Featured Contributors 

Not only do we love our contributors, we think they are totally awesome. Here are three mind blowing reasons we think so:  

  • When we ask..they answer! Legal Questions, 'How to' Questions; you name it - they've got it covered! 
  • They write amazing articles that we share with you in our TSNAmerica Trucking Hub Newsletter! 
  • Lastly, anybody associated with TSNAmerica is bound to be spectacular. 

Want to be a featured contributor? (We would love it if you do!) Contact us today! 

Food For Thought by Jeffrey P. Fultz 

According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, there has been a trend towards the manufacturing of autonomous, or self-driving cars. [1]Now that several companies have advanced that part of the automotive industry, there notion of automated commercial tractors/trucks seems to be heading our way. Forecasters indicate several reasons for the push for automated trucks:

  • The number of truck drivers is declining;
  • The automated trucks have the potential of reducing total costs of ownership;
  • The simplicity of implementing the automated technology into commercial vehicles; and
  • The possibility of making mega trucks with a gross weight of 60 tons! Another driving force behind this idea is that the number of trucks on the road represents 5% of the total vehicle population, but commercial trucks consume 20% of the transportation fuel.

The fuel efficiency in the commercial vehicles would be greatly enhanced, which is an important factor in the overall trucking business for private and public owners. Fuel efficiency, and added safety features planned for the new age trucks would also provide an advantage over the current safety components in commercial vehicles. While these new commercial vehicles may be more expensive on the front end, changes in the design, fuel efficiency and safety would cut down on the overall expense of the maintenance and lifecycle of owning one of these vehicles. There are four different levels of automated driving defined by the NHTSA:

  • Level 1 is when the driver is fully in control of all driving inputs (most trucks are Level 1 today);
  • Level 2 is an autonomous truck with ADAS functionality (in use for about 5 years);
  • Level 3 trucks still require a driver, but can be switched into an auto-pilot type mode in safe circumstances; and
  • Level 4 is capable of driving itself in all situations, without a driver! These higher level commercial tractors could be in operation by 2025.

[1]​Forbes Article by Sarwant Singh, with contribution from Sandeep Kar, of Frost & Sullivan, dated May 19, 2015.

Jeffrey Fultz is an attorney at  ​Willingham, Fultz & Cougill Attorneys at Law​ in Houston, TX.  Contact him at 601-863-2100 or JeffreyF@willingham­law.com.

Unleash your business's full potential​ - it's possible with TruckLogics

Designed by owner­ operators and small fleets like you, TruckLogics delivers all of the features you need to manage your business, but at a price you can afford. With packages starting under $5 a month, you can unlock a range of features that will stream line your business and increase profits. From one ­click trip sheets, to automatic IFTA filings, to maintenance reminders, TruckLogics has you covered in all arenas. You will never waste time on paperwork again, and you will never have to worry about losing your documents either. That's just one benefit of the cloud technology used in TruckLogics.

But the greatest benefit is mobility! Because everything is stored in the cloud, you can keep managing your business wherever the road takes you, and you can access your account from any device, too. We've even created an iOS & Android app for business owners and their drivers to use for free. This not only allows you to stay up-to-date with dispatches and log trip expenses when they occur, it also improves communication between fleet managers and drivers thanks to the quick  Check Call feature. 

Paramount to all of this is TruckLogics dedicated support team. Offering 24/7, USA-based support, our Support Crew works diligently to keep users informed of the latest industry news while offering advice for increasing efficiency across the board. Just check out our blog 7 Ways to maximize yours trucking business, to see what we’re talking about.  

If you're ready to upgrade to a more efficient business management solution, then look no further. The TruckLogics team is waiting for you, just give us a call at (704) 234­6946. 

Communicating with the IRS by Jim O'Donnell

I speak with driver severy week, who have contacted our office after they've received a notice from the IRS. The reason for the phone call is typically because the IRS has attached a levy to their bank account, garnished their wages or the IRS has gone as far as attaching a lien to the driver's truck and sometimes their home.

If you don't complete annual tax returns, the IRS will electronically complete and file the tax return for you. The IRS will only award you a standard deduction, leaving you with an enormous tax liability that you don't actually owe. In some cases, a successful driver can have a sizeable amount of tax liability; however, if a tax return is prepared properly, the liability is rarely close to the number the IRS electronically generates. 

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

If you receive a notice from the IRS, don't ignore it, it doesn't go away. As soon as you receive the notice, pick up a phone and contact the IRS. Believe it or not, the IRS is not the enemy. They simply want to have your tax returns properly filed each year. 

Settle IRS Tax Debt

There are a few ways you can contact the IRS to settle your tax debt. You can request to set up an "Installment Agreement" which allows you to pay your tax debt via monthly payments over a period of time. This type of payment plan can be applied for online through the official IRS website, or by mailing a completed Form 9465 (Installment Agreement Request). 
Another way to settle IRS tax debt is with an "Offer in Compromise" which allows the tax payer to pay less than the full amount they actually owe. The IRS will consider this type of arrangement in certain circumstances. To apply, you must submit Form 656­B (Offer in Compromise Booklet) to the IRS. 

Resolving Tax Disputes 

If you are involved in an unresolved tax dispute with the IRS, you can contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) to get assistance from a local advocate. There is at least one TAS office in every state. You can find the address and phone number of your local TAS office by visiting the IRS website or by calling 1-877-­777-4778. Or you can complete Form 911 (Request for Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance) and mail/fax it to your local TAX office.  ax Questions?  Please feel free to contact our office at:  (888) ­799­-1099 or​ www.truckertaxservice.com 

Tips to Minimize Shipping Broker Liability​ by ​ Paige Herring

Over the past ten to fifteen years, the usage of shipping brokers has been grown exponentially. This is especially true over the latter half of that period with the growth of the internet and the usage websites which allow trucking companies (or brokers) to bid or solicit for work. While these types of arrangements create savings and facilitate speedy communication, they can result in potential exposure. While no one can guarantee that you will be never sued, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce your exposure if you engage in brokerage services.

Most legal arguments are generally grouped into two categories, negligence and respondeat superior liability. The negligence prong in based upon the simple fact that the broker is obligated to take reasonable steps to select a carrier who is safe, prudent and conscientious - in a word - responsible. if a shipping broker fails to have any type of vetting process to determine the competency of the carriers it selects, then the risk of liability increases.

The respondent superior argument is premised, in large part, upon the actions of the broker after the  contract for shipping is bound. Essentially this legal theory creates liability on the part of an employer for the  acts of an employee. Brokers often think that they can avoid liability for the acts of the employee of another.  Normally they can, but the age of ever­-present communication has intruded upon this legal bar to liability.  Some brokers require daily updates, regular telephone calls, documentation during the trip and/or monitoring  of the trip. This creates a situation for an astute attorney to argue that the broker is, in fact, the carrier,  operating in the guise of a broker. Put another way, the more you run the show, the more likely you pay the  dough.

Finally, the contracts and shipping documents governing the shipment should not be neglected. Legal liabilities can often be transferred, assumed, or minimized by contractual language. You need to insure that your role and responsibilities are clear. For example, if you are the broker, make sure that you are not listed as the carrier on any of the shipping documents. This may not eliminate your liability, but it reduces your profile and potentially eliminates a legal issue as to what your responsibilities were in the transaction.

In conclusion, there is no magic formula. No legal case has created a nationwide standard for avoiding  broker liability. What has emerged, from a variety of cases and jurisdictions, is that to reduce your exposure  as a broker, you must have a process in place to determine if a carrier is safe, responsible and reliable.  When you finally select a carrier, you have to trust that carrier to do its job. Lastly, the contractual and  shipping documents need to clearly define and limit the scope of your work. 

Paige Herring is an attorney at Scott, Sullivan, Streetman, & Fox, P.C. in Jackson, MS.
Contact him at 601-­607­-4800 or PHerring@sssf­ms.com.

The Dos & Don’ts of a DOT Safety Audit by Attorney ​Jason Engkjer

A U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) audit can be stressful for a motor carrier. The key to navigating an audit is to understand the dos and don’ts before, during and after the audit. Here area few suggestions to help the motor carrier through the audit process. 

DO implement a written set of record keeping protocols before an audit ever occurs. Written protocols can prove helpful for a number of reasons. First, written protocols help ensure compliance with federal record keeping laws. Second, written protocols provide your safety and record keeping managers with a quick reference guide in the case of a question. Finally, showing a DOT inspector a set of written protocols can help mitigate a violation the inspector may discover during the course of the investigation. Thorough and accurate record keeping will lead to a successful audit. 

DO NOT, after receiving notice of an audit, attempt to re­write or falsify records. Obviously the wrong thing  to do, but carriers attempt to re­write, and even falsify, records after receiving an audit notice. Never attempt to falsely revise or rewrite records before an audit. Falsified records carry a hefty price that can include substantial financial penalties, criminal prosecution, and a downgrade in the carrier’s safety rating. Consult with an attorney before you revise anything. 

DO control the audit environment. Inspectors may attempt to conduct a "surprise" audit. Scheduling is a relatively murky issue, but try to reschedule the inspection to a later convenient time for you and the inspector. Request the list of records the inspector wants to review well before the audit. Have those records ready the day of the audit, and be prepared to locate additional documents during the audit. On the day of the audit, provide the inspector with a separate room to review documents. Do not allow the inspector to wander around the terminal unescorted or randomly interview employees. If the inspector asks to  interview someone, schedule the interview for a later time. Assign a staff member to sit with the inspector during the audit to observe and obtain documents. The staff member should not talk substantively with the inspector without a supervisor or counsel present. Most importantly, be polite and cooperative. If you feel  the inspector is over stepping bounds, contact your attorney. 

DO NOT sign anything before consulting with an attorney. An inspector's job is to enforce motor carrier laws and regulations. However, inspectors may pressure carriers into signing documents during or immediately after an audit. The form may look fairly benign. Other times, the inspector may ask the motor carrier to acknowledge violations to support a later Notice of Claim (NOC). Do not succumb to the pressure or sign any document without consulting your attorney first. If you do receive a NOC, contact your attorney immediately to discuss the violation(s), the penalties, and your options to contest the NOC or negotiate a settlement. 

Navigating a US DOT audit can be a daunting task. Following a few simple rules will not only help lead to a successful audit, but keep the roads safe for all. 

Contact Jason Engkjer if you have any questions regarding audits or any other transportation law related matters. 

Jason Engkjer is an attorney at  ​Kalina, Wills, Gisvold & Clark​  in Minneapolis MN. 

How to Decide Your Business Formation  ​by Transportation Attorney ​Richard Abrams

In my opinion, I feel that incorporating as an LLC or Corporation are the only realistic options for truckers. There are other forms of business entities, but most are not worth the trouble and offer limited or no  protection from personal liability. A Sole Proprietorship or working under a d/b/a is just asking for trouble because your personal assets are not protected. I like the LLC because it is easier to manage than a regular Corporation.

There is lots of useful information on the internet such as the comparison below. The comparison is accurate and easy to understand. Note that each set of benefits is only a partial list of what you get. Also, there can  be slight or significant variations from state to state. But generally, this is a good place to start.   

C-Corporation

A C-Corporation is a standard, general for profit, state formed corporation. Some its benefits include:

  • Separate legal and Tax life A corporation assumes a separate legal and tax life distinct from its shareholder. A corporation pays a taxes at its own corporate income tax rates and files its own corporate tax returns each year.
  • Fringe Benefits In some cases owner employees may often deduct health insurance premiums paid by the corporation from corporate income. Some corporate defined plans may offer better retirement options and benefits than those offered by non-corporate-plans.
  • Avoiding Double Taxation Generally, corporation is a taxed for its own profits, then any profit paid out in the form of dividends are taxed again to the recipient as dividend income and the individuals shareholders tax rate.
    However, most small corporations rarely pay dividends. Rather, owner-employees are paid salaries and fringe benefits that are tax deductible to the corporation.

LLC/Limited Liability Company

A Limited Liability Company is a state formed entity. Some if its benefits include:

  • Taxation LLC'S allows for pass-through taxation.
  • Liability Protection In most liability claims associated with management of the company the individual proprietor and his/her personal assets are protected.
  • Ease of Maintenance The annual compliance paper work is less complicated and in most cases less expensive than a corporation.

Sub Chapter S-Corporation

  • Taxation S corporation avoid the possibility of double taxation on profits. Shareholder of an S Corporation are typically not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business.

Remember that everyone's situation is different and can affect the type of business entity that is right for you. However, whatever the differences may be, a Corporation or LLC is where you'll likely end up and is therefore where you should begin.

The US Small Business Administration website provides lots of useful information regarding forming, running and managing a small business.www.sba.gov

Richard Abrams is an attorney at Mintzer, Sarwitz, Zeris, Ledva & Meyers LLP in Wilmington, DE.


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