Trucking companies (or companies that just use trucks): Make the most of your industry associations

trucking associationStrength in numbers. The power of a team. A built-in support system.

No matter the size of your fleet, if you use trucks in any capacity, joining an industry association is a smart idea for your business. From big rig haulers to landscapers with a couple of light duty box trucks, the trucking industry has particular needs and a host of problems to solve, not to mention regulatory and legislative battles to fight.

Yes, you can go it alone, but why suffer through it solo when associations like the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC) can help you “make things happen”?

Founded in 1920, MTAC is a fantastic, effective group that provides a host of services for its member businesses. Part of the American Trucking Associations (a federation of associations), its mission is to protect and promote the interests of the Connecticut trucking industry: In other words, your interests.

Obviously, the first step to success here is to join an organization like MTAC, but to really maximize your membership, you need to tap into the resources it provides. Consider being proactive in these five areas where an association can really benefit your business.

Education — Industry associations make it their business to know what you need to know to operate your business effectively. They can be founts of knowledge, with best practices information about issues such alcohol and drug testing, weight laws, driver qualifications, and vehicle maintenance, to name a few.

Driver Training — A best-in-class fleet has best-in-class drivers who are up-to-date on safety protocols and a wide variety of specialty areas, such as keeping cargo secure and knowing the ins and outs of braking systems. Industry associations offer the kind of training your drivers need to stay safe and productive.

Networking — Getting out of the office (and the truck!) and getting into seminars and gatherings is a great way to follow industry trends, find business partners and customers, and bounce ideas and concerns around with others who understand the industry. Trucking associations provide a full calendar of seminars, meetings, and other events that will help you make these important connections.

Lobbying — One of the most important services a trucking association will provide is lobbying on behalf of its members at the state and federal level. Though you don’t necessarily need to be climbing the Capitol’s steps, you do need to make sure your association understands your concerns. After all, they are there to represent you. Make sure your representatives know what’s on your mind!

Problem Solve — Industry associations exist to help your business thrive. They can help you work through thorny problems and they can help with things like supplying log books, driver qualification files, vehicle maintenance records and other compliance documentation.

Join your association, but don’t neglect it! Make sure you make the most of it.

P.S. Many of these offerings will help your business in one key area: keeping your worker’s compensation costs as low as possible. For more information, check out my recent [link] white paper, “How to avoid worker’s compensation claims in the trucking industry.”

Joe Pinto
Risk Management Consultant
jpinto@srfm.com

Joe Pinto

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should You Buy or Lease That Car?

buy or lease carCars are a big part of our culture. Many of us work in places where cars are required to get around. At some point, you’ll need to purchase a car that costs more money than you have on hand. You’ll ask yourself “Should I buy or lease that car?”

People have been purchasing vehicles forever, but leasing (the practice of only financing the depreciation of a vehicle, not its entire cost) was once only accessible to wealthy people or companies with generous budgets. That isn’t the case anymore. As vehicle costs continue to rise, leasing becomes an attractive solution for every segment of the car industry.

Some people will tell you “It’s smart to buy the car,” or “Save yourself the hassle and lease.” Truthfully, there’s no simple answer. Which option is better depends on your situation, your finances, and your needs? We’ve laid out the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

Advantages to leasing a car

  • Your lease payment is usually less than a finance payment would be.
  • You can have a new car every year if you wanted (with all of the new gadgets).
  • You can drive a better car than you can afford.
  • A lease can be written off business taxes, making it a good company vehicle.
  • Perfect choice if you’ll only be in the area for a year or two.
  • The leasing dealership issues a warranty that covers much of the repairs.
  • You aren’t making a purchase, so sales tax is less.
  • There is no trade-in vehicle to deal with.
  • If the car is worth less than the lease predicted at the end, it’s not your problem.

Disadvantages to leasing a car

  • At the end of the lease, you don’t own the car. You have to return it (although there is an option to buy, but it’s often not in your favor financially.)
  • Terminating a lease early can lead to expensive fees.
  • Putting too much wear or mileage on the car can lead to expensive fees.
  • If you plan to keep the car for years, leasing is more expensive than buying.
  • Lease contracts are made to be confusing so you pay more in fees.
  • Your mileage is often limited to 12,000/year, which is easy to overcome.
  • You can buy extra mileage, but it’s expensive.
  • Typically the lease requires you to have excellent credit.
  • Failing to perform basic maintenance can result in extra fees.

Advantages of purchasing a car

  • You can modify or augment the car in any way you wish at any time.
  • It’s cheaper over the long run if you plan to drive the car for a long time.
  • There’s no limit to how many miles or much wear you can put on the car (which is important for commuters who travel long distances).
  • You can tailor the loan term (length) and payment amount to your budget.
  • You can sell the car whenever you want for as much as you like.
  • Once the car is paid off, a big piece of your budget opens up.

Disadvantages of purchasing a car

  • Many dealers require you to pay a down payment before you can finance a vehicle. This is smart anyway, otherwise, you’ll be upside down on the loan.
  • Long loans can mean paying a lot of interest by the end of the loan.
  • The monthly payment is higher than a lease payment.
  • You are responsible for repair costs (unless there’s a warranty, but that doesn’t last forever).
  • At some point, you’ll have to sell it, trade it in, or junk it.
  • A car is a depreciating asset, so you’ll never sell it for what you paid.
  • Fluctuations in the car’s market value can affect your selling price (which you can’t predict).
  • If you need to sell your car but owe more than it’s worth, you would have to pay just to get rid of the loan.

Summary

When you’re trying to decide whether to buy or lease a car, look at it like this: A leased car is convenient, easy, and you get to drive something new all the time. A purchased car is far cheaper, and you have the freedom to use it however you please.

Before you make any decision, it’s important to understand the real financial implications. Use this calculator to understand your potential car buying options.

Jennifer Dwyer
Personal Lines Representative
jdwyer@srfm.com

Jenn Dwyer

Is Your Healthcare Plan Covering People It Shouldn’t?

healthcare eligibilityIf you provide an employer healthcare plan, it’s vital to ensure only the correct people are covered. Comprehensive healthcare insurance is one of the most important benefits you provide to employees, so keeping premiums down matters to everyone.

One of the main causes of rising premiums and healthcare costs is when ineligible people continue to be covered on a healthcare plan. For employer-provided health insurance, ineligible people are typically:

  • Former employees who have now left your business.
  • Employees whose status has changed, meaning they are no longer eligible under the plan, or should be on a different plan.
  • Dependents of an employee, where the status of the dependent has changed.

Examples of ineligible people for a healthcare plan

The following situations could all cause people to become ineligible.

  • A dependent child who ages beyond the dependent eligibility requirements in the plan.
  • A former spouse who separated from your employee.
  • An employee who leaves your business.
  • An employee whose status has changed, for example through changing the number of hours worked or moving to a different position, and whose new status requires a different healthcare plan.

Creating a healthcare eligibility audit

You need a process to understand and remove people from your employer-provided healthcare plan. Here’s how to put an “Employee and dependent healthcare eligibility audit” together.

Understand the eligibility requirements of your current employer-provided healthcare plans

Go through any existing employer-provided plans and note down:

  • All employees currently covered by the plan.
  • All dependents currently covered by the plan.
  • Eligibility requirements for employees.
  • Eligibility requirements for employee dependents.
  • Benefits and coverage provided.

You may hold this information internally, or you can get the data from your broker or healthcare insurance provider.

Analyze your existing employee data

Match your existing employee data against the healthcare plan eligibility requirements. Check:

  • Any employee listed as being on the plan is still employed by you.
  • Any dependent listed on the plan is still a dependent on the employee.
  • The type of healthcare plan is appropriate for the status of the employee.
  • All eligibility requirements are being met by any active plan participants.

Find gaps in the data

It’s likely that you will find gaps in the information. You may not have the latest details of dependents or employees. Complete a gap analysis to understand the data you need to ensure only appropriate people are covered by the plan.

Carry out a healthcare eligibility audit to close any gaps

Once you know what data you need, you will need to audit the information with your employees. Approach each employee with the details of their health insurance for them and their dependents and ask if all the information is factual and correct. If it is, get them to sign off on the information.

If the data is incorrect, get it updated and see how it affects healthcare eligibility. Communicate this back to the employee.

Careful communication is key

You will need to communicate carefully throughout this process. Employees may see the eligibility audit as a tool for taking away healthcare coverage. It’s important to manage the message carefully — The audit ensures only appropriate, eligible people are covered. That means less cost-leakage and medical expenses on plans, which keeps premiums down and ensures the right people have the right coverage.

You may want to complete the healthcare eligibility audit every year. This will ensure your records are up to date and reduce the premiums you and your employees need to spend.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

healthcare eligibility

Trucking Risk Insights: Top 10 Vehicle Violations – 2016

Top 10 Vehicle Violations—2016

A roadside inspection is an examination of individual commercial motor vehicles and drivers by a Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) inspector to determine compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and/or Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs). Serious violations result in the issuance of driver or vehicle out of service (OOS) orders. These violations must be corrected before the affected driver or vehicle can return to service.

Trucking ViolationsJonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Construction P&C Pro-File Newsletter – February 2017

New OSHA Beryllium Standards

On Jan. 9, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule to amend its beryllium standards for the construction, shipyard and general industries.

The final rule will reduce the eight-hour, permissible beryllium exposure limit from 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. It also establishes a short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter over a 15-minute sampling period.

The rule will require additional protections that include personal protective equipment, medical exams, medical surveillance, and training.

The final rule becomes effective on March 21, 2017. Affected employers must provide newly required showers and changing rooms within two years after the effective date and implement new engineering controls within three years after the effective date.

OSHA estimates that the new rule will prevent 46 new cases of beryllium-related disease and save the lives of 94 workers annually.

Employers should become familiar with the new standards and evaluate their current workplace practices to ensure compliance with the final rule.

DOL Sues Contractor for Firing Safety Manager

According to a lawsuit filed on Dec. 28, 2016, a Tampa roofing contractor discriminated against its safety manager after he cooperated with an OSHA investigation. The Department of Labor (DOL) lawsuit was a result of an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.

Under the program, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or government. The lawsuit seeks back wages, interest, and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Construction Workers at Highest Risk for WMSDs

According to a recent Occupational and Environmental Medicine report, U.S. construction workers are at a higher risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) than all other industries combined. The back is the primary body part affected, with overexertion named as the major cause of WMSDs.

Employers should adopt ergonomic solutions at construction sites, such as training employees on safe lifting practices, in order to reduce the number of WMSDs and prevent lost wages.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

How to choose the perfect appraiser for your property, art, antiques, jewelry, and other valuables

appraiserIf you have highly valuable, treasured property or possessions, you may need to get them appraised for insurance purposes. Many insurance carriers will insist on accurate valuation of property, art, antiques, jewelry, and other items so they can ensure the correct level of coverage and premium payment.

When you’re seeking out a good appraiser, here are some areas to consider:

Talk to your friends and colleagues

If you know other people who need to insure high-value items, talk to them about their experiences. Get recommendations on good appraisers and create a shortlist.

Look at professional qualifications

There are a variety of professional accreditations and qualifications depending on the fields an appraiser trains in. These include:

  • International Society of Appraiser’s credentials for fine art, antiques, and personal property.
  • A diploma in gemology for jewelry appraisal.
  • Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice exam for members of the American Society of Appraisers.
  • Principles of Valuation courses for members of the American Society of Appraisers.
  • Property appraisers should have one of the following designations from the Appraisal Institute — MAI Designation, SRPA Designation, SRA Designation, AI-GRS Designation, AI-RRS Designation.

There are various other exams and certifications available. Always check an appraiser’s qualifications to ensure they’re qualified to provide expert advice.

Check if they’re members of professional appraiser organizations

There are several industry bodies for appraisers. They include:

Many of these websites have membership directories for their appraisers.

Professional appraisers are required to uphold a strong code of ethics, including:

  • Providing truly independent valuation services, with no external influences.
  • Have no outside interest in the valued item, other than as providing a professional service.
  • Only carry out appraisal work in their area of expertise.
  • Consider all relevant factors when arriving at a valuation.
  • Treat and document property with the right level of care and respect.
  • Ensure personal remuneration and pay is independent of the value of property being appraised.

Interview your shortlist

When you have a shortlist of appraisers, call each one and ask questions about their area of expertise, qualifications, professional standards, and membership of industry bodies. Get a feel for what each appraiser is like and use that to decide which one would be right for your needs.

Remember that valuations change with time, many carriers will require updated valuations on a regular basis.

As always, if you have any questions about your scheduled property or how to get your property appraised, we are a phone call away!

Mary McGrath
Personal Lines Manager
mmcgrath@srfm.com

Appraiser

High blood pressure — A hidden danger for your truck drivers

Doctor with patientIf you’re running a logistics business or division, you know how important it is to have reliable and healthy truck drivers. Although most health conditions are easy to diagnose and treat, there’s one in particular that’s tricky to spot — High blood pressure. That’s because high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) often doesn’t show any symptoms, and that’s a real problem.

Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to significant problems for your truck drivers including:

  • An enlarged heart, a big risk for heart failure.
  • Aneurysms in blood vessels, which can be fatal.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Vision problems and blindness.

It’s estimated that over 65 million Americans (around a third of the adult population) have high blood pressure, and one in three of those people aren’t aware they’re affected.

Why high blood pressure is a real issue for truck drivers
Truck drivers have a greater risk of high blood pressure than others, mainly due to the nature of their work. Some of the causes of high blood pressure include:

  • A poor diet with too much salt — Eating healthily on the road is a real challenge, and many truck drivers will opt for fast food. Unfortunately, the high proportion of salt and lack of other nutrients is a risk factor.
  • Too much alcohol – We hope you already have drug and alcohol testing policy and procedures in place to ensure no drinking on the job, but you can’t control what happens after hours.
  • Lack of exercise — Spending almost all of their working life behind the wheel of a truck leaves little time for exercise. Being overweight or obese significantly increases the chances of high blood pressure.
  • Stress and anxiety — Dealing with other road users can create significant stress for long-haul truck drivers.

Dealing with high blood pressure issues for your drivers
As with most health issues, prevention is much better than cure. That’s why taking a few simple steps could reduce the risk of high blood pressure in your drivers, help them stay healthy, and reduce downtime due to sickness. Some of the steps you can take include:

  • Education and training — Let your truck drivers know about the risks of high blood pressure including why and how they could be impacted. Encourage them to get tested and provide clear, simple ways for them to get training on how to avoid the issue.
  • Policy changes — Introduce policies that encourage healthier behavior. Give truck drivers a 30 or 45 minute break each day that they can use to exercise. Incentivize them to eat more healthily by providing discounts for particular types of restaurants or meals.
  • Support and resources — Get some help in place. Arrange for a nurse to come on site to provide blood pressure testing and personalized advice on what your truck drivers can do. Provide maps of where to find restaurants with healthy eating options on the popular trucking routes. Introduce a formal wellness program into your workplace.
  • Health insurance and medication — Even with all these preventative measures, you will still have some drivers who develop high blood pressure problems. In those cases, you’ll want to ensure they have the right health insurance and get access to the doctors and medications they need to control their medical conditions.

If you want to keep your truck drivers healthy and happy, you can start right now. Just using one or two of these suggestions could significantly reduce the frequency and impact of high blood pressure problems. That means healthier employees, less time off sick, and a more efficient trucking operation.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

blood pressure trucking

Ice dams, panty hose and ice melt – a winter trifecta

Ice DamsIf you’ve been listening to the predictions for this Winter here in the Northeast – we’re expecting a rough one! And along with a lot of snow comes those horrid ice dams – a serious problem that will not only do damage to your home, but also is a cause for many winter insurance claims.

If you happen to be new to the North – let me fill you in on what an ice dam is: When snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and refreezing occurs. In a perfect world, the snow would melt off the roof, enter the gutters, and flow harmlessly to the ground (before it gets too cold – make sure you clean those gutters and follow these other Fall cleaning tips). Or the snow would evaporate from the action of the sun, and never really melt off unless the outside temperature rose above the freezing point. However, two key factors interact to cause problems… the outside temperature and the temperature of the inside of your attic.

The warmer your attic is, the more melt off that occurs at the roof surface. This melted snow would normally flow off the edge of the roof. Under certain conditions, though, when air temperature is very low, the water refreezes at the edge of the roof, where the interior roof surface is not being warmed by the attic. This refreezing gradually forms what is fondly known as an “ice dam”, a growing heap of ice that blocks path of the melted snow.

Once this dam forms to a certain height, the melted snow that pools up behind it can suddenly leak back under the roof shingles and into your home! On a roof with a low slope, it only takes a small ice dam to cause water backup and leakage.I can tell you from personal experience – it’s not a fun situation, especially when water is leaking from the ceiling into your living room!

Now what do you do?

Fix the issue before it’s an issue: Increase the insulation, sealing and ventilation in your attic as soon as possible.

What if you already have an ice dam? Get rid of the ice damn as quickly as possible. A great quick fix is actually an “old farmer’s cures” from This Old House’s website.

  • Using a roof rake, remove snow 3-4 feet from the edge of your roof, being careful not to damage the roof covering or to allow snow to build up around walking paths or to block emergency exits.
  • Use a calcium chloride ice melt product, which you can generally purchase from your local hardware store. Be sure not to use rock salt or sodium chloride, which can damage your roof.
  • Fill a nylon stocking with the calcium chloride ice melt.
  • Safely place and position the calcium chloride-filled nylon stocking vertically across the ice dam so that it can melt a channel through the ice.

It’s a great way to reuse and recycle some old hose that may have runs or holes and it’s a heck of a lot easier than getting up on your roof trying to break apart the ice! Have a secret quick fix to dealing with ice damns – we’d love to hear it.

Stephen Davis
sdavis@srfm.com
Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Ice Dams Steve Davis

Your Business Resolution — Time For a Fresh Approach

business resolutionsFor many, January is the perfect time for a new start. Resolutions to go on a diet, exercise more, pay off debt, get a new job, and otherwise improve our lifestyles are as popular as ever. But, there’s another area where a fresh start can make a big difference — Your business.

The fact is, you’re probably so involved in the day-to-day running of your organization that you don’t take a step back and get a better perspective. When you’re able to step away for just a little while and look at things objectively, the chances are you can find some good stuff to improve in your business. Here’s how to go about it.

Step 1 — Set aside the time

Get some time in the diary in early January to remove yourself from everyday operations and allow yourself to review how you could improve how your business functions, policies, and procedures. Encourage your leadership team, key managers, and a selection of employees to be involved.  Not only is their input critical, it will also remove some of the burden off your shoulders.

Step 2 — Get out of the workplace

You can’t do this with distractions. Go offsite and have an away day where you can minimize the chance of interruptions and actually get some initiatives in place, bring key members of your team along with you.  Make it engaging, fun and ensure you have white boards to capture your ideas.  Take pictures so you can save the details of your discussion.

Step 3 — Identify the main areas you want to improve

Have an honest and open discussion with your team. Let everyone bring up the main pain points in the business. What’s unnecessarily complicated or difficult to do? What policies, procedures, or functions could be improved? You’ll want to keep the discussion constructive, but don’t leave anything off the table.

Step 4 — Categorize the problems

You’ll want to split the various issues into categories, for example:

  • People related — More training needed, new team setup, staff handbook updates etc.
  • Policy related — New and amended policies to make your workplace easier to do business in.
  • Procedure related — Changes to business processes, ways of doing things, and functionality.
  • Technology related — Issues with technology, hardware, software, etc.
  • Other — Any other issues that don’t fit neatly into the previous categories.

Step 5 — Brainstorm fixes

Once you’ve got your categories, see if any of the problems are related. After you’ve done that, go through and generate ideas on how to fix the various issues, especially your policies and procedures. Don’t consider any idea to be too outlandish.

Step 6 — Prioritize

Once you’ve got your ideas, prioritize the fixes. Deliver on ideas that are easy to implement and will have a good impact. Follow that up with the harder implementations that will still make a big difference. After that, carry out the changes that will still have an impact, even if it’s minor.

Step 7 — Give people accountability

Once you have a list of ideas, get people in your business to take ownership of them. Get project management in place to deliver on the ideas and fix the broken parts of your business. Then, get regular updates throughout the year on how things are going. Give your project managers the resources and people they need to make a positive change.

This can be a great way to incentivize and fire up your people to change their working environment. Whether it’s removing bottlenecks in a process, rewriting a policy, enhancing training for team members, improving hiring methods, or replacing old technology, small changes can have a big impact.

Carry this out every January, deliver on your changes, and you’ll have a beautifully functioning, sleek, and efficient operation in less time than you think.

Matt Bauer
President
mbauer@srfm.com

Business Resolution

Building Healthy Habits — Beat Holiday Indulgences and Feel Fantastic

healthy habitsEating and drinking is one of the great pleasures in life, and the holiday season is the perfect time to indulge. Celebrating with family and friends makes it easy to just have one more serving, an extra slice of cake, or another glass of wine. Of course, that can mean putting on a few more pounds than you’d like, so what’s the best way to shift that holiday weight?

Rather than starting up a new diet or exercise regime, it’s all about making small, positive lifestyle changes and building good habits — Here’s how to do exactly that.

Understand what you want to change most to get healthier

You can only change your lifestyle if you’ve got a good reason. Think about what your goals are when it comes to getting healthier — Is it losing weight, lifting a certain amount, walking up a steep hill without being out of breath, or something else?

Your goals should be short-term and easy to reach — If you want to lose weight it’s much better to aim at losing a couple of pounds a month than 25 pounds this year. So, choose one goal, write it down, and commit to it.

Focus on making one small change to your health at a time

If you try to do too much too soon, you’ll lose focus, get distracted, and it won’t last. That’s why getting healthier is all about making small, incremental changes that together add up to you feeling fantastic. Look at your goal and think about the one small thing you could do today to get towards it. For example:

  • Reduce your mid-afternoon snacks.
  • Drink one less beer during an evening out with friends.
  • Walk for 15 minutes each day.
  • Have one “meat free” day a week.

Then, make the change and stick to it.

Take pleasure in what you’re doing to create a healthier lifestyle

It’s important to feel positively about the changes you’re making, rather than seeing them as denying yourself. Be “in the moment” and conscious of how and why you’re making your choices. If you’re taking a walk each day, spend the time really enjoying and noticing your surroundings. If you’re reducing how much you drink, replace the beer or wine with a delicious fruit smoothie. Think about ways to positively reinforce what you’re doing.

When it comes to getting healthier, don’t do too much, too quickly

As you make changes, wait for them to become a habit and “stick” before you move onto something else. Ideally, you want your positive lifestyle changes to become effortless and part of who you are. That way, it will never feel like a chore.

Really feel the benefits of a healthier lifestyle

Positive reinforcement is vitally important. That’s why you want to notice the changes you’re making and the benefits they’re having. Appreciate the fact you don’t run out of breath when you’re hiking up a hill, or that you look great in the new clothes you’ve been able to buy. Reward yourself for creating healthy changes in your life.

It’s amazing how much you can do for your health if you set realistic goals, turn small changes into habits, feel the benefits, and take pleasure in what you’re doing. Of course, you can still have “cheat days” and overindulge from time to time. Now you’ll have the confidence you’re completely in charge of your lifestyle and the healthy choices you’ve made.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant
hsinclair@srfm.com

Healthly Habits