Archive for the ‘Drivers’ Category

ACT’s Flat Tom Facebook Contest Is Back!

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Are you an ACT driver and want to win freebies? Then you’re in luck! American Central Transport is excited to bring back Flat Tom this summer and give you the chance to win BIG.

Kicking off June 27, the #ACTFlatTom Facebook contest is a fun and easy contest for drivers to participate in, no matter where they are on the road. Here’s how it works.

Step 1.  ACT will provide a printed Flat Tom character to take with you over the road. OR click here to save the digital version.

Step 2.  From June 27, 2016 – July 29, 2016, take a photo with your Flat Tom character following the weekly categories below. (You don’t have to take a picture every week to qualify; it’s completely up to you how many times you want to enter!)

Step 3.  To submit your photo(s) for chances to win, go to facebook.com/HaulACT and upload your photo on the American Central Transport Facebook timeline. Be sure to comment which photo category you’re posting and use the hashtag #ACTFlatTom

5 Photo Categories:

Week #1 Theme (Week of June 27) – Patriotic

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Week #2 Theme (Week of July 4) – Best Food or Favorite Restaurant

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Week #3 Theme (Week of July 11) – Safety Selfie

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Week #4 Theme (Week of July 18) – Farthest Away From Liberty, MO

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Week #5 Theme (Week of July 25) – Best Selfie

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We’ll be giving away weekly prizes to participants throughout the summer. We’re looking forward to seeing your Flat Tom photos during your summer journeys on the road! While you’re at it, give us a follow on Twitter.

Please remember to only use your mobile device while parked. Good luck, ACT drivers!

Testing Event Recorders

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Testing Event Recorders

 As I write this, it is the first week in August and we are in the process of installing 30 Event Recorders by Lytx for a 90 day test which starts September 1.  I thank the drivers who took time to understand what this product does and agreed to participate in our test.  You are truly “Raising the Standard.”  To learn more about what event recorders do (and also what they don’t do….much of the scuttlebutt in the driver web is just wrong), our Vertical Alliance Group Safety Training (VAGST) will be available soon for you to review.  If you don’t know how to access it, just contact our Safety department and someone there will help you.  I think you’ll be impressed with what technology can do today.

What are we hoping to accomplish?  Technology is coming quickly to safety in trucking.  The hard question for us is not whether to use it, but which one to choose.  There are so many safety and compliance products out on the market today; it takes careful testing to learn what new products can do for ACT and its drivers before we make large financial commitments.  We also learn things along the way.  We don’t know how much time it will take with event recorders to coach and review what is captured with our drivers.  For example, we are told that each event recorder only records certain types of events and that a typical driver will only generate around 3 minutes of video per month.  One of the benefits of event recorders we hope for is the opportunity for us and the drivers to see what types of events are recorded so we can all learn from them and get better.  That is really what this is all about…protecting ourselves and getting better.

One of the biggest benefits is protection, both for you and ACT.  We know that in all cases of a tie, the truck driver and company will lose in this litigious society.  We also know that there are many ambulance chasing lawyers, frivolous lawsuits and people don’t always tell the truth, especially when they can profit from lying.  But ferretting out the truth in the backdrop of a bad accident can be expensive and difficult as injuries can be severe and emotions high.  Remember recently that accident of a Walmart truck and the famous comedian?  The media immediately broadcast across the country with certainty that he was violating hours.  Prosecutors prepared indictments announced on television.  It wasn’t true.  In a bad accident it is often the case of “accuse first, get the facts later.”  With event recorders, what actually happened in an accident is recorded so the truth is undeniable. We think that is to our mutual advantage.  We want to focus on what caused the wreck instead of all the extemporaneous stuff lawyers like to use as red herrings to heat up and inflame emotions.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  I think in most cases, the truth is our friend.  We believe, based on our experience and industry information, that most wrecks are caused by the passenger vehicle, not our truck.  Being able to prove that and exonerate ourselves can save a lot of time, money and stress while protecting both of us.

You wouldn’t believe how much time we spend on the small fender benders, the truck stop wrecks.  With the hours of service restrictions and electronic logs, truck stops have become more and more congested and the odds of you getting hit in a truck stop are increased.  For company trucks, we need a way to find out who did it to get our money.  The video will save time spent arguing with adjusters.  Independent contractors, you have a $1000 deductible on your physical damage insurance which comes out of your pocket if we can’t find the person who hit you.  We try to help you collect it but often the person who hit you disappears or just denies it.  The event recorders we are testing hibernate when you are asleep, but wake up to record when someone hits you.  How much time and money would this save us?  A lot!

Some drivers prefer to purchase a camera in a truck stop.  I am against this and ask drivers not to use them.  In any accident we have a duty to preserve all evidence.  If we (or our driver) lose evidence, we run the risk of being accused of spoliation.  Under this doctrine lawyers can ask the jury to consider that the evidence lost would be against us, even if it wouldn’t have been.  Why?…because we lost the evidence.  This needlessly gives the plaintiff attorney something inflammatory to use against both of us before a jury rather than simply talking about what caused the wreck.  We haven’t tested them and I do not have a confidence of what these truck stop recorders do and how we could control the evidence they generate in a 300 truck fleet.  Heck, we don’t even know who has them and who doesn’t, if they are installed correctly and much about the brand.   I would much rather pay for the Lytx event recorders, provide them to drivers at no charge, and be able to control the device and preserve the evidence to protect us both in every case.

What do we expect to see?  I guess we’ll find out in the test, but I suspect some things which are captured on event recorders are, as we lawyers like to say, “res ipsa loquitor” a fancy Latin way of saying “The thing speaks for itself.”  We’re told that they are developing a phone app which would allow drivers to do self-review.  For example, if a driver runs a red light because the driver didn’t slow down enough to stop in time, I think we can all learn pretty quickly what we did wrong and what needs to be done in the future to fix it.

But some things may not be so obvious.  For example, let’s say you do not tailgate, but over the years you have developed a habit of following too closely.  You are unaware of this because you have had no way to measure the close rate between your truck and traffic ahead.  You could be endangering yourself and others, while not even knowing it.  This device could present an opportunity to learn and get better.  Wouldn’t you want to know this?  Any responsible person would.  We do know that too many of our accidents have been rear-ender’s.  These are often very bad accidents.  I would be thrilled to be able to fix our habits so they never happen.

Let’s say you are a great experienced driver with over 1 million accident free miles.  Does this mean you are never unsafe?  I don’t think so.  All drivers can be either safe or unsafe depending on the situation they are in at the time.  Many accidents today result from distractions.  We see it all around us with the four wheelers every day.  Distraction can be caused by stress.  Anything that takes your eye or mind off the business of driving is a distraction.  Event recorders will capture this.  Some distractions may not be obvious to you.  One that is not so obvious is when you have distraction which is caused by some stress in your life.  It is certainly possible that a very safe driver with a good history could have something on his or her life, with way too much time to think about it, and as the problem gets larger, they become distracted and are not the safe driver they have always been.  It could happen to anyone.  This gives us an opportunity to intervene.  If this happened to you, wouldn’t you want to be made aware of it, and perhaps shown a recording before you get into trouble and hurt yourself or someone else?  Of course you would…or you wouldn’t be the good driver that you are.

The small thinking is to say…”They’ll catch me doing something wrong and I’ll be in trouble so I don’t want them.”  Kind of sounds like your children, doesn’t it?  Really, that is not what this is about.  What it is about is protecting you and ACT, while finding ways to learn and improve.  Seems to me, if this works, that would be the RIGHT thing to do.  Think about it.

Safe Trucking, Tom

Appreciating Drivers

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imagesFZA76YUTIt was an early morning diner at a truck stop on the plains of western Kansas in a small town with a name only the locals knew. And a little man came in with the cold still fresh on his coat and sat down in the corner booth. The waitress came over with a smile and said “What will it be, Bub?” The little man looked up at the big girl and said with a twinkle in his eye, “Two looking up at me” and started filling out his logs. He had a wrinkled face that told of a life of many lonely hours on the road. As he sat quietly sipping his coffee, the big girl sat down his eggs and asked “Where are you from, honey?” The little man told the waitress his story:

“I am a long haul trucker. I grew up on a farm in Iowa, hunting in the woods and fishing in the stream. My brothers and I ran through the fields, hid in the corn and swan in the ponds. During the week we bucked hay until dark and on Sundays after church we had picnics by the river. I have a 2000 Freightliner with 1,000,000 miles and have put every one of those on. I’m halfway through a four day run. I have never had a wreck and hope I never do. I haul goods to people all over the country and always on time. I have driven next to drunks, outlaws, teenagers, old people who can’t see 20 fee in front of their cars, four wheelers who cut in front of me, traffic jams that go on for hours, and all kinds of weather. My boss drivers a shiny new corvette, I see it parked at the front door of the terminal when I get back once a month but I have never met him. He is always in his office on the second floor. He parks near a sign which says, “No Drivers Allowed Past this Point.” A voice on the phone dispatches me. I am Unit Number 9805. The company had Driver Appreciation week last week but I have been on the road 30 years and have never made it to one. As long as I do my job, I don’t think they know I exist and that is for the best.”
He looked down and started on his eggs and the waitress filled his mug.
When he finished, his bloodshot eyes stared at the wall.
The waitress, a friendly gal, then tried to restart the conversation with the lonely trucker.
“Tell me about your family,” she asked.

The trucker looked up from his coffee and smiled at the waitress with sadness in his eyes. “I went into trucking when my dad died and the farming went bad. My brothers went off to school and we lost the farm. A big corporation bought it at auction. Susie was never born to be a trucker’s wife and she took up with the local banker 20 years ago. She just could not take the lonely weeks alone. She lives in a big house in the city and spends time at the country club. My son Bobby just finished law school and my daughter Jenny is married with two girls but I haven’t seen them in 2 years. My mother died four years ago when I was in LA but I made it back in time for the service, having to remind my dispatcher three times. You’ve never seen a truck get back from the coast that quickly. What about you?”

The waitress then sat down at the booth and said “I raised three kids by myself in this little town. They now live in the city. I read People magazine on breaks and imagine that I was beautiful. I spend my days serving eggs and bacon. The job doesn’t pay much, but I like talking to the drivers and that makes me happy. I’ve talked to a lot of truck drivers over the years. I wish most people knew the sacrifices you make to do your job and move this country’s goods. Thank you.”
“I have to hurry,” said the trucker. “I have to deliver on time and we’ve got some catching up to do.”

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The trucker smiled, looked at the five dollar tab and put down a ten dollar bill.
He walked out against the cold and fired up his rig. The words “Thank you” hung with
him for the next 500 miles. It was words he had never heard before. But the smile
stayed on his face as he drove to his next delivery.

Happy trucking and thank you for all you do! Tom

Good Decisions…Bad Decisions & Fuel

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pumping fuelGood Decisions…Bad Decisions & Fuel

An owner operator’s settlement statement does not show profit or loss.  It shows cash flow week to week.  Successful independent contractors not only manage their cash flow but also have an accounting service (such as ATBS) prepare monthly profit and loss statements to manage their profit/loss.  They keep their eye on the big picture and review monthly financial statements to identify any areas which need to be improved.  We all want to improve top line, your revenue. But to really generate profit, you need to keep an eye on the bottom line.  The factor you have the most control over is expenses.  If you analyze this carefully, you will learn that you will make more money by controlling expenses than you will by worrying about miles.  It’s all about working smarter, not harder.

The biggest expense you incur and the one you have the most control over is fuel.    What you do with managing your fuel expense has a bigger impact on your profit and loss than miles. Our trucks are spec’d for good mpg.  The greatest factor impacting mpg is the driver, his decisions and habits.   I know many drivers who are experts at fuel management.  They also get good miles.  Their settlements are always outstanding, even in slow weeks.  They have a focused discipline running their business.

Why? Let’s do the math…calc

Assume you are a hard worker and generate 120,000 miles per year, or an average of 10,000 miles per month.   If you drive fast to get those miles and get 6 miles per gallon, you purchase in that time 20,000 gallons of fuel.  At $4.00 per gallon, you spend $80,000 on fuel per year.  No expense, even the cost of the driver, is greater.  Let’s assume that you decide to slow down and drive 65 miles per hour and get 7 miles per gallon.  On 120,000 miles, you purchased 17,143 gallons of fuel.  By saving one mile per gallon, you saved 2,857 gallons of fuel in a year.  At $4 per gallon, that is a savings of $11,428, or about a thousand dollars a month!  We have some drivers who drive the double nickel…55 miles per hour.  They consistently get over 8 miles per gallon.  If you drove 120,000 in a year at 8 miles per gallon, you would purchase 15,000 gallons in that year, a savings of 5000 gallons per year over the guy driving 70 miles per hour.  At $4 per gallon, these drivers save $20,000 per year!

Let’s discuss our fuel network.  Some use it and some don’t.  ACT passes 100% of our volume discount to owner operators.  So far this year, we have averaged .25 cents per gallon discount off of the Comdata street price.  A driver burning 20,000 gallons per year would save $4626 per year by simply using the Fuel Routing software to obtain the best prices in our network.  That would buy a lot of showers.  The owner operator who decided to slow down to improve mpg from 6 to 8 and used the fuel network would save $24,626 per year, or over $2000 per month.  You can quickly see why a company employee driver who is a top performer is worth every penny of 45 cents per mile while one making 36 per mile is costing the company money.

Here are some Trucker Myths – if you find yourself believing them, you are not running your business for profit:

  1. My settlements show what I make.” No, it only shows the gross pay and authorized deductions each week.
  2. “If I drive slowly, I won’t get my miles.” Our information shows that some of the slowest drivers get the best miles.
  3. “My mpg is low because I get the heavy loads, the ones going over the mountains and the ones heading into the wind.” Guess what? Everyone gets the same freight, including the high mpg drivers.
  4. “I can’t drive less than 65 mph.” Wrong…you can, you choose not to….and you pay a price for that decision.
  5. “I get better mpg with Quick Trip Fuel.” Dude, they all buy from the same rack.

Last year I lost a bet on Facebook.  I promised all drivers making over 8 mpg a Barbeque lunch.  I had lunch with several of them recently.  A couple of them have made over $70,000 by August.  They’re on a $100,000 per year profit pace.   It was a combination of high mpg, attention to business and recruiting bonuses. They use ATBS and call them regularly.  Only a handful of owner operators make this kind of money, but it shows that it can be done.  It’s completely up to you.  There are many other tricks to saving fuel.  We are here to help you and we are free so utilize us!  Our recruiting department will be happy to teach you how to make money as a driver recruiter also.  If you make more money…we all win!

Happy and Safe Trucking!  Tom

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Safety & Technology facing our industry

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Trucking has experienced many changes in the past few years and will continue to do so in the future. We are looking toward a host of various new regulations being proposed by the FMCSA in the next couple of years, including electronic logging devices, speed limiting, changes to safety scoring, drug and alcohol data banks, hair follicle testing, increasing insurance minimum levels and a host of others now seen and yet unseen. “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Nowhere is this truer than in trucking today.

Between distracted driving by “Four Wheelers” and creative ambulance chasing lawyers, the risk we all encounter on the road is greater than ever. You may have recently seen the article from some unscrupulous lawyers in Maxim magazine showing a KW with the caption, “Serial Killers.” This contributes to our already false but bad image. As trucking becomes more complicated with regulations, lawsuits, and competition, the strong and most successful companies are those who can quickly adopt to change to become better. American Central Transport (ACT) has a history of taking ourselves out of our comfort zones when necessary to get in front of change. We are always one step ahead of the competition. We do this in service, compliance, safety, driver compensation and every other aspect of our company. ACT is always “Raising the Standard.” This is what makes us better than the others.

Advancements are rapidly being made in safety technology. It can be confusing to sort it all out to pick the right solution. However, to the extent we can employ technology to protect ourselves, our careers and improve safety ,that is the right thing to do. Preventing accidents is always the high road and the right road.

One thing that always keeps me up at night is the thought of a bad accident. ACT’s culture has always been one of being legal….”by the book.” But we know that often safety means going above and beyond what is required by the law.   We have tested various expensive safety technologies in the past and found that some of it is problematic. For example, we tested some anti-collision technology which applied active braking. We found some drivers complaining that the brakes took over at inappropriate times creating a hazard. There are other technologies, new, expensive and unproven. There is so much technology being developed today that there are many choices. One thing, however, is certain, and that is that technology will play an important role in our driving in the future. The question is not whether it will happen, but which technology will be the most helpful in protecting ourselves, keeping you safe and keeping those we share the road with safe.

We work very hard to keep our safety good, and thus our insurance costs down. We would much rather have the money for our business than give it to ambulance chasers.

We announced in our first quarterly conference call that we will be testing 30 event recorders in September for 90 days. They will be installed in August. If the test proves successful, these event recorders present an opportunity to get better while protecting you and ACT from frivolous lawsuits. I have heard that many drivers are buying camera recorders in truck stops. I have a couple of concerns about these. One is that they do not help us break bad habits or become safer. These are strictly a CYA device. The other concern is that since these are on an individual driver basis we have no control over the evidence in the event of a problem, something a plaintiff’s attorney would likely try to use against us. The event recorder could present a dual solution of helping our drivers and ACT protect ourselves from frivolous claims, while at the same time, providing some coaching opportunities to help us become safer.

There is much false information about event recorders out on the driver rumor mill. I encourage you to get the true facts and learn more about what this technology can do for you.

Call me if you have any questions. Happy and Safe Trucking! Tom

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