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Focus - What it takes to keep on trucking

image Charles Timms, Managing Partner, Timms Trucking

SAN ANTONIO – When contractors have trucks haul fill to their jobsites, they might not know all the aspects of daily business that a trucking company has to go through to get it there. As the owner of Timms Trucking, Charles Timms talks about several factors that can make the seemingly simple task of hauling a lot more complicated than one might think.

 Timms Trucking does a lot of local hauling. With a local quarry where they take out natural materials, such as pit run material and sandy loam, they disperse those materials in San Antonio at retail sites and other jobsites.
    In the last couple of years, Timms says that regulations have changed considerably. He compares it to a report card, indicating that they have to take extra care to watch their grades, so to speak, because if they are pulled over and given warnings, that can affect their insurance. They keep up with the maintenance of their trucks, because there doesn’t have to be an incident or an accident for one of their trucks to be pulled over. A warning is enough to drive up their premiums.
    This is called Compliance Safety Accountability, or CSA, Timms says, adding that it’s not only the highway patrolmen that pull over people or commercial trucks; the City of San Antonio and other municipalities have also started doing checks of commercial vehicles.
    “In our industry, they don’t really have to have a reason to pull you over,” explains Timms. “It might not be a ticket, but it could be a warning, and that warning counts against you – not legally, but as far as insurance is concerned.
    “For example, we run 25 trucks, but if a gentleman that’s getting started has maybe one or two trucks and gets pulled over just that one time, his insurance can go up 50 percent more, and he doesn’t even have to get a ticket. He can get a warning and depending on the warning, that would be the severity.”
    There are different components, Timms adds, such as if a driver has an expired medical [card], that can be very severe. If a company only has a few trucks, and one is pulled over with a light or two out, then the infraction can show as very bad because of that one stop. To prevent these sorts of problems and because members of the trucking industry know how important it is, they try to maintain their trucks as much as possible.
    With trucking companies doing a lot of work for general contractors, dirt contractors, excavators and landscapers, Timms thinks that a lot of them don’t realize the amount of scrutiny they undergo and all that they have to do to make sure they’re in compliance.
    Fuel is also a big factor in today’s trucking industry.  Timms estimates that fuel eats up almost 25 percent of the expenses for his trucking company. Since Timms Trucking runs its trucks locally here in San Antonio, they’re contending with traffic and congestion that drives consumption up dramatically. He estimates that one of his trucks will travel four miles per gallon in the city, and when fuel prices approach $4 a gallon, that easily accounts for the size of the expense.
    In order to conserve as much fuel as possible, Timms will arrange deliveries in order to utilize trucks more efficiently. If one truck would be traveling to or returning from a jobsite empty, they try to have it drop off or pick up a load nearby in order to reduce the amount of travel the truck has to do, especially traveling without a load. Timms notes that it doesn’t always work, but it was part of their solutions to rethinking fuel consumption and conservation in 2006, when fuel prices started climbing.
    Changes in emissions regulations have also encumbered business. When regulations went into effect to reduce pollution caused by trucks, manufacturers had to modify truck designs to meet those standards. Timms observes that across the trucking industry, owners are having issues with trucks made after the regulations went into effect in 2008. He notes that those trucks, which he points out is not necessarily a particular brand of truck, are not running as well as those that came off the assembly line before.
    Timms cites the example from his own fleet. He bought nine 2012 trucks, and he says one of them has been in the shop for 180 days. He notes that everyone in the industry has had these kinds of issues with these new trucks, stating, “It’s getting better, but it’s just not there yet.”
    Before, you could take the truck to an independent mechanic to get it fixed, but now, he says it has to go directly to the dealer. The problem with that, he explains, is that there’s such a backlog in fixing these units because of the way they’re designed that they can hold a truck up to 10 days before they get to it, equating to a lot of downtime for that truck.
    Right now, he says companies are either refraining from buying new trucks or leaving newer trucks parked and continuing use of older ones. –mh

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Sue Johnson sjohnson@constructionnews.net