A Trucker’s Guide to Soda, Calories, & Caffeine

Staying hydrated on the road typically means that you will often find yourself at fuel stops purchasing drinks for the next leg of your drive. A popular drink option includes soda. Soda comes in many forms, and truckers should know what they are drinking and putting into their bodies when they hit the open road.

As you plan trucking trips, check out some top tips to ensure you make the best decisions for your health, mind, and thirst. Soda may seem simple, but it quickly becomes complicated as you break down each option. Continue reading “A Trucker’s Guide to Soda, Calories, & Caffeine”

5 Ways Truckers Can Help Reduce Stress on the Road

Truck driving is no easy task. Drivers have a lot to deal with, a lot of miles to cover, and some crazy road conditions to travel over. If you’re a truck driver, you want to take some preemptive measures to help reduce stress and feel happiness through your travels. Over time, the methods to help reduce stress will come naturally and help

Learn about ways to reduce stress and stay calm through extended truck driving trips. The methods work whether you take daily drives or drive long distances across the country.

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Preventive Maintenance prevents more than just breakdowns

How a solid PM program saves cost over the long haul

Although you can certainly argue preventive maintenance is an expensive cost of doing business, routine PM is less costly than unexpected equipment failure and unplanned repairs. In addition to losing time on the road, you risk increasing the severity of equipment failures when they eventually happen.

Sticking to a plan

A solid maintenance plan only works well if you can put it into action and then keep up with it. Your goal should be routine PM that properly maintains your equipment, reduces the chance of breakdown costs, and extends the life of your engine. The simpler the plan, the more likely you are to keep on top of it.

At a minimum, your maintenance plan should include engine oil, coolant, filters, tires, wipers, lights, belts and hoses. A plan that includes brakes, batteries, exhaust, drive axles, wheel seals, driveline, suspension steering, clutch, transmission and engine would be ideal but would also require more technical skills.

No matter your plan, you should know your truck thoroughly. You don’t have to be a mechanic to familiarize yourself with which components can fail under which circumstances. Your truck’s manufacturer will recommend a standard PM schedule for your model, and PM guidelines are also available from the American Truck Association for tractors and trailers. Following these schedules will help reduce the chance of failure.

Money-saving tips

In addition to substantially slashing breakdown costs, a properly maintained engine will use less fuel. Take advantage of other fuel-saving PM practices, such as adjusting the overheads after the break-in period and then at required intervals, to also prolong valve and injector life.

Paying attention to maintenance can also extend oil life. Oil is costly, especially if you’re not getting maximum use. What are the keys to extended drains?

Filtration practices: Use the correct filter based on manufacturer specifications and change it at the recommended intervals.

Oil grade: Choose a high-quality, extended drain-capable oil.

Oil analysis: If using extended intervals, an oil analysis should be performed at every drain by a qualified lab. Your supplier or dealer can provide information on a reputable lab.

When you can DIY

If you don’t feel comfortable doing a job, take it to the shop. If you have any questions or need advice, talk to an expert first. Also, before you begin, you should always ensure you’re not voiding any warranties by completing maintenance or repairs yourself. 

With that in mind, do-it-yourself jobs can include routine tasks such as work on basic components like belts, hoses, wipers or lights. You can also tackle fluid and filter changes. Jobs such as greasing, cleaning connections and cables and changing fuel filters make take some of your time but are also relatively simple to complete.

Dealing with dealers and service departments

When it’s time to take your rig in for service, it’s the relationship you’ve established beforehand that will serve you best. Like any other relationship, communication is critical to avoiding conflict and ensuring a positive outcome.

It’s important to make an appointment, even if you’re pressed for time. You’re not going to be the only customer faced with an emergency, so taking the basic minimum steps to provide the dealer what they need to help you is crucial to getting you back on the road.

Remember to have your service and warranty records available, and thoroughly explain the problem to ensure a clear diagnosis. Documentation through photographs can be helpful as well if the problem has been ongoing. If necessary, be prepared to authorize a prearranged amount of labor for diagnosis as opposed to experimenting with repairs, to keep costs down.

Know when to trade

The ultimate benefit of a good PM program is extending the life of your rig. However, like almost anything you own, the time comes when you spend more to keep it up than you would to replace it. So, how do you know when that day arrives? By keeping thorough maintenance records.

When you start your PM, track your expenses. You’ll quickly develop a good idea of what you should be spending, and you’ll be able to budget for expenses over time. Knowing how much you’re spending – and how much you’re supposed to be spending – will also alert you to when that number rises too much. A good place to start is when your total maintenance costs reach 15% of your gross revenue.

Consult with your financer to discuss truck purchase options and with your insurer to determine how an equipment upgrade will impact your premiums. Your accountant will be able to crunch the numbers for you and tell you where you stand on a truck purchase. 

Overall, you should think about an upgrade when the costs of your current vehicle – including principal, interest, maintenance and operating costs – are higher than the comparable costs of an upgrade to a new vehicle. Considering the resale value of the old vehicle combined with manufacturer’s incentives on the new truck may make a trade an attractive option.

Ensuring Your Finances For the Future

While preparing for the future is important for anyone, as an owner-operator, saving for your retirement – as well as other important financial goals – is especially critical. As a self-employed business owner, it’s important to take action now to ensure you have enough money to retire at a comfortable financial level.

Knowing Your Needs

While saving is a challenge, mastering the art of controlling spending will help you ensure you have enough money post-retirement to maintain your lifestyle. The earlier you begin to save, the better off you’ll be, since any money you invest will compound and grow over a longer period of time. Finding ways to live comfortably on less will also make it easier to make your savings last longer in your retirement years.

How much should you save? Figure out how much it costs you to live by adding up the cost of housing, food, transportation, travel, entertainment, and any other monthly expenses you may have. Account for a yearly inflation rate of approximately 3 percent, and try to estimate any increases or decreases, such as medical or housing costs. Next, use an online calculator to estimate your life expectancy. Try more than one, using factors such as medical conditions to determine how many years of retirement to plan for.

Savings and Social Security

Although many Americans rely on their Social Security check each month, don’t count on it being enough to fully support you in retirement. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Social Security provides approximately 40 percent of the income the average person received prior to retirement. Although estimates vary on how much you’ll need to live on depending on your post-retirement expenses, financial experts say you’ll likely need 75 to 80 percent of your pre-retirement income.

For example, if you’re unmarried and your income is $100,000 annually before taxes, you may choose a target of 75 percent. If you anticipate approximately $26,000 per year in Social Security benefits, then you’ll need to replace $49,000 per year with income from other sources such as dividends from investments, retirement funds, or income from a part-time job.

Remember to carefully weigh your options when choosing whether or not to begin receiving Social Security benefits early. You have the option to begin early at age 62, at full retirement age (age 66 or 67, depending on when you were born), or later. If you claim early, your benefit will be reduced to 75 percent of your full monthly benefit and will remain at that reduced benefit for the rest of your life. However, if you wait to take Social Security until full retirement age, you’ll need to live longer to make up for the payments you could have been receiving.

Choosing a Retirement Plan

A qualified retirement account makes sense because you don’t pay taxes on the earnings until you begin withdrawing the funds. Since you won’t be taking out the money until you retire, you should be in a lower tax bracket then and therefore paying less in taxes than you would if you paid the taxes now. Many retirement plans also allow you to deduct your contributions to the plan from your income. So, if you made $60,000 and contributed $5,000 to your plan, you would report $55,000 on your income tax return.

What are the options? For owner-operators, Individual Retirement Accounts are a popular choice.

Traditional IRA. For those without an employer-sponsored account, a traditional individual retirement account allows you to contribute $6,000 per year if you’re under 50 and up to $7,000 per year for those 50 and older. Investments grow tax deferred until the investor withdraws funds during retirement.

Roth IRA. The biggest difference between a Roth and a traditional individual retirement account is how they are taxed. Roth IRAs are not pre-taxed, so the contributions are not tax-deductible. However once you begin to withdraw money, those funds are tax free. Also, the Roth IRA has a limit on how much yearly income you can have while contributing – if you will make more than $144,000 (single) in 2022 or $214,000 as a married couple filing jointly, you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA.

401(k)

The attractiveness of a Roth IRA is that you can withdraw funds tax-free once you are retired. However, if earlier tax advantages are more suitable for you, a 401(k) might be a better option. These accounts allow you to contribute prior to income tax deduction and often have much higher contribution limits than Roth IRAs. For individuals wishing to take advantage of higher limits, in 2021 the Roth 401(k) limit was $19,500 for those under 50 and $26,000 for individuals 50 and over, compared to $6,000 and $7,000 for the Roth IRA. Additionally, if you are a company employee, 401(k) accounts allow employers to make matching contributions. The downside to a 401(k) is limited flexibility, so if you want more control over your funds, an IRA might be a better option.

Finding Assistance

No matter what path you take to securing your future, you needn’t go at it alone. You can find basic tools online for free, and online brokers can assist you in setting up accounts. For more in-depth assistance, talk to your accountant about retirement planning. If you’re starting from scratch on savings and investments, consider hiring a financial planner to walk you through the process. It could be the best investment you’ll ever make.

Truck Driver Hauling Options: What to Consider and Avoid

As a new truck driver, the cab you purchase can be used for a plethora of job options, and the field is typically wide open with choices. When you choose a hauling option, many factors go into the decision including the pay, hours on the road, and the distance you will actually drive. One of the biggest considerations is what kind of material you will drive on the road.

Continue reading “Truck Driver Hauling Options: What to Consider and Avoid”

On the Road Again: Male Truck Drivers and Mental Health

Men make up the majority of long-haul truck drivers, and they face many occupational stressors as they traverse the country, carrying goods from place to place. But the long hours and isolating nature of the job doesn’t just affect their physical health — life on the road can also take a toll on their mental health. Here’s a look at the common emotional struggles of many male truck drivers and tips to improve mental well-being on the road.

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5 Advantages of Listening to a Truck Driver Podcast

As a truck driver, you have a lot of audio options for the road. One form of audio to consider is a podcast. Podcasts are released with numerous topics, but one that relates directly to your career is a truck driver podcast. The form of entertainment is not just a way to pass the time but comes with many advantages.

Check out some of the advantages of listening to a truck driver podcast while on the road.

Continue reading “5 Advantages of Listening to a Truck Driver Podcast”

How to find success as a company driver with Bruce Outridge

We’ve met a wide variety of individuals from the trucking industry while interviewing for the Successful Driver Podcast. Everyone has had their own tips for success; whether that be properly maintaining your truck’s HVAC, or ensuring you’re practicing healthy budgeting habits. Bruce Outridge, host of the Lead Pedal Podcast, joined us to discuss his past in trucking and to share his top tips for success.

Bruce was in trucking long before he launched his podcast in 2015. In his over thirty years of working in the transportation industry, Bruce has worn many hats; from driver, to owner-operator, to fleet supervisor. Today, Bruce owns his own company, Bruce Outridge Productions, and uses his platforms as a podcaster, author, speaker, and producer to share the knowledge he’s gathered over the years. He has produced several programs to help new owner-operators build successful businesses and uses his podcast to chat all things trucking.

Much of Bruce’s time in trucking was spent working as a professional driver. He shared with us four tips to help you succeed when working as a company driver. Most of the advice Bruce shares can be narrowed down to a simple, universal concept; being professional. Personability is one of the top traits that Bruce equates to success; having good customer service and being kind to dispatch goes a long way in Bruce’s book. Punctuality is another big plus according to Bruce, and while that is important in any business, being known to be on time in trucking is a great way to build rapport. Even though you don’t own your truck as a company driver, Bruce emphasizes taking care of the vehicle as if it were your own.

“I always had that mentality that whether I pay for the truck or not, I own the truck, like it was my vehicle. When you take care of it like that and the company realizes you take care of it like that…I never drove old trucks, at the beginning I did for a while, but at the end they were like ‘let’s go to the dealership and I’m going to show you the leather seats’ like that’s where it was at the end because I took care of that old truck they gave me in the beginning. The drivers that do that, you will find that companies kind of leave them alone. When a company finds a guy who will take care of their equipment like it’s their own vehicle, is going to be on time, is willing to do the work and get the job done…they’re not going to bug you so that you leave, they want to keep you.”

Watch our full episode with Bruce Outridge now and check out the Lead Pedal Podcast if you’d like to learn even more from him!

Tips from ATBS on succeeding in your trucking business

It’s been said many times on the Successful Driver Podcast that it’s important for drivers to treat trucking like a business. Todd Amen, President and CEO of American Truck Business Services (ATBS), sat down with us to share his advice on how a driver can make their business succeed.

When it comes to trucking, there are multiple factors that contribute to success. While on the surface it may seem as simple as hopping in a truck and driving, anyone in the business knows there’s more to the industry than that. ATBS assists drivers in an area key to their success, their finances. ATBS has been helping drivers with the business side of trucking since 1998 and is now the largest tax and accounting firm serving owner-operators.

“At ATBS, our goal really is to help the driver treat it like a business. We do a budget, we often call it a ‘profit plan’ because a ‘budget’ sounds like a root canal and a profit plan sounds like something fun.”

There are certain factors that a driver can never truly control. Todd spoke to this when he said that “it literally broke [his] heart when [he] was in the trucking business and [they] had drivers fail for no reason of their own.” There is value to planning for an unforeseen future, whether that includes a tire blowout on the road, a transmission failure, or even an accident. While you can’t control whether these things happen, you can have some control over your response. Saving and practicing healthy budgeting habits is one of the best ways to help yourself prepare for the unexpected.

“I think of all kinds of stories of, you know, the ants saving up for dry season and hoarding their harvest underground so that they can eat for long term, we’re no different. It’s a good time, don’t go out and buy new toys like a Harley, or a bass boat, or a bunch of chrome for your truck. Save that money, man, because the tough times will come and you’re going to need it to get through the tough time, so put some money in the bank right now, don’t just blow it all. It’s nice to make money, it’s nice to have nice things, but make sure you’re building your savings for when the tough time comes.”

Todd shared with us the three main reasons ATBS has seen drivers fail, which include:

  1. Maintenance: Trucks, especially used trucks, will require maintenance. It’s never a question of if, but when, so plan accordingly. “In today’s world, if you’ve got a used truck, we want people setting aside 10 to 14 cents a mile in a maintenance account. Don’t plan on getting a loan from somebody or a second mortgage to fix something that breaks, do preventative maintenance.”
  2. Health: You’re just as important to your business as your truck, so when you don’t have your health, your professional life could be affected as well. “Drivers have health issues, their family has health issues…A lot of times, if you’re independent, you don’t have insurance because it’s expensive. So, take care of yourself and try to get some form of health insurance.”
  3. Bad Business Practices: The business side of anything can often be the most frustrating to manage. Between budgeting and making sure your taxes get paid on time, there are plenty of places where accidents can happen. “Not paying the IRS when you’re supposed to, not paying attention to your numbers…Those are things that cause people to fail, if you can eliminate them by doing the right things, your odds of growing and buying a next truck, and a second truck, and a fifth truck are in your favor.”