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Are There Limits to Heavy Haul Drive Time?

Heavy Haul drivers are limited in the number of hours that they can actually spend behind the wheel driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) updated many of its rules and those new regulations went into effect as of Sept. 29, 2020.

Drive Time and Breaks

Heavy haul drivers are allowed a maximum of 11 hours of drive time each day after 10 consecutive hours off duty. After coming off a run, drivers can’t drive past 14 consecutive hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty and off-duty time doesn’t extend the 14-hour period. However, the time can be extended when drivers encounter adverse driving conditions such as heavy rain, flooding roads, ice and snow.

The way the regulations are written can be confusing, particularly to new drivers. Drivers can now drive a maximum of 14 hours per day with 10 hours off during a 24-hour period. Long haul drivers can extend that 11-hour driving window into 14 when they encounter adverse driving conditions. Heavy haul drivers are also required to take a 30-minute non-driving break if they’ve been the wheel for more than 8 cumulative hours.

The Work Week

The regulations also affect a driver’s work week. Heavy haul drivers can work a 60-hour work week over the course of 7 days or a 70-hour work week over the course of 8 days. The clock runs continuously each day and doesn’t stop when drivers take a break. Drivers can restart a work week after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Time and Safety

Time is money for heavy haul drivers. While many drivers took adequate breaks and received sufficient sleep time, some felt pressure from trucking companies to omit that essential down time. The new rules by the FMCSA were designed to ensure drivers had enough rest to provide a greater level of safety for themselves and others while on the road.

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Inside a Sleeper Cab

The accommodations in sleeper cabs have improved significantly since Kenworth debuted the first one in 1933, though many contend that Freightliner was the first truck company to release a sleeper cab in 1953. Early models provided just enough room for a driver to lay down to sleep.

Sleeping berths first came into use during the 1920s and were primarily used for tandem driving. Known as coffins, they were a mere 18 to 24 inches wide and accessed by a separate door on the passenger side.

The man in the coffin had no way to communicate with his partner that was driving. The set up was extremely cramped, uncomfortable and dangerous. At one point coffin sleepers were slung under the belly of the trailer – a truly deadly positioning.

Sleeper Cab

Today’s sleeper cabs are far removed from those early attempts. The luxury to which drivers can treat themselves is only limited by the money they have to spend. For many drivers, a luxury sleeper cab actually makes more sense than purchasing a permanent home if they spend most of their time on the road. It can also be more cost effective.

For many heavy haul drivers, a basic sleep cabin is standard fare. It provides a comfortable space to sleep, some storage space, and there may be room for a compact refrigerator and microwave. The more time drivers spend on the road, the more likely they are to avail themselves of plusher sleeper cabs with multiple amenities.

Sleeper cabs are positioned directly behind the driving space. They provide much more room and comfort for restful slumber. Sleeper cabs are also available that are positioned farther back and resemble a box attached behind the cab. Look inside one of these “boxes” and people can find all the comforts of home.

Luxury sleeper cabs contain a sleeping space ranging from 38 by 80 inches to 42 by 85 inches, depending on the make and model of the truck. These sleeper cabs may have a built-in kitchenette, stove and refrigerator. The sleepers have internet access, TV and streaming services, stereos, and storage space. Some even feature showers and toilets.

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Fuel Prices Affecting Transport Prices

The cost of fuel for truckers has always had an impact on the price of goods to the consumer and it can almost seem to be a never-ending cycle of cost increases. Individuals typically think of fuel prices in terms of its impact on their wallet, but those higher costs also affect the price of fuel truckers need to deliver goods across the nation.

Trucker drivers are paying even more for their fuel per gallon than ordinary consumers. There are multiple reasons that the price of fuel can begin to climb, thereby affecting the cost of transporting products, many of which people don’t understand.

Fuel Prices

Supply and Demand

When demand for crude oil that’s refined into gas outpaces the supply, the cost of gas increases. Oil producers can produce as much or as little as they want and countries that purchase from them have no control over the price they must pay.

When any type of shortage occurs or there’s a disruption in the supply chain, inflation and higher prices follow. Fuel costs are just one of the commodities affected. When people were in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, demand was minimal and costs dropped to less than $1 per gallon. When demand returned, the cost went up.

Wall Street Investors

There are investors that seek their fortune in oil commodities. It’s the single most in-demand commodity in the world, which provides opportunities for supply and cost manipulation. Investors sometimes purchase large quantities of crude oil and withhold it from the market to create fewer supplies that will drive the cost up.

Volatile Markets

Wall Street doesn’t like what it calls volatile markets – when stockholders have the potential to lose value from their portfolios.  Inflation – too much demand for too few goods – is an example, as is geo-political conflict and supply chain issues. Volatility occurs anytime there’s unpredictability and sharp changes in prices.

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Top Dangers Heavy Haulers Face

Heavy haul drivers keep a variety of industries supplied with the parts, materials and equipment needed for a variety of operations ranging from heavy construction and mining to agricultural endeavors. The drivers also encounter multiple types of problems while on the road, encompassing driving disasters, injuries, and illness.

Heavy Haulers

Driving-Related Accidents

Rules and regulations are in place dictating how long drivers can engage in over-the-road travel before they must rest. However, heavy haulers are still subject to schedule changes and irregular sleep pattern resulting in a lack of sound slumber. Like everyone else, drivers can also have difficulty falling asleep.

Drivers of passenger vehicles also present problems. They don’t consider the extra space that heavy haulers require to stop, turn and make lane changes. Those risks increase with oversized loads. Sharp curves, rain-covered roads, snowy or icy terrain, and steep hills increase the potential for a truck to experience a jackknife situation or roll over. The potential for loads that shift or break loose are always a very real danger, particularly on bad roads.

Equipment-Related Injuries

Heavy haul drivers also experience robberies, though it’s an often-overlooked hazard of the job. Trying to protect a load from thieves can result in serious injury or even death. Loads are secured and checked before drivers set out. However, burns, electric shock and hazardous emissions do occur. Material may be ejected or chains come loose, along with shearing or crushing.

Health-Related Problems

Heavy haul drivers can experience a variety of health problems ranging from obesity, diabetes, stress and high blood pressure to cardiovascular disease, cancer and musculoskeletal injuries. Entering and exiting truck cabs can be hard on joints, while exposure to hazardous chemicals is also a concern. While it’s not often discussed, male and female drivers experience assault and rape.

Heavy haulers are far less likely to see a doctor regularly due to their schedules and it can be difficult for them to contact their primary care physician. Even though telehealth appointments can help, if blood work, x-rays or lab tests are needed, drivers may not be logistically situated to obtain those diagnostic tests. Further complicating treatment is that drivers can’t take some types of medications while operating a tractor-trailer rig.

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Are Oversize Loads Dangerous?

The short answer is yes. They represent an increased potential for multiple types of vehicle accidents. It’s just one of the reasons that individuals should exercise care and caution when engaging the services of a heavy hauler. The size and weight of the vehicles means they cause more damage when involved in a collision, which also increases the risk of fatalities.

Different Requirements

Heavy haulers require more time and distance to stop or try to avoid an accident than passenger vehicles. They also need more room to maneuver and make turns. The size of the trucks result in significant blind spots – facts that motorists typically don’t think about. Carelessness around any type of cargo hauler can result in catastrophic outcomes and the risk increases with heavy haulers.

Oversize Loads

Most Common Accidents

The three most common types of accidents experienced by truckers are rollovers, blown tires and jackknife crashes. Rollovers happen when trucks are forced to make sharp turns, the load’s weight isn’t evenly distributed, or the load isn’t adequately secured. Tires support a lot of weight and a blown tire can result in drivers losing complete control of the tractor and trailer.

Jackknife crashes can occur when a tractor-trailer rig must come to a sudden stop, while traversing downhill slopes and steep grades, or when truckers are transporting cargo on wet, snowy or icy roads. It happens when the tractor and trailer “fold” at a sharp angle to each other. The driver has no control in these situations and the trailer can easily swat other vehicles off the road.

Driver Precautions

Tractor-trailer rigs are more dangerous simply due to their size and weight. Reputable truck drivers and companies, especially heavy haulers, take every precaution to protect loads and deliver them safely to their destination. Operators of passenger vehicles need to keep in mind the extra time and space that truckers need to operate safely and maintain a safe distance.

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Heavy Hauling History

Heavy haulers are a common sight on highways across the nation, but that wasn’t always the case. Prior to the invention of the automobile in the early 1900s, “heavy haulers” consisted of horse-drawn wagons that transported items to a train depot where the freight continued its journey.

Heavy Hauling History

The regular use of heavy haulers began in the military during World War I. After the war’s end in 1918, the use and value of heavy haulers in civilian projects began to get traction. Early heavy haulers had iron and solid rubber wheels that damaged roads. Trucks were limited to 15 mph and weights of 18,000 to 28,000 lbs., depending on the state. Still, there were about 100,000 trucks on the road.

The need to transport goods and products during World War I increased and trains became congested. Improved roads during the 1920s and the introduction of the diesel engine, standardization of trailer sizes, power brakes and steering, and fifth wheel coupling systems boosted heavy haul use in the 1930s. The government began regulating the industry.

After the end of World War II in 1945, construction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and 1960s spurred increased usage of heavy haul vehicles. The desire for more economical ways of transporting products and goods across the nation further increased use.

The 1960s and 1970s saw numerous songs written and films made that romanticized the trucking lifestyle and culture. As greater demands for goods and products increased, so did the need for heavy haulers.

There were over 26 million trucks in use by 2006. The number of accidents climbed as motorists didn’t understand the special requirements and blind spots of heavy haulers. Greater government regulation and safety standards were instituted. Heavy haulers have had a significant effect on the agricultural industry to green energy efforts. Heavy haulers continue to exert an enormous impact on the economy within the U.S. and in international trade.

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What to Look for in a Trucking Company

There are dozens of considerations involved when transporting equipment, products and goods to their ultimate destination. Depending on the freight and destination, there may be special documentation to cross borders, restrictions on drive times, and a requirement for escort vehicles. It’s important to compare the quotes of at least three trucking companies before making any decision.

Trucking Company

Experience

Potential clients will want to ensure that the trucking company has experience in hauling the type of cargo or equipment they want transported. It’s a good idea to find out how long the company has been in business, talk to other clients, and/or read reviews.

Equipment

It’s imperative that the trucking company have the right equipment for the job. There’s a huge difference in ordinary freight and a heavy haul load. The company must have the trailer available to accommodate the weight, width and height of the load, along with a tractor able to handle the weight for the terrain that will be traversed.

Permits and Licensing

A highly regulated industry, heavy haul loads in particular must be in compliance with an extensive number of rules and regulations. Those rules can change from state to state and the selected trucking company must be in compliance with all applicable permits and licensing to meet federal regulations and those of multiple states.

Safety First

The federal government establishes safety standards and individual states often have additional laws in place to which truckers must adhere. The trucking company should be willing to share the types of safety measures they take such as securing doors and moveable parts, breaking down equipment when necessary, and cleaning machinery to be transported to eliminate flying debris.

Insurance Issues

Insurance is essential and clients shouldn’t automatically assume that the coverage carried by a trucking company will cover damage to their cargo, property damage, or any injuries that might occur. Discover the extent of the company’s coverage and the protections afforded to the cargo.

Cost

Make sure the trucking company’s costs and services are clearly spelled out in an itemized list and don’t be hesitant about questioning any items on that list. Don’t sign anything if all that’s provided is an estimate. Clients can easily find themselves billed for expensive “extra” services otherwise.

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How Much do Truck Drives Make

The truck driving industry has been romanticized in a variety of songs and films, leading to multiple misapprehensions about the trucking lifestyle and pay scale. There are numerous variables in regard to how much truck drives make. Annual incomes for truck drivers have come to the forefront of conversations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and an influx of women into the industry.

Driver

According to the National Transportation Institute, in 2001 the primary factors affecting pay for commercial drivers were driver turnover, the number of available drivers, consumer demand for products, and freight rates. The average annual income for U.S. truck drivers is a little over $66,000 per year, according to a survey conducted by Indeed.com.

Factors affecting pay scales include experience, the type of load being hauled, and the region. Independent owner-operators have greater incomes than those that drive for a company, with an average of $220,000 per year. Heavy haulers average from $75,000 to $120,000 per year.

Excluding ice road trucking that’s extremely dangerous and requires extensive experience and endorsements, specialty vehicle hauler incomes range from $67,000 to $89,000. Team drivers can make from $67,500 to $80,000, with fleet driver incomes steady at about $87,500. Tanker and liquids drivers average about $75,000, with hazmat drivers coming in between $55,000 to $73,000.

It’s important for anyone considering a job in the trucking industry to be aware that those are best case scenario incomes. The median income for truckers has steadily declined since the 1980s and in some areas of the nation, pay has decreased by as much as 50 percent. Many attribute the decrease to The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 that imposed a variety of rules and regulations to which truck drivers had to adhere.

The trucking industry provides a multitude of opportunities for individuals. However, to earn the most income it may be necessary to relocate to a different part of the nation where pay scales are higher. Additionally, not everyone is equipped to handle the trucking life. It requires considerable time alone, spending time away from family and friends, and it can be stressful.

Those disadvantages are offset by the ability to make a decent income right away, a high level of job security, and benefits. Bonuses may be offered for driving certain routes and truckers have more independence than other professions. It all begins with getting a CDL license.

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Exporting Heavy Equipment Internationally

A vast variety of heavy equipment in the U.S. is shipped internationally, particularly in the agricultural industry. In the trucking industry, that can mean transporting heavy haul loads into foreign countries directly to the recipient, for shipping by air, or delivering it to docks where it will be sent by ship to destinations around the world.

Exporting

Shipments can encompass anything from oil rigs, aircraft engines and construction equipment to mining equipment and harvesters. On occasion, heavy haulers are called upon to haul some unusual items. A heavy hauler recently made headlines on social media and broadcast news when seen transporting the world’s largest cast iron skillet down a Tennessee highway. The skillet was destined for the soon-to-open Lodge Cast Iron Museum in South Pittsburg, TN.

Exporting heavy equipment requires multiple steps. Heavy haulers can’t simply show up at the dock or cross into Canada or Mexico with a load. Specialized documentation is required and heavy hauling companies are well-versed in the paperwork needed to prevent any difficulties or delays.

To pass through customs, a commercial invoice and certificate of origin will need to be presented. When exporting by ship, a bill of lading is required and depending on the cargo, a certificate of conformity may be needed. Any loads being shipped by plane will also need an air waybill.

A dock or warehouse receipt documenting proper labeling and accountability will be needed to load the cargo. Moving cargo internationally requires an insurance certificate, export packing list, export license, and inspection certificate to be presented. That doesn’t include the port-specific documents that are required.

Heavy haul companies utilize state-of-the-art logistics technology and part of the services provided by a heavy haul company is mapping the best route for optimal travel times and delivery. Sometimes the straightest line between the point of origin and destination isn’t a straight line. Logistics will be focused on the quickest and safest route that enables clients to get their cargo where it needs to be in the most efficient way.

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Professional Heavy Haul Logistics

The logistics of heavy haulers encompasses managing when and where loads are acquired. It includes how the loads are stored, the travel route, and when the load reaches its final destination – all while meeting any specific deadlines that apply. A trucking logistics expert also identifies the type of tractor and trailer that will best serve the client’s needs. The entire process is designed to increase efficiency and provide a greater level of safety.

Logistics

Simply put, the 7 Rs (“Rights”) of Logistics are: Getting the Right product, in the Right quantity, in the Right condition, at the Right place, at the Right time, to the Right customer, at the Right price.

The basis for today’s logistics is due to ancient Roman and Greek wars. Rome developed highly accurate and efficient methods of allocating resources and ensuring supplies arrived to troops. World War I brought refinements to the system, but it wasn’t until after World War II that logistics moved out of the military realm and into the private sector. Logistics is an integral and essential part of the distribution and supply chain in today’s economy.

Prior to the 1900s, the supply chain was primarily local in nature with little need for complex logistics. That began to radically change in the 1960s. The availability of modern technology has changed the logistics landscape in multiple ways. Today’s trucking logistics are handled by a combination of software, tracking devices, sensors, GPS and radio frequency identification (RFID) via the internet.

Modern logistics enables the system’s manager to locate and track a truck and/or its cargo across nations, oceans and continents. The computer-enhanced logistic methods enable heavy haul companies to travel over optimal routes, avoid areas of congested traffic, and deliver more efficiently. Even social media is having an impact on logistics through customer communication.

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