You drive 700 miles across multiple state lines to deliver a truckload of salad greens to a local grocer. You arrive in the wee hours of the morning to begin unloading the trailer, only to notice that a few bags of lettuce are squished, and the leaves of the product are a little bent. The lettuce certainly isn’t damaged beyond use, but the grocer rejects the load anyway. Now what?

A rejected load can be a hopeless feeling for an independent contractor. As both a driver and a business owner, your time really is money. You don’t have the time to keep all this lettuce in your truck, but you’re not sure what to do with it, either.
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Take Care of the Paperwork

The first step when you’re notified a load has been rejected is to take care of the paperwork. Send in the claim to your insurance provider, along with a few images of the product, and make sure to specify why it was rejected. In most cases, insurance will cover the cost of the rejected load, so you won’t end up losing money on it.

After notifying insurance, reach out to your dispatcher (or the shipper directly, if you have their contact info) and let them know what’s going on with the load. Your dispatcher will be able to get into touch with the shipper to find out their unique procedure for rejected goods. Some freight, such as certain spoiled meat or beer, must be destroyed upon rejection. Many shippers, though, don’t have a specific procedure for the freight – instead, the decision is left up to the driver. The best kept load-rejection secret is that most goods can be donated.
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Donate Rejected Items

It’s a well-known fact of trucking that perfectly-fit-to-eat duplicate loads of produce are sometimes rejected by grocers or distributors. Many food banks across the country will gladly take those perishable, or nonperishable items. Some food banks even have their own warehousing, and are capable of accepting in an entire truckload’s worth of freight. When you first call the food bank to notify them of your delivery, they will probably ask you a series of questions about the product in question, to determine whether they can indeed accept it. If they are able to take the freight, most food banks will even help you unload the trailer.

So, why is donation not the standard procedure for rejected freight? Ultimately, it comes down to accessibility. The idea of calling up a food bank, that very same food bank accepting the freight immediately, and you going on your merry way sounds easy enough. But the reality is that sometimes, drivers who decide to donate their freight end up spending days calling different food banks to get everything sorted.
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Indy Food Drop Program

As we’ve mentioned in other posts, here at FreightRover we are very proud to be headquartered in Indianapolis, the cross-roads of America. Indy is transportation-focused, and innovation-centered. And to prove that point, the Midwest Food Bank in Indianapolis recently launched Indy Food Drop to solve the rejected freight problem altogether. The Midwest Food Bank created Indyfooddrop.org for drivers to visit upon freight rejection. A driver can go to the site, view the four participating food banks across Indianapolis, get their direct contact info, and even learn the limit of freight that each bank can accept. Indy Food Drop worked with multi-temp facilities, such as Sysco and Merchandise Warehouse, to dedicate space to the project.


“We feel confident we can handle all of the incoming loads that will come through this system,” says John Whitaker, Executive Director of the Midwest Food Bank.

The site outlines what products can typically be donated, and what drivers can expect upon dropping the food off at the food bank.

The idea is a simple one, but surprisingly, there are no other similar programs in Indiana, or many other states. The Midwest Food Bank is currently running the site for a 6-12-month pilot period, and then plans to start offering their services to state food banks and “Super Pantries.”

“Ultimately, we would like to see this as a national project incorporating all aspects of the trucking industry and using tools developed to enhance its effectiveness,” says Whitaker.
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Compost Freight to be Destroyed

Sometimes, there is no way around it – the freight has to be destroyed. For now, freight requested to be destroyed just ends up in a landfill. In the future, though, the Wayne County Food Cooperative in Indiana will solve that problem, too. Whitaker is currently working with the Food Cooperative to put together a program for rejected freight. They plan to take the waste and compost it, rather than tossing it in a landfill.

“Composting allows us to take a load without the expense of disposal, and turn it back into a resource for the community,” says Whitaker. “That means that if half the load is bad, we will still be able to take it, and just compost the rest.”

The Indy Food Drop program has received both local and national attention for its innovative solution to a double-headed problem. Now, drivers no longer have to worry about what to do with a rejected load, and can instead feel confident in the fact that the freight is helping out an entire community. For more information on other Indianapolis technological innovations for the trucking industry, or to learn how FreightRover fits into the equation of load solutions, contact us today!

Roady, a handsome trucking Rottweiler, wasn’t getting much sleep.

Every night he stood guard over his owner, Tim Blevins, waiting for him to stop breathing. Blevins, a trucker from Oklahoma, didn’t know he had severe sleep apnea – several times a night Roady would jam his wet nose into Blevins’ face, startling the breath back into his lungs. When Blevins finally told his doctor about the nightly episodes, the doctor diagnosed sleep apnea and said Roady probably saved his life.*

Not every pup is as keen as Roady, but bringing your pet on the road with you can foster a happier and healthier lifestyle, according to Health.com.

“A powerful neurochemical, oxytocin, is released when we look at our companion animal, which brings feelings of joy,” says Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.

The comfort of a furry companion is proven to reduce stress, decrease high blood pressure, and even reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. It’s no secret that pets can be good for both our mental and physical health, but animals on the road face unique circumstances. So, what can you do to create the best possible environment for your loved one?
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Pet-Proof Your Truck

Cats and dogs are drawn to pedals like a force of nature. Whether it’s the comfort of being safely at their owner’s feet, or just the warm, dark space, somehow our furry friends all seem to share an affinity for one of the most dangerous parts of a truck cab. And while cats can be finicky in following rules, you can train your dog to stay away from the unsafe space. When training your pup for life on the road, create a barrier between your pet and the pedals. After he/she is used to the new environment, you can remove the barrier. But until then, leave the clutch and brake off limits to your pet.
While the clutch and pedals might be the most important start to pet-proofing your truck, there are a few other ways to ensure you and your companion are both safe and comfortable:

  • Make his/her space roomy and safe. If you opt for a smaller dog, make sure he/she can’t get stuck or pinched under the seat.
  • Store chewable items like medicine, food, or trash in compartments and out of your dog’s reach.
  • Always have plenty of fresh water available. Keep a semi-full water dish on the floor of your truck, so your companion can drink whenever he/she pleases. Hot days and long trips will make your dog just as thirsty as you!

 

Make Safety a Priority

Because trucking is a hazardous lifestyle even for drivers, the risk of injury from an accident is particularly high for our furry friends. And as a double-whammy, unplanned vet bills can be surprisingly steep – think of it like paying a hospital bill for your pet. Instead, consider purchasing pet insurance, so that your bank account isn’t run dry by an unplanned vet visit. There are a lot of pet insurance companies out there, but a couple options worth looking into include Healthy Paws and Petplan.

Regardless of your decision on pet insurance, cats and dogs on the road should be checked out by a vet at least once a year. Animals who travel with their owners face the unique circumstance of an ever-changing climate. Since trucking pets travel all across the country, check with your vet on a regular basis to make sure that your companion has all of the medications and vaccinations that they will need for a variety of regions.
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Keep Your Pets Comfortable

You probably wouldn’t let a small child ride in the front seat of your rig with no seatbelt, and the same should go for your pet. If you ever end up in an accident, restraint similar to a seat belt could be lifesaving to your furry friend. Even slamming too hard on the breaks could be detrimental, if your pet is loose in the cab. There are a few different ways to keep your cat or dog both safe and comfortable while traveling. Whether it’s a closed-off kennel, or simply a harness that attaches to a seat belt, research the options available for you and your animal before hitting the road.

Think of your pet as your baby. When you’ve stopped driving for the night, make sure that your cat or dog has a soft, warm place to sleep. If you don’t have a kennel on hand, you can put together a makeshift bed with soft towels and blankets. If your pet is a small animal, it’s a good idea to cover their cage with a blanket or coat overnight – the darkness helps calm some small animals, and the warmth will keep them comfortable. Make sure to leave room around the bottom, though, so that your pet always has enough clean air to breathe!
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Stop for Outside-Time

It might sound like a no brainer, but it’s important to give your pup plenty of time to roam outside of the truck. Purchase a hearty harness and leash, and take your dog for walks and play-time outside of the truck (don’t forget the doggy bags – no one likes stepping out of their cab into a pile of mush!) a few times a day. This can be hard to do when you’re on a deadline, but here’s where most of the physical benefits of having a pet come in. A dog that needs to be walked means that you get walked, too.

“Providing exercise for their companion animals results in better fitness for the (truck driver) and health benefits, such as a reduction in the risk for cardiovascular disease with lower blood pressure,” says Carolyn Magner, reporter for Overdrive.

Even cats cooped up in a small space for an extended period of time need some way to release their energy. If your companion is a cat, get a scratching board and a few toys for him or her to play with while you’re driving.
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Log Expenses and Save Receipts

A few weeks ago, we covered how to create a budget as an owner operator. If you have a pet, adding their expenses to the budget gives you a solid idea of your financial standing. It’s a good idea to put away at least $300 for a yearly vet visit, and $20 a week for food and other small expenses.

On top of that, your pet’s expenses might actually be tax deductible. If you have a dog on the road with you 100% of the time and he or she alerts you if someone is coming near your truck, there are deductions you can take on your pet expenses. Keep your pet-related receipts, and check out the IRS’ resources for whether your pet can fetch you a tax deduction.

At FreightRover, we are committed to driver happiness on the road, and work daily to put out helpful information that will make your time using the FreightRover app both productive and personally beneficial. For information on how FreightRover promotes happy living through driver independence on the road, contact us today!

*Opening story about Roady was first reported in Overdrive. Read their full article here.

February 27th – March 2nd

Music City Center, Nashville, Tennessee

Booth: 2936

February is a busy month for everyone here at FreightRover! Our tech team is hard at work developing new features for the FreightRover app, and in the mean time we will be visiting ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) to discuss many of the changes in the transportation industry. From brakes to bearings, from scanners to software, ATA TMC’s study groups and task forces cover it all. Summed up, TMC is the technology marketplace for the trucking industry. Our National Sales Manager, Dan Marti, will be attending the event this year. If you’re heading out to the show, be sure to stop by booth 2936 and say hello!

 

Where Industry Solutions are Forged

More than just a trade show, TMC is home to trucking’s leading fleet professionals, vehicle manufacturers, and component suppliers. It is the industry’s leading forum for getting things done collaboratively.

 

Best Educational Program Available

Whether your interest is staying current on equipment, maintenance or technology issues, there’s no better venue than TMC meetings to catch up on industry-specific news.

 

Trailblazers in Thought Leadership

Fleets enjoy direct access to information on equipment and technology specifications and maintenance best practices. At TMC, equipment and technology professionals can:

  • Attend the industry’s most innovative educational sessions covering all aspects of vehicle maintenance and design. Planned by fleets, for fleets.
  • Gain and share information with hundreds of your peers at TMC’s Shop Talk, a free-form discussion on equipment issues.
  • Resolve troubling equipment issues at TMC’s Town Meeting and Fleet Operators’ Forum.
  • Participate in voluntary standards-setting efforts through TMC’s Study Groups and Task Forces, which are tackling important issues such as electronic logging devices, natural gas powered vehicles and emerging onboard technologies.
  • Witness and participate in the most informative technical event — TMC’s Transportation Technology Exhibition. TMC’s exhibition makes available to attendees the best minds on equipment issues in the trucking industry. This year’s exhibit features a special Alternative Fuels Pavilion; and a first-ever “Technology Showcase,” a new hands-on dimension of the exhibition (see page 14 for details).
  • Participate in TMC’s Future Truck Initiative. As the only industry association focused solely on truck technology and maintenance, TMC and its member companies work together with OEMs to create industry standards for future truck technology and equipment to ensure the truck of the future is one that is the most efficient to operate and maintain.

We are excited to be attending TMC and hope to see you there! All information on the event was taken directly from TMC’s meeting overview. For a full schedule of the show, click here.

It’s no secret that the transportation industry is facing a major shift. On one end, dozens of company drivers are making the transition to become an owner operator every day. On the other hand, carriers are beginning to drop their owner operators altogether for fear of legal backlash on true independent status. If you are a driver who thinks you may be misclassified, or are a carrier who implements similar control over your independent drivers as you do over your company drivers, we’ll help clear the air.

 

Owner Operators vs. Independent Contractors

Driver classification is messy. By definition, owner operators are independent contractors, much like a freelance artist. Owner operators own their own equipment, operate under their own authority, find their own loads, and do not lease to a company. Sounds simple enough. But, here’s where it gets murky. Not all independent contractors are also owner operators. Let’s say that again: not all independent contractors are also owner operators. Independent contractors can lease equipment from the company they drive for (or any other company for that matter), which brings in questions of how much control the company that owns the truck/trailer can have over the independent contractor leasing the equipment.

For the most part, independent contractors and owner operators are considered one and the same. But this distinct and little-discussed difference is where carriers often misclassify company drivers as independent contractors. Carriers who implement more control over leased-equipment independent contractors than they do over owned-equipment owner operators are often misclassifying their drivers.

 

Are you Being Misclassified?

Unfortunately, there’s no uniform test to determine whether owner-operators and other independent contractors are properly classified as independent. Although state and federal courts and agencies apply a variety of tests, we’ve outlined the basic test for all independent contractor misclassification (non-specific to transportation) below:

  • Whether the company controls the manner in which the work is performed
  • Whether the company furnishes the tools, supplies or materials necessary for the work
  • Whether the worker is prohibited from using substitutes or assistants
  • Whether the work is part of the regular business of the company
  • Whether the company can discharge the worker at any time
  • Whether the parties believe they have an employee-employer relationship
  • Whether the worker has worked with the company for a long time

Obviously, some of the above rules do not necessarily apply to the transportation industry. For example, owner operators are (and should be) a part of the regular business of many carriers, and there are lots of owner operators and independent contractors who have driven for the same carrier for years. Because not all of those rules are applicable, we’ve also curated a transportation-specific list. Drivers who are required to complete anything on the below list are most likely employees who are being misclassified:

  • Attend mandatory training classes
  • Work exclusively for the company
  • Maintain specific licenses, permits, and insurance
  • Wear a uniform and display company logos on their cab
  • Get repairs from specified repair technicians
  • Drive assigned pick-up and delivery routes
  • Lease or purchase vehicles from an affiliate of the company
  • Maintain regular communication with dispatch and advise if they will miss scheduled appointments at warehouses, if free time is expiring, or if they will incur detention time

How Purposeful Misclassification Happens

The largest incentive for purposefully misclassifying employees as independent contractors is that carriers are not required to pay Social Security and unemployment insurance (UI) taxes on those drivers.

“These tax savings, as well as savings from income and income and Medicare taxes results in employers saving between 20 to 40% on labor costs” says the Department for Professional Employees.

According to a 2013 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, employers (carriers) can save an average of $3,710 per employee earning an annual income of $43,007 when they misclassify an employee as an independent contractor.

It is easy to vilify carriers who may be misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. Recent court cases in which carriers have paid millions out to drivers in back-wages have dominated transportation industry news lately, making it seem as though every carrier is purposefully misclassifying their employees in order to avoid additional taxes and save money. Keep in mind, though, that only the worst cases make the news and the vast majority of misclassification is not purposeful.

 

How Accidental Misclassification Happens

Oftentimes, it is easier for the company (and, sometimes, the driver) to implement certain uniform rules to keep all drivers organized. Requiring the use of a company uniform, or a specific closed load board, for example, is technically illegal. If these rules weren’t in place, though, the carrier would have no way of keeping in contact with each independent contractor. Without such organization, it becomes easy to lose track of both loads and drivers.

Some companies require certain insurance coverages on the equipment that they own. If you are an independent contractor who leases your equipment, required insurance that is outlined in the lease is completely legal, but vague technical wording gives wiggle room to the carrier to change their required coverages as they see fit. Really, this usually only happens so that the carrier can adjust requirements based on the changing industry, but if the lease isn’t specific, it can be illegal.

 

How to Avoid Misclassification

If you are a driver who leases your equipment, make sure to thoroughly vet your lease before you sign. If you don’t understand something, or a section seems too vague, reach out to one of the many resources for owner operators and other independent contractors.

Here at FreightRover, we know that classification is an issue that is only growing. We created the carrier web portal and driver app as a solution to the problem of independence on the road. With our tools, drivers remain truly independent through simple and transparent self-dispatching. At the same time, carriers maintain full control of their freight and can feel protected regarding driver classification issues. For more information on how our app helps avoid misclassification, contact us today!