A lifeline for Owner-Operators

Being an owner-operator is tough work. It requires many hours on the road and, too often, many days away from home. It also involves considerable risk — risk of business profit or loss, and risk of accidents and personal injury. Owner-operators, whether operating under their own authority or leased onto a motor carrier, need to protect themselves from work-related injuries and the financial consequences that can follow.

Owner-operators in most states are not required to carry workers’ compensation on a compulsory basis. Owner-operators in these states have the option of buying workers’ compensation or Occupational Accident Insurance, which is an insurance policy that is specifically designed to insure owner-operators for certain work-related injuries. Owner-operators will often opt to buy Occupational Accident Insurance because it’s usually much less expensive than workers’ compensation insurance.

Occupational Accident Insurance policies typically provide three broad areas of coverage: Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D), Accident Medical and Disability. Disability coverage is usually divided into two components: short-term disability (also known as Temporary Total Disability), and long-term disability (also known as Permanent Total Disability). Occupational Accident Insurance policies can also be endorsed to cover non-occupational accidents, passenger accidents, and certain other coverage enhancements, such as hernia, occupational disease and cumulative trauma.

Beyond protecting the owner-operator and their family from the financial consequences of an unexpected accident, Occupational Accident Insurance can help insulate motor carriers and shippers from lawsuits by uninsured owner-operators seeking employee status in order to gain access to the motor carrier’s or shipper’s workers’ compensation policy. Many motor carriers sponsor an Occupational Accident Insurance program as a risk management tool, but also to help recruit and retain owner-operators.

However, not all Occupational Accident Insurance programs are alike. In fact, coverage, limits, terms and conditions can vary widely among insurance companies. One of the most significant differences between insurance policies is the handling of pre-existing conditions.

Most Occupational Accident Insurance policies contain exclusion for claims involving re-injury or aggravation of a prior medical condition. Because of the physically demanding nature of truck driving, and the high turnover rate within the truckload segment of the trucking industry, a pre-existing condition exclusion can leave the owner-operator, motor carrier and/or shipper without Occupational Accident Insurance protection. Other things to look out for in Occupational Accident Insurance policies are exclusions for accidents that arise during certain parts of a workday, such as while at rest and during overnight stops, and the requirement to have a current and valid CDL as a condition of coverage.

Internet Truckstop, through our insurance partners, McGriff, Seibels and Williams, is pleased to offer a new Occupational Accident Insurance program for our members. The Occupational Accident Insurance policy provides broad coverage and does not contain exclusion for pre-existing conditions, thus providing superior insurance protection for owner-operators and the motor carriers and shipper that rely on their services.

To learn more about our new Truckers Occupational Accident Insurance program,  visit www.truckstop.com/OccAcc today!

Author: Joe Foxall, President ITS Financial Services

Is your head in the sand?

Burying your head in the sand is much easier than holding the government accountable for making bad decisions that ultimately hurt the transportation industry. We tend to ignore what is going on around us “to avoid negative feelings.” Besides, don’t we hire people to take those problems away.




A famous leader once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”  I was not very old when that statement was madeby John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address in 1961, but I have never forgotten it.  Yet, when I go into the local coffee shop in the morning to get my daily gossip fix, I hear folks complaining about how the country is being run.  Not a single one of the complainers will ever pick up a pen to scribble a short note or pick up the phone and call a congressman to give their thoughts on how a problem could be solved. Not all, but many of us (me included) have become complacent and lazy.  We stick our head in the sand and let the louder folks make all the decisions about regulations affecting us.

No More!

I need your help! Join me by voicing your thoughts to the elected officials about how the CSA is affecting your business no matter whether you are for or against it.  Make sure you present them with alternative ideas for success.  Let them know if the new HOS has improved safety or made it worse and how it has affected your income.  Let them know how fuel tax increases will affect you.  Let them know if insurance rate increases will put you out of business.

We need to help these government decision makers become knowledgeable about the true facts of safety and how the new regulations are going to impact the industry.

To finally have a voice that will be heard throughout the country, become a member of the US Transportation & Logistics Research Group.

Author: Pat Dickard, ITS Corporate Trainer

The best “assurance” you can find

It is fair to say that the vast majority of carriers are good companies. It is also fair to say, that bad carriers can cause damage and loss beyond proportion to their small numbers within the transportation industry. As most brokers are aware, one major incident cannot only cost you your commission on a load, it can cost you a customer. We see this happening more frequently and in many cases it results in a failed brokerage business.

With more than 21,000 broker users, the growing popularity of Carrier Performance Reporting (CPR), as a component to Internet Truckstop’s CACCI service offering, has earned its position as one of the leading resources for the prequalification and ongoing monitoring of carrier performance.

As a CPR user, you can get valuable information on a host of performance related indicators that can help you pick the best and most reliable carriers to move your loads.

On the first page of a carrier’s CPR report you will find a real time performance rating that is based on Internet Truckstop’s proprietary CPR rating algorithm that takes into account various factors such as safety rating, complaints, years in business, number of trucks, and much more. The scale used is the traditional A-F which allows you an immediate quick reference as to a carrier’s overall performance worthiness. You will see an asterisk next to the rating if a carrier has any active complaints or compliments which indicate the need to review the “Performance Reports Received” section for more details and information. CPR reports also include carrier Safety Ratings from the DOT along with a “thumb logic” which provides a quick reference to a carrier’s status in all other categories of their CPR report.

Carrier Authority History provides you with the status of each authority along with any notes made by the FMCSA.

Users also have access to carrier Compliance Safety & Accountability (CSA) information that provides you with real-time access to CSA scores and other indicators on deficiencies in any of the basic scores.

Finally, the CACCI add on to CPR gives you access to real-time/up-to-date insurance monitoring and access to carrier cargo and auto liability insurance certificates that are on file with Internet Truckstop through our “Carrier Insurance Verification Services” service offering.

The most important aspect of CPR is REPORTING!  While there is an abundance of information available in CPR provided by the government and insurance resources, the best information we receive comes from you as a user. If you have a bad experience with a carrier, we encourage you to take the time to report your experience to us. We may be able to help you resolve any carrier disputes. Likewise, if you have a good experience with a carrier, we welcome this information as well and would like to hear from you. We want to stress the importance and value of reporting your experience with carriers, good or bad.

To report a carrier, go to our website, www.truckstop.com  and click on the ‘Report a Carrier’ tab in the header bar.

Thank you for making CPR one of the leading carrier reporting services available today.

For more information on CACCI/CPR, please call one of our product specialists for a demonstration and free trial at 800-203-2540.


Author: Sonny Smith, ITS Director of Assurance Services

Highway Funding Alternative

An Oregon congressman has conceived a proposal to change the way Americans pay for transportation projects, but members of Capitol Hill, including another member from the Oregon congressional delegation, say there’s not enough time.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter Defazio, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has introduced HR 4848, “The Repeal and Rebuild Act.” The bill would be a long-term solution to America’s infrastructure problems, would create American jobs, and would “break the transportation funding impasse that has plagued Congress for years,” according to Defazio’s web site.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter Defazio (left) and Oregon Republican Senator and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (right)

Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter Defazio (left) and Oregon Republican Senator and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (right)

Defazio’s bill, which has been sent to the House Ways and Means Committee, would repeal the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon (it would not repeal the 24.4 cent per gallon diesel tax), increase the tax on a barrel of oil that is processed into gasoline to $6.75 and index it to construction cost inflation and fleet fuel economy, index the diesel tax to construction cost inflation and fleet fuel economy, allow the new revenue to backfill the current shortfall in the trust fund and reauthorize transportation spending at $324 billion for six years.

“I’m going to repeal the retail gas tax, at the pump, which is put directly on consumers, and we’re going to move the tax upstream to the oil companies and say, ‘You pay the tax and let’s rebuilt America,’” Defazio said June 11 at a Rally for Roads event in Washington, D.C. “It’s time to get the job done. No more hesitation around here. The trust fund runs out in August.”

The per-barrel oil tax would apply only to gasoline. Oil used for aviation, rail or home heating fuel would not be taxed at the same rate. In the first year, the tax would generate less than the current 18.4 cent tax at the pump. It would, however, be indexed to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Construction Cost Index and to CAFÉ standards to account for less fuel consumption attributed to those standards.

Diesel tax would increase to approximately 26 cents per gallon in the first year with the potential to reach more than 47 cents per gallon after 10 years.

While the rally cry went out to challenge legislators, other members in key leadership positions said there is not enough time, nor the will to tackle a major bill ahead of the Sept. 30 expiration of MAP-21.

“In a three-week period, to responsibly walk though all the different approaches, I think senators are saying that’s a bit much,” Oregon Republican Senator and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden told Politico last week. “It’s had to make the case that you can put all that together in three weeks.”

Defazio dismissed a plan to trim services offered by the U.S. Postal Service, saying the move would be a six-month patch to funding and would devastate the Postal Service in the long run.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx agreed.

“We’ve got to get past the gimmicks in transportation and really get serious about trying to get a long-term strategy done,” Foxx said.

Author: Larry Hurrle, IT Magazine Editor

[UPDATE] Insurance Increase

House votes to halt insurance increase

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved an amendment June 9 to its version of the Department of Transportation funding bill which would stop the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from increasing the minimum amount of liability insurance carriers must have.

The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) and would block an increase to the current $750,000 minimum. The amendment passed by a margin of 214-212. The overall DOT appropriations bill (H.R. 4745) passed the House on a mostly partisan vote of 229-192.

The House’s action comes just days after the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to suspend last year’s Hours of Service restart changes for Fiscal Year 2015, pending completion of a study of the safety effects of those changes. While the amendment was approved by the committee, the full Senate has yet to take up its version of the DOT appropriations bill (S. 2438) and it is unclear when the Senate will take up the matter.

It is important to note that neither amendment has any legal effect until it is approved by Congress and signed into law. Because it deals with FY 2014, it would not go into effect until Oct. 1. That means FMCSA is free to continue working on its rulemaking to raise the insurance minimum.

In a report issued earlier this year, FMCSA said the $750,000 minimum liability requirement had not kept pace with the core consumer price index. If it had, FMCSA said the increase with inflate would not be at $1.62 million, while if it had kept pace with the medical consumer price index, the minimum would be at $3.18 million. Even though FMCSA has not set a minimum for an insurance increase, raising the minimum to the core consumer price index of $1.62 million would be a 116 percent increase, while raising the minimum insurance to the medical consumer price index would be an increase of 324 percent.

The American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association both dispute the claim that insurance minimums need to be increased. Both cite studies that show just 1 percent of all crashes involving a truck and that are the fault of the truck exceed the $750,000 mark.

Author: Larry Hurrle, IT Magazine Editor

Crash jumbles safety considerations

Tracy Morgan Accident

Wal-Mart truck after the crash.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for the trucking industry.

On June 5, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 21-9 to study the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 34-hour restart rule, as part of the Hours of Service Rule before it would approve the fiscal 2015 transportation spending bill.


The vehicle Tracy Morgan was riding in.

Three days later, the driver of a Wal-Mart truck, who had reportedly not slept for more than 24 hours, crashed into several cars in New Jersey, killing one person and critically injuring three others — including renowned comedian Tracy Morgan.

Let the controversy begin.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro has continually claimed the 34-hour restart rule has been instrumental in enhancing safety on the highway. In fact, in a June 3 blog on the Department of Transportation’s website, Ferro wrote “suspending the current hours-of-service safety rules will expose families and drivers to greater risk every time they’re on the road.”

According to the FMCSA HOS rules, drivers are allowed to work a maximum of 14 hours per day, with only 11 of those hours behind the wheel of the big rig and a maximum of 70 hours per week. Along with that, drivers must take one 30-minute break within the first eight hours of their shift and must have a 34-hour restart — meaning they are not working during those hours. The restart must include two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

In the crash involving Morgan, the driver is accused of being awake for more than 24 hours, but according to an NBC News report, David Tovar, Wal-Mart vice president of communications, said Wal-Mart believes their drivers was operating within the federal hours of service regulations. That simply means that the driver, while he may have been awake for more than 24 hours, was not driving the entire time.

NBC News also cited several statistics in its story that showed accidents involving big rigs in 2012. According to DOT figures, it stated there was an average of 868 crashes involving trucks per day, leading to an average of 11 fatalities and 200 injury accidents each day of the year.

According to Marissa Padilla, director of communications with FMCSA, “Driver fatigue is a leading factor in large truck crashes.” She cited a 2006 study that said 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were considered to have been fatigued at the time of a serious crash.

While the statistics showed a 4 percent rise in fatalities involving large trucks between 2011 and 2012, it did not point out who was at fault in the crashes. Other statistics have shown that serious accidents involving big rigs are often the fault of passenger vehicles.

Regardless, the accident involving a fatigued driver that caused one fatality and left three others injures is fuel to the fire for FMCSA. Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, meanwhile, has stated that regulations are so strict that a driver cannot stop or take a break because of deadlines, which has made the highways less safe.

Author: Larry Hurrle, IT Magazine Editor

The “Stupid Barrier”

Our inspired ideas never stop growing. The only thing standing in the way is artificial barriers, with the most prevalent one being the “stupid barrier.”

I have seen the “stupid” barrier appear over and over again, whether it is in the boardrooms, the meeting rooms or even the informal brainstorming sessions that are so ubiquitous throughout the corporate world. Nobody wants to look stupid, especially in the eyes of their subordinates, colleagues and superiors. When someone offers an “unconventional idea,” the judging begins immediately. “That will never work,” “We can’t afford that,” “That’s not practical,” “They’ll never go for that,” “What were you thinking!?”

Now let’s just suppose that you were the one that just offered what you thought was a groundbreaking idea. The problem started when as soon as you offered this game-changing thought, it was quickly shot down in flames. How are you feeling right now? How likely are you to offer another idea? How likely are you even to speak up again in this meeting? Now let’s say that there are a few others that just observed your Sopwith Camel of an idea being shot down by the Red Barons in the room (apologies to Peanuts and Snoopy [The World Famous World War I Flying Ace]). How likely is it that these observers will offer any idea that isn’t already conforming to the conventional norms? Will they likely risk being shot down as well? Will they likely look stupid for even offering an idea that is outside the expected thought processes?

Yet at the same time, many companies struggle with generating ideas and innovations in process and/or product. Some of these same companies pay lip-service to the notion of thinking differently and rewarding risk takers but when someone actually takes them up on the offer, the reaction is both swift and adverse.

I recall an internal consulting position I took in the early 2000s with an established third-party logistics company (name withheld to protect the guilty). At my orientation, I was handed a copy of Gary Hamel’s outstanding book, “Leading the Revolution,” (Harvard Business School Press, 2000) and was informed that I would be responsible (with others) for innovating business processes. I celebrated at the notion of experimenting with different ideas and methods in the normally staid logistics arena.

It wasn’t long before I had an opportunity to put that to test. We were asked by a large international paper producer to analyze and suggest ways to improve their supply chain. After the analysis was complete, I was asked to give a client presentation with both the findings and suggestions. The struggle began immediately when putting together the Power Point slides for the presentation and the suggested course of action. I was informed that the slides had to be in a certain format with no omissions and that the suggested course of action had to be what senior management (of the logistics company) had pre-ordained (taking advantage of empty space in their existing warehouse locations), analysis and client needs be damned.

At first, I attempted to persuade and convince my higher-ups that we didn’t need 15 slides on the history of our company and all the services that we offered. I further attempted to use the innovation card to allow for my different slide format than what was in the established slide deck. All of this was unsuccessful. Finally, I stated that since I was the lead person for the project, that I would present the analysis and suggestions in a format of my choosing. If they didn’t like it, they could remove me from the project and then present whatever they wanted. While this bordered on insubordination, I felt that my mission was to lead innovation and that I needed to push resisters to go along.

At the client presentation, I impressed the client executives with not only the bold, clean format of the slides but with the suggested actions as well. My suggestions were the best for the client company, even if it meant that they wouldn’t be using our pre-packaged solutions. The suggestions offered an annual savings of $10 million and the opportunity for us to be the lead consultants in its implementation. At the presentation’s conclusion, I was asked to come back again and give a more detailed implementation presentation.

Sadly, I never had the chance. Upon my return to the office, I was reprimanded for not using the official company slide deck and for not suggesting the pre-ordained (in the box) solution. It made no difference that the presentation was enthusiastically received and that we had the real opportunity for significant consulting revenue. I strayed from the “box” and for that I needed to be flogged. After exhausting my efforts to persuade anyone in senior management, a mutual parting of ways soon followed. I was particularly perturbed about being misled regarding “leading the revolution” and/or innovation initiatives. Are you simply giving lip service to innovative change or do you actively support change initiatives?

The logistics company struggled and stagnated for nearly 10 years afterwards before finally becoming better proponents of change, primarily due to competitive forces. In the interim, few people were willing to actually offer up new ideas. They saw what happened to me (and others who dared to think differently) and were afraid of the consequences of repeating my “audacious” attempt to innovate. How many great and forward thinking initiatives were never realized because of the enforced silence? How would we ever even know?

The lesson: If you intend to be innovative and creative don’t just say that’s what you want. You must be willing to accept that the innovation and creativeness will change established processes and that the ultimate result will be rewarding. You must be willing to encourage and listen for these ideas without adverse reaction and/or consequence. You must be willing to accept limited initiative failures as learning opportunities and continue to encourage experimentation.

Author: Moe Glenner

[Update] Rule for insurance minimums

Rule for insurance minimums could be published in November

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is moving forward in its effort to increase liability insurance minimums and hopes to have a rule published in November.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation released an official timeline for FMCSA to increase the liability insurance minimum from $750,000 to an undetermined higher figure. FMCSA released a report in April stating it found the current minimum for liability insurance was inadequate and it planned to make the increase a high priority. The DOT and FMCSA hope to send the insurance minimum rule proposal to the Office of the Secretary by June 30 and to the White House Office of Management and Budget by Aug. 1. The timeline says a proposed rule could be published Nov. 12.

FMCSA said the $750,000 minimum liability insurance, which is required to be held by carriers, is too low. The insurance minimum has not increased since 1985. Neither DOT’s May report or FMCSA’s April report ventured to say how much of an increase carriers could expect. In its April report, FMCSA did say that if minimum insurance had kept pace with the core consumer index that the increase could be $1.62 million and if the minimum had keep up with the medical consumer price index, the minimum would be at $3.18 million.

Both the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have disputed that the insurance minimum need to be changed, citing studies that show just 1 percent of all creases exceed the $750,000 mark in claims.

Author: Larry Hurrle, IT Magazine Editor

5 Ways to Stay Safe Memorial Day Weekend

With Memorial Day weekend just a few days away, many people are getting excited for their long weekend plans. Most four-wheel drivers don’t think about the added stress it puts on truck drivers. The extra drivers anxious to make it to the perfect camping spot or traveling to see family members, start to drive recklessly on the roads.

Statistics from the National Safety Council show that during this holiday weekend (6 p.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. Monday) between 350 to 461 traffic deaths will occur. This is an average of 13 percent of all fatalities in May. There are many people on the road, but if a semi-truck is involved, we know who gets the blame.

Here are five ways that truckers can help keep the roads safe this Memorial Weekend:

  1. Perform your pre-trip check — this is a must for all trucks on the road, but double check all cables, tires, wipers, tail lights and blinkers.
  2. Be cautious of your blindspots — four-wheel drivers don’t understand your blindspots. They will sit in the cool shade of your trailer all day if you let them. Check your mirrors vigilantly and use blinkers.
  3. Pay attention — truck drivers have a great view for what is ahead. Keeping your head forward during the high peak times of travel for the tourists will help save lives.
  4. Allow plenty of safety cushion — having to stop on a dime in a big rig is dang near impossible, don’t try new tricks when there is heavy traffic. Even though the four-wheel drivers will cut straight in front of you doesn’t mean you can’t go a little slower to prevent a collision.
  5. Slow down — speed limits vary in each state, but going a little slower has proven to save lives (and increase mileage). You are on a tight deadline, but nothing is more important than a life.

Being a truck driver can be tough enough, but add in a few hundred extra drivers on the road and it becomes an obstacle course. If you’re out on the road this weekend, please remember to be patient, slow down and stay safe.

Author: Kari Massoth, ITS Digital Media Specialist

Will the real acronym please stand up

Which one are you using? Since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released its proposed mandate for the use of electronic equipment to measure hours of service and other logging information on trucks, many drivers and fleets have begun the process of installing the new devices in their trucks. But specifically, what are you installing?

When talk began about electronic equipment being used in trucks, they were called Electronic Onboard Recorders or Electronic Onboard Recording, both pared down to the acronym EOBR. However, the official FMCSA rule 395.16 that used EOBR in its language was vacated and the new Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP21) legislation used the terminology of Electronic Logging Device, or ELD. Now, the current FMCSA rule 395.15 is using the term Automatic On-Board Recording Device, making the acronym AOBRD the legally compliant technology today.

But wait! A new term has just surfaced for the technology, calling them Electron Hours-of-Service Recorders, or EHSR.

The truth is, the terms are interchangeable throughout the industry. They all perform the same function, basically. If you check on the FMCSA website (www.fmcsa.dot.gov) you will find more than 320 references to Electronic Onboard Recorders or Electronic Onboard Recording (EOBR). Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is mentioned 153 times, while the Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD) now has 25 references. Electronic Hours-of-Service Recorders (EHSR) isn’t mentioned on the FMCSA website, but is listed eight times in a recent press release.

So, which one is the correct term? Well, if you judge by official language, the current FMCSA regulation for hours of service compliance is FMCSA 395.15, which uses the term Automatic On-Board Recording Device, so actually AOBRD is the correct acronym. ELD came along after the EOBR and it is widely believed the use of ELD was easier than EOBR, which is why it gained popularity. ELD is still easier than AOBRD and the new EHSR is just difficult to say.

What is right and what is wrong? There is no correct answer. All of the acronyms mean the same thing. FMCSA’s use of the different acronyms is somewhat confusing, but the bottom line is that the electronics used to determine hours of service and other information within the truck must be compliant with current regulations, regardless of what they are called.

Author: Larry Hurrle, IT Magazine Editor