We could all generally agree that it’s tough to stay fit on the road. For years the Flying J pizza special was too tempting to resist. Two massive slices for $5, what a deal! But we have come to the realization that this nearly 2,000 calorie blast is one of the worst things you could eat on the road! Having made that mistake more than a few times over the years, the pounds started packing on almost as fast as the miles, and then one day you wake up and say… holy crap what happened to my waistline!
Success or failure in business can many times hinge on a few critical decisions, which often include a clear choice between two divergent routes. These “forks in the road” are one of the challenges we face as business owners, and in auto hauling, cargo damage claims can lead us down the right lane or the wrong lane.
So you’ve loaded a nice sedan after completing a condition report and head on down the road. A couple hundred miles later at your first stop you notice a small dent and scratch on the side of that nice sedan. “That wasn’t there,” you think as your eye zeros in on the damage with lazar like precision every time you walk pass the car. How did you miss a dent and scratch like that? Your blood pressure rises to an uncomfortable level as you do the math in your head over the cost of the claim. You might even conclude you’re profit margin for the trip is now gone, because of the cost of a damage claim.
One of the major challenges a new Hotshot carrier faces is getting Commercial Motor Carrier insurance for the first time. Strike one is the risk of inexperience, strike two is running hotshot style equipment, and now an unexpected strike three… Progressive Insurance is starting to deny coverage. It’s seems that “Flo’s” once insatiable appetite for new commercial hotshot business has caused some indigestion for Progressive underwriters. This shift in Progressive’s underwriting just made getting started as a new hotshot operator a lot tougher, or maybe even impossible.
The complexities of federal DOT regulations as they relate to hotshot combinations are often wrongfully interpreted by drivers and enforcement officers. These misunderstandings touch a variety of enforcement topics but clearly “Hours of Service” limits, are the category that rises to the top of the list of as the most often abused and confused regulation.
In the world of hotshot automobile transporting, a carrier’s SAFER rating is very important. Think of this rating as the federal government score car for safety. Understanding how this score is calculated and what events contribute to each component of the score is important. Every carrier has a SAFER rating, to find yours visit:
The SAFER rating is composed of three elements each with its own score.
1. UNSAFE DRIVING
2. MAINTENANCE OF EQUIPMENT
3. DRIVER'S HOURS OF SERVICE
Ratings are measure from 0-100th percentile. In this case a low % score is good, and high % score is bad.
Unsafe driving is a measure of speeding tickets, lane change violations, seat belt violations, or other moving violations.
Maintenance of Equipment is a measure of equipment related violations such as running light citations, license plate light citations, brake citations, or on board safety equipment citations.
Driver’s hours of service violations represents the measure of log book violations and out of service events. This includes not totaling hours, recording total miles, not indicating the type of cargo being hauled, or hours of service violations.
The bottom line is all carriers need to take their SAFER ratings very seriously. A lower safety rating can cause your insurance renewals to double or triple on their renewal to an unsustainable level. So our best advice, is to slow down, keep everything working, and don't cheat on your log book.
Confused about the light commercial truck DOT rules when operating under 26,000 GVWR? Don’t feel bad, the regulations are confusing and a big mess. What make you think you are any different than most of the DOT enforcement officers? We never realized how confusing the regulations can be until we watched a DOT officer in North Carolina pour over a book the size a metro yellow pages to try and find a regulation… that wasn’t there!
Probably the number 1 question we get from drivers contacting us through our website or by phone is related to...When a driver needs to have a Class A CDL, and how is that determination made?
The simple answer is that any combination with a physical weight or a GVWR over 26,000 requires a class A. The confusion comes from understanding the difference between GVWR (rating) and the (actual) weight when a combination crosses a scale.
Let's assume for now you are operating under 26,000. Your truck a Dodge RAM 3500 will have on the door jam a GVWR sticker, which depending upon the year, will be around 11,500 lbs. You will then match your trailer with a GVWR sticker of 14,500 pounds. The 2 weights, in combination then equal a GVWR of 26,000. This is the RATING of the combination and not the actual physical weight. You will never put 14,500 lbs on your trailer and operate “under” 26,000 lbs. It's the rating or the limit of what the trailer can weigh with a load, and not what the trailer actually weighs.
Where guys get jammed up with the DOT is when their truck is rated in combination with a trailer over 26,000 pounds and they don’t have a Class A CDL. When the rating of the combination is over 26,000 only a class A CDL driver can legally drive the combination even if it is empty. So if your combination is rated 28,000 and roll across a scale at 25,000, the driver still needs a class A CDL.
So what do you do if you want to stay under 26,000 GVWR your truck is rated at 11,500 and you can’t find a trailer rated at 14,500…. These and many other weight related questions will be answered in our upcoming driver training on Feburary 22nd. We invite you to attend.
No matter how long you have been in the car hauling business as a road warrior or newbie, the one thing we all consistently understand is the daily drama and chaos of the work. Every pick up and delivery has numerous execution issues that must align while one unintended mistake can cost the driver and carrier valuable road time, or worse yet cancel the whole load.
Take for example a recent shipment, it seemed simple enough a 2 car pick-up from a dealer going to a major auction site. At MAT before any driver travels to a pick-up our dispatch department calls the location and verifies the load. Load verification calls eliminate many potential problems like vehicle release issues for storage or non-payment. On this day everything checked out, and a 2 car dealer pick-up seemed routine. The driver arrived at the dealership and connected with the manager authorized to release the car. After a few moments in the dealership "key room" the manger emerged to inform our driver that one of the two units had apparently been already picked up. Let the drama and chaos begin!
Is it possible that in the two hours between the verification of the load and the arrival of our driver that someone else picked up the car? Sure it's possible, but not likely. What's likely is the dealer doesn't know where the car is on their lot, or can't find the keys... And rather than work at finding the car they simply tell the driver its gone.
Brokers, dealers and auto shippers have zero invested in the cost of actually picking up and moving a car. So when things go wrong, it's the carrier who is on the hook for fuel, equipment and driver pay. It costs a dealer, or a broker zero dollars to just wait for the next carrier to show up after a misplaced vehicle has been located.
So now we are confronted with a 2 car order and only being able to pick up one car. This has numerous potential future problems, and at this point as a company we are better off not even taking the one available unit, so we don't get blamed for loosing the other missing unit. Our driver is instructed to get a copy of the Bill of Landing from the carrier that picked up the missing unit on the order, so we can charge the broker a "no-show" fee for dispatching us on a 2 unit load, when only 1 is available.
This causes a bit of trouble for the manager who now is forced to account for a $30,000 vehicle. After a period of time, which seems like the manger has possibly entered a federal witness protection program, he emerges to tell our driver the car is still at the dealership, and they cannot find it.
Eventually they find the car and our driver loads up and rolls, after burning an hour and 30 minutes at the dealership. Who pays for the extra loading time at the dealership? Do we bill the dealer for misplacing the car? Do we fire our load verification caller? Neither of these choices are appropriate. The only strategy that will work over time is to "work the problem" by having the resources and experience to support a driver facing the frustration of a chaotic pick up.
There are days when booking loads for our hotshot auto hauling dispatch clients is easy. The loads are plentiful, gross rates are steady and routes convenient. Then there are days when things get a little harder, the loads are sparse, the gross is thin and the routes look dysfunctional. But consider that NEITHER one of those types of days are why smart drivers use a dispatch service.
On a good day the key to efficiently running a hotshot auto hauling business is in managing the normal chaos of the road, on a bad day the key is an efficient resolution to problems. Smart drivers know being able to pick up the phone and call for help, provides both real dollar tangible benefits as well as intangible and sometimes psychological benefits. We consider our dispatch clients “family” and we’ve got their 6!
Take a simple example. You’re heading to a verified pick up from a dealer, but when you show up it turns out the dealer screwed up a VIN# and the car was already picked up. Now what? If you’re on your own, you park go to your smart phone and look for a replacement maybe make 5-6 phone calls and work to fill the slot on the trailer.
Or, you pick up the phone, call your dispatcher and keep rolling to the next stop without losing time. A 3-4 car hotshot rig should gross $50-$70 dollars an hour, or $3,000 to $4,500 dollars a week, depending on the weight and class. A truck sitting just 1-hour a day while the driver self-dispatches or solves a major problem will cost the truck $250-350 dollars a week…. less than the cost of using the dispatch service.
Oh….you’re not grossing $3,000-$4,500 per week from a 3-4 car trailer… then you need someone on your “6” before leaving on Monday morning!
On some days it feels like we’re helping a brother-in law survive a nasty Saturday night bar fight, on other days it’s like Thanksgiving Dinner where we debate politics, the economy or simply why some dumb ass dealer lost a set of keys! Imagine life without you’re family…ok maybe your family sucks, but your truck driving family doesn’t, because we’ve got your “6”.
Back in our corporate days in a land far, far away, we used to have designated days where the office was encouraged to bring your daughter or son to work. The idea was to expose your children to the discipline of a work environment. Once in a while you could assign them a simple task that they might even finish.
Without much fan fair we have had our kids regularly on the road for summer time trips over the last 4-5 years. The estimate is conservatively over 50,000 miles of accumulated duty time, and they love it. Except for the 15 day trip to California back in 2013 they don’t seem to get home sick as long as there’s a swimming pool at the end of the day and the occasional Waffle House breakfast.
Getting a taste of a disciplined work ethic, they hang in there for the 3AM departures and long days, but here’s the bonus for dad…they actually get a ton of stuff done. Both our 10 year old daughter and 15 year old son can strap down end to end a trailer load of cars, and at each stop they pretty much do everything except drive the cars on and off the trailer, and this frees up dad to dispatch our 6-10 other drivers, and keep up with the log book.
Sure there are certain times when it’s tough, like when some idiot in a Prius or Audi does the 18” clearance “lane change” off the front of the truck… But we have learned to mute our normally graphic gestures when the kids are in the truck, comforted by the knowledge that only lower human life forms actually buy a Prius, or an Audi POS.
Fortunately, those situations are rare. They read, watch movies and have seen a lot of the eastern US from a well maintained vintage Ford F350, mostly uneventful yet rich. It’s the unique advantage of trucking that enables the freedom to go anywhere, anytime, and with anyone in the truck. And for a several summer seasons, a couple of kids have become road warriors with their dad hotshot running cars…Priceless!
Welcome to the MAT Tips Blog:
Here you will find tips specifically for hotshot automobile transporters. Each post comes from our real world transport experience and is designed to save you significant time and money as a hotshot automobile transporter.