How do I start a trucking business?

TSC Makes Trucking Business Success A Reality

Starting a trucking company will require coordinating a number of processes. Federal and state registrations and permitting are required, as well as securing insurance.

The trucking business requires a special kind of person to succeed. Special in the sense that even though the basic characteristics of smart, persistent, articulate and well organized, one also requires patience, dedication and a reliable support system.

OK! Let's get started...

Business Plan

You need a plan. The same way you wouldn't begin to build a $100,000 home without a blue-print is the same approach you should take when starting your trucking business. Yes that's right - Trucking Business!

Lay out on paper everything you can think of that you'll need to do. Your plan should be guided by facts, research and professional advice from experienced people in the trucking industry.

At a minimum, your business plan should include:

  • Organizational setup (company name, location, management, etc)
  • Financial plan (cash flow, balance sheet, projections, etc.)
  • Operating plan
  • Marketing plan
  • Growth plan
  • Research and development
  • Exit plan

Choosing a Company Name

It is very important to decide on what to call your company from the start. This name will be your company's identity and should be unique, easy to spell and pronounce, and most desirably -should be available as a web site domain name. So for instance, if you choose to call your company Quick Transport, Inc., then you should check to see whether the domain name is available and reserve it by registering with a reputable service like PairNIC (


Check your States Secretary of State website for specific information about starting a business in your state.

Tax ID / Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)

This is an important step in setting up your business. Get this setup as soon as possible.

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a federal tax identification number, and is used to identify a business entity.

This EIN is your permanent number and can be used immediately for most of your business needs, including:

  • opening a bank account;
  • applying for business licenses;
  • filing a tax return by mail

However, no matter how you apply (phone, fax, mail, or online), it takes up to two weeks before your EIN becomes part of the IRS' permanent records.

You must wait until this occurs before you can:

  • file an electronic return
  • make an electronic payment
  • or pass an IRS Taxpayer Identification Number matching program.

Do not pay anyone to get this for you! It is free.

Go to and do it yourself.

Bank Account

Take the time to open a small business banking account to simplify your record keeping and life. Shop around for the best deal. Small business banking varies in fees and features.

The costs of a business account are far less than the benefits to your business. Fees are partly tax deductible as an expense.

Keep in mind that your business may grow. Opening a business account with a bank earlier can help with required financing in the future.

Remember run your business as a business and do not mix personal funds with business funds.

Apply for an USDOT number and MC number

Register your business with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Trucking companies, commonly referred to as carriers, are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. All trucking companies are required to have a USDOT number, obtained by registering with the U.S. Department of Transportation. When you begin the registration process there are some things that you need to know about your trucking company.

Setting up Insurance

Contact an insurance company or broker that specializes in trucking companies and request a quote for insurance. They will generally require information on your vehicles, drivers, type of cargo and distance traveled (interstate, intrastate, international, for example). Proof of insurance is required for a number of permits and filings that are required to start a trucking company. However, don't secure your insurance too soon, because you will be paying for insurance that you can't use until everything else is in place! Ask your insurance agent if it is possible to have your insurance effective date about 2 weeks after you secure insurance - that will allow you some time to get all of the other paperwork done.

Apply for an IRP/License Plates

Develop your International Registration Plan, or IRP. When you license your commercial vehicle in your home based state, you have to fill out an IRP form. This form requires you to identify the U.S. states, Canadian provinces and Mexican states that you will be traveling in. This form also requires you to estimate the number of miles that will be traveled in each state. Your fee is based on the number of states and the number of miles traveled in each state.

Apply for an IFTA License

The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) form is completed with basic truck and company information and submitted to the IFTA office to receive an IFTA sticker. This IFTA sticker must be placed on the vehicle. IFTA filings are required on a quarterly basis. The IFTA filing consists of documenting the number of miles driven in each state and the number of gallons purchased in each state for the quarter. You will, generally, send in a fee when you send in your quarterly IFTA filing-unless you get really bad fuel mileage! Trip Sheet Central offers IFTA fuel tax reporting at affordable rates.

Learn more about IFTA

Apply for your Unified Carrier Registration (UCR)

UCR is a relatively new registration. This registration allows you to carry cargo across state lines. There is a simple online process available from most state Department of Transportation websites. You may also contact your state public utilities commission office (PUCO) for the form. This form requires basic company and vehicle information.

Apply for State Specific Permit Requirements

Many states require registration or permits for carriers that will be hauling intrastate cargo or even for carriers that will cross the state line en route to another location. These states include Oregon, Texas, Kentucky, New Mexico and New York. For example, a KYU number is required for all carriers that travel in or through the state of Kentucky. This number is obtained by filling out a form and sending it into the state. They get their money when you file a quarterly report that indicates how many miles you drove in the state of Kentucky for that quarter.

Once you determine the states that you will be traveling in or through, contact the Motor Carrier office in that state. This office may operate under a different name but will generally be a part of the state department of taxation or motor vehicles.

Signage Required on Vehicle

Post the following signage on your vehicle:

  • Company Name
  • Home Terminal Location
  • MC Number
  • Last 8 digits of the vehicle VIN
  • Truck Number

Additional information may need to be on the signage, such as your KYU number, if required. Tip: You can have vinyl signs printed for a low price at most print shops like FedEx Kinkos. Truck-stop printers are generally more expensive.

Driver Qualification Files and Other Records

This step must be complete before you can begin trucking operations of any kind. All drivers must undergo and pass a drug screen test and physical/medical exam before starting work. A medical certificate is issued after these tests, which must be carried by the driver at all times he/she is on duty. A copy of the medical certificate (card) will need to be on file at the home terminal.

  • Perform a department/bureau of motor vehicles search on your driver, for all states that he/she has held a license in for the past ten (10) years. Perform this search annually.
  • Perform a pre-employment check on your driver and obtain employment history for the last ten (10) years.
  • Sign up for participation in a Drug/Alcohol program which will provide random and post accident drug tests.
  • Create or sign up for participation in a safety program.
  • Create or sign up for participation in a maintenance program (includes preventative maintenance, annual inspection and repairs).
  • Create or sign up for participation in a Log auditing program.
  • Create an accident register-documentation of any accidents that vehicle is involved in-regardless of who is at fault.
  • Document vehicle information-VIN and gross vehicle weight.
  • Document all dispatch data-listing when, for whom, where and what were shipped to whom and where.
  • Document fuel purchased; listing quantity and location

Keep all the driver information above in the Driver Qualification file at the home terminal. It must be available when your trucking company is audited. All trucking companies must undergo an audit within the first eighteen months of operation.

Truck Permit Book/Dossier

The transportation industry is a heavily regulated industry. Documentation that confirms that your trucking company is properly licensed and has all the necessary permits must be available for inspection in the truck.

It is a good idea to have duplicate copies of all licenses and permits at the home terminal.

Documentation required in the truck at all times includes:

  • CAB card - This record shows your current USDOT number, MC number, IRP, UCR and IFTA jurisdiction information. It is normally valid for one year and must be renewed annually. Tip: Always renew early to avoid steep fines, penalties and down-times resulting from a failed road-side or weigh-station inspection.
  • Any required permits or filings for individual states will need to be carried in the vehicle as well.
  • Proof of Insurance. Truck Insurance companies will normally send you a cab card insurance certificate. The actual policy will normally be mailed to the home terminal where it should be kept.
  • Driver's Daily Log Books. Your driver will need to complete, on a daily basis, a driver's daily log.
  • Daily Vehicle Inspection. Your driver will need to complete, on a daily basis, a vehicle inspection report. Standard driver's daily logs incorporate the vehicle inspection on the form.
  • Bills of Lading. For every load picked up by the driver, the shipper will issue a bill of lading (BOL) to be delivered with the shipping. The BOL is a manifest describing the cargo being hauled, and information about the origin and destination. A copy of the BOL should be sent to the home terminal for billing and record maintenance when the truck is unloaded.

Safety Requirements For New Trucking Companies

Seal of the US Department of Transportation

Industry News: Agency Raises Safety Requirements For New Trucking Companies

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will begin enforcing its New Entrant Safety Assurance Process rule, which requires newly registered truck companies to meet stricter safety requirements. This final rule raises the compliance standards for passing new entrant safety audits and requires that new carriers correct safety deficiencies before being granted permanent registration.

Under the new requirements, a newly registered trucker will automatically fail its safety audit if violations of any one of 16 essential federal regulations are discovered. These regulations cover controlled substances and alcohol testing, hours-of-service rules, driver qualifications, vehicle condition and carrier insurance responsibility.

Failure to pass a new entrant safety audit may result in revocation of a carriers registration, unless that carrier takes corrective action within a time period established by FMCSA. Additionally, if certain violations are discovered during roadside inspections, the new carrier may be subject to an expedited safety audit or a compliance review that can result in fines or an out-of-service order.

For more information on the New Entrant Safety Assurance Process rule, visit the FMCSA website at

Keywords: FMCSA Requirements,New Trucking Company,Safety Requirements,Industry News,Audit

Staying in Good Books with the DOT

Seal of the US Department of Transportation

In order to maintain good standing with state and federal regulations, Department of Transportation (DOT) Safety and Compliance investigators routinely audit carriers' safety practices within the first 18 months of operation. They ask questions, look at paperwork and inspect vehicles to verify compliance with the state and federal regulations that apply to the carrier's situation.

There are several regulations that are so important that violating them causes an order to park your equipment until everything is fixed. In a nutshell, these regulations are concerned with:
  • Alcohol and controlled substances testing and using impaired drivers
  • Commercial drivers' licenses and drivers' physical fitness to drive
  • Proof of insurance
  • Equipment repair and inspection

New Entrant Safety Audit Busters

Unofficially known as the 16 Deadly Sins, these violations cause automatic failure of a new entrant safety audit

  1. Failing to implement an alcohol and/or controlled substances testing program.
  2. Using a driver known to have an alcohol content of 0.04 or greater to perform a safety-sensitive function.
  3. Using a driver who has refused to submit to an alcohol or controlled substances test.
  4. Using a driver known to have tested positive for a controlled substance.
  5. Failing to implement a random controlled substances and/or alcohol testing program
  6. Knowingly using a driver who does not possess a valid commercial driver's license.
  7. Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting or authorizing an employee with a CDL which is suspended, revoked, or canceled by a State or who is disqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
  8. Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting or authorizing a driver to drive who is disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
  9. Operating a motor vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility coverage.
  10. Operating a passenger carrying vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility.
  11. Knowingly using a disqualified driver.
  12. Knowingly using a physically disqualified driver.
  13. Failing to require a driver to make a record of duty status.*
  14. Requiring or permitting the operation of a commercial motor vehicle declared “out-of-service” before repairs are made.
  15. Failing to correct out-of-service defects listed by driver in a driver vehicle inspection report before the vehicle is operated again.
  16. Using a commercial motor vehicle not periodically inspected.*

* Requires a violation of 51 percent or more examined records to trigger an automatic failure.

Start working on these issues early to avoid problems "down the road" in your trucking operations. A good rule of thumb is to educate drivers, dispatchers and the book-keeping people in your business to maintain good records, follow standard operating procedures and guidelines, as well as staying informed about current FMCSA and DOT changes in regulations.

If possible, us a good book-keeping system like Trip Sheet Central (Learn more) or similar product.

CSA 2010 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

CSA 2010

Under CSA 2010, CMV carrier and driver safety performance records will be more important than ever and all safety-based violations from roadside inspections will count, not just OOS violations. Drivers should know what CSA 2010 will mean for them and how they can prepare for this important, new safety program.

Why does FMCSA's new CSA 2010 program emphasize driver safety enforcement?

Studies have shown that unsafe driver behavior, both on the part of CMV drivers and other drivers, is a major contributor to CMV-related crashes. Some studies indicate that a small segment of the CMV driver population is involved in a disproportionately large number of crashes. As a result, during the CSA 2010 Operational Model Test, FMCSA is expanding its approach to identifying and addressing unsafe drivers during interventions with motor carriers.

Can you describe the CSA 2010 driver safety enforcement process?

The driver safety enforcement process provides FMCSA with the tools to identify CMV drivers with safety performance problems and to verify and address the issues. The new tools enable Safety Investigators (SIs) to identify drivers with poor safety histories who work for carriers that have been identified as requiring a CSA 2010 investigation. If the investigation results verify the driver violation(s), FMCSA takes an enforcement action against that driver, such as a Notice of Violation (NOV) or a Notice of Claim (NOC).

What kinds of driver safety performance data is CSA 2010 looking at?

The new program focuses on driver enforcement for serious rule violations, such as:

  • Driving while disqualified
  • Driving without a valid commercial driver's license
  • Making a false entry on a medical certificate
  • Committing numerous Hours-of-Service violations

Do tickets or warnings that drivers receive while operating their personal vehicles impact the new SMS?

No. Tickets or warnings that drivers receive while operating their personal cars are State citations and do not count in the new measurement system. SMS only uses violations of FMCSA's regulations, and those regulations only apply to people driving large CMVs. In measuring on-road safety performance, SMS uses all safety-based violations documented at roadside inspections as well as State reported crashes.

Will CSA 2010 assign safety ratings to individual CMV drivers?

I heard that CSA 2010 is designed to rate CMV drivers and to put many of them out of work this summer. Is that true?

No. Under CSA 2010, individual CMV drivers will not be assigned safety ratings or Safety Fitness Determinations (SFDs). Consistent with the current safety rating regulations (49 CFR part 385), individual drivers who operate independently as a "motor carrier" (i.e. have their own USDOT number, operating authority, and insurance) will continue to be rated as a motor carrier, as they are today, following an onsite investigation at their place of business. CSA 2010 is designed to meet one overriding objective: to increase safety on the Nation's roads. Therefore, it is, by design, a positive program for drivers and carriers with strong safety performance records. CSA 2010 sends a strong message that drivers and carriers with poor safety performance histories need to improve.

What is the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) and when does it start?

PSP is a new FMCSA program mandated by Congress that is designed to assist the motor carrier industry in assessing individual operators' crash and serious safety violation history as a pre-employment condition. The program is voluntary. It is not part of CSA 2010. The system is expected to launch in 2010. For more information about PSP, visit FMCSA's PSP website

What is the detailed process for drivers to contest information contained in their FMCSA driver records?

Drivers should use FMCSA's DataQs system to challenge data in FMCSA databases. To do this, drivers can go to the DataQs registration page, select "Register Online" as a general public user, and create a DataQs account profile. Once registered, drivers can challenge their data by following detailed instructions in the help menu. The Agency is in the process of improving the DataQs Website to make the process of challenging data more apparent to drivers.

Do you know your BASIC?

Trip Sheet Central

The Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program of the FMCSA was designed to weed out as many as 5 percent, or 150,000, of the country's 3 million or so long-haul truck drivers they believe are involved in a disproportionately high number of truck accidents and fatalities.

CSA uses a complex scoring system to rate the nearly 700,000 DOT-registered interstate trucking companies on seven "Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories", known as "BASICs."

The seven (7) BASIC categories are

  1. Unsafe Driving - Operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by drivers in a dangerous or careless manner. Example violations: Speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, and inattention. (FMCSR Parts 392 and 397)
  2. Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service) - Operation of CMVs by drivers who are ill, fatigued, or in non-compliance with the Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations. This BASIC includes violations of regulations pertaining to logbooks as they relate to HOS requirements and the management of CMV driver fatigue. Example violations: Exceeding HOS, maintaining an incomplete or inaccurate logbook, and operating a CMV while ill or fatigued. (FMCSR Parts 392 and 395)
  3. Driver Fitness - Operation of CMVs by drivers who are unfit to operate a CMV due to lack of training, experience, or medical qualifications. Example violations: Failure to have a valid and appropriate commercial driver's license (CDL) and being medically unqualified to operate a CMV. (FMCSR Parts 383 and 391)
  4. Controlled Substances/Alcohol - Operation of CMVs by drivers who are impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications. Example violations: Use or possession of controlled substances/alcohol. (FMCSR Parts 382 and 392)
  5. Vehicle Maintenance - Failure to properly maintain a CMV. Example violations: Brakes, lights, and other mechanical defects, and failure to make required repairs. (FMCSR Parts 393 and 396)
  6. Cargo-Related - Failure to properly prevent shifting loads, spilled or dropped cargo, overloading, and unsafe handling of hazardous materials on a CMV. Example violations: Improper load securement, cargo retention, and hazardous material handling. (FMCSR Parts 392, 393, 397 and HM Violations)
  7. Crash Indicator - Histories or patterns of high crash involvement, including frequency and severity. It is based on information from State-reported crashes.

A carrier's measurement for each BASIC depends on the following:

  1. The number of adverse safety events (violations related to that BASIC or crashes)
  2. The severity of violations or crashes
  3. Date when the adverse safety events occurred (more recent events are weighted more heavily)

Carriers are scored in each category. The worse the carrier's performance -the higher the score. Warning letters are sent to fleets with scores above 65 (60 for HazMat carriers).

Trucker Tools of the Trade

Trucker Tools of the Trade

Have you ever sat looking out your office window (also known as the windshield or windscreen in your truck cab) and seen a rookie driver walk across the shipper's yard dressed in flip-flops and disheveled hair, and thought to yourself: ".. now how do you figure that image will present to the shipping clerk on the other side?"

Appearances are everything. It pays to prepare yourself to meet your customer. Whether you're a truck driver, a one truck operation, mega-fleet operation, dispatcher or back-office staffer. In the trucking business, it is especially more important because the sale doesn't end when you pick up the load, it begins when you pick it up -or at the very least: your sales relationship starts there.

Owner-operators and small truck-business owners have to compete with the multi-million dollar trucking outfits with scores of back office personnel, marketing teams, dispatchers, etc. You have a tight budget, so your best bet is to compete and excel at the nuances of marketing that don't cost a lot of money -like personality, good manners, appearance, courtesy, etc. Even a smile on your face, and body language can create or leave a good first impression on your customer. It pays to be nice to the people who make it happen. (It's good on your heart too!)

The Tools

The following is a short list of tools that I found useful in my years of trucking, and that went a long way in giving me peace of mind "..down the open road".
There are many more tools to discuss, but we'll leave that for another day.

Spiritual Strength

Every person needs something they believe in. The statement may be very subjective, but it reflects my thoughts (and views) on personal transcendence -a higher calling, and service to others. Whether you profess a christian faith, or islam, or budhist, or any religion, -you could benefit from being at peace in your mind about your beliefs and what drives you forward.


Maintaining good relations with family and friends may contribute to a sense of well-being and let you focus on your business activities. It may also work to your advantage to have your family help you take care of the things you cannot attend to while you're on the road away from home. For me, I found my wife to be a great resource in planning and keeping track of important activities that needed to be done. She also took care of the business mail that arrived while I was away.

Relationships can get very stressful especially when conducted on a long-distance basis as is the case with most truck drivers and owner-operators, so making sure that loose ends are tied and you have a solid family support system will work very well for you. Remember that negative energy from broken relationships can draw tremendous amounts of energy that would otherwise be focused on your business. Take care of those loose ends in your relationships and start experiencing a new positive energy within you -definitely good for business.


Now some more exciting stuff..
You need a good, solid reliable laptop computer to manage your business with. In this day and age, pencil and paper are no longer good enough to manage a business as complex as trucking.

As of this writing, a reliable laptop computer configured for business use will cost between $500 and $1000. Essential things to have on your laptop are:

  • Wi-Fi (wireless) internet capability
  • Long battery life, or extra battery
  • Well padded laptop bag for storage. Laptops are very susceptible to shock and vibration, and no warranty covers defects caused by shock and vibration. You certainly want peace of mind that your data will not be corrupted from a broken hard-drive.
  • A bright, glare resistant screen. The screen size does not matter, just choose one that you feel comfortable with and that won't cause you to strain your eyes while using it. Most laptops come with screen sizes of between 15" - 17". The larger the screen, the more pricey the laptop. Personally, a 15.4" wide screen works very well for me.

Other essentials for your laptop would include the accessories that help you work better, like a laser/optical mouse, mouse pad, USB headset/microphone if you use VOIP telephony services (e.g. Skype, Google Voice, etc.)


This is a must-have item in your truck. It is necessary for you to be able to scan all your shipping paperwork, print directions, pre-plans from your dispatcher, print faxes received online, etc.

Printing business papers or faxing at the truck-stops and travel centers is very expensive. It costs between $2 and $5 per transaction and these charges can easily add up to a significant amount every month. Remember that keeping your operating costs in check will save you money and improve the overall bottom line for your business.

These days, most shippers and brokers accept electronic copies of documents for proof of delivery (POD) or billing purposes. Electronic transmission of paperwork also guarantees that you won't lose paperwork in the mail, and let's you keep the original documents for your records. By sending documents electronically, you are also able to maintain the same electronic copies for easy reference or remote retrieval.

Hi-Speed/Wi-Fi Internet Access

This is how you stay connected to the business world online.

A High-speed internet connection plan will let you manage your business better by allowing you access to online load-boards, shipper/customer databases, online faxing, or even real-time access to your business tools and data as is possible with Trip Sheet Central (TSC).

Choose a plan that does not limit you to a certain usage per month because overage charges can get very expensive.
A good plan these days costs between $50 and $90 a month -a small price for a business to stay on the cutting edge and compete on the same level with other companies using sophisticated technology platforms.

Cell Phone

Communication by cellphone is still the top method drivers use to do business with the home terminal/office, shippers/receivers, brokers, and stay in touch with family and friends. A cellphone can also be used to communicate emergency information or get directions if you have a GPS enabled phone.

With that said, you shouldn't have to pay premium for good service. Shop for the best carrier rates and coverage coast to coast. The last thing you want is for your cellphone to register "no-service" as soon as you lose sight of the town lights on your west-coast mirrors! I don't have a preference for which cellphone carrier to recomend, but I would go with one that is available nationwide, includes long-distance, does not charge roaming charges and the service can be possibly bundled with high speed internet service.

Business Website/Email

A website presence opens opportunities to tell business partners and customers all about your company. It provides an inexpensive marketing avenue for your services. Almost gone are the days when you had to print brochures and pamphlets about your business and mail them to a limited geographic area.

At the earliest opportunity in your business, you should include plans to setup a website and email addresses. At a minimum, your website should contain information on how to contact you, your location and services, and possibly ways for your customers to interact or provide feedback to you.

A professional looking website may also help you score high "first impression" points with potential customers who look you up on the web.

Additionally, be sure to add your company's website on all stationary, invoices, bills of lading, and all public and customer-facing documents. That will help put your business name upfront and center, and invite customers to learn more about your business online.

Trip Sheet Central (TSC) - A truck-business management suite

Trip Sheet Central (TSC) is a web-based truck-business management suite used to keep track of trucking business records, trip sheets, income and expenses, shippers and receivers, accounting statements and IFTA tax information. It is designed for truck owner-operators, truck fleet-owners and company drivers.

TSC analyses truck business profitability, cost-per-mile, creates real-time profit-loss statements, cash-flow, operating expense statements, invoices, driver settlement reports and many more business statements.

All your business critical information is organized in one place, and securely accessible from wherever your busy schedule takes you -on the road, at the truck-stop, in your office, at home or from any internet connected computer.

More information on what TSC can do for you is available at:

Load Boards

Over the last few years internet freight load boards have become the primary source of freight loads for many owner-operators. Load boards work by allowing brokers and shippers to post available freight, and interested parties bid for them.
Trucking companies also post available equipment and interested shippers and brokers bid to contract the equipment to haul their freight.

As a small business trucking company, using these load boards can supplement your available freight business by ensuring you do not have to run huge dead-head miles.

There is no need to subscribe to all available load boards since most shippers and brokers post freight to all boards. Choose the load board that has the features you need, like credit monitoring, performance reports, fraud prevention, payment histories on demand, etc. Internet load boards cost between $35 and $70 a month depending on options chosen.

Equipment Service Contracts

Inevitably when running high maintenance equipment like semi tractors and trailers, break-downs will occur. It's not a matter of if, it's a question of when. You need to be prepared to handle these situations so they don't turn into emergencies and show stoppers for your business.

I recommend setting up a couple of strategies:

  1. Service contracts or accounts with vendors who provide service nationwide and are accessible 24 hours day or night:

    This is necessary to give you peace of mind that when your truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere you can obtain reliable service from vendors who are familiar with your equipment types.
    A simple plan may include towing services, tires services and preventive maintenance.

    Contrary to popular belief that vehicle dealerships cost more than other repair facilities, I found that maintaining active accounts with a combination of my truck manufacturer dealerships and several major truck-stop chains was actually very cost effective. If you have a small fleet you could try keeping the same type and model to reduce the number of accounts you have to maintain, and also benefit from volume discounts on parts and service.

  2. Equipment maintenance escrow fund:

    Even with a fabulous service contract or account you still have to pay for the service. So put some money away into an escrow-like account which you can draw when needed. Use the money for maintenance costs only and replenish withdrawn funds as soon as possible.
    A good amount to save is 10 cents for every mile traveled, loaded or empty, for each tractor and trailer unit. This works!

Fuel Card or Money Card

Fuel cards and money cards are a great way to keep track of trucking expenses if they have detailed reporting features that you can access online or in your monthly statement. These statements can help you meet record keeping requirements mandated by the FMCSA.

Perhaps an even bigger benefit is that your back-office support person can make funds from paid invoices available by depositing into the accounts that support your fuel/money cards. Most establishments now take debit cards, so you don't have to carry large amounts of cash.

TIP: Use your debit/fuel/money card only when you have full control or the person swiping the card is in full view during the transaction. This can help prevent identity theft from dishonest establishment employees. If you feel the financial transaction will be compromised, pay cash or avoid the establishment altogether.

Always reconcile your expenses as quickly as possible into your business-management software, preferably on a daily basis.

Credit Union or Bank Account

Take the time to open a small business banking account to simplify your record keeping and life. Shop around for the best deal. Small business banking varies in fees and features.

The costs of a business account are far less than the benefits to your business. Fees are partly tax deductible as an expense.

Keep in mind that your business may grow. Opening a business account with a bank earlier can help with required financing in the future.

Remember to run your business as a business and do not mix personal funds with business funds.

See our in-depth report on how to start a trucking business for more information.

Proper Permits and Licenses

Imagine having to stop at the port of entry for every state you travel through to obtain a trip permit for that state.

I'm thinking of long lines, long wait times, commercial vehicle inspection, driver inspection, confusing paperwork, and the list goes on.. -Urgh

Now imagine watching the green light and the single chirp on your pre-pass in-cab device, followed by the green by-pass signal from the DOT's weigh-in-motion telling you to 'keep on rollin' -Sweet!

As a truck-business owner, you could benefit greatly by obtaining all the state-specific permits in advance.
Licenses like IRP, IFTA and UCR cover 48 states in USA and 10 of the 13 Canadian provinces.

Benefits of an IFTA, IRP or UCR include

  • A single fuel tax license and one set of decals that authorizes your vehicles to travel in all member jurisdictions
  • A single fuel tax report that details your operations in each of the member jurisdictions
  • Ability to credit the fuel tax overpayment for one jurisdiction against the tax liability for another jurisdiction, which reduces or possibly eliminates a payment
  • Ability to remit one check, or receive one refund from the base jurisdiction
  • Audit conducted by the auditors from your base jurisdiction, instead of potentially 58 US and Canadian jurisdictions

CSA 2010

What is CSA 2010?

CSA 2010

Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (CSA 2010) is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Agency's enforcement and compliance program.

Under CSA 2010, FMCSA will:

  • Reach more CMV carriers earlier and more frequently
  • Improve efficiency of carrier investigations by focusing on specific unsafe behaviors, identifying causes, and requiring corrective actions
  • Hold carriers and drivers accountable for their safety performance, demanding and enforcing safe on-road performance

How will this change affect drivers?

  • Unsafe carrier and driver behaviors that lead to crashes will be identified and addressed
  • All safety-based roadside inspection violations will count, not just out-of-service (OOS) violations
  • Drivers will be more accountable for safe on-road performance - good news for drivers with strong safety performance records

What can drivers do to prepare for the change?

  1. Know and follow safety rules and regulations
  2. Become knowledgeable about the new Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) and how FMCSA will assess safety under CSA 2010
    Review the Safety Measurement System (SMS) methodology document
  3. Keep copies of inspection reports
  4. Learn about employers' safety records
  5. Know the Facts

CSA 2010 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Online Resources

How do I pay my OTR drivers and owner-operators?

The trucking business provides unique challenges for business-owners when it comes time to paying employees who are rarely physically present at the office or main business location on payday. Truck drivers cannot be expected to try to make it back to the office so that they may pickup their weekly or bi-weekly paycheck, hence the challenge to small truck-business owners: How do you pay your over-the-road (OTR) drivers and owner-operators?

Book-Keeping Record System

The first challenge involves calculating the proper payroll numbers based on how you pay your drivers, i.e. by the mile, by number of hours worked, or on a load by load basis.

You should begin by setting up an accounting system that is appropriate for your type of business operation, and also easy to use. There are many good accounting software packages in the marketplace, but few make the grade when it comes to trucking operations.

TSC provides cutting edge accounting capabilities and book-keeping specifically designed for trucking operations. Using TSC, you should be able to run real-time reports that provide answers to such questions like:

  • How much is my paycheck this pay-period?
  • Can I get a summary of all miles ran in this pay-period?
  • Can you print the last 5 pay stubs for a specific driver or employee?
  • Can you print or provide a summary of all activity by certain equipment or drivers?

If your current system cannot answer questions like this in real-time, you should look into TSC -We can help.

Electronic Transfers and Payroll Cards

In my experience the easiest, safest and most cost-effective way to pay remote employees (workers who are not regularly based at the home office), is by payroll card. There are numerous vendors who provide payroll card services.

When selecting a payroll card vendor, choose one that has low transaction costs for both you and the employee. Some vendors charge you to load money on the cards, and also charge the employee for using the card -avoid those vendors. Choose one that has an upfront pricing strategy, and which also provides additional services like fuel and supply purchase management.

In the past I have used T-Chek with great success, but there are others like Comdata and FlyingJ PDCA Money Card that work well, and are specific to the needs of the transportation industry.

W2 or 1099?

This is a frequently asked question for small business owners who use independent contractors in their business.

It is critical that you, the business owner, correctly determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors. Generally, you must withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. You do not generally have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors. If you are an independent contractor and hire or subcontract work to others, you will want to check the IRS website to determine whether individuals you hire are independent contractors (subcontractors) or employees.

8 Key Reasons Why Many Trucking Businesses Fail

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  1. Lack of planning

    Running a trucking business is just like running any other type of business, but with many different regulations to work with; and a very unique type of client-base.

    It's not enough just to hold a CDL; --as a business owner you need careful planning, and help from various professionals to build a good foundation

  2. Poor Management

    Enlist the services of a professional management team, or a bookkeeping service to help you keep the numbers straight.

    This is one of the weakest points in many small businesses, including trucking. If you don't know where the money goes, or how much is coming in--you are less likely to manage the business well.

  3. Low cash-flow

    Cash-flow issues tend to be a combination of several factors such as: not enough customers or business, low-paying freight, high costs of operations, too many unpaid invoices, etc.

    Identify strategies to improve or manage your business' cash flow, or get help from a business manangement service.

  4. No collection strategy

    Whether your small trucking business is sailing smoothly, treading water or moving against a strong tide during these tough economic times, having a reliable collection strategy is key to maintaining enough cash flow to remain profitable.

    Learn more about this here

  5. Low paying freight – no knowledge of market rates

    No business can thrive for long when costs of operation are higher than incoming revenue
    Check your profit/loss statements, cash-flow or income/expense statements to review whether your business is profitable. Are the numbers what you would like to see?

    Consider paying a freight/load service to get better paying freight, or adjust your quotes. Also make sure you are getting paid all fuel and weight surcharges on every load

  6. Failure to stay compliant – resulting in fines and being shut down by DOT

    If you practice staying compliant and encourage safe driving from your drivers, you are more likely to avoid all the headaches that come with being non-compliant.

    Have a written safety plan, procedures for staying legal, and provide regular training/refresher courses to drivers. Avoid business shortcuts --there are none

  7. Partner with the wrong people

    Business partnerships tend to ruin friendships; --avoid them
    If you must enter a partnership, make sure you have an operating agreement, properly documented business documents, and an exit strategy.

    If it's not on paper, maybe it's not for real -just sayin'

  8. No professional help

    Let's face it- how many business owners are also accountants, safety managers, marketing gurus, etc? Not many.

    As a business owner, one of your top jobs is finding and hiring the right people for the job, or getting a service meet the needs you cannot do well on your own.

    Seek advice from the right places – double-check any business advice.