Owner-Operator Almanac 2010
What’s coming in 2010? In a down economy with hesitant forecasts of a very slow rebound, about all you can expect is the unexpected.
But when it comes to specifics, there’s plenty you can plan for. The Overdrive 2010 Owner-Operator Almanac offers maintenance tips and schedules, important dates and useful information to keep you ahead of the curve on what it takes to run a successful owner-operator business.
“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning,” said Thomas Alva Edison. May this help you organize your calendar and smooth the path for a profitable year.
1 REEFER ENFORCEMENT
California’s Air Resources Board will start checking that models 2002 and older meet emission standards. This includes owners of trailers based outside the state.
BUSINESS PLAN AND BUDGET
Use this last holiday weekend to write a projected annual budget of revenue and expenses. Include goals for the year. You’re more likely to follow things that are written down. Your accountant can help.
TO YOUR HEALTH!
Now that holiday feasting’s over, plan healthier habits. Do daily exercise, which can be as simple as briskly walking around a truck stop. At home, make and freeze your own meals for the road. If you smoke, enlist a nonsmoking friend to help you stop.
15 QUARTERLY ESTIMATED TAXES
This payment’s due today, but you can skip it if you file your 2009 tax return by Feb. 1. Self-employment taxes also are due.
5-6 MID-WEST TRUCK SHOW AND CONVENTION
Hosted by the Mid-West Truckers Association in Peoria, Ill. The convention is for members, while the show is open to the public. Call (217) 525-0342 or visit www.mid-westtruckers.com .
14 VALENTINE’S DAY
If you can’t spend time with your significant other, find another way to make the day special.
Run the system to ensure it works and to keep gaskets lubricated. If you need service, this is the perfect time to beat the rush and perhaps get a better price.
The peak tornado is March through May in the South and the summer in the north. Watch for sudden changes in weather, and if you spot a funnel cloud, head for shelter.
14 DAYLIGHT SAVINGS
This time manipulation is thought to be one of Benjamin Franklin’s ideas. Remember the phrase “spring forward, fall back” to set your clocks forward one hour early Sunday morning.
17 GO GREEN
St. Patrick’s Day is an appropriate time to invest in fuel-saving features. Aerodynamic add-ons such as trailer skirting and tractor fairings may qualify you for financing programs through various organizations that promote a cleaner environment.
25-27 MID-AMERICA TRUCKING SHOW, Louisville, Ky., (502) 899-3892, or visit www.truckingshow.com.
4 EASTER SUNDAY
Find a truck stop with a chapel if you’d like to celebrate this holiday away from home.
15 INCOME TAXES
Your federal return for 2009 is due, along with your quarterly estimated tax payment under Form 1040-ES.
15 RETIREMENT SAVINGS
This is the deadline for contributing to an Individual Retirement Account, which will reduce your 2009 income and tax bill.
25-27 CUSTOM RIGS’ PRIDE & POLISH
This event at 75 Chrome Shop in Wildwood, Fla., is the year’s first Pride & Polish truck beauty contest. For more information, call (888) 349-4287 or visit
As weather heats up, clean the radiator and fins in the charge air cooler to maintain proper airflow to the engine. Check the fan to make sure it engages.
If you’re through driving on snowy routes, give your rig a thorough washing, including a diluted acid wash of aluminum components. Follow up with a wax or polish to protect the paint.
9 MOTHER’S DAY
Set aside time to call or visit the special moms in your life.
31 MEMORIAL DAY
Expect a long weekend of heavy traffic.
An estimated 97 percent of Atlantic-spawned hurricanes blow during June through November. Stay tuned to weather news and be ready to find an alternate route when necessary.
15 QUARTERLY ESTIMATED TAXES
Your second-quarter payment is due.
17-19 GREAT WEST TRUCK SHOW
See the latest equipment at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and don’t miss Custom Rigs’ Pride & Polish truck beauty event. Call (888) 349-4287 or visit www.prideandpolish.com. For a full GWTS schedule, visit www.greatwesttruckshow.com.
18 Partners inBusiness Seminar
Attend the Overdrive/ATBS seminar at the Great West Truck Show to hear tips for running your business from Dollars & Sense columnist Kevin Rutherford. Visit www.piblive.com.
20 FATHER’S DAY
Make a surprise phone call or visit to special dads you know.
CSA 2010 RATING
The federal government’s new Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 program takes effect for carriers including independent owner-operators. Safety performance will be more closely monitored and rated. Every defect or violation counts. Independents: Do you know your rating?
Do a mid-year assessment of your business plan and goals. Make necessary adjustments.
4-5 INDEPENDENCE DAY
Because the holiday falls on a Sunday, many businesses will close Monday to observe the day.
8-9 TRUCKERS JAMBOREE
There’s plenty of fun, including fireworks and competitions, at Walcott’s annual Iowa 80 Truckstop event. Visit iowa80truckstop.com.
If you shut off heater valves in the spring, re-open them and run the heater to ensure it’s working.
3-7 NATIONAL TRUCK DRIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Greater Columbus Convention Center in Ohio hosts this year’s competition.
26-28 GREAT AMERICAN TRUCKING SHOW
Equipment, recruiters and much more, including Custom Rigs’ Pride & Polish event, will be at the Dallas Convention Center. Call (888) 349-4287 or visit www.prideandpolish.com. For a full GATS schedule, visit www.gatsonline.com.
27 Partners in Business Seminar
Attend the Overdrive/ATBS seminar at the Great American Trucking Show to hear tips for running your business from Dollars & Sense columnist Kevin Rutherford. Visit www.piblive.com.
31 HEAVY HIGHWAY VEHICLE USE TAX
This tax, covering the year ending June 30, is due. The maximum fee for a Class 8 truck is $550. Go to www.irs.gov for Form 2290.
Another long, high-traffic weekend. If the economy is recovering, retail freight could begin to surge much more than it did last year in anticipation of the holiday season.
15 QUARTERLY ESTIMATED TAXES
They’re due for the third quarter.
18 WORLD’S LARGEST TRUCK CONVOY
This one-day celebration through several states helps raise funds for the Special Olympics. Call (202) 824-0268 or visit www.specialolympics.org.
PREP FOR WINTER
• CHAINS CHECK. If you’re running in Colorado, you’re required to have chains on board now through May. Other Western states aren’t far behind in requiring chains. Before you head into snow country, inspect chains for broken or missing links. Check each state’s transportation website for requirements.
• BATTERY. Before cold weather sets in, test battery load with battery tester. If your batteries have been in action three years or more, it might be time to replace them. Also check engine control module wiring.
• COOLANT CONCENTRATION. Use a refractometer to check coolant-water ratio – half and half is ideal except for the coldest climates, where 60 percent coolant is permissible. Too much of either can freeze and crack your cylinder block. Check to see if it’s time to drain and flush.
• OIL CHECK. Schedule oil change and drop your grade – say, from 15W-40 down to 10W-40, 10W-30 or 5W-40 synthetic, depending on your engine manufacturer’s recommendations. Thinner grades help cold starts and may save fuel.
Check your in-cab emergency provisions, especially in the event of getting snowed in: medications, first-aid kit, three gallons of water, reflective vest, flashlight with fresh batteries, battery-powered or crank radio and extra winter clothing.
With winter approaching, check gauge for normal operating temperature. Thermostats may need replacing after two to three years.
These are typically available at public health departments and certain drug store chain pharmacies, hospitals and truck stops. Lessen your risk of catching flu by washing your hands frequently, not touching eyes and mouth, avoiding smoking and getting plenty of rest and exercise.
If you run in extreme cold climates and lack this component, consider getting one.
2 ELECTION DAY
Major congressional elections are due this year. Also, local and state officials have a bearing on issues that affect trucking, such as truck parking, tolls and idling limits, so don’t make excuses for not voting. If you’re not up on your state and hometown issues, check with your state trucking association.
7 DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME ENDS
You gain an hour, so set your clocks back an hour early Sunday morning.
19 GREAT AMERICAN SMOKEOUT
It’s a good time to stamp out this habit or encourage someone you love or work with to end it.
Expect heavy traffic Nov. 24-28.
CUT YOUR TAX BILL
Reduce your 2010 taxes by gaining deductions before Jan. 1: make charitable donations, pre-pay your January mortgage, pay for medical costs, and make any outstanding tax payments. Another strategy is to accelerate anticipated business spending into 2010, such as buying tires or an on-board generator, which reduces your 2010 taxable income.
Since Christmas falls on Saturday, many businesses will close also on the 24th.
31 NEW YEAR’S EVE
New Year’s Day falls on Saturday, so some businesses will close today to celebrate. n
Pencil in PM work
Using manufacturers’ recommendations and know-ledge of your application, schedule these tasks at a reasonable frequency. In the long run, preventive maintenance costs less than forced maintenance.
• Review tires for wear and replacement or retreading twice each quarter. Measure tread depth and check for signs of cracking, chipping or sidewall degradation. Feel for signs of side-to-side irregular wear. Have steer, drive and trailer axles aligned and tires rotated accordingly.
• Adjust tire pressure to manufacturers’ specs, including trailer tires.
• Have your oil analyzed at every oil change for wear metals, contaminants, dirt, additive depletion and viscosity change that may be reducing efficiency. A systematic analysis program can head off costly problems, and might give you a basis for extending your oil changes without harming your engine.
• Check fuel, air and crankcase ventilation filters for replacement at recommended intervals.
• Measure voltage at the starter’s electrical connections while a buddy cranks the engine. Replace cables that show a drop of more than one volt. Clean battery connections with a wire brush-type scrubber. Also test alternator for output voltage and amps. Inspect alternator mounts and tighten as necessary. Inspect belt tension and condition.
• Inspect battery for frayed cables, low electrolyte level and loose hold-downs and connections.
• Check all belts, hoses and lines for cracks and leaks. Don’t forget lines for air and power steering, and do a water and tensioner check as well.
• Inspect chassis – including drive shafts, slack adjusters and clutch linkage – for proper functioning and for the need for greasing. Perform at least twice as often as oil change.
• Grease your truck weekly.
• Keep tabs on recommended changes of oils for the engine, automatic or manual transmission, differentials, power steering and hydraulics. And don’t overlook checks of antifreeze strength, the need for SCAs or extender, or a complete coolant change.
• Inspect wheel end oil at 12 months/100,000 miles. Remove a sample. If you find cloudy consistency or contaminants, have the bearings reassembled or replaced. Seals should be replaced using the proper procedure, the end-play reset, and the bearing housing refilled with clean oil. Follow the same interval for wheel ends using grease or wheel ends with a unitized hub, but just check them for leaks and excessive end-play. Failed unitized hubs must be replaced.
NO MORE PROCRASTINATING
Don’t let 2010 run by without taking care of these infrequent but important tasks. Mark dates – the sooner, the better.
• Review your truck insurance with your agent. Aging equipment could be due for a premium decrease. Changes in lanes or freight could warrant higher or lower premiums.
• Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major rating agencies. You can check it online or request a mailed report. Look it over for errors. You don’t want any last-minute surprises when you apply for your next truck loan. Call (877) 322-8228 or visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
• Replace batteries in your cab, shop and home in smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, alarm systems and emergency flashlights.
• Check the pressure and expiration date of onboard fire extinguisher. Make sure flares are on hand, too.
• Not registered to vote? Check with your local courthouse and take care of it. If you’re likely to be on the road for Election Day, Nov. 2, register for an absentee ballot.
You can get a digital camera for less than $100. Keep one in your cab to record accident scene details – or to capture a beautiful sunrise or interesting landmark.
• Check fuel prices on your routes and plan where you’ll stop to fill up. Avoid partial fill-ups.
• Back up your computer’s hard drive on a CD, flash drive or zip disk.
• Calculate miles per gallon and fuel cost per mile – at least weekly, if not at every fill-up. An ongoing drop in mpg may signal the need for maintenance.
• Set aside money for maintenance. Allocate a few cents per mile for a new truck and an increasing amount based on the age of your rig.
• Aim to get a good weekend load on Friday and try to deliver on Monday.