty trucks alone account for 23% of all greenhouse gases according to the EPA. With the popularity of Amazon and other online retailers going through the roof, the number of trucks on the road and pollution will continue to rise and unless the trucking industry takes steps to mitigate greenhouse emissions.  With changes in climate looming in the not-too-distant future, it’s now more important than ever that people take steps, no matter how small, to lessen their impact on the environment.

Sure, going green is good for the environment and its inhabitants but it can have a positive impact on your wallet as well.  The main pollutant for truckers is CO2  emitted by their trucks.  Cutting down on emissions means cutting down on fuel consumption which can save a significant amount of money.  

As a trucker, you have the ability to greatly reduce your negative impact on the environment and save money to boot.  

 

  1. Use GPS or software to plan your route in advance.  Avoid heavy traffic or areas with lots of stop signs or lights, if possible.  Within your plan, include stops for gas and food.
  2. Avoid idling whenever possible.  Idling is so harmful to the environment that California passed a law restricting idling. Other states may follow suit as they look for ways to cut down on greenhouse gases.
  3. Maintain your truck.  One effective way to cut down on fuel consumption is to properly maintain your truck.  Aside from helping to avoid costly breakdowns and prolonging your truck’s longevity, getting regular oil changes, frequently changing air filters, replacing misfiring spark plugs, and maintaining the right tire pressure can greatly improve fuel efficiency.
  4. Use an ELD (Electronic Logging Device).  Using one to log your hours will eliminate the need to log them on paper.  Besides, using an ELD was passed into law in 2016 as a way to combat fatigue among trucker drivers. If you’re not using one, you’re out of compliance.
  5. Fill up in the morning.  Temperatures are lower in the morning and because fuel expands as it becomes warmer, you’ll be able to squeeze more fuel in your tank and won’t have to fill up as often.   
  6. Don’t speed.  You may feel the pressure to get your load to its destination as fast as possible, but speeding can really eat into fuel consumption.  Remember, on highways the magic number is 65. Driving between 60-65 MPH instead of 75 can improve a truck’s MPG by up to 27%.        
  7. Lower your A/C.  When you use your A/C, fuel consumption is increased by 0.2-0.4 miles per gallon.  Of course, you won’t be able to stop using your A/C altogether but cutting down when you can will make a big difference.
  8. Recycle your tires.  Truckers go through an abundance of tires.  Find out where to take them at Earth911.
  9. Recycle everything else too.  Life on the road involves significant  waste. Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and clean paper should all be kept in a separate bag to be recycled.  Many truck stops and gas stations have recycling bins, but if you can’t find one, go to Earth911.  
  10. Think reusable.  You can cut down on all of that plastic waste by bringing snacks, drinks, and meals from home.  Bonus: the foods we pack from home usually are healthier and have fewer calories than the food we buy on the road.  It’s usually cheaper too.

 

By becoming a more “green” trucker you make yourself potentially attractive to employers, and in fact, it can open up a growing sector of companies who are making efforts to go green themselves.  Why would a company spend time, energy, and money reducing its carbon footprint and not ship its product in the greenest way possible? When it comes down to it, going green means saving fuel which is important for shipper and trucker alike.  

If you’re a trucker looking for companies in need of drivers, whether you’re an owner/operator or you’re looking to work for a shipper with its own fleet, Trucker Search can help.  With our vast database of job listings, you’re sure to find the right job for you. You may also post your resume online and let the shippers look for you. Choose what state or region you’re looking for and Trucker Search will do the rest.  Go to Trucker Search and find that new trucking job today!     

 

Sources:

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2011/09/110923-fuel-economy-for-trucks/

https://search.earth911.com

https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-greenhouse-gas-emissions

https://marketing.atbs.com/acton/attachment/29007/f-01c9/1/-/-/-/-/ATBS%20-%20Top%2020%20Ways%20for%20Truck%20Drivers%20to%20Improve%20Fuel%20Efficiency.pdf

Don’t Be a Drowsy Driver

don't-be-a-drowsy-driver

Imagine you’ve been driving since 6 a.m.  It’s after 4 and the sun is slowly drifting to the horizon…the radio d.j. is rambling on in a deep, soothing voice…the monotone hum of your tires on the highway begins to lull you…closing your eyes would feel so good…just for a second…

For truckers, getting enough sleep isn’t just a health issue, it’s a safety issue.  According to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Analysis, 7% of all crashes and 16.5% of all fatal crashes involve drowsy driving.  Driving after 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of a DUI as if you had a blood-alcohol count of 0.08% which is the legal limit.  Falling asleep behind the wheel is a real danger for truckers and the solution for fatigue isn’t as simple as drinking some coffee. Sure, a bit of caffeine might wake you up but the effects are short-lived.  When you have caffeine and are in need of sleep, you may actually experience “microsleeps” which is when you actually fall asleep for 3 or 4 seconds. If you think nodding off for a few seconds isn’t a big deal, the next time you’re driving on the highway, take note of the great distance your vehicle travels in 4 seconds when traveling at 55MPH.  It’s easily enough time to cause a serious accident.

The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) sets driving limits for truckers in order to avoid accidents due to fatigue.  The limits are on hours you can drive after the required number of off duty hours and how many hours you can drive per week. They can be found at the FMCSA’s website here.  

Even following the guidelines, it’s easy to become drowsy while driving.   There’s much talk about driverless trucks and their potential to take over the trucking industry but the technologies they’ve brought about can be used today to make driving a truck safer for current drivers.  Things like blind spot detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warnings are technologies that could solve or lessen the problem of driver inattention.

Without those, protecting yourself against drowsiness is the first line of defense.  Getting a good night’s sleep is the best place to start. For many drivers, sleeping on the road can be difficult.  Everything is different than the comforts of your own bed and things like lights, sounds, smells, or movement and vibrations that are foreign to you can keep you awake.  Eating unhealthy foods on the road can also inhibit sleep.

Here are some tips on getting a good night’s sleep on the road:

  • Sunshades, curtains, or blankets can be used to block any light that might interfere with sleep.
  • Reading a book before bed or listening to calming music can help relax you but you should avoid screen time.
  • Earplugs are a great way to block out the noises of a busy truck stop.
  • If you have to get up in the middle of the night, it’s helpful to keep things as dark as possible.
  • Parking away from other vehicles when you plan on sleeping can help reduce noise.  
  • If you turn down the volume on any electronic devices you may have, you won’t be awakened by alarms or notifications during the night.
  • A white noise machine is helpful in blocking out background sounds by emitting a consistent sound.
  • Fresh air is great for sleeping and by using window screens, you can let the fresh air in and keep the bugs out.
  • Smells can wake you up too so you should try to avoid parking next to dumpsters, portable toilets, or anything smelly.
  • Sleeping when it’s dark helps your body’s internal clock working properly.
  • Sleep apnea can keep you from getting a restful sleep.  If you suffer from it, you should see your doctor for help.
  • Natural sleep aids are a preferable choice to pharmaceutical ones.  
  • If you park where you shouldn’t, someone could wake you in the middle of the night to ask you to move.  
  • If you’re drowsy during the day, try a 15-minute power nap might be enough to re-energize you.
  • Exercise is beneficial to sleep but if your workout is close to bedtime, it’s important to leave a little time to cool down and relax.

Resting your body is an important part of your job as a trucker.  Driving for hours can take a physical and mental toll on your body but by keeping in shape and giving your mind and body the rest that it needs, you’ll be better equipped to do your job safely.  

Sources:https://www.ghsa.org/issues/drowsy-driving, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/summary-hours-service-regulations

America’s Trucker Shortage

americas-trucker-shortage

In the United States, truckers are the glue that binds product with consumer, connects supply with demand.  Without them, our economy would grind to a halt. We depend on truckers for getting us everything we need or want.

This is why the current shortage of trained truck operators in the U.S. is such an alarming problem.  It’s been predicted that if things stay on their current path, the shortage could reach a deficit of 174,000 drivers by 2026.  In 2017, truckers were moving more than 70% of freight in the U.S.

The Cause

The main reason for the shortage in drivers is the imbalance of incoming and outgoing drivers.  As a large number of truck drivers are retiring, a much smaller number of people are entering the field.  It’s been a while coming but the Great Recession slowed the problem as consumers were buying less but it became apparent as the economy grew and the number of drivers did not.

The Deterrent

Being a truck driver can be a hard life.  In the past, traditional family roles had a mother who stayed at home and took care of the house and children while the husband was the main breadwinner, focusing on the job, no matter how many hours it kept him away from home.  Now, couples focus on having a balance between their work and home life with shared responsibilities when it comes to both. This makes a career as a trucker more difficult.

The hours.  Driving a load from one end of the country to the other isn’t for everyone.  The hours are long and exhausting and most people would rather sleep at home in their own beds instead of one in the cab of a truck.

Little family time.  If you want to start a family, life on the road doesn’t leave much time for going to little league games and reading bedtime stories.

The sedentary lifestyle.  Sitting in a truck all day is hard on the body.  When you factor in the lack of healthy fast food options on the road, it can be an unhealthy occupation and lead to serious physical issues.

It’s dangerous.  According to the Department of Labor, on-the-job deaths in the transportation and warehousing industry was at a staggering  825 deaths in 2016, making it one of the top most dangerous jobs, second only to construction which had 991 deaths.

The Result

The shortage is causing shipping rates to rise.  Because companies are paying more for truckers, the cost gets passed onto consumers.  Thanks to Amazon’s 2-day shipping model, consumers expect their orders to arrive within just a couple of days.  With the trucker shortage, freight is taking longer to ship which cuts into sales and is slowing the economy.

The Good News

While the shortage may be bad news for trucking companies, shippers, and consumers, it’s good news for truckers and  people considering a career in the trucking industry. Not only is there an abundance of job opportunities, there are plenty of incentives too.

Better pay.  Carriers are offering better starting salaries.  The current average income for truck drivers is $44,020 but is on the rise, and it’s not unheard of for truck drivers to earn more than $80,000 a year.  To entice more drivers, companies have started offering large sign-on bonuses along with other incentives for meeting fuel economy guidelines, safe driving, etc.  They can really add up but beware, with some companies, their huge bonuses have so many requirements they’re nearly impossible to attain.

Better hours.  Carriers are splitting routes and many retailers are setting up more warehouses around the country so consumers get their goods faster and truckers have shorter routes,  keeping drivers closer to home.

They help drivers get their CDL.  The training course for a Commercial Driver’s License typically costs around $7,000.  More and more companies are footing the bill for the course if you agree to drive for them for a period of time, usually a year.

If you’re a truck driver or thinking of becoming one, the current shortage may be the perfect time for you make good money doing something you love.  With Trucker Search, it’s never been easier for truckers to find jobs. Whether you want to actively search our database of available jobs or you want to post your resume so shippers can find you, TruckerSearch is an invaluable resource that’ll help you get out on the open road reaching your full earning potential.  Call Trucker Search today at (888)254-3712 or go to TruckerSearch.com and get moving!

Sources:  https://www.trucking.org/article/New%20Report%20Says-National-Shortage-of-Truck-Drivers-to-Reach-50,000-This-Year, https://www.trucking.org/News_and_Information_Reports_Industry_Data.aspx, https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0015.pdf, https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag484.htm

 

Reefer Hauling Tips

reefer-hauling-tips

 

Steven Wright once said, It doesn’t matter what temperature a room is, it’s always room temperature.  

If you’re a reefer operator, you have to be a little more precise.

A reefer, or refrigerated truck, is a truck that has a built-in refrigeration system in order to haul temperature sensitive freight safely.  The trailer must be maintained meticulously to keep it running properly so that the food being hauled is kept at safe temperatures. If it is not kept at the right temperature, food can be lost, costing the company thousands of dollars or worse yet, people could get sick and even die, costing your employer million dollars in lawsuits and lost sales due to a damaged reputation.  

Food Safety is a public safety issue.  In 2017, the FDA launched the Food Safety Modernization Act intended to protect foods from being contaminated on their way from the farm to consumers. The requirements include rules for the cleanliness of vehicles and transportation equipment, required temperatures controls, keeping ready-to-eat foods and non-food items away from raw foods, and keeping out contaminants and allergens.  Also included are guidelines for food safety training and record-keeping which must be detailed and kept for a year. For more on the act, go here.  

As a reefer truck driver, you must take more precautions than with a regular trailer.  Some of the things you must do are:

  • Keep the trailer clean.  It should be washed after every load if you can.  If you’re carrying meat, blood can spread across the floor during transit so be thorough about cleaning.   Odors can stick around too and affect the smell and taste of your next load. Be on the lookout for things that could’ve been left behind from your last load like wood bits or nails from the pallets or screws from other equipment.
  • Do strict regular maintenance.  Breaking down in a reefer truck can result in the loss of your load.  Don’t risk it! Get regular maintenance to ensure your truck and its sensitive load meets their destination safely.  Giving your truck a quick inspection before each trip, looking for any damage or nails in your tires, check tire pressure, etc. may prevent a breakdown as well.  
  • Follow loading guidelines.   Stacking loads appropriately so air flows through the truck will help to keep the food at the correct temperature.  Never overload.
  • Pre-cool your reefer.  If you put cold food in your hot truck, the temperature of the contents will lower before the truck cools to the appropriate temperature.  Better to do it first. Allow plenty of time to do this, especially in the summer.
  • Make the temperature of your trailer the most important thing.  Before you pick up your load, check with the shipper to find the right temperature of the load.  If the temperature is off by even a little when you deliver the load, the receiver may reject it due to food safety concerns.  Bacteria grow at temps between 40°-140° so it’s crucial to get it right. Don’t rely on the trucks thermometer; use a pulp temperature thermometer before, during, and after transit and be sure to record all of your temperature readings.
  • Fill up at the pump first.  Make sure that when you pick up your load, you have a full tank of gas.  Reefers need to be kept running to keep the trailer cool so any stop can affect food temperature.  Some shippers require that you’ve filled up before you take the load.

 

TruckerSearch is a leader in helping reefer drivers find employers and jobs across the country.  You can search our database of thousands of job listings or load your resume and let companies find you.  And if you’re a shipper looking for experienced reefer drivers, we’ve got the database for you! Go to TruckerSearch and begin your search today!