The Hardest Part Of Becoming a Truck Driver

Whenever you start any carrier, for instance, there are always problems that you face in the beginning but slowly and gradually things become smooth. As we are covering trucking, therefore we will discuss the problems that a rookie or a newbie truck driver faces while starting his career. Some of the most common problems faced by newbie truck drivers are as under:

  • Downshifting and double clutching.
  • They find it really difficult to carry out a backing maneuver successfully.
  • The proper adjustment of the mirrors and the driver’s seat.
  • How to start from an inclined stop.
  • They find right-hand turns to be really problematic.
  • Parallel parking of that heavy mass is really difficult for most of the rookie drivers.

THE Main Hurdle

The hurdles that a truck driver faces at the start of his career are mentioned above, but all these hurdles can be addressed with proper guidance and practice. One thing that most of the rookie and even sometimes the experienced drivers forget is not the physical challenge but the mental challenge that they are faced with.

Don’t Believe Everything On Internet

Whenever anyone starts or steps into a new career, he does proper research before doing so. This is exactly where the biggest problem in the trucking industry creeps in. The internet is the primary source for your research and it is full of misinterpretations and false information when it comes to the trucking industry. You will find a lot of information telling you how the companies stop the truck drivers from earning a handsome salary. Even you will find a lot of videos scattered all around YouTube telling you the exact same thing.

What To Do?

The key to success in starting any carrier is to find out how you would excel or succeed in it, but if you start with confusions in your mind you will not be able to. A truck driver has to overcome these confusions in order to be a successful head behind the wheels.

Just consider the trucking industry for a moment, what is the principle of making money in this industry? The companies have to move freight from one place to another and the more they move the freight the more they will earn. Therefore, the success of a company is directly proportional to the success of the driver, so there is absolutely no way that a company would not want their drivers to be successful or earn more money.

We have three suggestion for you – Just work hard, believe in yourself and continue polishing your skills! And yes, don’t TEXT while driving 🙂

Trailer Tail on Open Highway

The Benefits Of Installing A Trailer Tail On Your Semi-Truck

We’ve all seen those wind tunnel tests with wisps of smoke moving effortlessly across the aerodynamically designed chassis.  I think we can all agree that traditional semi-truck / trailers are about the least aerodynamic vehicles on the road today, and while modern design have improved somewhat,  you should get smart on keeping your fleet as aerodynamically optimized as possible.  Enter the tried-and-true, industry-tested solution:  trailer tails.

Specifically designed to be used alongside trailers of semi-trucks, you’ve probably seen these retrofitted sheets of metal have been around for decades.  For a fleet operator, they offer a host of benefits including better stability, drag reduction and overall improve safety conditions for your driver and load.

Of course, these aren’t the only benefits that a trailer tail can offer. If you keep reading, you’ll see just how advantageous installing a trailer tail on your semi truck can be.

Dramatically Improve Fuel Efficiency

When you have a lot of rear drag, your fuel efficiency is going to increase. Carrying extra weight can cause your fuel costs to accelerate. If you are trying to keep your spending down, you should look into installing a trailer tail on your vehicle.

Once the trailer is installed, you’ll be able to spend significantly less on fuel. You’ll be able to reduce fuel costs, and you’ll be able to save yourself time as well. After all, if you don’t have to refuel all the time, you will be able to spend more time on the road.

Works In All Weather Conditions

Driving a truck can be more difficult under certain weather conditions. For example, it is hard to drive a semi truck safely when it’s raining. However, the right kind of trailer tail shouldn’t cause you any problems. It will be able to work in any weather conditions.

A lot of accidents occur during bad weather. You should try to keep these kinds of incidents from causing problems for you. If you install a trailer tail on your truck, you’ll be able to keep your truck stable when the weather turns.

It’s EPA Validated And CARB Compliant

The EPA has looked at trailer tails, and they have validated them for use with semi trucks. These tails are also CARB compliant, and they are exempt from any U.S. DOT restrictions regarding length.

There are no obstacles keeping you from using a trailer tail. If you have decided that you would like to take advantage of them, you can install one without an issue.

It Can Keep Your Fleet Competitive

Fleets drive many miles over the course of the year. Fuel costs can be high, and all this driving can cause damage to a semi-truck. If you want to keep your fleet profitable, installing a trailer tail can be extremely beneficial. It will help you to save money every year.

If your fleet drives more than 20,000 miles each year, the savings you see will be dramatic. You’ll be amazed at the difference a trailer tail can make. A device like this can save you a great deal of money.

There are many benefits to installing a trailer tail on a semi-truck. If you want to take advantage of these benefits, you should start looking at trailer tails as soon as possible. Once you have one of these tails installed, you’ll be able to enjoy the perks that they offer.

Tired Truck Driver

Tips to Stay Awake During a Long Haul

Long haul trips can be quite tedious.  I know alot of driver that find some kind of meditative peace during long hauls, but for me they’re are often boring after about the first 15 or 20 miles. I start to notice your tires making that humming sound against the road, which does little to add to whatever I’m listening to on the radio.  In addition, most of the scenery on these routes are the same, especially since I frequently drive on the same route – basically seeing all there is to see. These two potentially lethal combinations i.e. nothing visually stimulating to keep your attention and the constant din from the tires, are what contribute to road fatigue, which eventually leads to drooping eyelids.

When truckers are struggling to stay awake on the road, their first instinct is to pull over and grab something to help them ward off fatigue. And, sure enough, when they walk into their favorite truck shop there are all kinds of sugary and energy products promising to provide the ideal way to stay awake while driving. But research has shown that these quick fixes not only pose a health risk, but they also leave you more tired than before once effects have worn off.

So what should you do when you have a long-haul assignment and you know that somewhere along the way you will, inevitably, get tired? Below we take a look at 7 natural ways to stay awake longer on the road…

1. Adequate preparations beforehand

Preparing for a long distance haul can be pivotal in not getting tired which is why you should get enough rest and sleep prior to embarking on your journey. Resting prior to a long drive ensures that your senses are well rested in order for them to perform optimally and sharpen your reaction times while driving.

2. Open your window

This is another great way of keeping tiredness at bay owing to the resultant breeze of air that flows throughout the vehicle once a window is open. The only downside to this is that if you wear contact lenses, your eyes are more likely to dry out from the cold breeze.

3. Drive with a passenger

It is always easier to avoid tiredness by driving with a passenger as this ensures that there is always someone who can prevent you from dozing off. Moreover, it is safer to talk to a passenger as opposed to talking on the phone which is both dangerous and illegal for you and other road users. When tackling a long haul with a passenger, engaging in conversation keeps your brain active since you are focused on the subject of the conversation thus avoiding tiredness.

4. Alternate driving

This is, undoubtedly, one of the best ways of ensuring that a long haul trucker does not fall asleep as the passenger ought to be resting and ready to swap with the driver at a moment’s notice should they start to feel drowsy. To ascertain that the passenger is well prepared to take over driving, they should be relaxing and resting in the interim.

5. Music

Music can be a powerful tool to make sure that a driver does not fall asleep while they drive. It is, therefore, advisable to play music that you do not necessarily like because it will annoy you and ensure that you stay awake (avoid relaxing music as it is likely to make you more tired). Try up beat, fast music, or music you can sing along to.

6. Air conditioning

Nowadays, most vehicles come equipped with air conditioning, which is an easy way of ensuring that you do not fall asleep while driving. If you decide to employ air conditioning during your drive, ensure that the temperature is well below your ordinary body temperature in order to help your brain stay alert. Remember, too low and your brain will not be able to function well. The reason why a lower temperature is advocated for is because heat makes us relax and feel sleepy.

7. Stay hydrated

Drinks are a good way of staying awake when driving. However, avoid those that contain a lot of sugar because after a while, your body is likely to start feeling drowsy. The quicker the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, the more profound the effect. Drinks such as coffee work extremely well to keep you awake owing to caffeine (although you will probably need frequent bathroom breaks which should keep your mind alert thinking of where the next rest area is).

Thanks for reading and stay awake and safe on road…Ryan

CT660 in Motion

Why I love my CT660 Caterpillar Truck

As someone that makes a living behind the wheel of a working dump truck. Time is money as they say. My truck and I depend on each other to make a living. That’s why I chose the CAT CT660.

 Built for Drivers

CT660 Caterpillar Dumptruck
CT660 Caterpillar Dumptruck

The CT660 was built with the driver in mind. What we need to get the job done! Tough enough to take a beating and still want more. The fine folks at CAT got it right. New cutting edge designs with drivers who feel like they were part of the new design process. When you get behind the wheel of a new Caterpillar CT660 you just know.

One of the key features we took into consideration was the modular design. If our truck does need service, our down time is reduced dramatically with easier access to key components.

Also with the sloped hood, I can actually see when I am in tight spots trying to move the truck into place. This feature has also reached our fuel pocketbook with a more aerodynamic design we get better fuel MPG.

Turning Radius

With maneuverability, our CAT gets us around the job site with ease. Better turning radius than its competitors helped us decide what to buy. I can get into much tighter fits with greater ease on the job site. Less time maneuvering means more time delivering material that equals money. In our line of work, our trucks need to be moving material not jockeying around trying to fit the truck on site.

When CAT designed the interior they had my back in mind. The truck is much more comfortable with easier to reach controls. I am less fatigued at the end of a hard day. It’s much safer as the controls are easier to access and see. This gives me a much greater sense of control for a safe work environment for co-workers that are working around my truck. On the road, I get that same sense that I am in complete control of my rig. Gets me home safe to my family!

Compared to Mack Granite

Our team considered several trucks before choosing the CAT. The Mack Granite series was in the running. The problems we had were from a service perspective. Our jobs can crop up anywhere. With the Mack, you have service centers that work only for this series engine in the Mack. I don’t have time to drive longer distances for service work.

Mack is a legendary brand and a heck of a truck. We just felt the CAT offered a stronger truck with more service and maintenance availability.

Conclusion

The CAT seemed to be the obvious choice for us because of all the new design features. It was new to the marketplace at the time we purchased. However, we trusted the CAT brand and after seeing the truck in action we were sold.

Source: www.trucks.com

New Regulations for Commercial Truckers – What You Need to Know…

Source:  www.trucks.com


Driver shortages that are already hurting trucking companies could worsen as lawmakers propose new regulations that analysts say would exacerbate the problem.

With unemployment low and many older truckers retiring, finding qualified drivers has become an industry challenge.

Regulations that would require extensive commercial driver training and limit hours of operation – thereby increasing drivers’ time away from home – will only make things worse, industry analysts said.

But they also acknowledge that limiting drivers to fewer continuous hours on the road and increasing their training would make the roads safer, something that also improves the industry’s image.

Driver shortages affect more than just trucking companies, said Noël Perry, a trucking industry analyst at FTR Transportation Intelligence.

Because transportation firms will likely have to pay more for training, wages and the procurement of trucks and trailers necessary to haul cargo, they’ll have to raise rates.

One proposal, which calls for increasing the hours of training that entry-level drivers will need to obtain a commercial driver’s license, will cost as much as $5.6 billion over 10 years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said in a March Federal Register report.

Retailers and manufacturing companies that rely on truck shipments to keep their businesses operating will pay the increased costs — and likely pass the rate hikes on to their customers.

The industry is challenged by another requirement that drivers electronically, rather than manually, log their driving activity, which may put a crimp in productivity by forcing them to rest more often.

Log books have always been a part of truck driving. But by requiring electronic logging devices, or ELDs, regulators can more accurately gauge how long drivers have been on the road.

Although newer drivers aren’t opposed to ELDs, veteran drivers who’ve scarcely been monitored for decades are pushing back, said Dan Costello, the senior vice president for sales and marketing at TransForce Inc., which touts itself as the nation’s biggest supplier of staffing and support for trucking companies.

As older drivers retire or change career paths, the onus is on companies to find qualified employees to fill cabs, something proving difficult.

“It’s an aging workforce, and we’re not replenishing people as quickly as they’re leaving,” Costello said. “If more drivers don’t start entering the workforce and stay in, it’s going to be a much bigger problem in the future.”

Another proposal that could cut shipping productivity would require each new driver to have 30 hours of supervised time behind the wheel. That presents an impediment to hiring because of cost and lack of qualified instruction companies, Perry said.

“The issue there, as in all these cases, is capacity – the capacity in this case is that of the training schools,” Perry said. “This industry is extremely adaptable, so they’ll solve the issue, but the question is how long it takes them to solve it. It won’t happen overnight.”

Driver-training companies can train about 125,000 students annually, which likely isn’t enough to supply the number of new drivers needed each year, Perry said. If that rule is implemented, he said, the shortage will only get worse.

The solution to the driver shortage is reducing regulation rather than increasing the number of laws governing the trucking industry, said Costello of TransForce.

As it stands, the law says only those 21 and over can operate a Class A vehicle. Getting rid of that regulation and allowing those 18 and over to drive would make a serious dent in the shortage, he said.

If trucking companies can capture a subset of 18-year-olds straight out of high school, there’s a better chance they’ll become lifelong drivers, industry veterans say.

The American Trucking Associations safety board has discussed lobbying lawmakers to allow 18-year- olds to drive Class A vehicles to help ease the shortage, Costello said.

“If someone is 18 and they’re not going to college, they’re going to find some vocation immediately,” he said. “They’re not going to wait around three years to become a truck driver.”

He said developing a truck driving vocation program might be helpful in guiding high school graduates into the industry.

However, Costello conceded that having 18-year-olds driving an 80,000-pound load isn’t without its risks, and said insurance companies would raise concerns if it were to happen.

There’s always another solution. The industry could pay higher wages, he said.

“You can’t change the hours, you can’t change the equipment, and you can’t change the job,” Costello said. “So we’re going to have to find some way to recruit people into the industry … make the pay higher.”

Taking the Diesel Offroad

HD Diesels don’t just haul stuff, apparently they can eat up some of the most difficult terrain on the planet.  Check out this article from one of our favorite blogs, Diesel Power Products on the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah…

By far, one of our favorite events of the year surprisingly isn’t even a diesel specific event, its actually originally intended as a “Jeep only” event: Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. Fortunately for us, not only do we have a passion for Jeeps, but there are also several expeditions during EJS specifically tailored for full size pickups. Because of this, and our love of offroading, EJS is a perfect time for us to get out, have some fun, and test many of the products we sell.

DPP-AEV-Nomad-in-Moab

EJS 2016 is now well under way, and the hills of Moab are packed with offroaders of all kinds, including a few of the Diesel Power Products crew and several of our vehicles. One of the vehicles we have equipped to handle the rigors of the trails is a 2016 Ram 2500 sporting the 6.7L Cummins engine that we loaded with a host of products from our new found partner, American Expedition Vehicles, or AEV. Specifically, this Ram is running AEV’s 3″ DualSport SC Suspension System, 17″ Katla Wheels, Premium Front Bumper, and their soon-to-be-released fender flare kit to allow clearance for the massive 40″ Nitto tires we are running under this beast. Not only did this Ram easily and safely haul an enclosed trailer loaded with a Jeep and tons of gear all the way from Spokane, Washington to Moab, Utah, but has been tearing up the rocks and sand with only adjustments to the tire pressure.

DPP-AEV-Nomad-in-Moab-close

As EJS16 comes to a close at the end of this week, we will be sure to update with more action shots so you can really get a feel for what Easter Jeep Safari is about, and how a well equipped Ram can truly keep up with the best Jeeps out there on the trails, yet still be able to work like a truck is intended to.

To see the full range of AEV products for your Ram, click HERE.

And to see the full lineup of products for your diesel powered truck, check us out at www.dieselpowerproducts.com.

The Top 5 Fleet Management Software Programs For 2016

Made specifically with medium or large logistics outfits, but also applicable to companies in the Service and Towing field, Fleet Management Software (FMS) is almost a requirement in today’s trucking world in order to stay competitive. FMS helps logistics and shipping companies to maximize their fleet utilization through proactive tracking, routing and data reporting.
We looked back at some of the software available just 5 years ago and, suffice to say, newer FMS solutions in 2016 are truly exceptional thanks in part to better available technology and a healthy, competitive market. In this post, we’ll review 5 of the latest popular solutions employed today by top trucking and logistics companies.

Verizon’s Networkfleet Software

Networkfleet is one of the more widespread fleet management software programs in use today. Thanks to Verizon’s vast network of satellites and wireless towers as a foundation to their patented telematics solution, it enables companies as close to real-time control over their fleets as anything else on the market today. While the dashboard interface is somewhat confusing it does cover all the functional needs with mileage monitoring, fuel use, emergency or down-time indicators and any diagnostics codes. Their maintenance scheduling application is interactive and does alert driver of the date and time of any maintenance check-up which is not found in most other applications.
Not known exactly for their customer care, we do take issue with Verizon’s lack of 24/7 technical support

Prophesy DispatchHighjump-Software Logo

A great solution for those on a budget, Prophesy Dispatch has been around since 2006 and costs about between $80 and $90 / month depending on a “Broker” or “Broker and Carrier” status (c. 2016). In that time they’ve developed a loyal base of customer thanks to an “everything’s there” application, including regulations management. While again, support is lacking to business hours, we’ve found that they do respond consistently with 24 hours and do have solid online training program in place for new users.
In addition to quick real-time monitoring of truck status, we found the dashboard to be highly intuitive. Any duplicate date seemed to carry over to other transactions(which is sorely needed in overseas transactions where duplicate documents are a miserable requirement), making BOL documentation a breeze. Overall a great value solution for both domestic and international truckload carriers, freight brokers, and also LTL carriers.  Click here for the Prophesy Dispatch software costs and payment schedule.

Quartix Fleet Management SoftwareQuartix-Logo

Used in the trucked industry since the 2001, Quartix Fleet Tracking is a US specific web-based logistics tracking product that utilizes patented GPS tracking devices and telematics. Weighing only 2 ounces, the device is installed by Quartix and is used for routing optimization and fleet tracking and is sufficiently robust for long term use – they claim to have “redundancy” built into their servers and databases to limit downtime . Unfortunately, the software does not have, nor plans to have integrated dispatch capabilities, but for around $20 per month plus installation, what more can you ask for a real-time tracking software.Any fuel indicators tracking are based on logs or averages input by the management team or by the drivers and are not live.
Overall a great product for peanuts per month. Unfortunately for a the modular, fully integrated solution that most larger logistics companies would want, the lack of long term functionality will be a concern.

Telogis SoftwareTelogis-logo

Telogis is a company that provides a software solution for managing your entire fleet of vehicles that goes far beyond simple GPS tracking. It is a web-based solution, one that can be scaled very easily to accommodate the growth of your business. It is also designed to integrate with any type of business, and can help with dispatching and also payroll. Regular maintenance of vehicles is also incorporated into the software, making sure that your fleet is always updated and repairs are made when necessary.
A common complaint of the service is the downtime experienced with the GPS tracking units. While Telogis will replace units free of charge, any downtime can costs much more than simply installation costs.

RTA Fleet Management

RTA Fleet Management Software LogoRTA is a small software company that offers a complete Fleet Management solution at a great price. As a scalable application RTA functions well with large organizations, and offers a suite of applications that can help you maintain high production and safety levels. It includes asset management, work order management, and can also help you manage your inventory. It is designed to help companies reduce overall liability, improve efficiency, and help reduce the cost of fuel usage.
Built on an older platform there are minor issues with redundancy in entry and it does not offer a dispatch module. However, the training is top-notch and the customer support is solid. As of 2016 they are on release 7.0 and are consistently updating their product to match customer requests.

Our Take

All of these software solutions, whether they are on your computers at your place of business, or if they are utilized online, can help you run your business much more efficiently. They all come with a multitude of different options, all of which are designed to help you manage your fleet of vehicles while they are on the road, and also schedule regular maintenance so that you are never surprised by intermittent breakdowns which could cost your company money. Visit each of these websites to find out which one will actually work best for your business. The key to making sure that your fleet of vehicles is operating at optimal levels, and that your business is generating the most revenue, is to always use state-of-the-art fleet management software programs.

Are Driverless Trucks the Future of Transportation?

One of the big development pursuits in the tech field recently has been that of the “Driver-less” car.  Many big tech companies and startups alike are envisioning a day where driver interactions with their vehicles are limited or non-existent. Most of the press around this technology has been about personal use, but it should come as no surprise that similar applications are being developed in the transportation and logistics industry as well.  It’s no stretch to say that the ability to use automated trucks could completely revolutionize the shipping and logistics industries.

This could come at a heavy price for those working in the trucking industries that have based their life around driving and being on the road.  In this post we’ll look into the possibilities of automating the transportation industry by using driverless trucks and just what does such a future look like.

Driver-less Trucks – The Race to Innovate

In any given year over 3 million commercial trucks carry nearly 10 Billion Tons of cargo in the United States alone.    What if computers – which never get tired, distracted or drowsy – could operate these vehicles to shoulder some or all of the work so that their human counterparts could be better rested and utilized when they actually do need to drive the rig.In addition to better labor utilization, these driver-less vehicles are expected to have better fuel efficiency, maintenance and safety.

To this end, companies like Daimler, Nissan, Freightliner and Caterpillar are busy working on truck prototypes that don’t need a human to operate them.  While they refer to the newer technology as “Driver Assist” these cars all rely upon computers, a number of different sensors, and sophisticated GPS systems that are not readily available to the public. Each of these companies is racing to be the first with a fully compliant working truck.  As of 2016, there are a bevy of companies that have preliminary approvals to drive on US Highway, like Freightliner (see below), which has the tentative approval to operate these driverless trucks on the roads in Nevada, so long as a real-life human being is in the driver’s seat.

Assessing a Driverless Truck World

At first, driver-assist trucks will be priced, making it unlikely that smallerlogistics companies will be investing in them without some serious research. The current estimated prices could pay an entire fleet for several years, and don’t include the possible price of replacements if something were to go wrong. Replacements are a real possibility, when no-one knows if these new vehicles will even last, tests currently don’t go back more than a decade, and the wear and tear that transportation style travel would cause has not been evaluated. This means that most companies wouldn’t be likely to invest at first.

However, big name companies who run standard routes, are looking to get their times down, and who can get everything they need done with just a few vehicles will likely invest in these from the start. These will be the companies that take on the risks, that can mix automation in with normal routes, and that will do internal studies on the actual efficiency of these trucks. These companies will essentially open the door for others to make their own decisions in an informed manner.

Once these vehicles have been available for a few years, we feel the industry will likely shift, with more and more companies going towards partial automation, and human labor focusing on other parts of the shipping process. This change over will likely be gradual, and will open up a number of new mechanical and technology related positions within transportation companies.

Going Driverless – Rules and Regs

While the development of driverless trucks is well underway, current State and Federal laws and regulations have a long way to go before wide spread use on the road is possible.   The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) currently maintains five distinct classifications of autonomous vehicles:

  • Level 0 – No-Automation:  Driver maintains complete control of the car or truck at all times
  • Level 1 – Function-specific Automation:  Controls like brake-assist, kick in to aid the driver when sensing an emergency.
  • Level 2 – Combined Function Automation:  This classification involves the full-automation of primary controls like steering and throttling, while giving control back to the driver at any time.  Newer cars with “Lane Centering” technology enabled will automatically adjust steering to maintain the car in the center of the lane.  The driver can easily take control of the functionality by simply using the steering wheel
  • Level 3 – Limited Driving Automation:  At this level, a driver may grant full operational control to the vehicle under specific driving conditions (think normal highway driving), however under complicated driving scenarios like merging and city driving, the driver is expected to take over
  • Level 4 – Self-Driving Automation:  A Level 4 classified vehicle will be one that will perform all driving automation with the expected input of destination from a driver or outside human entity.  A driver can take control of the vehicle, but is not expected to during the course of the trip
  • Level 5 – Full Driving Automation, No Driver:  This classification refers to a completely autonomous vehicle that is designed with no option for human interaction

Our Take

Overall, driver-less trucks are the future, but, at least for now, they aren’t the doom and gloom bringer of the end of driver-based trucking that most people are worried about.  More than likely, the technology will be used to assist drivers putting less stress on human workers, opening up new jobs, and ensuring better metrics, efficiency and lower costs.

Biodiesel Fuel Fill Up

Biodiesel – A Viable Alternative Fuel for Truckers?

With the push for cleaner burning Alternative Fuels, Bio-diesel has become an ever more popular source of fuel for motor vehicles, especially in the commercial transportation industry. In essence, biodiesel is a fuel with very similar characteristics as regular diesel fuel. The main difference is that rather than being refined from crude oil, bio-diesel is produced by refining renewable sources, mainly animal and vegetable fat/oil. An entire industry has been created for the direct supply of raw materials to bio energy production plants, with vast amounts of crops like corn and rape seed being produced for this very purpose.

There are many biodiesel fuel advantages including environmental impacts through lower CO2 emissions. But for a commercial truck driver environmental factors are not necessarily the primary reason to switch to a renewable fuel source. There are economic advantages as well that can have a very positive effect on operating costs. However, these have to be offset by some disadvantages that many people in the bio energy industry do not highlight as much as they should be.

In this post, we’ll take a look at what makes a fuel “Biodiesel” and cover the various advantages and disadvantages of using this fuel in the commercial trucking field.

What is Biodiesel Exactly?

Biodiesel is a renewable energy solution that is derived from substances like restaurant or diner grease, plant oils, animal fats and food-oil byproducts.  Since the ignition / compression ratio for these bio-fuels are similar to that of petroleum-based diesel, biodiesel’s chemistry allow it be used in most diesel engines with little or no modifications.

Although the ignition properties are similar to standard diesel, biodiesel burns much cleaner.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, biodiesels can significantly reduce the emissions of ozone-depleting compounds such as carbon monoxide, sulfates, polycyclic aromatic, and nitrated polycyclic aromatic.  Additionally biodiesel emissions are safer to breathe as particulate matter from exhaust has shown to be significantly reduced.

Biodiesel is available in the United States as a blend with standard diesel in a number of concentrations up to 100% biodiesel.  These include:

  • 100 – 100% Biodiesel
  • B20 – 80% Petroleum-based diesel fuel, 20% Biodiesel
  • B5 – 95% Petroleum-based diesel fuel, 5% Biodiesel
  • B2 – 98% Petroleum-based diesel fuel, 22% Biodiesel

B20 is considered the most common blend for use in North America and can now be found at most truck fueling locations in the United States.  For an updated map of bio-fuel ready stations, check out this Bio-Diesel Retail Location Finder.

The Advantages of Biodiesel

1 – No Engine Reconfiguration

A standard Diesel engine will be suitable to run on bio diesel without any reconfiguration or modification. This means that you do not have to go through significant expenses and time off the road just to get ready for a switch to Biodiesel. However, you should check your vehicle’s warranty to see whether using alternative Diesel fuels will affect or void it.

2 – Engine Operation

Diesel engines by their design are fully reliant on the fuel for lubrication of internal engine parts and components. Without this lubrication the engine will very quickly deteriorate leading to reduced performance and eventually breakdowns.

Biodiesel has the fundamental characteristic of providing more lubricity than even standard Diesel fuel can provide. This is due to fuel regulations that gradually led to lower levels of lubricity in crude oil based diesel.

3 – Fuel Economy

Another one of the biodiesel fuel advantages is that you will see an increase in fuel economy. This means that you can save up to 30% on fuel intake, which means less stops for refilling and you can reduce one of the major operating costs of running a commercial truck.

The Disadvantages

1 – Low Temperature Environments

If you drive your truck in very cold temperatures then Biodiesel may not be the best solution. Dependent on the renewable raw material used in the refining process the fuel will gel at low temperatures which can cause significant engine problems. You can opt for a blend of biodiesel and winterized standard diesel fuel, but for the coldest months of the year it is probably best to avoid it.

2 – Clogging Of Filters

While biodiesel is a great lubricant and cleans harmful particles from the inner parts of the engine, this does result in diesel particle filters becoming clogged more often than they otherwise would. These filters will require more regular replacement and this can add to down time and maintenance costs.

3 – Quality Variation

Because the input material is sourced from different biofuel crops and locations there can be a significant variance in the quality. This can result in different levels of engine performance and therefore different levels of fuel economy. Buying from a reputable and large refining company can ensure a more stable level of quality over time.

The Jury’s Out on Biodiesel

What commercial drivers have to do is weigh the biodiesel fuel advantages against the disadvantages to see whether it makes economic and commercial sense to switch fuel types. The more fuel you use the more savings are available on your fuel bill. However, the increase in maintenance costs and potential added downtime has to be offset against those fuel economy gains.

Truckers on the Move

How Much Do Commercial Truck Cost to Drive?

Running a commercial rig ain’t cheap. Whether you’re an employee at a logistics firm or an independent owner / operator you’ll need to be hyper-aware of the cost of driving and maintaining your truck. Running a logistics operation can be profitable, but if you’re not on top of your costs,runaway expenses can kill a logistics business profitability nearly overnight. In this articles we’ll cover the typical costs involved with running a commercial truck, including fixed and variable costs. We’ll also share some good advice on how to save costs and ways to keep up on book keeping.

Fixed Cost Considerations

Fixed costs represent recurring expenses sustained by simply keeping your rig in service whether it’s driving or not. Typical logistics companies fixed costs include:

  • Insurance
  • Truck Payments
  • Storage
  • Mortgages
  • Ongoing rental costs
  • Licenses / Permits

By totaling these costs on an annualized basis, owners can parse the totals into monthly or weekly increments to determine the break-even point for maintaining the business. For example, it the total annual fixed costs of operation are $32,500 for a commercial rig, it takes $2708 per month or $625 per week of fixed costs to maintain the operation. Owners can then determine the net benefit of any individual run as well as the potential loss due to maintenance shutdowns or holdouts based on a more lucrative job.

Variable Costs

Variable cost will directly fluctuate in accordance with the number of miles driven per truck. That being said, not all variable costs are created equal Many variable costs, like maintenance, will decrease per mile as the total number of driven miles increase. Fuel, on the other hand, will directly coincide with the number of miles driven and the price of fuel on the market. Typical variable costs for the logistics / trucking include:

  • Fuel
  • Fuel Taxes
  • Maintenance
  • Tires
  • Tolls
  • Broker Costs

Let’s take a minute and discuss the “king” of all variable costs – fuel. With all the talk of falling oil prices, fuel costs still reign supreme as the largest expense in commercial trucking, representing a whopping 35% – 40% of the TOTAL costs to operate a commercial truck. This critical cost factor can be a competitive advantage for costing a potential job if you can use more efficient diesel engine or fuels like a bio-fuel mix.
Next on the list of big costs is Maintenance. Typically representing around 7% – 10 % of total costs of operation, maintenance needs to be carefully considered and scheduled every year.

Profits / Salary for Drivers

If you own your rig, you’ll need to pay yourself with any leftover money after expenses. For business owner of logistic companies, driver have to be paid promptly for the work being done. Generally, salaries take up around 20 – 25%% of the expenses one is putting in. For businesses with a large payroll, you’ll need to understand there are multiple levels of experienced driver out there, and each one will have his or her salaries. Seasoned drivers will take more than new ones, but there are benefits in going with the experienced hand. The chances of short-term troubles (i.e. accidents) popping up with an experienced driver can make it worthwhile to foot the bill and pay more.