USING INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS
With the start of the New Year, many outfits are looking to expand their businesses using independent contractors, which can be a very attractive and profitable option if it is done right. Gone are the days when you could just hire a driver and issue a 1099 at the end of the year. A smart employer will be able to use owner operators without getting ensnarled in the legal quagmires that surround this issue. Here are three tips to start with: 1) like any business, a sole proprietor can apply for an EIN (Employer ID Number), so be sure to get this; 2) don’t treat your contractors like employees, and; 3) draft your agreement carefully. In the transportation industry, your contract must follow Part 376 of the federal regulations.
While there is nothing under state or federal laws that prohibit a business from using both employees and independent contractors to do the same function, it is a red flag for many companies who fail to take the steps to properly structure, document and implement their independent contractor relationships in a manner that demonstrates the important differences between their owner operators and their employees. When companies fail to take these clear steps, there is the risk of a potentially catastrophic misclassification lawsuit appearing whose liability increases substantially. If you are fortunate to avoid a class action minimum wage or overtime violation lawsuit, you could also be facing liabilities for unpaid payroll taxes at the federal and state levels, unpaid unemployment tax payments and worker’s compensation premiums.
A settlement or other adverse independent contractor determination, however, should not necessarily be regarded as an obligation on the part of the business to treat their owner operators as employees from there on out. If the liabilities from an adverse independent contractor determination can be satisfied, many businesses can adopt an independent contractor model that can survive future scrutiny under federal and state laws, as long as the business properly engages in bona fide restructuring, does the proper re-documentation, and implements and follows new, state-of-the-art independent contractor practices.
INTERNET SECURITY IN TRANSPORTATION
If you’ve turned on the television, read a newspaper, or logged in to Facebook or LinkedIn, you have probably seen several articles about the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting and storing the phone records and e-mails of millions of Americans. Thanks to a series of leaks from security contractor Edward Snowden, we also know that the NSA collects a lot of information from the servers of U.S. internet companies, computer networks and more. These articles have stirred up a frenzy of talk about personal and business security. However, this is not our first time around the block – we have known for a while about Chinese and Russian internet spies, as well as other types of organized crime on the internet.
It is understandable for you to be concerned, especially when much of your business is done on the road. From truck drivers to pilots, most of our transportation information is relayed on cell phones, personal computers or tablets, either via their wireless carrier or Wi-Fi hotspots at loading bays, truck stops, airports, ocean ports, etc. You have to admit that the popularity of smart phones is growing by leaps and bounds, and while they certainly make business communications with people easier, they often do it through vulnerable wireless connections to the Internet. Basically, the only thing that stands between your business and the rest of the world is the security of someone else’s cell phone. However, you cannot let these activities hinder your business growth.
As the transportation industry begins to rely more heavily on cloud-based systems and mobile technology, it’s important to remember some basic internet security measures. Keep your passwords fairly complex, update them regularly, and never use the same password for two or more accounts. I use a small address book that fits in my shirt pocket to keep track of all my passwords and user names. When you are picking a new user name, simply look around and use the name of some object in your view. How random is that! Never use a public network for transferring financial or other sensitive data (hackers use these platforms to access your information).
In regards to the social media and business sites, update your profile correctly and adjust your security settings so only people you trust can view your full profile. Also, never say or do anything online that you wouldn’t do in person. After all, you have no idea who is reading your chat session or e-mail. Always be on the lookout for phishing scams – these scams are typically used to trick you into giving up sensitive personal information or to get you to click on a link that takes you to a website infected with malware. Remember, if you get a message from anyone asking for personal information, just assume it’s a scam and don’t give out any information. In addition, if you get a message with offers that seem too good to be true, they probably are. And lastly, no matter what browser you are using (Internet Explorer, Google, Firefox, etc.), make sure it is up-to-date, because older versions may have security flaws.
NTA TO PARTNER WITH TRUCKERSU.COM
In their continuing effort to bring truckers the education and tools they need to survive, the NTA is pleased to announce a new partnership with TruckersU.com. The person behind TruckersU is Timothy D. Brady. Tim has been the owner of a small trucking company, a published author, the Business Editor for American Trucker Magazine, a small business mentor and coach, and now a national radio personality on Sirius Radio’s Road Dog Trucking Radio network.
TruckersU has rolled out a new service designed for trucking companies with 40 or fewer power units to help them get on a shipper’s “approved carrier list.” The Freight Prospecting Method comes with a tutorial and a three-state database of searchable shipper contacts and types of freight so the smaller trucking companies out there don’t have to spend as much time making cold calls. It also encourages shippers to contact Freight Prospecting Method subscribers to request a proposal, and provides them the opportunity to quote their hauling rates.
Look for the TruckersU link under the “Education” button at the top of the NTA website (www.ntassoc.com). Once there, you will find many trucking business courses and learning guides for the new entrant, as well as the established owner. In addition to the Freight Prospecting Method and three-state database of searchable shippers and types of freight, TruckersU will also be offering anytime WebCourses, audio workshops with study guides, e-books, various business coaching and mentoring services, and much more.
These days, you need to stay ahead or you will fall behind quickly, and TruckersU is now just another way to stay at the forefront of the trucking industry. For more information about this and the various other services offered by NTA, call them at (562) 279-0557 or visit www.ntassoc.com. And, as always, “Drive Safe – Drive Smart!”