When I started driving back in the early 1960s for Pacific Intermountain Express, trucking was a pleasure in the true sense of the word. There were just a few regulations, the pay was good, and the BIT program was not yet invented. I started driving a bobtail in downtown Los Angeles, then I moved up to driving a semi, then doubles. The biggest problem I had was that no matter how hard I worked I had to depend on a third party (union) to get me a raise. We got a 5 cent, 10 cent and 25 cent per-hour raise over three years (I think I got up to $3.25 per hour), but I don’t remember what my union dues were.
Well, that is when I decided to jump the fence from being a union truck driver to a transportation manager and, after many years in management, I climbed the ladder of success and then decided to start my own safety consulting business (NTA). I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, working long hours, but then, I thought, whatever I build is mine. I could build a small one-story operation or a large high-rise, it was all up to me. So, to be sure my company’s foundation was solid enough to support whatever I decided to build, I started learning the state and federal regulations. What I learned quickly was that just because you know how to drive a truck does not mean you can run your own trucking company – especially in today’s world.
Here are three important things to know when considering starting your own trucking company: 1) you don’t have to know all the regulations, just the ones that will affect you. Be prepared to get familiar with the US DOT, FMCSA, Haz-Mat, CHP, BIT, DMV, IRP, IFTA, EPA, EDD, CSA, SMS, TSA, TWIC, CARB, OSHA, HR, FLSA, FCRA, and finally, the IRS. These are just some of the regulatory agencies you will have to deal with when running your trucking business! If you do not know what agency or organization that some of these abbreviations represent, you just may have a problem; 2) you need to love to do paperwork, or at least be willing to do lots of it; and 3) you better be well organized.
If a person (or three) wants to start a trucking company, they can call me up at NTA and I’ll help them do things right the first time. Or, you can start a business without a clue, do things wrong, forget to do things that are important and that can get you in hot water with the FMCSA, and next thing you know, your frugality starts to cost you money in ways you had not anticipated. Maybe the FMCSA shuts you down. Maybe there’s a wreck and everyone is convinced they are going to jail because of all those things they said they didn’t know about when, in actuality, they knew they needed to do – they just didn’t know how. Maybe the FMCSA gives you a less-than-satisfactory safety rating and you end up getting a large fine, increased insurance rates, or, worst of all, customers that won’t return your calls anymore. Don’t get yourself into any of these situations.
Some people call me in these situations to come in and fix what was not done right the first time. There have been a lot of customers who have come to us here at NTA after having a bad experience with a so-called “DOT Expert” who turned out not to know so much. I’ve been in the business since the mid 1960s and I have a unique way of explaining and demonstrating things. Our members know not only what the FMCSA wants them to do, they know what to do first, second, third, etc. They know which mistakes might land them in jail or lead them to a large fine, where to find a checklist of things to do, and how to prioritize their efforts. In short, we help our members do everything right the first time!
Here is something I hear a lot from many people who call me: “I got this e-mail about your drug testing program, but then I found this other program that cost less so we went for it. Now, after joining that program, I don’t think I understand anything more than I did before.” I have heard this statement too many times to count. Here is one that I hear often that is even worse: “After I apparently failed my safety audit, the FMCSA shut me down. I hired this guy that said he could get everything done for me for $XX.XX. He took my money and my driver files, and now he doesn’t answer his phone, and I’m shut down and losing money every day.”
There are a few people out there that have worked for the FMCSA for some time and they probably know one piece of the organization’s responsibilities, but if they have never worked at a trucking company, they do not understand the whole story. Motor carrier management people hear this when they talk, saying, “According to Section 123, you have to blah, blah, blah, blabitty-blah!” It’s one thing to memorize regulations, but another thing altogether to be able to explain them in terms that others can understand.
So, here is my advice: let me help you understand the regulations and help you get started right. If you decide to just go it alone, purchase services from a cheaper source, or just take a chance guess, I’ll be here to help you later, but my favorite carriers are those who contact me before things are done wrong, before the FMCSA starts to take action, and before the lawyers have anything to sink their teeth into. For instance, the very first thing you should do in today’s market is to get your DOT number and MC authority. This is the only way you are going to be used as an Independent Contractor. The process is pretty simple, but if you’ve never done it before, we can help. A lot of people pay a permit company a lot of money to do it, and they almost ALWAYS do it wrong.
If you ask us to get your DOT number for you, we will get it done and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If you want us to help with the MC authority, we’ll do the filing for you for a small fee and it will be done right the first time. If you use a permit company, they can get it wrong – and, if they do get it wrong, it is very difficult to fix and it can cause you problems for years. So, call us before the FMCSA calls you. I’ll enjoy helping you do it right the first time. Owning and operating your own trucking company can be rewarding and profitable, but you have to do it right. Hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it! Let NTA help you now so you don’t have regrets later! Call us at (562) 279-0557 or visit us online at www.ntassoc.com today.