FMCSA Grants Exemption to 30-Minute Rule for Truckers Hauling Fuel

Posted December 27, 2018 by Administrator

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) hours of service (HOS) regulations dictate that if drivers can’t complete their duty within twelve hours under the 100 air-mile radius exemption that they have to take a 30-minute rest break. However, this rest break poses problems for carriers transporting hazardous materials. They can’t leave the cargo unsupervised, and attending the CMV doesn’t qualify as resting. The parking shortage also prevents drivers from finding a safe and secure area to park trucks toting hazardous material.

To address these challenges, FMCSA offered exemptions to the rule for carriers transporting specified fuels. However, propane didn’t make the initial list. This put drivers transporting petroleum-based cargo in a difficult situation. While most of them load their vehicles in the morning with the intent to finish several deliveries by the end of the day, outside circumstances can prevent this from happening.

These drivers operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) on interstate highways so traffic and accidents can impede their deliveries. Since they can’t leave their hazardous cargo to rest but they also can’t push beyond the 12-hour regulation, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) petitioned FMCSA for an amendment. The transportation agency granted the request, which will remain in effect through April 10, 2023.

Complying with FMCSA regulations is critical to remain in operation as a trucking company, but these rulings can create challenges for fleets. In this instance, the need to transport hazardous cargo safely took precedence and FMCSA issued an amendment. Cline Wood understands the risks involved with transporting hazardous materials. We can help your trucking company assess its risks and implement solutions to address them: get in touch at safetrucking@clinewood.com.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Fluid Injection Technology Integrates with Agribusiness

Posted December 20, 2018 by Administrator

Farmers are struggling to keep up with crop demands. While an ever-growing population compounds this issue, water is at the forefront of their list of concerns.Noticeable changes in climate have brought fewer rains, more drought, and a growing crop problem. As operational costs increase, farmers are running out of options to stay in business.

Technology has helped ease this burden somewhat in the past.Advancements in science and new inventions have allowed for farming that is more efficient. Some examples include drought-resistant plants, improved seed products that fight weeds, as well as seed developed to combat pest problems.However, even the hardiest of plants need some water.

To address this problem, a new start-up called Agri-Inject developed a liquid-injection technology. The start-up realizes farmers need environmentally friendly solutions to their water problem. At the heart of their invention is a liquid-injection irrigation system. The company claims it can reduce water and chemical requirements by utilizing sensors to collect data. This data would allow for variable-rate irrigation.

This technology could not come at a better time for farmers who already make use of irrigation systems. These farmers are contending with increasing regulations that limit the amount of water they can pull from wells every year. The technology can monitor soil type, crops, moisture input,sprinkler rate, and more. It can then take all of this data and determine how often and how many water injections the crops and soil need to guarantee full coverage.

As farmers contend with growing water problems,technological solutions have become more important than ever. This water injection technology may well be the solution to one of the biggest challenges facing the agribusiness industry. To learn more ways to protect and advance your agribusiness, contact Cline Wood.

3 Farmers Facing Jail Time for Crop Insurance Fraud

Posted December 13, 2018 by Administrator

Tobacco Fraud Nets 60 Months Jail Time

Crop insurance fraud carries heavy penalties including steep fines and jail time. However, these deterrents don’t always work as intended. Crop insurance fraud comes in a variety of forms, and the following cases highlight some of the potential abuses.

Debra Muse of Willingford, Kentucky pleaded guilty to fraud on April 16, 2018. The judge sentenced her to 60 months of jail time as well as ordered her to pay $1,656,275 in restitution. She and several cohorts filed false claims with the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) in an attempt to obtain insurance money without actual cause.

They did so by falsifying tobacco production reports, bills,and shipping documents. As a result, they received inflated payments from their insurers who then sought recompense from the federal government. Under federal law, Muse will have to serve 85% of her sentence (51 months minimum) before she is eligible for release.

LaGrange Farmer Receives 25-Month Jail Sentence for Fraud

On May 30, 2018, a judge sentenced James Wiggins, Jr. of LaGrange, NC to 25 months of jail time and ordered him to pay $5,600,433 for several offenses including identity theft, conspiring to commit money laundering, and making false statements to the FCIC. Wiggins and his co-conspirators filed false insurance claims as well as disaster relief claims and then engaged in illegal activities to try to conceal the fraud. They filed false claims alleging they lost crops to receive an insurance payout while selling the healthy crops in secret transactions.

Farmer Faces up to 30 Years per False Statement

Though not yet scheduled, Christopher Hickerson, a farmer from Lexington, KY is facing a ten-count indictment for making false statements to the FCIC. Dating back as far as 2009, Hickerson falsified his tobacco production while simultaneously claiming a significant amount of damage. Hickerson laid claim to tobacco produced by other farmers to inflate his claims. He also obtained crop insurance under other individuals’ names to capitalize on new producer insurance bonuses. For every false statement made to the FCIC, Hickerson faces 30 years in prison as well as a fine of $1,000,000.

As outlined above, crop insurance fraud is not worth the cost. At Cline Wood, we dedicate our time to helping farmers and other agribusiness leaders understand their insurance needs. To learn more about the risks facing your farm as well as how to protect against them, contact us.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh& McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions,conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

How to Improve Your CSA Score in 5 Steps

Posted December 6, 2018 by Administrator

All Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores are available to the public, which has a direct effect on how much business a trucking company can accrue. Customers prefer companies with better scores, plain and simple. However, having a good CSA score also means fewer roadside inspections and interventions.

While CSA scores may be a significant source of frustration for fleets and owner-operators, they do serve an important purpose. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) developed the initiative with the goal to improve roadway safety for drivers, passengers, and the motoring public at large. When a fleet or independent driver falls below acceptable standards, they run the risk of fines and interventions. Fleets that want to avoid interventions and keep their hard-earned cash should adhere to the following:

  1. Make changes starting at the top. Company leadership needs to show they are serious about improving CSA scores if they want their employees to follow suit. Taping flyers up around the office won’t cut it, either. Fleet managers need to foster a culture of safety by holding regular discussions and imbuing everything they do with safety in mind.
  2. Get employees onboard. Once management makes safety a personal priority, they need to help employees do the same. While most drivers are aware of the importance of CSA scores, they aren’t always so sure of the nuances. If they don’t understand what’s expected of them or just how serious safety violations are, they won’t be able to comply.
  3. Understand the top violations. FMCSA assigns a score to every CSA violation, meaning some are worse than others are. For example, failing to carry a valid medical certificate is a one-point violation whereas problems with lights carry a six-point penalty. Tire-related violations carry an even heavier penalty at eight points per violation. Avoiding these top point-heavy violations goes a long way toward keeping CSA scores low.
  4. Update safety procedures. Trucking companies can take a hard look at their CSA score to determine how they accumulate most of their violations. From there, they can update company policy to include those areas in drivers’ pre-trip inspections. Making pre-trip inspections mandatory is also necessary to prevent avoidable violations.
  5. Challenge citations. FMCSA doesn’t write CSA violations in stone. Carriers have two years to challenge citations. If they can get a citation dismissed, FMCSA removes the points from their CSA score. Even getting a violation’s severity reduced is worth the effort because it will mean fewer points toward the overall CSA score.

Improving CSA scores is vital to keeping a trucking company in business. Poor scores mean fewer customers, heavier fines, and more frequent interventions by the Department of Transportation (DOT). However, better CSA scores also mean improved safety, which is a top priority for any fleet. To learn more about improving your fleet’s safety, email us at safetrucking@clinewood.com.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

8 Financial Factors Farmers Need to Consider for 2019

Posted November 29, 2018 by Administrator

Farming has always been a risky occupation with slim margins, and 2019 will be no exception. Both livestock and crop farmers are feeling the financial squeeze, dairy farming and row-crop sectors in particular. Thankfully, not every trend is bleak. The following are several developments farmers need to be aware of to maximize their profits.

Positive Factors Affecting Farming Finances

There are several positive trends affecting the farming industry. These include:

  • Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in over five decades, coming in at 3.7%. Many agribusiness employees are also seeing an increase in salary.
  • Experts expect consumer spending to remain stable as farmers continue to produce strong yields.
  • Farmers have new opportunities at growth due to an increased interest in fresh foods, craft beer, and other ventures that call for specialty crops.
  • Farmland value is stable with some small increases. This is significant for farmers who borrowed against their equity.

Negative Factors Affecting Farming Finances

While there are several notable trends to look forward to, farmers need to be aware of the negative aspects poised to influence the industry as well.

  • Yields may be strong, but prices are not. In addition, just because a farmer can produce more doesn’t mean he or she has enough space to store it before selling it. It may behoove farmers to produce slightly less to keep production costs down.
  • Experts expect the cost for crop production to increase in 2019.
  • A decrease in crop profitability isn’t correlating to a decrease in rent. A visceral desire to control land can make rent negotiations tough, especially when there are other farmers willing to pay steep rent costs.
  • While stable farmland prices is a good thing for established farmers, it’s a challenge for those trying to get their foot in the door. Farmland value remains high, placing it out of reach for up and coming farmers.

Running a successful farming operation requires balancing risk against profit. For example, overreaching or poor planning can turn a successful yield into a financial disaster. Farmers who take the time to learn and plan for the above trends can navigate around the negative while capitalizing on the positive. To learn more about reducing your farming risk, contact the experts at Cline Wood.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

What You Need to Know About the Top 10 Trucking Concerns

Posted November 20, 2018 by Administrator

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) releases a survey of the industry’s biggest concerns on an annual basis. For the past two years, the driver shortage came in as the number one concern; however, there is a much bigger insight to glean from this year’s report: the divide between commercial truck drivers and motor carriers.

How Truck Drivers Rank Issues Compared to Carriers

Out of the top ten concerns, the driver shortage lands at number nine for commercial truck drivers. For drivers, their number one concern is Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations. This is significant because while motor carriers are focusing their efforts on acquiring more drivers, they may be overlooking issues that can cause retention problems.

To put it another way, if motor carriers want to improve the driver shortage, they need to focus on the drivers they have before casting a net for potential new hires. It always costs less money to retain employees than it does to replace them. In addition, fostering a positive work environment that values communication between drivers and carriers can attract more drivers.  Looking at what drivers list as their top concerns is a great place to start.

In order to ensure maximum driver retention, carriers need to address some of the disparities between the two lists. For example, drivers list HOS rules as their number one concern, which falls to the number three slot for carriers. The ELD mandate generated a lot of discussion, but the primary issue at the heart of the debate is the existing HOS regulations. Truck drivers are stuck between customer demands and unyielding regulations that make timely deliveries next to impossible. Carriers that want to keep drivers happy need to advocate for their concerns.

Another example highlighting the divide between driver and carrier concerns is driver distraction. It is truck drivers’ fourth most prevalent concern while it falls to the seventh slot for carriers. Truck drivers have to deal with distracted motorists on a daily basis. They’re also more likely to take the blame if an incident occurs because of skewed public perception about commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Carriers need to take steps to protect their drivers on the road as well as implement technology to protect them in the event of an accident to ensure maximum retention.

Motor carriers and drivers have diverse needs and concerns; however, diligent carriers can find ways to bridge the gap to keep both parties happy and working harmoniously. Cline Wood knows the driver shortage is weighing heavily on trucking businesses, and we strive to find workable solutions. Contact us at safetrucking@clinewood.com to learn how we can help your trucking company.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

How to Protect Farms from Frigid Winter Weather

Posted November 15, 2018 by Administrator

Last winter saw record low temperatures across the Midwest. In Embarrass, Minnesota, the temperature sank to -45°F while the rest of the Midwest experienced temperatures more than 25°F lower than the usual average. While there are obvious dangers to cold temperatures, particularly exposure, there are several implications for agribusinesses.

How Cold Weather Affect Fields and Livestock

Winter wheat is at increased risk when temperatures plummet below normal. Limited snowfall can compound the problem since the snow insulates crops against the frigid temperatures. The news is not all bad, however. A deep freeze can penetrate the soil well below the usual depths. This helps the soil retain more of the nitrogen farmers apply in the fall. When the soil begins to thaw, it may be softer as well. Lastly, extreme cold can eradicate more insects, reducing their effect on crops the following spring.

Livestock can also take a hit so farmers need to take care to ensure water remains thawed and feed is available. During cold months, animals eat more than usual to account for the calories burned trying to keep themselves warm. Farmers will need to consider this when purchasing feed. Livestock will also need shelter against freezing winds and winter storms. Cattle and sheep are content to live outdoors all year round, but they still require refuge from extreme winter weather. Farmers need to ensure any animal shelter can withstand the weight of snow and ice.

Taking Care of Farmers

Many farmers focus their attention on their fields or their livestock and forget to ensure their own comfort during the winter months as well. Farmers need several pieces of attire to ensure they can function comfortably while tending to their farm in freezing temperatures. Some winter gear farmers should consider keeping on hand includes:

  • Hand and feet warmers
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Warm boots
  • Boot dryer
  • Wool socks
  • Insulated overalls
  • Winter coat

While many of these things may seem obvious, many farmers overlook the simple things while tending to their agribusiness. Keeping warm and dry is vital to properly tending to fields and livestock. Being cold or uncomfortable can cause farmers to rush and miss signs of problems in their operation. Farming has its risk, but this doesn’t mean farmers should take unnecessary ones. To learn more about managing farming risk, contact the experts at Cline Wood.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Veterans Day – Honoring All Who Served

Posted November 12, 2018 by Erin

Cline Wood, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company, wants to be the first to thank our many Military men and women for their years of Military Service.  We are blessed to have many clients and associates as members of our family that have served in the military, are currently serving in the military, or have a close family member serving in the military.

We also want to recognize the family members who held the home front down while each of these men and women were away serving our country.

Without all their efforts we as Americans would not have the Freedom we have today!

Sunday, November 11, 2018 is Veterans Day – and also observed November 12, 2018.

We truly hope everyone shows you and all your family members the appreciation you deserve for our freedom, not only on this day but for the rest of your life.

Again, THANK YOU for our freedom, and for being part of our Cline Wood Marsh & McLennan Agency Family.

 

 

How to Combat Driver Fatigue in 6 Simple Steps

Posted November 6, 2018 by Administrator

Truck driving isn’t an easy job. With difficult deadlines, limited parking, and ever-changing safety regulations, it’s easy for drivers to become stressed and exhausted. This is a recipe for fatigued driving, which reduces the driver’s ability to perform due to low energy. When drivers are groggy, they can’t react physically or mentally as they could when at maximum alertness. Fleets can use the following methods to battle driver fatigue:

  1. Get adequate sleep. A good night’s sleep is imperative for safe driving. Truck drivers need to stop driving for the day to give themselves enough time to rest to resume work the following morning. Drivers should also avoid getting behind the wheel during hours they would naturally be sleeping. In particular, truck drivers should avoid operating their vehicle between midnight and six in the morning.
  2. Take naps. If a driver begins to feel tired, he or she should take a quick nap if possible. Aim for 15-30 minutes for an optimal energy boost. Any more or less, and the nap may make the driver feel more drowsy, a condition known as sleep inertia.
  3. Avoid medication that causes drowsiness. Most people know allergy medicines can make them feel drowsy. However, a plethora of medications include warnings not to operate heavy machinery while taking them. Muscle relaxers, cold medicine, and sleeping pills are all no go’s while driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
  4. Practice good diet and hydration habits. Drivers should aim to eat their meals at regular hours and intervals to ensure good quality sleep. Going to bed hungry or after gorging on fast food can result in poor rest. Proper hydration is also key to remaining alert. Keep water bottles in the cab for easy access during the day.
  5. Avoid alertness tricks. Turning up the radio or rolling down the window may provide a small initial jolt of energy, but fatigue will quickly take over again. Drinking caffeinated beverages can help, but those can prevent drivers from sleeping later or cause more drowsiness when the driver experiences the inevitable caffeine crash.
  6. Know the signs. Drowsiness can sneak up on drivers, but, if they know the signs, they can pull over and rest before causing an accident. Some of the hallmarks of drowsiness include yawning, heavy eyes, blurry vision, slower reaction times, and impatience.

Following the above tips can help drivers stay alert when operating their CMV. To learn more about improving transportation safety, contact the experts at Cline Wood.

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

Cyber Security Awareness

Posted October 31, 2018 by Erin

Cyber Security is big news these days, and for good reason.  Many large companies have been hit by hackers, and unfortunately some trucking companies have been victims as well.  Take this scenario for example:  Your server is hacked.  The hackers send an email to one of your office workers that purportedly comes from your Chief Operating Officer, and requests a large sum of money be wired to a bank account.  This is a deviation from normal protocol, but the office worker hasn’t been trained in what red flags to look for in emails, and hasn’t been encouraged to question anything suspicious.  So unfortunately the office worker proceeds with the request and wires the money.  The scam isn’t discovered until later that month when your Bookkeeper sees the entry in your bank records.  At that point you call your IT service provider to investigate where the hack originated, if any personal and/or proprietary information was also stolen, and re-install proper security measures to prevent future hacks, but by that time the damage has been done.

Fortunately there are measures your trucking company can put in place to prevent these types of scenarios.  Click HERE to learn about 15 Best Practices to Protect Your Website from Malware & Cyberhacking.  We also encourage your company to review your insurance coverages and speak with your Producer or Account Manager regarding available coverages to help reimburse your company in the event of a loss.  Below is a chart showing types of insurance coverages that may come into play depending upon each unique cyber scenario:

Source: http://www.gccapitalideas.com/2018/07/04/chart-the-cyber-insurance-matrix-explained/

 

For more information or assistance, please contact us at safetrucking@clinewood.com.  We appreciate your safety efforts!

This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions, conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.

 

 

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