industry resources

As a professional driver, you face countless challenges on the road, and you can’t anticipate them all. But here’s one that’s totally within your control: keeping your cargo safe and secure.

Proper cargo securement is more than just making sure every item in your trailer or flatbed is tied down. It also involves achieving the right balance. When your cargo is evenly distributed, you’ll avoid the risk of load shifting. It’s a serious problem that makes a truck difficult to drive. It can even cause a truck to roll over.

A few ways to secure your cargo and prevent load shifting:

  • Sweep out your trailer so you start with a clean floor.
  • Inspect all securement devices (tie-downs, ratchet straps, chains, binders, cargo nets) for signs of wear and tear. Replace any damaged tie-downs and be sure to always carry more than needed just in case a replacement is needed while on the road.
  • Check the working load limit (WLL) of your tie-downs so you don’t overstress them.
  • Inspect the load you’ll be hauling. Look for the weight (which should be listed on the bill of lading) and length of your cargo.

As you load

  • Use the right number of tie-downs. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommendations call for:
    • One tie-down for items that are 5 feet long or shorter and weigh 1,100 lbs. or less
    • Two tie-downs for
      • Items that are 5 feet long or shorter and weigh 1,100 lbs. or more
      • Items that are longer than 5 feet but shorter than 10 feet
    • Use additional tie-downs for every extra 10 foot of length
    • Unsure of how many tie-downs to use? Add an extra tie-down or two to be extra cautious.
  • Make sure all securement devices are tight but not too tight—they should snap like a rubber band.
  • Use edge protectors to prevent straps from damaging your cargo.
  • Secure any rolling cargo with chocks, wedges or cradles.
  • Distribute your load as evenly as possible and try to secure cargo to fixed points inside your trailer or on a flatbed.

As you drive

  • Inspect your cargo within the first 50 miles, then every 3 hours, 150 miles or at change of duty. Make sure nothing has shifted or moved. Tighten any loose tie-downs.
  • Drive safely. Take tight curves slowly. Avoid harsh braking. Slow down in inclement weather.

Remember, proper cargo securement is the driver’s responsibility. Take the time to balance your load, drive safely, and check your load in transport to keep you and your cargo safe.


Cargo theft spiked last year, with thieves becoming more strategic and targeting high-value loads.

“The motives and the way the criminals are operating has changed, and cargo theft is increasing tremendously,” said Keith Lewis, vice president of operations at CargoNet, a Verisk company.

[Read more...]Show less

Sustainability within the supply chain continues to improve, creating economic and environmental benefits for shippers and transportation providers. A wide range of solutions that can reduce carbon emissions, increase efficiency and improve operations is already available, and new solutions are on the horizon.

[Read more...]Show less

Renewable diesel — an advanced fuel option that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the same specifications as petroleum diesel — can be added to existing fuel truck systems to help lower a fleet’s carbon footprint. As a drop-in fuel that can be used in place of ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD), renewable diesel is helping bridge the gap as the trucking industry moves toward zero-emission vehicles without extra equipment or infrastructure cost related to battery-electric vehicles.

[Read more...]Show less

Uncertainties around the economy, consumer spending and freight demand remain, and predicting capacity demands, consumer behavior and business needs can be challenging in the current operating environment. However, there are strategies fleets can use to prepare for the year ahead, no matter what it brings.

[Read more...]Show less

It typically begins with a simple yawn. Next thing you know, your eyes feel heavy. You find yourself turning up the radio or opening a window. Then you realize you forgot the last few miles you drove and wonder how you traveled so far without realizing it.

What’s happening? It’s fatigue, and it’s one of the most common and dangerous safety risks for professional drivers. About 65% of truck drivers say they feel fatigued while driving, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. What’s worse, fatigue plays a role in 31% of all deadly truck crashes, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The good news is that staying more alert while driving is well within your control. Try one or more of these seven smart strategies to beat fatigue behind the wheel. You may just save a life!

1. Take your breaks. Always follow Hours of Service (HOS) regulations and take a minimum of 30-minute breaks every 8 hours. Try to find your own rhythm. For example, you may be more alert if you take shorter breaks every two-to-three hours instead of “saving” your break for that eighth hour on the road.

2. Get your sleep. Aim to sleep for seven to eight hours every night. If possible, avoid or limit driving mid-afternoon (between 2 – 4 p.m.) or overnight (between midnight – 6 a.m.), times when the body is naturally drowsy.

3. Watch what you eat and drink. Skip fast food, vending machines, and other types of food that lack nutrition. Instead, pack healthier meals. Choose fruits, vegetables, nuts or string cheese for snacks. Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed. But don’t go to bed hungry, either. Avoid sodas and other sugary drinks. Choose water instead so you can stay hydrated.

4. Stay active and fit. While you can’t exercise while driving, you can add some physical activity during your breaks and during your off time. Take a brisk walk. Do some stretching exercises. Aim for 20 minutes of physical activity at least three days a week. Being physically fit lowers your chances of fatigue.

5. Check your medicines. Sleeping pills, allergy medications and cold medications can make you drowsy. Avoid or limit them whenever possible. Always ensure you discuss any medications and their side effects with your doctor.

6. Avoid the traps. Many drivers think that they can fight fatigue by smoking, turning up the radio, or opening a window. Those activities may refresh you for a few seconds, but they won’t keep you alert for the long haul. If tired, do the right thing, pull to a safe area, and take a break!

7. Don’t tough it out. If you start yawning, making sudden lane changes or start to grow irritable, it’s a good bet you’re tired. Find a safe, legal place to park, such as a truck stop or well-lit rest area, and take a break.

The use of sustainable vehicles and fuels is growing in medium- and heavy-duty fleets, and fleets are adopting a range of technologies and have plans to add alternative technologies going forward.

“We believe that 2027 could very well be the last of the major diesel engine development programs that we see out there in the world — which is pretty amazing,” said Erik Neandross, CEO of Gladstein Neandross & Associates, which created The State of Sustainable Fleets 2023 report.

The report, sponsored by Penske Transportation Solutions and released during the Advanced Clean Truck Expo on May 1, examines the current state of prevalent sustainable vehicle platforms for medium-duty (MD) and heavy-duty (HD) fleets and identifies the trends shaping the industry’s future.

For the first time since the report launched in 2020, 75% of fleets that have never used leading clean drivetrain technologies plan to increase use in the next five years. “Across clean fuel types, we’re seeing accelerating momentum and an increasing commitment to low-carbon fuels and zero-emission commercial vehicles,” Neandross said.

Regulatory requirements and government incentives are helping to move projects forward, but Drew Cullen, senior vice president of fuels and facility services for Penske Transportation Solutions, said all fleets are trying to do the right thing even outside of regulatory pressure. “We’re all trying to get workable solutions that we can fit into our business to make a difference,” he said, adding that operational capabilities are critical.

Cullen spoke as part of a panel presentation following the report’s release. He was joined by Thomas de Boer, vice president of commercial road transport for Shell, and Ari Silkey, general manager of North American surface transportation for Amazon.

Battery Electric Vehicles

Interest in battery electric vehicles (BEVs) has continued to increase. Orders for MD and HD BEVs surged 640%, with nearly 30,000 MD orders and 2,400 HD battery-electric school bus orders placed in 2022.

“Zero-emission vehicles and other alternative powertrains, infrastructure, renewable energy and funding all continue to make significant strides in meeting and exceeding fleet sustainability targets,” Cullen said.

At least half of fleets across 11 different fleet types, including logistics, transit, school, cargo and delivery fleets, have operated an MD or HD battery-electric vehicle in the annual survey and 92% of those fleets plan to grow their use. The report found that 85% of fleets taking part in the survey are using electric yard trucks.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by 17 states and the District of Columbia set a goal of reaching 100% ZE sales for MD and HD vehicles by 2050. Although the MOU is voluntary, 13 of these states have taken action to reach the goal by adopting or beginning to adopt California’s Advanced Clean Trucks requirement for ZEV sales in their states.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Legislators and regulators are investing in hydrogen production and fueling infrastructure, and private investments by global leaders are also targeting production. The public hydrogen station network grew 12% and the first plans to build station networks outside of California were announced for the central, mid-Atlantic and southwestern U.S.

According to the report, a viable refueling landscape could soon exist as these vehicles become commercially available. Among respondents, 10% of fleets using clean vehicles have operated fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in the last two years, with 63% expecting to grow their FCEVs in the coming years. Transit and regional/long-haul goods movement fleets have the highest use rates, with approximately 17% reporting use of at least one FCEV.

Natural Gas Vehicles

Fleet demand for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) continues to rise, indicating high user confidence and satisfaction with this mature, clean drivetrain technology. Plus, compressed natural gas (CNG) and renewable natural gas (RNG) continue to offer price advantages compared to diesel. On average, surveyed fleets that used natural gas in the last two years used it for approximately 20% of their vehicle population, the largest penetration rate among users of any of the clean drivetrains in the study.

Propane Vehicles

Propane engines on the market today already meet stringent new engine emission requirements, and the propane vehicle and fuel market also continue to play a role in the industry, especially with bus fleets. The study found that 57% of fleets surveyed plan to increase their propane consumption during the next five years.

After two years of declining sales, industry reports indicate that sales of new propane vehicles increased 11% overall in 2022, thanks to a surge in demand for medium-duty paratransit, municipal and utility vehicles.

Renewable Diesel

Renewable diesel (RD) has proven to be a sustainable drop-in fuel that can replace diesel and both the production and use of the fuel has grown. In 2022, domestic RD production doubled from 800 million gallons in 2021 to more than 1.7 billion gallons. On the demand side, national RD consumption increased by more than 45% for the second year in a row, and it represented 83% of all bio-based diesel consumed in transportation in California for the first three quarters of 2023.

“The expansion of renewable diesel gives others options when a zero-emission piece of equipment or renewable natural gas isn’t a solution for them,” Cullen said.

Penske offers RD at several of its locations on the West Coast. “We realized this is a true drop-in fuel that comes with a much lower overall emissions footprint than regular petroleum diesel,” Cullen said.

Overall, fleets and their industry partners are working together to decrease emissions. “It feels really good that the industry is progressing, and a lot of these partnerships are coming together all over the place and continuing to move things along,” Cullen said.

Download the report: The State of Sustainable Fleets 2023

Several economic factors are driving higher costs of many goods and services, including equipment leases. Staying informed about key elements contributing to rising prices and what’s to come can help businesses plan for the year ahead.

Critical drivers of cost changes include:

Inflation: Inflation, which decreases the purchasing power of money, has increased significantly. On average, prices have increased about 25% over the past six years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator.

The overall consumer price index has increased 3.1% over the past year, BLS reported in its latest CPI report. Unfortunately, transportation and maintenance costs have risen even higher than costs in other industries. The transportation services CPI increased 10.1% year-over-year, while the maintenance and repair CPI grew 8.5%.

OEM Vehicle Costs: Transportation costs are directly affected by the cost of equipment, which is increasing as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) deal with new regulatory requirements, supply chain challenges, and higher component, freight and labor costs. The costs of 2025 model-year equipment, for example, are up significantly over 2018, with the average OEM vehicle price up 23%.

Increased Maintenance and Labor Costs: Service vendor and dealer prices have also increased as locations address higher costs for parts, tires and outside repairs. There is a severe technician shortage in the industry, and costs associated with attracting, hiring and retaining technicians have also increased. As a result, costs associated with maintenance are up 20% to 30%.

Interest Rates: Federal policy has dramatically increased the cost of funds to try to slow inflation. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates 11 times since early 2022. It did not raise rates in December, but in a press conference following the meeting, Jerome Powell, U.S. central bank chief, said that “inflation is still too high, ongoing progress in bringing it down is not assured, and the path forward is uncertain.”

The overall cost to finance equipment has increased since 2018. Due to higher upfront vehicle costs, leases are experiencing a rate increase of 30% to 35%.

The Road to 2027

Costs may continue to increase, especially with upcoming regulatory requirements that will tighten emissions. Stricter standards required by the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board will take effect in some states by 2025 and nationally in 2027.

“The regulations are out there pushing to make diesel engines much cleaner, but also likely more expensive and more complicated,” said Erik Neandross, CEO of Gladstein Neandross & Associates, while unveiling The State of Sustainable Fleets 2023 report, which was sponsored by Penske.

“What we found when doing the research for this year’s report, the price tag on these rules could easily add $30,000 to the cost of a new diesel tractor,” Neandross said. “That doesn’t include all of the ongoing maintenance that will be required by the fleet once these ultra-sophisticated aftertreatments are out in the field.”

Plus, OEMs must provide extended warranties, up to 600,000 miles, adding costs that will be passed along to the customer.

ACT Research forecasts medium- and heavy-duty vehicle costs will rise by 12% to 14% as the EPA’s Clean Trucks regulation goes live in 2027. “As such, we believe the OEMs will be at least partially successful in convincing customers to begin EPA ’27 pre-buying in 2024,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst.

There are also several unknowns that come with new equipment technology, including the impact on maintenance and fuel economy.

Given the potential cost increases and uncertainty that lie ahead, including how a pre-buy could affect the industry, it can make sense for fleets to replace vehicles now and establish a regular replacement cycle.

Nearly 3 million roadside vehicle inspections took place in 2023, resulting in more than 4.5 million violations, including about 850,000 out-of-service violations. Violations can affect carriers’ Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) scores and result in fines, unscheduled downtime and driver frustration.

Many of 2023’s top vehicle violations can be prevented with proper maintenance and pre- and post-trip inspections.

Lighting Violations

Lights are critical for safety and visibility but are among the most frequent roadside violations. Lighting-related violations made up three of the top ten roadside violations in 2023, with an inoperable required lamp being the No. 1 violation carriers experienced. Not far behind it were an inoperative turn signal and no or defective lighting devices or reflective material as required.

Minimizing the risk of a lighting violation can start with spec’ing LED lights, which typically have multiple diodes. Even if a portion of the diodes goes out, the light still illuminates and meets the requirement of a functioning light.

Drivers should also check all required lamps and turn signals as part of their pre- and post-trip inspections to ensure they are operative, properly mounted and not obscured in any way. During preventive maintenance (PM), technicians check all wiring, look for corrosion and ensure all lighting is in good working order.

Periodic Inspections

The second-most-common roadside equipment violation for the last fiscal year was operating a CMV without proof of a periodic inspection. Several forms of proof meet the requirement, including a decal/sticker with the name of the company that performed the inspection, along with its address and the month and year the inspection was performed. The form/document of the inspection with the same information for the decal/sticker also meets the requirement.

Brake Violations

The third-most-common roadside violation in 2023 was clamp or roto-type brakes out of adjustment. With automatic slack adjusters in vehicles, brakes are sometimes cited as being out of adjustment when they are on the verge of adjusting. To prevent that, drivers can apply the brakes several times at a high PSI level — 90 or better — when pulling into a scale.

Another way to prevent the violation is to spec air disc brakes, so brake stroke adjustment is no longer an issue.

Tire Issues

Tire-related violations comprised two of 2023’s top ten violations. One of the most critical steps in overall tire care is checking tire pressures, which can be done manually or with a tire inflation system. Tires should be inspected as part of every pre- and post-trip inspection and during PM. Additionally, tire pressure gauges should be checked periodically for accuracy and calibrated per the gauge manufacturer guidelines.

As part of its regular PM program, technicians monitor tread depth and replace tires before they hit the minimum tread depth required by the Department of Transportation. Technicians also check tires for irregular wear and ensure the vehicle is aligned properly.

Penske Truck Leasing can help customers select the right tire and tread designs for their application, operating environment and operational goals.

Other Vehicle Violations

Other top roadside violations include no/discharged/unsecured fire extinguisher, a tire that is flat and/or has an audible air leak, a tire tread depth lower than 2/32 of an inch, and windshield wipers that are inoperative/defective, which are all inspected as part of PM inspections.

Top 10 Vehicle Violations in 2023

  • Inoperable required lamp
  • Operating a CMV without proof of a periodic inspection
  • Clamp or roto-type brake out of adjustment
  • No/discharged/unsecured fire extinguisher
  • Inoperative turn signal
  • Tire: flat and/or audible air leak
  • Windshield wipers: inoperative/defective
  • No or defective lighting devices or reflective material as required
  • CMVs manufactured after 10/19/94 that have an automatic airbrake adjustment system that fails to compensate for wear
  • Tire: tread depth less than 2/32 of an inch measured in a major tread groove

Monitoring fuel data and related metrics offers a wide range of benefits, from cutting costs and monitoring driver performance to getting ahead of potential maintenance issues.

[Read more...]Show less

In trucking, uptime is critical, and no one wants to experience unscheduled maintenance, especially if it occurs while a driver is on the road. Unfortunately, mechanical failures happen, and when they do, keeping drivers and maintenance technicians providing emergency roadside services safe is the top priority.

[Read more...]Show less

Snow, ice and freezing temperatures can increase the risk of downtime for all diesel vehicles if the equipment and fuel that power them aren’t properly maintained. Breakdowns can result in delayed drivers, missed deliveries and poor customer service.

[Read more...]Show less

New regulations affecting fleet operations are increasing, and carriers must comply with existing requirements while keeping up with the latest changes. The federal government and some states are creating stricter emissions requirements. California often takes the lead at the state level, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted several measures that are being introduced or implemented in other states.

[Read more...]Show less

Fleets are using technology to improve truck driver safety and shape driver habits. Onboard safety technology improves safety and can increase efficiency, reduce liability and cut costs – but fleets need to gain driver acceptance of any new solutions.

[Read more...]Show less

The use of advanced driver assistance systems, also called ADAS, in commercial vehicles continues to increase as fleets and regulatory agencies work to improve safety, control costs and limit liability. ADAS applications include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection and forward-collision warning systems. The technology can improve driver performance, reduce fatigue and enable customized coaching.

[Read more...]Show less

Inspectors often focus on wheel ends, which include the wheels, rims, hubs and tires on a commercial motor vehicle. Wheel-end components support the heavy loads carried by commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), maintain stability and control, and are critical for braking.

Violations involving wheel-end components historically account for about one quarter of the vehicle out-of-service violations discovered during inspection blitzes, such as the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s International Roadcheck.

“Wheel ends contain numerous moving parts, whether it is the brake system, the bearings or the hubs, that can leak, wear or seize due to lack of preventive maintenance. Wheel end systems require routine daily pre- and post-trip inspections, and a sound maintenance program is key to reducing breakdowns,” said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance design and engineering for Penske Truck Leasing.

Wheel-end failures may lead to a catastrophic crash. “When a wheel end component fails and you have a wheel run-off situation, major damage could result,” Hough said, adding that wheel-end fires often result from brake system air leaks that prevent the brakes from completely releasing.

Completing pre- and post-trip inspections is one of the best things drivers can do to help prevent issues. “Check the wheel-end brake system for air leaks, lubricant leaks, proper adjustment, etc., and when defects are discovered, write them up and have them addressed by a qualified technician before you dispatch the unit,” Hough said.

Wheel seals, lube levels, lug nuts and brake components are among items that should be inspected daily, Hough said. Drivers’ observations during the inspection are the first step in detecting a wheel-end problem.

CVSA has said that drivers may also find abnormal or uneven tire wear, see or smell smoking or extremely hot hubcaps (too hot to touch), notice smoke from a wheel end, or feel wheel vibration, wobble or noise. Increased stopping distance or decreased braking power, abnormal side pull when braking, wheel lock-up and skidding are all signs that wheel ends may need maintenance or replacement.

During the inspection of wheel ends on a commercial motor vehicle, inspectors will:

  • Check for cracks or unseated locking rings, studs or clamps
  • Check for bent, cracked or broken rims on the inside and outside wheel rims
  • Check for loose, broken, missing or damaged wheel fasteners and elongated stud holes
  • Check spoke wheels for cracks across spokes and in the web area or slippage in the clamp areas
  • Check the hub for lubricant leaks, missing caps or plugs
  • Check the inner wheel seal for leaks
  • Check the tire and valve stem for leaks
  • Check for improper inflation, cuts and bulges on all tires, including the inside tire on a dual set
  • Check for regrooved tires on steering axle
  • Check tread wear and measure major tread groove depth
  • Inspect the sidewall for improper repairs, such as tire plugs
  • Check for exposed fabric or cord
  • Check for tire contact with any part of the vehicle or another tire
  • Check for markings on the tire that would exclude its use on a steering axle
  • Check for debris between the tires
  • Check for tires touching one another or any part

Hough added that drivers and technicians also need to be careful not to over-torque lug nuts; over-torquing will stretch the studs. “Once a wheel stud is stretched, the stud will never maintain the correct torque,” he said.

The residual damage from over-torquing a lug nut could take months to develop, but eventually will cause problems. “A bolt/stud acts as a tension/clamping device when torqued properly. If over-torqued, it loses the ability to maintain the correct clamping force,” Hough said.

Wheel-end components are essential to safety, and properly maintaining and inspecting wheel ends, which include the wheels, rims, hubs and tires on a commercial motor vehicle, is essential for over-the-road performance.

[Read more...]Show less

Leases and rentals give fleets flexibility to adjust the number of vehicles they need without making long-term, up-front capital commitments, and there are similarities between the two. Both provide capacity without significant capital investments and give fleet operators flexibility in the number of vehicles they keep.

[Read more...]Show less

More than 40% of truck drivers now live in a state that has legalized the use of marijuana, according to an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) report. However, federal law still prohibits the use of marijuana by CMV drivers who engage in interstate travel.

That means when it comes to the use of cannabis products, professional drivers must say no.

Unfortunately, not everyone is getting the message. The number of positive tests for recreational marijuana among truck drivers increased by 31% over the past year. That’s according to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol (D&A) Clearinghouse pulled by Fleet Owner in June.

Clearing the confusion

Make no mistake, marijuana is a serious safety threat. Cannabis products significantly impair a truck driver’s judgment, motor coordination and reaction time. Studies have found a direct relationship between the blood concentration of THC (the primary psychoactive component of marijuana) and impaired driving.

As a result, truck drivers must avoid all types of marijuana and CBD products for recreational or medical reasons.

Making roads safer

The FMCSA’s D&A Clearinghouse is designed to improve public safety on the roadway by helping to ensure any CDL drivers that violate the FMCSA D&A policy are kept off the road. The Clearinghouse is a secure online database that provides real-time, historical data of any FMCSA D&A policy violations.

Companies that employ CDL truck drivers must query the database at the time of employment and at least once every 12 months to see whether a driver’s status has changed. Drivers who test positive for alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines or other prohibited controlled substances without a proper medical prescription must complete the FMCSA’s Return-to-Duty process before returning to any safety-sensitive job functions. The process includes meeting with a Department of Transportation-approved substance abuse professional (SAP) and undergoing Return-to-Duty testing and subsequent follow-up drug tests as determined by the SAP.

CDL drivers who want to view their records must register and create an account with the Clearinghouse using the link below. Drivers must also use the Clearinghouse to give employers additional electronic consent to view any records found. Refusal to provide consent will prohibit the driver from performing any safety-sensitive functions. Employers, testing facilities and SAPs are required to report any FMCSA D&A policy violations to the FMCSA Clearinghouse. Drivers will receive notification by mail or email every time their record is modified.

To register, visit clearinghouse.fmsca.dot.gov/register. You’ll need your CDL number, birthdate, full name and Social Security number.