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Mercertown Blog Monthly Archives: May 2009

Changes in Inspections

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 2 comments

We have a new truck inspector here in Louisville.  His name is Matt Sizemore.  Matt has been with Mercer for a few years now, and some of you may know him from his time in Contractor Relations, or his time as a Coordinator.  So next time you come through to get your truck inspected, say hello to Matt, and tell him Jason sent ya!

Do you have a TWIC card?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 7 comments

twic_card_technologyI have spoken with several contractors lately that have TWIC cards, and have never sent in a copy.  If you don’t have a copy here in office, than you are probably not set up in the computer to be offered freight that requires the card.  If you have any question, contact your coordinator to make sure we have a copy.  If you have not already sent us a copy, please send one of the front and backof the TWIC card, to Libby Fagan.  We are seeing more and more freight requiring  a TWIC card, so if you have not applied, please visit www.tsa.gov/twic.

2009 Roadcheck Press Release

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 Comments are off for this post

nrcvsaWASHINGTON, DC (May 18, 2009) –Roadside inspectors patrolling North America’s highways June 2-4, 2009 will be driving home a clear message to commercial truck and bus operators: “Operate safely alongside passenger vehicles or we will stop you.” For 72 continuous hours inspectors and law enforcement officers will be conducting their annual “Roadcheck,” an event sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) which mobilizes federal, state, provincial and local inspectors to more than 1,000 locations across the continent to conduct comprehensive North American Standard Level I Inspections and other related roadside enforcement activities.

“Every year thousands of dedicated inspectors perform roadside inspections which save countless lives and make the highways we all travel on safer.” said Stephen F. Campbell, CVSA’s executive director. “We see great results because of the cooperation among a large group including industry, state and federal government agencies. In addition to enforcement, there are many educational events with government and industry happening all over the continent to drive home the safety message.”

Last year, 9,148 CVSA and FMCSA certified inspectors at 1,683 locations across North America performed 67,931 truck and bus inspections. 52,345 of the total were North American Standard Level I inspections, the most comprehensive roadside inspection. Both the total number of inspections and Level I inspections were records for the annual Roadcheck event. 2008 saw significant positive gains in out of service rates for most vehicle and driver types.

CVSA sponsors Roadcheck each year with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, Transport Canada, and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (Mexico).

 

“The Roadcheck campaign highlights the important work that commercial vehicle inspectors perform everyday to keep our roads safe and save lives,” said FMCSA Acting Deputy Administrator Rose McMurray. “The number and the severity of crashes each year involving large trucks and buses is declining. We must not lessen our resolve to work together to make our highways and roads safer for every traveler.”

This year, roadside inspectors will be focusing on: The NAS Level I Inspection which examines all of the following: driver’s license, medical examiner’s certificate and waiver, alcohol and drugs (if applicable), driver’s record of duty status (as required), hours of service, seat belt, vehicle inspection report, as well as the brake system, coupling devices, exhaust system, frame, fuel system, turn signals, brake lamps, tail lamps, head lamps, lamps on projecting loads, safe loading, steering mechanism, suspension, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels and rims, windshield wipers, emergency exits on buses and HM requirements, as applicable; Safety Belt enforcement; Motorcoach and bus safety compliance; and, Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) compliance. In 2005 SAFETEA-LU codified UCR into federal law. It replaced the Single State Registration System (SSRS). All motor carriers (for-hire, private and exempt) – as well as brokers, freight forwarders, and leasing companies operating in interstate or international commerce are subject to the new UCR.

CVSA is an international not-for-profit organization comprised of local, state, provincial, territorial and federal motor carrier safety officials and industry representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico. Our mission is to promote commercial motor vehicle safety and security by providing leadership to enforcement, industry and policy makers. In addition, CVSA has several hundred associate members who are committed to helping the Alliance achieve its goals; uniformity, compatibility and reciprocity of commercial vehicle inspections, and enforcement activities throughout North America by individuals dedicated to highway safety and security. For more on CVSA visit www.cvsa.org.

Tuesday Morning News Links

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 4 comments

Plans to increase maximum gross weight to 97,000 pounds, also includes an increase for Heavy Vehicle Usage Tax, to $800!

ATA in favor of idling reduction

New Gov. in Illinois, may raise speed limit for trucks

Canada Border Crossing Update

Monday, May 18th, 2009 2 comments

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Effective June 1st, any truck wishing to cross the border into Canada will require  a passport, passport card, FAST card, or an enhanced CDL (not all states offer).  If you do not meet these requirements, you may not accept any freight in/out of Canada.

J.P. Dubois’ Friday News and Views

Friday, May 15th, 2009 2 comments

Abe Simpson Old FartI dedicate this post to the biggest fan of the Mercertown Blog, unit 8322,  J.P. Dubois (do-bwaaaaa).  Tomorrow, is J.P., and Joyce’s 4 year anniversary at Mercer!  For a little over three of those years, I was their coordinator.  If you ask J.P., that was the three best years of my life.  It is very rewarding to be his coordinator.  Whenever I found J.P. a good load, he would try to reward me by coming through Louisville, and attempting to give me a kiss.  I soon learned to either not find him any good freight, or just schedule a day off when he was coming through.  I used to jokingly refer to J.P. as one of my Schneider trucks.  I had several bright orange units on my board, and he was one of them.  However, I will no longer associate him with Schneider, because I just read that they have been quoting rates as low as 69 cents per mile!  I know J.P. would never approve of that.  I hope everyone has a great weekend, and if you see J.P., wish him a happy anniversary.  Just keep your distance, he might try to kiss ya!

Roadside Inspections

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 1 comment

There seems to be a trend in several states of inspecting a driver and not giving him or her clean inspection paperwork. Everyone has seen the drill: You get pulled over because you were allegedly doing 64mph in a 60mph zone. The officer looks at your bills, CDL, med card and log book. You are clean, but you get a warning for “speeding”. What has actually happened is that you got a Level 3 roadside inspection and our safety record did not get credit for having a clean one. If that happens to you, ask the officer for the clean Level 3 inspection ( the speed “warning” doesn’t matter if it’s not a citation). If he refuses, POLITELY ask for his name and badge number and forward that information to me, along with that day’s log (showing the time and location of the stop). I protest each of these in the DOT Data Q system. Bad inspections hurt our safety record and make everyone’s PrePasses and Norpasses go red. We need the credit for the good inspections. The same thing applies at ports of entry. If they just weigh you or look at your bills, it’s no inspection. If you’re required to show logs and driver credentials along with the bills, it’s a Level 3 inspection and we should get credit for it. PS……We don’t NEED any more bad inspections. Drivers who cannot produce their previous seven day logs and are cited for that or any other log violation do not need to be trucking at Mercer. Remember, the annual CVSA Roadcheck is June 2-4. WE NEED CLEAN INSPECTIONS.

 

Len Dunman

Safety Director

The Economy Trucker

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 17 comments

Yesterday, our TQM group met for our monthly meeting.  Our TQM (Total Quality Management) group, consists of several people from our Truck and Freight Operations departments.  We meet monthly to increase communication between the two departments.  If Truck Ops. and Freight Ops. are working well together, then the success of our Owner-Operators is directly effected, and improved. 

Today, a representative from our freight department pointed out that the percentage of our freight that is brokered to other companies, is increasing.  The question is, why are Mercer drivers hauling less of our available freight?  This may be a surprise to some of you, but if we had to choose between moving a load with a broker, or moving a load on a Mercer truck, we choose the Mercer truck every time.  We can rely on our permanent trucks to be safe compliant, and on time!  Plus, brokering also leads to back solicitation, and we don’t need these other companies hauling our customer’s freight, and trying to back door us. 

Every driver has their reasons for passing freight.  Too much deadhead, bad destination, commodity sucks, and last but not least, it’s too cheap!  I know that we could get in a huge argument about rates.  Truth is, right now the industry may be the most competitive it has ever been.  There are an estimated 360,000 trucking companies in the country, and they all want a piece of the action.  I will leave other companies names out of this, but I will assure you that they are aggressively pursuing our customers, and they are trying to under-rate us everyday.  Should we just ”Let ‘em have the cheap stuff” ?  Those companies can’t make it too much longer hauling the cheap freight, can they? It’s no secret what kind of condition the Trucking industry is in right now.  I have tried to post some articles on this blog over the past couple of weeks, that show how almost every company is struggling right now.  The fact is, those companies under-cutting us, will keep hauling the cheap freight…because they have to. 

100% Owner Operator.  That statement is our claim to fame.  My idea of an O/O, is the most experienced, most compliant, safest driver on the road.  We have the ability to approach customers and tell them that we have the best of the best working for us, and assure them that we are their safest option.  Just last year, we were setting records, and customers were paying top dollar for our services.  Now they want the cheapest rate they can get.  In fact, many of our customers are shifting to computer-based load offering systems, which award their freight to the lowest bidder.  Our safety, compliance, and reliability, are low on the priority list for our shippers these days.  We are cautious about booking every load that we can, because we don’t know if it is going to be covered.  Trucking companies that have company drivers can easily book anything.  They can force dispatch, and they can quote cheaper rates.  They pay their drivers flat rates per mile, so they can make some good money off of some customers, and they can quote cheap, and break even with others.  We have to get the highest rate possible on every load we book, because if we book a load, and quote it cheap, maybe all of our drivers pass the load, and then we have to broker, or give the load back to our shipper.  I can tell you that our agents are working with the mentality of book everything.  We want to book freight, even if our rate is somewhat cheap, and have an opportunity for our contractors to be offered a load.  We also don’t want to turn down any freight from our shippers, even if it is a cheap load that goes to a bad destination.  I can almost guarantee that if we don’t cover a shippers marginal freight, they will never reward us with “good” freight. 

I am not writing this to talk you into freight that doesn’t make you money.  As an O/O, you have to keep a good handle on what your expenses are.  I talk to guys all of the time that can’t tell me what their cpm to run the truck is.  Think about that.  How can you say a load is cheap, when you don’t have a clue what your costs are?  And how can you adjust, and control your expenses, when you don’t know what they are?  Our most successful contractors here, are some of the best business people that you will ever meet.  I’m not pointing that out to belittle anyone.  I want all of our contractors to be the best.  If you don’t know what your running costs are, then I guarantee you that you are passing freight that will make you money, because you think that it won’t.  One example is the way many drivers figure deadhead into a load.  Most drivers that I have talked to take the miles of deadhead and add those miles to the load miles, and re-figure the rate.  For example, you are in Louisville, KY  and a load comes up out of Columbus, OH,  going to Charleston, SC.  The load pays $1.35 cpm, on 636 miles, which equals $858.60 to the truck.  You take 636 miles, add the 215 mile deadhead, which is 851 total miles.  Take truck pay, $858.60, and divide 851 miles, and get $1.01 cpm.  Most of you probably pass that load, right?  This formula is just not logical to me.  It doesn’t represent the actual cost to haul this load.  Take 215 miles deadhead, and say that your truck gets 6 miles per gallon, 215 divided by 6 is 36 gallons.  36 gallons x 2.50 (avg price of diesel) = $90.  So it will cost you $90 in fuel to deadhead to get that load.  Take  that $90 out of the truck pay ($858.60), and you get $768.60.  Now take $768.60 and divide by the loadedmiles (636), and you get a rate of $1.20!  I bet there are quite a few of you that would change your mind about hauling the load now.  The first formula only really focuses on the miles involved.  The second focuses on the money.  Money is all that matters.  The moral of this is, don’t talk yourself out of freight that makes you money.  You not only hurt your profit, but you also hurt our chances in covering freight with a customer that we desperately need. 

My deadhead formula is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to figuring your actual expenses.  If you need any help at all, I know several great contractors that can help, or I can hook you up with our friends at CBS truck tax.  They can give you a month by month breakdown of all of your expenses, and show you exactly what your profit-margin is.  We want to give all of you the tools to succeed here, so never hesistate in calling Heidi, and I.  Be the best you can be!

SHOW US YOUR TRUCK!!

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 3 comments

Hey everyone, I just wanted to drop a quick note in here about the website. We’ve been getting some really cool trucks submitted to www.showusyourtruck.com but most of them are from guys that are NOT at Mercer. GET YOUR TRUCKS ON THE SITE!!!! We started this site so we could show off our fleet but it is turning into a showcase for other peoples trucks. Don’t let those other guys show us up; Spread the word and get thoses rigs submitted. Let’s show the nation what a great looking fleet of trucks Mercer has!

Fine for idling in Dallas, TX

Monday, May 11th, 2009 Comments are off for this post

do_not_idle_signLast Friday, a Mercer driver was fined $409.00 for idling more than ten minutes in Dallas, Texas. This is a new regulation and is part of a growing trend. A number of our drivers have had to pay the $300 fine for idling longer than five minutes in California. More and more states (and cities) are jumping on this bandwagon. Drivers can get a list of idle restrictions by state by going to www.atri-online.org.  It is worth checking, particularly with warmer weather approaching. An APU should be on every driver’s Christmas list. At some point, it will be difficult to truck without one. 

Len Dunman

Safety Director