In just the first 11 years since the FMCSA came into existence, we have experienced new regulations at breakneck speed � a very unusual occurrence for any government agency. And as safety technology continues to evolve, safety regulations will persist to move forward at equal velocity.
So in era of constant change, how can you prepare?
What should a carrier or trucker do to ensure your equipment, operations and personnel are ready for new regulations?
How will you maintain the level of customer service necessary to keep your customers and set a profitable rate structure that doesn�t drive them away?
In just the first three years of the new millennium, industry rules and regulations progressed rapidly, including the following 10 significant milestones, which I have chronicled using content from FMCSA press releases announcing each change.
1. Know Your Numbers
This is the single most important piece of business information you have at your fingertips. You must know the relationship between a bunch of bills and what it really costs you to operate your trucks. Too many carriers try and concentrate on a single cost-per-mile number and a single rate-per-mile number. But, it�s important to remember per-mile cost and rates vary significantly when compared to the number of miles a truck drives on a per-day basis:
The greater the miles, the lower the cost per mile and the lower the required rate per mile to be profitable.
The lower your miles per day, the higher your cost per mile and the higher per-mile rate required to be profitable.
Fixed costs create this rate inconsistency. Every trucking operation has these constant costs � like truck payments, insurance, base plate, and any other cost that doesn�t stop just because the truck has stopped
2. Know Your Freight Lane
A small carrier who tries to be the all-points-to-all-points hauler will constantly be short on freight and pushing up against the available hours in the logbook. A better path to success is found by establishing a specific lane or lanes in which to operate each truck. The plan is to become the �go to hauler� within the lanes you run. You should learn about all available freight in the lane(s) in which your trucks haul. Plan your lanes so if there�s a low-rate leg, the other legs that particular truck runs create enough revenue for the entire turn to make a profit.
3. Know Your Equipment and Your Truckers� Limits
Training, and understanding those limits will be the order of the day, as CSA 2010 becomes the enforcement tool of the FMCSA. Where it was possible before to skate a bit on the dark side of regulations, CSA 2010 will make this a lot more difficult, along with much stiffer consequences for both carrier and driver. Instructing your truckers in the best practices of time management and understanding what they actually do, not what they�d like to do will help when logging their driving day. All drivers should:
To avoid equipment safety violations, carrier should increase annual vehicle inspections to quarterly (if not monthly). And be sure your truckers are actually performing their daily pre- and post-trip inspections. Be proactive in how your truckers � and you �manage their duties under the Hours of Service rules and how you work with your drivers in maintaining safe vehicles. With CSA 2010�s new focus on inspections, if the so-called �little things� are ignored until they are a problem, there will be a significant price to pay.
4. Educate Your Shippers and Brokers
What your shipping customers don�t know can create undue stress on your truckers, and negatively impact your bottom line. Providing your customers with information on the impact of CSA 2010 and working with your shippers will create more efficiency and greater success for all of you. If you�re going to function and be profitable under all these new rules and ways to enforce them, the people whose freight you haul need to be as well informed as your truckers. Listen for the challenges your customers will face as you explain the details concerning increased enforcement under CSA 2010. Then, develop ways to accommodate their needs while adhering to the regulations you and your drivers are required to follow.
Happy or not about the changes, the good news is �every trucking company has to live under the same regulations. We all might as well get into the right frame of mind now: this wave of safety regulations is just starting to build. The foundation of long-term success will be determined not only by learning how to survive under these new rules � but how to thrive.
Good roads and good loads, everyone.
� 2010 Timothy Brady
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