Alternative fuel vehicles hold significant promise for reducing emissions, but new advancements in diesel-powered internal combustion engines are also helping fleets improve fuel economy and reach their sustainability goals.

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Federal law has required professional truck drivers to wear seat belts since 1970, and a record 86% of professional drivers use safety belts, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported. According to FMCSA, safety belt use remains one of the cheapest, easiest and most important means to protect commercial motor vehicle drivers.

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Maintenance plays a critical role in safe vehicle operations. It not only prevents mechanical failures that can lead to safety incidents but also prevents drivers from becoming stranded on the roadside.

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Drivers are required to ensure their vehicles are in top working order every day of the year by completing pre- and post-trip inspections and reporting any concerns to their management for remediation. But from Tuesday, May 16 – Thursday, May 18, 2023, drivers should take extra precautions.

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Fuel is one of the most significant ongoing expenses for any fleet, and even small savings can add up. Fleets can cut costs in several ways, and we’re here to answer your frequently asked questions about increasing fuel economy and managing your fuel spend.

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A strong maintenance program can reduce downtime, increase safety and improve fuel economy, but technician shortages, equipment demands and time constraints can make it hard to ensure equipment is getting the care it needs. Penske has several maintenance solutions – contract maintenance, on-site maintenance, mobile maintenance and managed maintenance – that can help fleets increase their maintenance capacity, so every piece of equipment is seen on schedule and repaired quickly.

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During the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA’s) upcoming International Roadcheck, which takes place May 16-18, inspectors will focus on anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and cargo securement. The 72-hour inspection and enforcement event will occur throughout North America with CVSA-certified inspectors checking commercial motor vehicles and drivers at weigh/inspection stations, designated inspection areas and along roadways.

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You may know the saying, “April showers bring May flowers”, but these same wet conditions also create a variety of dangerous road hazards for professional drivers. In fact, flooding is now ranked as the second deadliest weather hazard in the U.S. each year, according to the National Weather Service. (Excessive heat is currently listed as the Number 1 deadliest U.S. weather hazard).

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Increasing uptime and managing costs are critical for fleets, especially in the current operating environment. Leasing can provide several benefits to fleets, including reducing breakdowns, driving down maintenance costs and improving their fuel economy, which all impact the bottom line.

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No one wants to experience a roadside breakdown, but machinery can fail, even at the most inopportune time. When motor carriers and drivers find themselves needing emergency breakdown services, speed is critical.

Penske’s 24/7 Roadside Assistance has 12,000+ emergency providers to respond to drivers’ needs day or night. Plus, the call center is staffed by experienced, in-house Penske personnel who have detailed knowledge of trucks and understand the specific problems drivers may be experiencing.

Vehicles are repaired within a short amount of time, and if more lengthy repairs are necessary, Penske provides a rental or substitute vehicle.

Pre- and Post-Trip Inspections Are Essential

The ultimate goal is to prevent a roadside event from occurring in the first place, and drivers play an essential role in reducing over-the-road breakdowns. Thorough pre-and post-trip inspections can ensure trucks are in good working condition before they hit the highway.

Drivers should look for leaks, damage, operable lights, properly secured cargo, sagging equipment and anything else that seems out of place. Common problems drivers may find include damaged lights, cracked windshields, faded placards, and chaffed light cords and hoses. Drivers should also pay particular attention to tire pressure. If drivers have any concerns about tire pressure, they can stop at a Penske location so technicians can inspect their tires.

Additionally, when drivers fuel at a Penske location, the customer service representatives who fuel the truck also walk around the truck and check the vehicle to ensure headlights and taillights are working and mudflaps are in good condition, which can prevent issues on the road.

Timely PMs Help Drive Uptime

Penske focuses on preventive maintenance (PM) to help increase vehicle uptime and strives to have trucks go from one PM event to the next PM event without ever having to come back. Penske Truck Leasing follows a rigorous maintenance schedule for customers that includes using advanced system analytics to identify potential failures before they occur.

With dynamic preventive maintenance, technicians can adjust inspections based on failure rates and a vehicle’s history. Penske Truck Leasing captures and analyzes maintenance and vehicle data throughout its entire fleet, creating a thorough base of knowledge that allows technicians to customize maintenance.

Access Help

If a roadside breakdown occurs, help is just a call or a click away. Drivers and carriers can call 1-800-526-0798 or take advantage of digital fleet tools that offer instant visibility.

With Fleet Insight™, Penske’s secure website for fleet data, and the Fleet Insight™ mobile app, carriers can submit 24/7 roadside assistance requests and view real-time updates. They can track breakdown and repair details, see detailed charges for easy verification, identify and address recurring issues, and predict downtime more accurately.

With the Penske Driver™ app, drivers can submit and get real-time updates on roadside assistance requests and remain updated on the status of service, avoiding future phone calls. They can also use the app to check in for service at Penske locations and find rental, leasing, service, parking and fueling locations.

If drivers experience a roadside event (such as a breakdown or maintenance issue) within 40 miles of a Penske location, they can contact the location directly rather than contacting 24/7 Roadside Assistance— saving a step in the process and speeding up service. Locations are equipped with technicians and roadside assistance vehicles to serve drivers faster.

March 2023

Cargo theft continued to increase in 2022, jumping 20%, with thieves targeting parking lots and warehouses, according to the latest data from CargoNet. Plus, events that involved the theft of at least one heavy commercial vehicle, such as a semi-truck or semi-trailer, increased by 17% year-over-year.

The average value of cargo stolen in an event was $214,104, and CargoNet estimates that $223 million in cargo was stolen across all cargo theft events in 2022.

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Operational costs within trucking can vary significantly from year to year and even region to region. The American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI’s) latest report, An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking, published in late 2022, found that costs grew into double digits. The analysis is based on financial data from motor carriers of all sectors and fleet sizes. Carriers can use ATRI’s report as a benchmarking tool and glean insight into how to manage expenses.

According to the report, motor carriers’ average marginal cost per mile was $1.855 in 2021, a 12.7% increase and the highest on record. A leading contributor to this increase was fuel, which was 35.4% higher than in 2020. Fuel was followed by repair and maintenance, which was up 18.2%, and driver wages, which were up 10.8%. On a cost-per-hour basis, costs increased to $74.65.

“Though fuel saw the single largest jump in expense, nearly every other line-item cost center grew or remained constant. Even when fuel costs are removed, the marginal costs of trucking increased by 10 cents between 2020 and 2021, from $1.338 to $1.438,” the report stated.

Costs per mile varied dramatically from region to region, with the highest costs coming out of the Northeast, where the marginal cost per mile was $1.892. This was due to the Northeast region’s typically higher-than-average driver wage and toll costs. In the Midwest and Southeast, the cost per mile averaged $1.861. In the Southwest, it was $1.811, and the West's average was $1.802.

Insurance costs were highest in the Southeast, where they were almost one cent per mile higher than the national average. Several of the most litigious states in the country are located in the Southeast.

Driver wages and benefits costs both increased in 2021, with wages reaching a record high. Combined driver wage and benefits reached 81 cents per mile in 2021 for large carriers, up from 74 cents. The specific benefits offered to drivers vary from carrier to carrier. Health insurance was the most common benefit, with 93 percent of carriers offering it to drivers. Other benefits included paid vacation, dental insurance, 401(k), vision insurance, per diem and paid sick leave.

Also, the majority of carriers offered bonuses to drivers in 2021 and those amounts were also up for safety bonuses, which averaged $1,943, up from $1,597, and starting bonuses, which averaged $1,974, up from $1,662. However, retention bonuses dropped to $1,055 from $1,391 in the last report.

ATRI also found that fleets continue to work to fill backhaul or deadhead miles to increase operational efficiency. Under the pressure of rising fuel prices, carriers achieved some of the lowest deadhead mileage in years, according to the report. Private carriers decreased deadhead mileage to a five-year low of 24% in 2021.

Leases are one way for fleets to help control and manage expenses. Leases provide fixed, predictable monthly costs that fleets can use to plan in advance. Penske's experts can work with potential customers on a cost-benefit analysis to identify the real ROI of a lease based on the fleet's specific needs.

January 2021 / Updated March 2023

As a professional driver, you rely on your truck to operate at peak performance to keep you and those around you safe. That’s why it’s so important to conduct thorough pre-trip and post-trip inspections — and even check in on your truck and its load during your travels while at a weigh station or rest stop.

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Penske’s free app for drivers, Penske Driver™, gives them tools to remain compliant with electronic logging device (ELD) mandates and complete their daily tasks, including submitting fuel receipts, requesting roadside assistance and more.

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There were more than 3 million roadside vehicle inspections in 2022, and the most common violations found were related to tires, brake systems and lights. Many violations are easily avoidable with preventive maintenance (PM), a proactive approach, and pre and post-trip inspections.

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The trucking industry is experiencing a diesel technician shortage, which could worsen as Baby Boomers age and fewer workers enter vocational education programs.

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You’re due at your destination in an hour, but traffic has slowed to a crawl. You just got cut off — twice. You’re already feeling worn out. And now rain clouds are gathering overhead. As a truck driver, you face these types of situations all the time. The more prepared you are to handle them, the healthier you’ll be.

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The driver shortage remains a top industry concern according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI’s) 2022 Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry report. After spending five years as the No. 1 concern listed in the report, it dropped to No. 2 in 2022, after fuel prices, which were at a record high.

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Increased consumer demand is driving growth in cold-chain services that is expected to last for years. Cold chains — supply chains specializing in the packaging, planning, manufacturing, storing, loading and moving of temperature-sensitive products — must perform flawlessly to ensure properly cooled products reach the end user.

The 2023 27th Annual Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Study found that logistics providers invest in cold chains and expand their services to meet customers’ needs. Among study respondents, 82% of shippers and 84% of third-party logistics providers said they expect demand for cold chain capacity to increase over the next three years.

Due to increased demand, roughly 60% of shippers and 3PLs stated they expanded their cold chain capabilities over the past year. Even more — 67% of shippers and 72% of 3PLs — said they plan to continue to expand their cold chain capabilities and capacity over the next three years.

Every link in the temperature-controlled chain must be intact and connected to maintain the required temperature parameters. The Annual 3PL Study reported that technology would be crucial for sustainable agility and resilience within cold chains.

Accurate real-time visibility across the cold chain is vital to ensuring the safety and integrity of temperature-sensitive products. Other important technological advances include automation, IoT and sensors for tracking and monitoring, reusable packaging that reduces waste while improving durability, and blockchain for risk and compliance.

In addition to improving accuracy and efficiency, technology within the cold chain could help extend product shelf life and increase efficiency.

However, the most important step is to have the ability to convert insights into action. Simply having data that a trailer temperature is out of the specified range, a freezer door is open, or a compressor is about to fail isn’t useful unless the data gets to the right person at the right time.

Given the complexity of cold chains, many companies outsource their cold chain needs. The Annual 3PL Study found that 67% of shippers plan to outsource, up from 50% in the 2022 study. The study also found that there appears to be increased collaboration between shippers and their logistics providers.

“Many of our members are having strategic discussions with their customers to ensure their current and future needs are met. Sometimes that means creating long-term agreements and more collaborative structures. As a result, they are more willing to build additional capacity to meet customer needs,” said Lowell Randel, senior vice president at the Global Cold Chain Alliance.

When looking for a reliable, proven cold chain provider, shippers should look for these five key traits: visibility tools, streamlined communication, food safety certification, track and trace capabilities, and an emphasis on efficiency.

January 2023