Canada Border Crossing Update

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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

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

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

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!!

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

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


Preselection Option on hold

computer_fireThere have been a few complications with the new Preselection Option for the Contractor Web.  We will have to shut it down for now, while we work out the complications.  I will update you when we are able to release it again.  We fully expect to release it to the entire fleet very soon.


Monday Morning News and Views

I hope everyone had a safe weekend.  And I hope that all of you moms had a great Mother's Day yesterday.  This blog is becoming a great success, and I really appreciate everyone's feedback.  Seems like we receive more and more comments each day.  It will probably be a busy week here in Contractor Relations, and I am off tomorrow, so we might not see a lot of posts, but keep checking, and feel free to comment on all of our previous posts.

Be aware of fines being handed out at the Pilot in Dallas for idling your truck.  A driver told me that no signs are posted, but fines were given just the other day. 

Here's a good article on Jason's Law, which may lead to better truck parking across the country.

Is the trucking industry bouncing back?  Analysts say things are looking up for 2010.

16,000 Trucking jobs lost in April industry wide.


OOS D.O.T. Inspections

Weigh_stationDid you know that a "Y" or an "X" marked in the OOS column of a state DOT inspection report damages Mercer's safety record and reduces the number of "green's" Mercer drivers get on PrePass and Norpass? According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, mathematically, it takes NINE good inspections to offset ONE bad one. If you have an Out of Service item checked (regardless of whether or not you are actually put out of service, whether or not you correct it there, or whether or not you receive a ticket) on the report, the damage has been done. If nine other drivers don't get clean inspections on the day you get a bad one, we all take a step backwards and everyone is affected. I hear a lot of "I'm Sorry's" from drivers when they call to report bad inspections, like it's no big deal. In fact, it's a very big deal. The best "I'm Sorry" a driver can do is to get ten clean inspections after getting one bad one. Driver's who cannot consistently get clean Level 1,2 or 3 inspections hurt everyone else at Mercer and probably need to be trucking somewhere else. And will probably will be.

 

Len Dunman

Safety Director


Changes in Mail Processing

Effective immediately, in order to expedite processing of trip documents, please consolidate the following items in one envelope when mailing them to us: logs, fuel receipts, maintenance reports, bills of lading, delivery receipts, toll receipts and weight tickets. Please include any additional documents that pertain to that particular load in the envelope as well, such as packing lists, o.d. permits, etc. Please do not staple anything before putting it in the envelope. Remember to put your driver code & unit# on your logs and also to put the order#, trip# and your unit# on your delivery receipt as well as filling in the blanks on the outside of the mailing envelope. This applies to those using TripPak services as well as United States Postal Service.