Hello my name is Truckstop.com

HelloTruckstop

We’ve met before. In fact, for the past 20 years, Internet Truckstop® has been connecting you to the best freight in the industry. And while we started out as “just a load board,” we’ve grown into something much bigger.
We want our brand to reflect that growth. So, starting today, you’ll notice a new name and a fresh coat of paint. But don’t worry – we’re still the same trusted partner you’ve relied on to move your business, and your freight, further down the road.
From the new Truckstop.com, we just want to say, “Thank you.” We’re looking forward to the next 20 years.

Coming Down the Pike cont.

A look at rules and mandates expected in 2015

This is the second post of this series. The first post covered: ELD Mandate and Safety Fitness Determination. You can view that post here.

Speed Limiter Mandate

The speed limiter mandate, a join rule between the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was projected to be sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget in early February. The OMB is expected to clear the rule in May and the FMCSA is projected to publish the rule the same month.

The rule would require the installation and use of speed limiters (or governors) on heavy trucks. FMCSA has not said what the governed speed would be, but there has been talk of a maximum speed of 68 mph.

CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Rule

FMCSA expects its final rule on the CDL Drugs and Alcohol Clearinghouse Rule on Oct. 30.

The rule would create a repository and require employers to conduct pre-employment searches for all new CDL drivers and annual searches on current drivers based upon that person’s driving record. Regulated truck and bus companies, medical review officers, substance abuse professions and private, third-party USDOT drug and alcohol testing laboratories would be required to record information about a driver who fails a drug and/or alcohol test, refuses to submit to a drug and/or alcohol gest and successfully completes a substance abuse program and is legally qualified to return to duty.

Each CDL holder would need to provide his or her consent before an employer could access the clearinghouse. A driver who refuses to provide the information could still be employed but could not occupy safety-sensitive positions, such as operating a commercial motor vehicle.

Federal safety regulations require that truck and bus companies that employ CDL drivers conduct random drug testing programs. Carriers must randomly test 10 percent of their CDL drivers for alcohol and 50 percent of their CDL drivers for drugs every year.

In addition to the random testing, companies are further required to perform drug and alcohol testing on new hires, drivers involved in significant crashes and whenever a supervisor suspects a driver of using drugs or alcohol while at work.

Driver Coercion Prohibition Rule

A final rule prohibiting the coercion of drivers by shippers, receivers and brokers is expected to be published in September.

The rule would prohibit motor carriers, shippers, receivers and brokers from attempting to force drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including drivers’ hours of service limits, commercial driver’s licenses regulations, drug and alcohol testing rules and hazardous materials regulations.

The Notice of Proposed Rule Making includes procedures for drivers to report attempted coercion of a driver to violate commercial rules and rules of practice the FMCSA would following in response to report of coercion. It also describes penalties that may be imposed entities found to have coerced drivers, which would include fines of up to $11,000 per incident.

The burden of proof for coercion, however, would fall on the driver. An act of coercion, however, would not absolve a driver of his or her responsibility to obey the rules.

The proposal includes procedures for drivers to follow if they want to report coercion. Complaints would be filed with the agency administrator in the state where the allegation occurred.

 

Author: Larry Hurrle, Editor

Coming Down the Pike

A look at the rules and mandates expected in 2015

This is a two part post, to view the article in full, please visit the IT Magazine.

In a never-ending saga, those involved in the transportation industry are seemingly under a continuous bombardment of information coming down the pike about rules and regulations that are planned and will shake up the way the industry performs.

2015 will be no different. This year there are five rules the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has set for final publication sometime within the year. Those include:

  • Electronic Logging Device mandate
  • Safety fitness determination rule
  • Speed limiter mandate
  • CDL drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule, and
  • Driver coercion prohibition rule

All five of these rules and/or mandates are set for publication sometime in 2015. Here’s a look at the five rules and mandates expected in 2015:

ELD mandate

In one way or another, the FMCSA has been dealing with some sort of rulemaking concerning electronic logging devices, electronic onboard recorders or automated onboard recording devices for nearly three decades.

A final ruling dealing with AOBRDs was originally issued in 1988, before the EOBR final rule was issued in April of 2010. That rule was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals in August 2011, which set into action meetings and listening sessions to make the rule right. In March 2014, the ELD Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published and harassment survey results were published and put into the docket for rulemaking in November 2014.

The projected final rule is expected to be published Sept. 30, but the rule which would require all commercial motor vehicles to carry and use and electronic logging device would not officially be effective until two years after the publication — meaning the mandate would go into effect in late 2017.

Safety Fitness Determination

FMCSA has proposed to amend its regulations to adopt revised methodologies that would result in a safety fitness determination, which would determine when a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles based on the carrier’s performance in relation to the FMCSA’s five BASIC (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories) categories, an investigation and a combination of on-road safety data and investigation information.

The Department of Transportation has projected a June 17 publication date for the safety fitness determination rule. The intended effect is to reduce crashes caused by CMV drivers and motor carriers, which result in death, injuries and property damage on U.S. highways by more effectively using FMCSA date and resources to identify unfit motor carriers and remove them from the roadways.

The FMCSA will determine what interventions (if any) it will take against the carrier or driver based on the carrier’s or driver’s score when compared to predetermined thresholds.

The safety fitness determination is intended to replace the present system of rating carriers following a compliance review. Three safety fitness determinations will be used. They include “continue to operate (no interventions),” “marginal (subject to one of the seven interventions),” and “unfit (correct immediately or cease operations).”

Author: Larry Hurrle, Editor

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the “DUH!”

When I was a kid, my parents told me not to touch the hot stove, because it was hot and would burn me.  Of course, being a kid, I had to test that rule.  The result of that test burned me and I created a rule in my mind that “hot things burn me.”  This is part of the rule of “DUH!” that we all create in our lives.  So when we read the story about a person that spills their hot coffee upon themselves while driving their car and they are shocked and surprised by this really weird twist of fate because they didn’t know that hot coffee burns you when you spill it on yourself while driving your car.  This upsets them to the point that they actually sue the coffee maker for providing them hot coffee.  This suit then leads to a government agency who want to step up and show that they are concerned for our well-being so they create RULES and REGULATIONS that state, “if you sell or serve hot coffee you must warn people that if they spill it on themselves while driving their car, they will get burned.”  So now people are properly warned and can’t get upset and sue you if they spill hot coffee on themselves while driving.  I know most of you are saying “DUH” right now but that is how the process works.  And that process is costing the transportation industry billions of dollars a year and it is only going to get worse.

The good:  There is very little good coming out of the rules and regulations processes.  There is the need to modernize some of the rules to take into account changing landscapes.  In the early 1800s, when horses were the fastest means of moving goods, the rules that were written didn’t contemplate 80,000 pounds of machinery and goods moving at 70 mph across the country.  As a result there has been the need to update the rules.  Today, governments are starting to create rules for driverless vehicles which have come into mainstream existence only recently.

The bad:  We are creating rules to define rules and further refine rules.  This is probably my biggest pet peeve because it is full of the rule of “DUH!”  I served as mayor of my community several years ago.  During that time a group came to our community asking me to approve rules to be added to our city charter to address pit bull dogs within the community.  Our city charter has rules on the books about dangerous animals already so why did we need to add a rule specific to pit bulls?  Why did the pit bull have to be specifically pointed out?  Rottweiler and other less friendly dogs (like Chihuahuas) weren’t specifically named?  Transportation is no different.  Every level of government, whether federal, state, city, or even home owners associations say, “No reckless, inattentive, or distracted driving allowed” in one form or another.  So why do we need specific rules that say, “no texting while driving,” “no talking on the phone while driving,” “no shaving while driving,” “no putting on make-up while driving” and the list of rules goes on and on and on and on.  This is the BAD of rules and regulations.  Somehow we act like first graders and say that if it isn’t specifically mentioned then it isn’t against the rules and completely ignore the rule of “DUH!”

The ugly:  We are using rules to create business advantages.  A year after I had started Internet Truckstop, I had the opportunity to go to Portland and have lunch with Al Jubitz, the founder of DAT.  Al told me one of the great secrets of business is to know which way the government is going because, “with the stroke of a pen the government can put you into business and with another stroke of the pen the government can put you out of business.”  Right now the FMCSA is working on rules to determine how much insurance each truck should have, whether on-board devices will be required and what they will be required to do, even determining which doctors you can or can’t see.  Each of these decisions can determine if you stay in business or have an early retirement.  We saw it recently with MAP-21 and the broker bond issue.  More than 8,000 brokers didn’t renew their licenses and the number of truckers retiring from driving and starting brokerage businesses has dropped sharply.

What is the solution?  This is the trillion dollar question but the answer is almost as simple as balancing the federal budget (don’t spend more than you take in — this is another application of the rule of “DUH”).  The answer to the trillion dollar question is, you need fewer rules.  We have added so many rules that for a while we need to remove three old rules for each new one we create.  After we get the number of rules refined enough that it is manageable, we then need a policy of rule replacement where an old rule is replaced by a new rule.  But to do that we would need a rule or regulation to make that happen so maybe we should scrap all the rules and just start over with the rule of “DUH!”

 

Author: Scott Moscrip, CEO

RFX: Trying to Change Trucking

Fast Company recently posted an article on RFX Global and it’s young CEO. You can view the full article on their page here.

In the height of other changes within trucking, this article couldn’t have come at a better time. In the January/February 2015 issue of the IT Magazine, Scott Moscrip, Internet Truckstop CEO, wrote about the next generation of trucking. In the March/April edition, he writes about rules and regulations (check it out March 1, 2015). This is an ever on-going topic within the industry.

Could Caitlin Welby be onto something? Could it be that rather than California (which has taken a beating within the industry for CARB compliance) installing tough regulations for emissions, that trucking companies move towards having a sustainability plan like YRC and UPS? 

Hats off to Caitlin Welby and RFX Global, for bringing a new and fresh look at how the trucking industry can be a cleaner industry.

 

Author: Kari Massoth, Digital Marketing Specialist

 

[UPDATE] Walmart vs Tracy Morgan

Trucker in Tracy Morgan crash again denied request to delay lawsuit against Walmar

“For the second time in two months, the court overseeing a high-profile lawsuit against Walmart Transportation has denied a request made by the truck driver at the center of the case to delay the civil proceedings.t

Federal Magistrate Judge Lois Goodman issued the order Feb. 3, saying Walmart driver Kevin Roper did not “establish that he should be allowed to intervene,” adding that the court did not see it appropriate for Roper to intervene in the civil case.”

This article is published on Overdriveonline.com. You can read the full article here.

Author: James Jaillet

The Closing Gap

Preparing for the Future

The gap between the horse drawn wagon and the robotic operated Class 8 semi-truck is closing rapidly. Innovation of our equipment is critical in order to curb the increasing costs of operation and the increasing number of regulations facing the trucking industry. The future truck is going to be filled with much more technology than the Class 8 tractor-trailer on the road today. Much like Superman is more than a regular Joe gear jammer, there is no doubt that the next generation of truck drivers will be required to have a higher technological understanding of the equipment they will be operating. This will undoubtedly create a need for more sophisticated training facilities. As the equipment becomes more complex, it makes sense to train specialty repair technicians.

We must identify the knowledge needed by future truck drivers. The days of a driver being able to do all the repair work are rapidly going away. We must change the image of the driver to make trucking cool again. Perhaps even write some new songs about the modern trucker. “We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there” or “Daddy what was a truck driver.” The mechanics of today will become a vehicle software technician. Drivers will need more computer skills. As the truck is transformed into computer-controlled, high-tech machines, we will need specialists who can analyze, troubleshoot and repair the myriad of onboard electronics. We must start training the next generation drivers soon because changes are coming to the industry. Over the next two decades, the driving will slowly be taken over by the machines themselves. Drones, robots, autonomous trucks are already under experimentation. It only makes sense that the industry would welcome this new era. There will be much less waste in the industry. Trucks will no longer be sitting at truck stops idling so the driver can rest. No driver, no stopping except for fuel and maintenance. Faster deliveries, improved safety, less regulatory problems, no wages or benefits are all a huge plus.

Economic theory holds that such changes will improve the standard of living by making us more productive. But, what will happen to the 5.7 million drivers of today? Some of us are too old or simply don’t have the desire to learn a new occupation or go back to school to adapt to the new technology. As I look around my small world, I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t be better off if we went back in time a decade or so and then stopped the advancement of time. Modern technology has made our lives better in many ways, but at the same time has created new problems and dangers that hackers and terrorists will want to take advantage of to cause harm.

Most of us struggle with change of any kind, so this process will be very distressing and negative emotions could stem from it. The good news is that this change will occur slowly and we won’t simply wake up and have a new driver in the family. We must acknowledge the fact that this change to automation is bound to happen and start reflecting on new ways to move forward. Keep a positive attitude and don’t let yourself drown in uncertainty. Instead seek more training to prepare yourself.

Author: Pat Dickard, Corporate Trainer

Growing Your Business in a Capacity Crunch

New alternatives create a better approach to cash flow management

Cash flow is the lifeblood of every business. An abnormal heartbeat is expected whenever revenues decline and customers delay payments, but even during boom times cash flow has to be carefully managed to survive.

In the transportation industry, freight volumes are expected to grow by more than 3 percent for the next few years with rates continuing to rise. Despite what should be a good business environment for brokers, many small and mid-size companies are hanging on for life.

Cash flow problems of brokers are rooted in the fact that they operate as virtual banks for shippers and carriers. Shippers are asking brokers to extend credit for to 60 days while carriers have shortened their expectations. To compete in a very tight capacity market, brokers are paying carriers within 28 days and often 14 days or less out of necessity.

Keeping a strong credit rating is critical no matter how market conditions change. A low “average days to pay” gives the broker an instant advantage. Brokers that pay quickly are able to move more loads and get better rates from carriers who are willing to soften their margins to accelerate their own cash flow.

Holding onto this competitive advantage is easier said than done. To maintain strong credit scores and keep a healthy cash flow, brokers will often need an infusion from a bank line of credit or other forms of accounts receivable financing. These traditional cash management strategies are often a hassle to obtain and do not offer sustainable, long-term solutions.

Another drawback of traditional financing is brokers not being able to access the amount of capital they need to grow their businesses. This should not come as a surprise as brokers do not make good lending clients, at least on paper. On average, 85 percent of their revenues pass straight through to carriers. Another drawback is the high cost of financing that eats away their profits.

A new and alternative approach is for brokers to use an accounts receivables-backed cash management platform. A platform approach, described below, makes it possible for a lender to effectively combine technology with capital to offer a specialized payments program to help brokers grow their businesses and operate more efficiently.

The platform defined

Consider a scenario where a broker offers two loads to the same carrier. The only difference between the loads is that the first pays in 30 days and the other pays two days from delivery. Would it be surprising if the carrier wants $1,550 for the first load and only $1,400 for the second? Not at all.

The carrier’s margins are much less sensitive when it knows payment will be made in two days versus 30. From a lender’s perspective, the investment risk of lending to the broker is minimized by using a platform that ensures that broker is paying its carriers quickly and consistently.

The broker benefits from this arrangement by operating more efficiently and being able to grow its business by moving more loads for its customers.

The payments platform that accompanies a specialized lending program of this nature should consist of four parts:

  1. A payments management system that brings transparency and standardization to the relationship between brokers and carriers. Brokers can use this and other features to coordinate their capital lending needs with incoming payments from shippers and outgoing payments to carriers.

 

The payments system can be combined with features common to transportation management software (TMS) systems such as load offers or tenders. When a broker offers a load to a carrier electronically, the carrier can see the payment terms and accept the load, which automatically initiates the payment process once the delivery is confirmed.

 

A cash management platform does not have to replace the TMS systems that brokers already use to operate their businesses. Rather, it should be capable of integrating with existing TMS platforms to support and enhance the relationship between brokers and carriers by providing the capital and automating the payment process, among other vital services.

 

If a traditional TMS platform were compared to an iceberg, a cash management platform would be the underwater portion that stabilizes the structure.

 

  1. A streamlined approach to receiving proof-of-delivery receipts and other paperwork from carriers to initiate payment. Document scanning applications and services enable carriers and owner operators to submit documents electronically using truck stop scanning, any Windows-based PC or by using a mobile application. Carriers can download the software for free.

 

Once delivery confirmation is received, an account payable to the carrier and account receivable from the shipper can be opened automatically. At this point the countdown officially begins for the payment due date. If the payment is set up to be paid in two days from receipt of delivery, for example, payment is posted automatically in the carrier’s bank account in two days.

 

  1. A process to manage receivables from shippers without interfering with brokers’ relationships. Traditional accounts receivable financing and factoring agreements take the billing and collections process away from the broker. Brokers can use cash management platforms that lend funds to them directly without requiring the shipper to pay a third party. If the shipper does not pay the invoice submitted a broker within 65 days, the funds advanced to the broker can be taken back automatically.

 

  1. A simple, transparent cost structure that charges the broker a fee, per transaction, in exchange for automating quick payment to carriers. The broker should have the option to use its own capital to pay carriers or to borrow capital to make the payment. The broker can make this decision on a load-by-load basis. If the broker borrows funds, there is an additional interest charge based on the number of days outstanding for repayment.

 

On a per-load basis, this cost of capital pays for itself by brokers increasing their margins and moving more loads by being able to pay carriers faster. As a real-world example, one broker that recently began using a cash management platform has been able to increase its margin per load from $98 to $122 by shortening its payments to carriers from 30 days to between five and 20 days.

 

Cash management platforms represent an alternative to traditional lending. They combine technology, standardization and capital to make all parties in a freight transaction more efficient. Shippers, for instance, are more likely to use brokers when they know the broker is using a trustworthy payment platform to pay carriers. A cash management platform also makes brokers more competitive in the market and operate more efficiently, all of which lessens the cost of capital.

Creating a convenient way for brokers and carriers to conduct business, process payments and manage cash flow will not be considered an “alternative” for long. For brokers looking to grow their business and sustain a competitive advantage, this could quickly become the standard for the new age.

Todd Ehrlich is president of BAM Worldwide.

Trucking Goes to the Dogs

OpRoger

Operation Roger

It was a chance meeting. When a group of friends walked through the door of a small, unassuming coffee shop in the rural, mountain town of Cascade, Idaho, no one knew the ramifications.

Aaron McGehee was on a week’s leave from the U.S. Army at Fort Polk, LA, and had returned home to Payette, Idaho, to visit his ailing grandmother. While home, Aaron, along with his mother, Shelly McGehee, and a group of friends had traveled to Cascade, where they decided to visit a coffee shop in town. Aaron was the last of the group to order, but when he did, he had a surprise visitor from behind the counter. Scooby, the coffee shop owner’s dog, came out to meet and greet the visitors.

The visit quickly spurred a conversation between Aaron and shop owner, Reme’ Maple. While the two had never met before, the conversation turned to Aaron explaining he needed to find a way to get his dog — a cocker spaniel named Vegeta — home from Louisiana to Idaho before he received his discharge from the Army.

By coincidence, Maple had the answer. Both Scooby and another dog, Gypsy, had been transported across the country to Cascade though a program known as “Operation Roger,” a volunteer operation that uses truck drivers traveling throughout the United States to transport pets. As soon as Maple told Aaron McGehee about the program, he knew that was the way to go.

“It was awesome,” Maple said. “It was kind of like it was meant to be.”

Maple had experience with Operation Roger, having the two shelter dogs transported across the country, one from Louisiana (Scooby) and the other from Georgia (Gypsy). Scooby was scheduled to be euthanized the same day when Maple found a foster home for her, while she waited to be transported to Cascade. Gypsy, too, was scheduled to be euthanized, but was already in a foster home. Gypsy, a black mouth cur and Staffordshire mix, was eventually brought to Cascade as a companion for a terminally ill man. After his death, Maple fostered Gypsy until she was adopted by a couple from Boise in mid-November.

Scooby, a black mouth cur and boxer mix, has adopted the Maples as her forever family and was the reason behind McGehee getting Vegeta from Louisiana back to Idaho.

“We were talking about her dog because I liked her dog and I just started petting it because it was friendly,” Aaron McGehee said. “I started telling her about my issue and she gave me the information.”

McGehee adopted Vegeta (named after a character from the animated Dragon Ball Z series) from a litter of puppies. Since he lived in the barracks, he had friends keep the dog for him. The first friend’s wife was pregnant, however, and soon didn’t want the dog around.

“She didn’t want him at all because he was destructive (chewing) and she was going through her pregnancy stages,” McGehee said. “My only other option was to have him go to another friend’s house, but he could only stay for a little while.”

However, while Vegeta was staying at the second friend’s house on-base, a surprise inspect was performed.

“They didn’t see the dog, or we would have gotten in trouble,” McGehee said. “But they knew he was there. They said, ‘You have to get him out or you’re going to be in trouble.’

“To have a pet, you have to have them registered on-base. I didn’t have the money to register him at the time,” McGehee said. “I was kind of freaking out because I knew if I didn’t get Vegeta out of there, I was going to have to give him to a new home. Her (Maple) telling me all this information was like, ‘Yes, I can finally get him home.’”

After returning from Idaho to Louisiana, McGehee began the process of filling out a very detailed application through Operation Roger to get the ball rolling. A small up-front fee (now a $40 fee for the paperwork needed to arrange transportation) along with the application started the process.

McGehee traveled two hours to Shreveport, LA, to meet with the first “layover” and deliver Vegeta. The person from the layover home also traveled two hours, from Texas to Shreveport, to make the connection. Vegeta remained in the home for about a month before a transport connection could be arranged.

After that, it was a series of truck drivers who were willing to transport the dog in the cab of their truck to the next layover site or the next driver en route to the dog’s home. The whole process took about two months.

“It took quite a process to get (Vegeta) home,” Shelly McGehee said. “He stayed at several people’s houses along the way. I kept asking, ‘Aaron, are you sure they’re sending your dog home? Are they keeping your dog?’”

Finally, though, it happened. Vegeta was delivered to Shelly McGehee in September and Aaron McGehee was discharged and returned home Oct. 3, where he and Vegeta were reunited.

Shelly McGehee stressed Operation Roger isn’t just for dogs and cats. “They do snakes, turtles, spiders … whatever needs transported and they are willing to transport it,” she said. Operation Roger does not transport barnyard animals and the larger the pet, the longer it may take to get the animal transported. In fact, the driver who transported Vegeta on his final leg of the journey (Brad M.) had recently transported a mastiff, which required him to remove the passenger seat from his truck to accommodate the large dog.

Aaron McGehee said the application was long and very detailed, but well worth the effort. According to Maple, it needs to be. “They want to make sure the dog is vetted and you have to have a health certificate,” she said.

Operation Roger is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity with the mission of transporting rescued pets to a new home or reuniting pets with their owners in an inexpensive manner. Those wanting to transport a small pet through Operation Roger must first fill out an application for transport and pay a non-refundable, tax-deductible donation of $40, which helps offset the costs associated with transporting the animal. All members of Operation Roger are volunteers.


 

“As of early December, Operation Roger had completed transport for 64 pets in 2014, bringing the total number of pets transported to 849 since 2005.”


Because of this, it can take some time to have a pet transported anywhere across the country. Operation Roger cannot give those using the service a specific time of when a pet will arrive at its destination and, therefore, cannot do emergency requests. It can take as little as a couple of weeks for travel or it can take up to a few months. Everything depends on truckers who can transport the animals and when they will be in the general area of the destination.

Those who transport the pets are truckers first and must meet the requirements of their job. Therefore, the pet may have to be boarded at “layover” homes en route to their final destination. These homes are temporary foster homes and are also volunteers for Operation Roger who agree to keep the pet until transportation can be arranged.

Pets must be at least partially house trained (with the exception of young puppies). Pets will ride in the cab of the truck and drivers cannot take the time to house train animals while doing their job.

Those receiving the pet may have to drive a few hours to make contact with the truck driver and take possession of the pet. This meeting can take place anytime during the day or night, depending on the truck driver’s schedule. The person picking up the pet must agree to meet the truck driver in person at a predetermined location where the animal will be handed off.

As of early December, Operation Roger had completed transport for 64 pets in 2014, bringing the total number of pets transported to 849 since 2005. Operation Roger has a goal of transporting 1,000 pets by its 10th anniversary on September 16, 2015.

Those wanting to transport a pet should visit www.operationroger.com, read the instructions on how to register and fill out an application. Make sure to read the instruction carefully and understand the application process. You must register with Operation Roger before you can fill out an application. Failure to fill out the application correctly and entirely will result in delays getting your pet transported.

Applications for those wanting to volunteer for Operation Roger are also available on the site. Volunteers can be truck drivers wanting to transport pets, layover homes, shuttle drivers or non-pet transport.

Author: Larry Hurrle, Editor

Win against the IRS [Part 1]

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 or a two-part series dealing with filing taxes for owner-operators. Part 2 will appear in the March-April edition of IT Magazine.

 The arrival of tax season strikes fear and high blood pressure into the hearts of most working Americans, but none more so than owner-operators.

One of the most frequently asked questions that I encounter in my travels is, “What one or two things can I most easily work on to stop overpaying the IRS year after year?”

Without a doubt, the two biggest causes of owner-operators paying more than necessary in income taxes are these:

  • Overlooked Deductions, and,
  • Lack of Adequate Records

We’re going to offer a solution to both of these problems.

Overlooked Deductions

You know all the obvious deductions like fuel, repairs, insurance and permits.

The expenses that don’t make their way onto your return are very likely those that either:

  • You didn’t realize were deductible in the first place, or,
  • You simply didn’t think about these expenses during the tax preparation process

If you use one of the “franchise” tax preparation companies to prepare your returns, their process revolves around using whatever deductions that you walk in with on a summarized list, or are able to recall on the spot.

Their process leaves little room for preparers to ask questions that may uncover additional deductions.

So knowing even a few additional “rocks” to look under for deductions can mean additional hundreds if not thousands of dollars left in your pocket at tax time.

Following, then, is a list of some of the most-frequently overlooked deductions that we see for owner-operators year after year:

  • Supplies — Whether purchased at home or on the road, everything from tarps and tie downs to logbooks and linens. If you don’t have receipts, at least write it down in your logbook.
  • Mileage at home — Work-related miles you drive to buy supplies, check on parts, repairs, etc. Work-related miles driven by your spouse or dependent for supplies or any other work-related items.
  • Road Expenses — These are often paid by cash. Again, if no receipt, write them in your logbook.

                                – Hotels                – Truck Supplies

                                – Laundry             – Weigh fees/scales

                                – Parking              – Prepass

                                – Showers            – Rental Car

                                – Tolls                    – Airfare

  • Business Furnishings — In your sleeper or at home:

                                -File Cabinets     -Desk

                                -Furniture           -Chairs

Let’s say that the only expense item you add is 8,000 business miles.

If you are only in a 15 percent bracket, the additional tax savings to you will be roughly $1,300 (this is after taking into account your marginal tax rate of 15 percent plus self-employment tax at an effective rate of 13.5 percent).

This is “found money” to which you are entitled.

So now that we’ve got your interest, let’s shift gears for a moment and talk about …

“…knowing even a few additional ‘rocks’ to look under for deductions can mean additional hundreds if not thousands of dollars left in your pocket…”

Records, or the Lack Thereof

As you might imagine, the IRS wants you to maintain records for the deductions you are claiming on your tax returns, especially business deductions. This is certainly a reasonable request.

If you review virtually any IRS Publication or set of instructions, it will tell you exactly what is “required” in order to take any given deduction.

But let me ask you a question: What if your expense records were destroyed in a fire? or destroyed or disposed of by a spouse or significant other? Or what if, for example, you had been one of several hundred or more owner-operators living in New Orleans, LA, during the last week of August, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina wiped out countless homes and businesses, including those of these professional drivers?

Fortunately, there is a little-known law that allows for the estimation of expenses or re-construction of records using the best method available, if the actual records are missing.

This special rule of law is known as the “Cohen Rule” aptly named after an audit case involving none other than famed entertainer and songwriter, George M. Cohen.

It seems that Mr. Cohen’s income tax returns were audited in the 1940s for a year during which he had traveled with his show for more than 30 weeks during the year.

Unfortunately, Mr. Cohen had not maintained records to back up the expenses he claimed on his tax return, so the IRS examiner disallowed most of his business expenses out of hand.

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

He appealed the IRS’ disallowance, and eventually the U.S. Tax Court found in his favor.

“Fortunately, there is a little-known law that allows for the estimation of expenses or re-construction of records…”

Thus, his estimated expenses were all allowed and the “Cohen Rule” has held up since then. We have cited it in numerous cases where original records are found to be lacking or even non-existent.

What does this mean for owner-operators everywhere? It means that if you can reasonably estimate valid expenses for which you have no original records, it is acceptable for you to claim a deduction.

Having the freedom to deduct expenses based upon reasonable reconstruction can likewise cut your income tax bill by hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year.

 

Author: Dennis Bridges is a certified public accountant and is the executive director of eTruckerTax. He can be contacted at info@etruckertax.com.