More from: cargo control

Automated Truck Loading and Cargo Control: What to Expect

There has been an unstoppable flow of information relating to self-driving trucks coming from the media over the last 4 to 6 months. Now we are hearing news of a European company on the verge of bringing automated truck loading technology to our shores. So what does it all mean? More specifically, what does it mean to flatbed truck drivers and cargo control?

In terms of self-driving trucks, all truck drivers and carriers will be affected in the same way should it become a reality. If self-driving trucks ever become the norm – and there are valid reasons to believe they will not – there is no telling what will happen to America’s truck drivers. However, automated trucks on a national scale are still a long way away. Of greater interest right now is the concept of automated truck loading.

cargo-control

Load and Unload in Mere Minutes

The automatic truck loading concept is one of using mechanized, robotic systems to load and unload trailers without the need for human intervention. According to some news reports, what can now take between 30 and 45 minutes for forklift operator can be completed in about 3 minutes using an automated system. The company behind the technology says its systems are available for both enclosed trailers and flatbeds.

We can see the potential of this technology for dry goods vans being virtually unlimited. Not so much for flatbeds. An automated system could certainly load pallets and even loose cargo on the back of a flatbed, but that cargo still must be secured by the driver. Cargo control is something that simply cannot be automated at this point. Whether it ever will be, remains to be seen.

Cargo control on a flatbed trailer involves a lot of different components that could make automation impossible:

  •  Weight Distribution – Unlike dry goods vans, cargo carried on flatbed trailers is not necessarily uniform in size or weight. Therefore, freight should be loaded with weight balancing and overall size of the load in mind.
  • Cargo Movement – Cargo movement is a big concern on flatbed trailers for obvious reasons. When a trucker is hauling materials such as steel coil, those coils can move during travel if not properly secured. So truckers would be required to use wood blocks and chains to keep things in place.
  • Cargo Cover – Flatbed truck drivers are in the unique position of having to protect their cargo with the use of truck tarps. There are different kinds of tarps used for various types of loads, and each one is secured in a different way. How tarping could be automated is difficult to imagine.
  • Cargo Protection – Underneath a truck’s tarps are things such as corner protectors deployed to protect both cargo and the tarps that cover it. All the cargo protection components have to be deployed by hand for maximum protection.

One last thing to consider is that flatbed truck drivers are required to check the security of their cargo within the first 50 miles of departure. They are then expected to carry out routine checks whenever they stop for fuel, inspections, or to rest for the night. Even if cargo control were eventually automated, someone would still have to keep an eye on cargo in transit to make sure it remains secure.

The Human Touch

It is intriguing to think that both trucks and loading systems will be automated in the near future. But that is probably not reality. Humans are still necessary – at least for cargo control – and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Cargo control could probably be too complex for automation.

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5 Things Truckers Should Know about Moving Blankets

A lot of what we write about in our blog deals with flatbed truckers and various types of cargo control equipment such as, tarps, winches and straps, bungees. This post is a little different. We know that a considerable number of our customers haul dry goods vans instead of, or in addition to, flatbed trailers. As such, they come to us for moving blankets and other related cargo control supplies better suited for dry vans.

moving-blanket

Mytee Products carries two different kinds of moving blankets as well as filler pads. We want to make it clear that the quality of a driver’s moving blankets is just as important as the quality of his/her straps and winches. A low-quality product is not going to perform as well or last as long as a high-quality product.

If you are a dry van trucker who uses moving blankets, here are five things you need to know about them:

1. The Difference Between Woven and Non-Woven Blankets

When you look through our inventory of moving blankets, you will see that we sell both woven and non-woven products. What’s the difference? It is how the fabric used to create the blankets is manufactured. A woven fabric utilizes long threads that are actually woven together on a mechanical loom. Non-woven fabrics are made of fibers that are bonded together through some sort of heat, chemical, or mechanical process. There is no weaving or knitting involved in creating them.

Woven moving blankets are more expensive. They are more durable and longer lasting than their non-woven counterparts, and they tend to hold up much better under tremendous stress. Non-woven blankets are designed for more routine use and are less expensive.

2. Moving Pads Are Not the Same

In addition to moving blankets, we also sell moving pads. Drivers should note that pads and blankets are not the same things. Pads are meant to fill empty space between objects to protect them from damage that might be incurred during travel. Some truckers simply buy pads and use them both for filling space and doing the job of the moving blanket. This isn’t a better choice when hauling fragile loads.

3. Moving Blankets Are Not Weather-Resistant

There are legitimate uses for moving blankets on flatbed trailers. For example, you might cover fragile cargo so that it’s not damaged by straps winched down tightly. But moving blankets are not weather-resistant. When using them on flatbed trailers, the entire load must be covered with tarps to provide protection against the elements.

4. Buying in Bulk Is Cheaper

Truck drivers can save money by purchasing their moving blankets in bulk. Companies like ours receive inventory directly from manufacturers in preset packages. Rather than break up a package of blankets, we prefer to sell them intact and at a lower price. It is better for our customers and easier on us for inventory purposes.

5. It’s Best to Have a Variety

As with truck tarps, it’s best to have a variety of moving blankets on hand in order to accommodate any kind of load. The average trucker will probably have mostly economy blankets with a smaller number of premium blankets and moving pads. Variety gives a driver the most possible options for any given job.

Truck drivers who haul dry goods vans need to secure their cargo every bit as much as flatbed drivers. When the job calls for it, moving blankets can be invaluable for cargo control. We invite you to shop with Mytee Products for your cargo control equipment , for both flatbed trailers and dry goods vans.


Save Time with a Cargo Control Checklist

Working as a flatbed truck driver involves spending time waiting for cargo to be loaded and secured before hitting the road. This is time a driver is usually not compensated for, so getting things done as quickly as possible is paramount to getting the wheels turning again. Still, drivers have to be thorough in their cargo control procedures so as to not jeopardize their loads.

A good way to save time and ensure cargo is properly secured is to establish a cargo control checklist that becomes a standard operating procedure. While this may sound obvious, you might be surprised how many drivers have no such checklist in place. They approach every load in a random matter, where cargo control is dictated by immediate circumstances. Having a checklist in place is a better option because it ensures all of the necessaries are addressed in a way that eventually leads to the driver following his or her checklist routine as a matter of habit.

checklist

It should be noted that a cargo control checklist does not have to be a formal document that the driver prints out by the hundreds so that each load has its own piece of paper. A driver may create a document to start with, but after following the checklist routine numerous times, most drivers are going to memorize it. Then it becomes a mental exercise rather than a paper one.

Cargo Control Checklist Basics

How a driver organizes his or her cargo control checklist is a matter of preference. There should be certain categories of things on every driver’s checklist, things that are appropriate to cargo control. For example:

  • Tarps and Straps – Truck tarps and straps should be inspected prior to arriving to pick up a load. Not inspecting cargo control supplies increases the likelihood of getting to a job and finding that damaged equipment cannot be used. Then the driver is slowed down while he or she searches locally for replacements.
  • Inspecting Loads – Flatbed truck drivers are ultimately responsible for how cargo is loaded on their trailers. There should be a process in place for inspecting loads to make sure weight issues are addressed, there is no unnecessary space between cargo items, and that cargo is properly blocked if necessary.
  • Securing the Cargo – Once a trailer has been loaded and securing has commenced, a system should be in place so that tarps and straps are always applied in the same way. For example, some truckers will first make sure all of their straps and/or chains are applied, then walk around the trailer to tighten down each winch consecutively.
  • Final Inspection – Just prior to departure, the truck driver should be performing a vehicle safety inspection as a matter of routine. Within that inspection, he or she can also make provision to do a final inspection of cargo control equipment. Straps, chains, and tarps should all be given the once over.
  • Inspections on the Road – Lastly, an important part of a cargo control checklist that should not be ignored are the inspections done while on the road. Drivers should be checking their loads within the first 50 miles of departure and then with every additional stop along the way. The same checklist used for the final inspection is appropriate to on-the-road inspections.

Cargo control is a normal part of flatbed trucking. Drivers can save time and do a better job of securing cargo by developing a cargo control checklist and following it on every job. A well-designed checklist turns what could be a random exercise into something that becomes routine.


Tax Deductions for Trucking Supplies: What You Need to Know

The arrival of fall means truck drivers start seeing things pick up on the business side as well, especially in advance of the holiday season, which always brings with it, more loads to haul. The increased activity makes fall the perfect time to start thinking about taxes.

Truck drivers file their taxes as either self-employed independent contractors or employees of their carriers. How they file determines the kinds of deductions they can take for the trucking supplies they purchase. Those supplies can include everything from truck tarps to protective clothing to in-cab electronics.

 

winch-straps

Before we get into the differences between filing as a self-employed individual and a company employee, we need to first discuss state and federal taxes. The IRS is the primary taxing authority in this country. States do assess their own taxes, but they tend to defer to the federal government. For example, those that collect income tax will often rely on federal calculations for things such as deductions and taxable income. Therefore, it is of vital importance that truck drivers understand the federal regulations to keep the IRS happy and correctly file state returns.

Filing as an Independent Contractor

The IRS regards independent contractors as self-employed individuals operating their own businesses. There can be some gray areas depending on the relationship of the truck driver to the company or companies he or she hauls for, so any questions about tax status should be referred to an experienced tax attorney.

The independent contractor who truly qualifies as self-employed under the law can essentially deduct any and all trucking supplies obtained for the purposes of conducting business. This would immediately bring to mind things like truck tarps and cargo control equipment such as bungee cords, chains and straps, wide load flags, etc. But it also includes other things as well.

For example, a trucker required to invest in steel-toed boots and a hard hat in order to haul certain kinds of loads would be able to deduct those expenses as long as the purchased items are used exclusively for work. The same holds true for things such as GPS units, hand tools, and so on.

Filing as a Company Employee

The number of deductions allowed for company employees can be significantly less depending on how trucking supplies are obtained. Anything an employer gives directly to the driver is obviously not deductible. A driver also cannot deduct the cost of any trucking supplies for which he or she is reimbursed by the employer.

With those restrictions understood, the same kinds of things qualify for deductions. Drivers can deduct cargo control supplies, protective clothing, electronics, hand tools, and even limited transportation expenses. For example, if a trucker has to fly to some specific destination to pick up a truck, the cost of airfare and accommodations can usually be deducted if not reimbursed by the employer.

The one thing to be aware of for both independent contractors and company employees are deductions for meals. This is one area where IRS regulations are ambiguous. The reason is simple: truck drivers have to eat just like every other kind of worker. The fact that they eat while on the road does not change that. So just like an office worker cannot deduct groceries as a business expense, truck drivers can only deduct meal expenses under certain conditions.

Truck drivers can use work-related expenses to reduce the tax liabilities. This is actually a smart thing to do. But truckers need to be careful, too. If they don’t know what they’re doing, they should leave their taxes to the professionals.


It’s Time for Your Winter Inventory Check

With winter just a few months away, now is the right time for the trucker’s annual winter inventory check. Look through your toolboxes to make sure you have exactly what you need for tough winter driving and cargo control. Repair what needs fixing, replace what needs to be replaced, and buy any additional trucking supplies you need to fill in gaps in your inventory.

truck-winter

Mytee Products has everything you need for safe and productive winter driving. We invite you to browse our entire inventory for the following critical supplies:

Truck Tarps
Every trucker who does flatbed work needs to have a full selection of tarps on hand at all times. During the winter months, the trucker’s choice of tarps can mean the difference between adequate protection and taking risks with cargo. In terms of fabrics, there are three main choices:

  • Poly Tarps
    Made of polyethylene or polypropylene, poly tarps are considered all-purpose tarps. They are generally UV-treated and waterproof, so they’re not bad as general tools for cargo control. They may not be the best choice during harsh winter weather that can include very low temperatures.
  • Vinyl Tarps
    Also known as heavy duty tarps or machinery tarps, vinyl tarps tend to be the strongest and most durable that truckers can buy. They provide the most resistance against stress, tearing and abrasions, and they can handle cold temperatures exceptionally well. The best vinyl tarps on the market don’t even flinch at temperatures well below zero.
  • Canvas Tarps
    Canvas tarps are a good choice when breathability is an issue. They also handle cold temperatures well, but struggle with standing water. Canvas tarps are subject to mold growth and could tear as a result of ice buildup. It is advisable to use them with caution during the winter.

Tires and Chains

Every trucker knows how critical tires are in bad weather. Good tires are essential during the winter months, as are chains. Make sure all of your tires are in good condition before winter weather sets in. We also advise truckers who frequently travel through areas requiring tire chains to purchase their own rather than relying on chain banks. We carry both singles and doubles.

Straps, Binders, and Winches

Cold temperatures and high winds can make securing cargo a real challenge during the winter. Cargo control is easier when the truck driver has the right kinds of supplies in good working condition. Therefore, check your toolbox for an ample supply of mesh and bungee straps, binders, winches, and chains. If any of your straps are worn, keep in mind that cold temperatures could cause them to fail at any point. Worn straps should be replaced.

Along with straps, binders and winches, drivers should have an ample supply of corner and edge protectors. Remember that even vinyl tarps can get brittle in cold temperatures. Where corner and edge protectors may not be necessary during the warmer temperatures of summer, they could make a real difference in protecting your tarps once temperatures drop.

Get What You Need Now

Investing in the trucking supplies you need for winter earlier ensures that you will receive everything you order before the weather begins to get troublesome. Winter weather makes for more difficult driving even with the proper supplies on hand. Don’t make your job more difficult than it needs to be this winter by ignoring your inventory of trucking supplies. Order your supplies from Mytee Products; if we do not have something you need, contact us anyway. We might be able to get it for you.

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