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RoadCheck 2018 – Start Thinking Cargo Control

The 2018 CVSA RoadCheck is less than two months away. The annual event will be held this year from June 5-7 all across North America. Inspectors will be on the lookout for the kinds of violations that could have you or your truck taken out of service for a considerable length of time.

News reports state that the 2018 RoadCheck will focus mainly on hours of service rules and the new ELD mandate. However, drivers should not let their guards down. Inspectors will also be looking at cargo control and the general condition of mechanical systems. As a company specializing in cargo control ourselves, our main priority is to make sure our customers have everything they need to both pass inspection and stay safe on the roads.

A Better Year in 2018

It is rather appropriate for us to talk about cargo control in relation to this year’s RoadCheck based on what happened last year. The main priority in 2017 was cargo control. And even though inspectors put a record number of trucks out of service due to cargo control violations, such violations were not the number one reason for out of service actions. The biggest problem in 2017 was hours of service violations.

It is kind of ironic that hours of service were such a problem even though the focus was on cargo control. This year the focus is on hours of service, but inspectors will still be looking for cargo control violations. It is our hope that drivers do better this year than last – in every area inspectors decide to look at.

A better year means fewer out of service actions. It means more secure cargo, safer roads, and fewer penalties for drivers and their employers. It even means a better reputation for an industry that has been struggling in that area for a while.

Cargo Control Tips for the 2018 RoadCheck

Mytee Products cannot do much to help you with hours of service and ELDs. We can help with cargo control. Here are a few tips we recommend for the last few weeks heading into the 2018 RoadCheck:

Check Your Equipment

Inspectors will be looking closely at the condition of your straps, chains, and ratchets during roadside checks. So make the time now to check all your equipment for wear and tear. If anything needs replacing, order it as soon as possible. We want you to have it in time.

Review Procedures

Familiarity can sometimes cause drivers to forget the standard procedures for properly securing cargo. Over the next few weeks, review your procedures to make sure they are fresh in your mind. You might even create a procedural checklist you can follow to get yourself back into the habit of employing best practices.

Think Overkill

Spend the next few weeks thinking overkill. In other words, do more than you know is necessary to correctly secure your cargo. An inspector will never penalize you for having too many straps, so spend a few extra minutes to add one more.

Check More Often 

You already check your loads at regular intervals throughout your journey. From now through the end of June, check more often. It only takes a few minutes to make sure your cargo is still secure. The payoff for doing so could be huge in the midst of the 2018 RoadCheck.

Again, if you need any cargo control supplies prior to RoadCheck 2018, order them as soon as you can from Mytee Products. We want to make sure you have everything you need before inspections begin in earnest.


Tips for Getting Better Use from Great Ratchet Straps

Ratchet straps are among the most important tools used by flatbed truckers. They keep cargo secure from point A to point B, sometimes in concert with chains, tarps, and bungee straps. Mytee Products carries a complete inventory of ratchet straps and cargo control equipment from well-known manufacturers.

The ratchet straps you buy from us are already top-of-the-line quality. But we have a few tips for getting better use out of them. With a little care and attention, you can extend the life of your straps.

Regularly Lubricate Ratchets

While the material used to make the straps is not bothered by weather, ratchets are. The best way to keep ratchets in good working order is to regularly lubricate them with a lithium grease. This is the same product auto mechanics use to lubricate car parts because it holds up very well even under extreme temperatures. It will wash away after time, which is why you need to apply regularly.

The key with lubrication is to hit all the moving parts. It doesn’t take much, either. Just a little spritz and a few seconds to work it in will keep everything working even on the coldest of days.

Thread from Underneath

When threading ratchets with new strap material, always run the strap from underneath the ratchet rather than over the top. This results in the short end being on the top while the main portion of the strap is below. Physics dictates the straps will slip a lot more easily when disengaged if threaded this way.

Leave Plenty of Room for Ratchet Extension

When tying down a load, keep in mind that the ratchet has to be extended beyond the gear teeth to release the tension pin that keeps the strap in place under load. It is a wise idea to leave enough space under the ratchet to be able to reach underneath and fully extend the ratchet to release it. If you do not leave enough space to pull down on the ratchet and fully extend it, you will have trouble releasing the strap to unload.

Do Not Let Extra Strap Hang Loose

Sometimes you have loads that are not tall enough to require the full length of your ratchet straps. So what do you do with the excess strap material? Truck drivers have all sorts of tricks for dealing with it. The one thing you do not want to do is let the excess strap hang loose. Loose strap flapping in the wind risks cargo damage and shortens the life of the strap material.

Some truck drivers roll the excess strap and then bind it with a bungee cord. Others tie a series of knots and tuck any remaining strap in under the tense part of the strap, or even under a tarp. Still others use a looping technique that utilizes the excess strap to secure it. There are dozens of ways to do it.

Our final tip is something that every truck driver should already be doing. Ratchet straps are tough and reliable, and are subject to wear and tear just like anything else. Therefore, it’s very important that truck drivers inspect their straps on a regular basis. Any strap showing signs of wear or tear needs to be addressed immediately. If you do not check your straps routinely, rest assured that roadside inspectors will.

Mytee products is here to serve you and your needs as a truck driver. We are your one-stop choice for ratchet straps, truck tarps, bungee cords, and everything else you need to do your job.


Auto Hauling: A Very Different Kind of Trucking

What is the most lucrative form of trucking? Is it dry goods or reefers? Or maybe it’s flatbed trucking. Perhaps the most lucrative way to make a living as a truck driver is hauling flammable or hazardous materials. The point here is that the definition of ‘lucrative’ has more to do with preference than anything else. Having said that, auto hauling deserves some consideration. If not the most lucrative, it is certainly a very different kind of trucking.

hauling

Auto haulers come in all shapes and sizes, as it were. There are employed truck drivers working for companies that specialize in carrying cars from distribution centers to local dealerships. There are independent operators who carry used cars from wholesalers in the South to small dealers in the North. There are even truck drivers who specialize in moving luxury and classic cars.

Auto hauling is very different for a number of reasons. From the equipment to the necessary skills, it is a career a lot of drivers aspire to but never attain. Here’s what makes auto hauling so different:

The Equipment

First and foremost is the equipment necessary for this kind of work. The owner-operator starts with a custom rig. Believe it or not, trucks and trailers for auto hauling have to be matched. You cannot just use any auto trailer on the back of any tractor. As a result, auto hauling rigs are significantly more expensive.

Next, owner-operators have to have a pretty significant supply of auto hauling equipment including hooks, shackles, rope clips, straps, and chains. There may not be any other form of trucking that requires so many pieces of equipment for a single run.

The Skill

Auto hauling is very different in terms of the skills a driver needs. What so many do not realize is that cars have to be loaded and secured in a certain way in order to prevent damage on the road. But loading and securing is not necessarily a cookie-cutter operation. Auto haulers have to account for different makes and models, different weights, potential weather conditions, and more.

Skill also comes into play on the actual journey. Drivers need to take a little bit of extra care due to the precious value of their cargo, especially when they are hauling expensive luxury or classic cars. They should be careful about accelerating and braking; they have to be careful about cornering; they need to be extremely cautious in bad weather.

The Experience

Just about every sector of the truck driving industry is affected by the conundrum of companies only wanting experienced drivers but new drivers not being able to get experience because they can’t find a job. Nowhere is this conundrum more prevalent than in auto hauling. Because auto hauling is so much more involved than simply applying some hooks and shackles, haulers almost always insist their new drivers have at least a couple of years under their belts – even if that time was spent hauling something else.

Drivers with extensive flatbed experience typically have an easier time breaking into auto hauling because they are already experienced with securing loads. They have used things such as hooks, chains and straps for cargo control. Suffice it to say that owner-operators who want to get into auto hauling have to work for it.

Here at Mytee Products, we are acutely aware of what it takes to be a successful auto hauler. We want to do our part by maintaining a solid inventory of auto hauling supplies for America’s owner-operators. From shackles and rope clips to auto hauling straps, we have everything the owner-operator needs.


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.


Treating Trucking Supplies as Capital Investments

Owner-operators and independent contractors driving leased equipment are considered under federal law to be self-employed business owners. As such, they are required to keep track of all of their business-related expenses for the purposes of filing accurate reports and tax filings according to federal and state schedules. Unfortunately, some independent truck drivers do not treat what they do as a business. This is a mistake. We can illustrate just why this is by talking about the supplies needed to be a trucker. Those supplies should be treated as capital investments.

 

flatbed

Capital investments, sometimes known as capital expenditures, are defined in the business world as investments in equipment or supplies critical to maintaining or improving the useful life of existing assets. In terms of a flatbed trucker who owns his/her own trailer, the trailer itself would be an existing asset. Installing new tires on that trailer in order to improve its performance and comply with the law would be considered a capital investment.

As our illustration demonstrates, capital investments are almost always made in relation to equipment or supplies. The trucker’s tarps, straps, winches, ratchets, cargo control and so on are all supplies necessary to improve the performance of the flatbed trailer. They are also supplies that are required to do the job of a flatbed trucker. Therefore, they are assets that are obtained through the process of capital investment.

Why Make the Distinction?

Making money in any business requires some degree of discipline to control both income and expenditures. This is why successful companies work with annual budgets prepared by looking at history and future expectations. The company without a budget, regardless of its size and scope, is one at a high risk of failure. This is the whole point of treating your purchase of trucking supplies as capital investments.

When you think of buying supplies as a capital investment, you can start looking at future expenditures in relation to your overall budget. Let’s say your gross income – before taxes and business expenses – is $120,000 annually. Some of that will eventually become the net income you put in your bank account as an ’employee’ of your company. The rest of it will be spent on things such as fuel, truck maintenance, and trucking supplies.

The idea is to work with a budget that projects how much you will spend in the coming year based on historical performance and your expectations of the kind of work you will be taking in the next 12 months. Treating your purchase of trucking supplies as capital investments allows you to plug a number into that budget. Let us use truck tarps as an example.

Let’s assume you replace your flatbed truck tarps every 18 months on average. Most of your tarps are already a year old, so you know they will be replaced sometime during the current budget year. Take the average price you pay for each tarp, multiply it by the number of tarps to be replaced, and enter that number into your budget. That number becomes a capital investment that is essential to keeping your business going.

You might be wondering how all of this helps with the business of running a truck as an owner-operator. Simply put, it forces you to acknowledge at least an estimate of how much will be spent on trucking supplies. This is motivation to set that money aside so that you have it when the time comes. Also it keeps you on the path of owning and operating a successful business that wouldn’t get into cash flow problems. As you estimate your income versus your expenses, it gives you a realistic picture of your business’ short and long term requirements.