By Jim Hanni, Jennifer Haugh of AAA, New AAA Foundation study shows that more than 200,000 crashes are caused by road debris.
As we arrive on another busy moving season AAA wants to be sure you’re securing that load! Whether you’re moving the whole family, the college student or cleaning out the garage and hauling things off, take these precautions to avoid causing trouble on the roadways.
AAA is calling for drivers to properly secure their loads to prevent dangerous debris.
AAA researchers examined common characteristics of crashes involving road debris and found that:
More than 200,000 crashes involved debris on U.S. roadways during the past four years, according to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Road debris has resulted in approximately 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths between 2011 and 2014.
About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads. Crashes involving vehicle related-debris increased 40 percent since 2001, when the Foundation first studied the issue. The most common types of vehicle debris are:
Drivers can decrease their chances of being involved in a road debris crash by:
“Continually searching the road at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead can help drivers be prepared in the case of debris,” said William Van Tassel, Manager of Driver Training Programs for AAA. “Always try to maintain open space on at least one side of your vehicle in case you need to steer around an object. If you see you are unable to avoid debris on the roadway, safely reduce your speed as much as possible before making contact.”
AAA also recommends that drivers avoid tailgating and remain alert while on the road. Additional tips on defensive driving and how to report road debris to the proper authorities are available online at AAA.com/PreventRoadDebris.
AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 56 million members nationwide. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.aaa.com.
NATM has had a number of successes in its Government Affairs program over the past several years due in large part to the relationships NATM members have built with their local members of Congress. Through NATM's plant tours, legislative roundtables and Capitol Hill visits, NATM has built an awareness of the trailer manufacturing industry and the impact it has on the various states and legislative districts.
With over 60 new members in Congress, it is crucial that companies in the light- and medium-duty trailer industry continue to build relationships and awareness of the industry with legislators. With many of the new congressional members joining the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, NATM is encouraging both suppliers and trailer manufacturers to schedule virtual plant tours this year. All members of Congress have an impact on the outcome of any legislation, so it is important to recruit advocates that understand and support the trailer industry.
With the highway reauthorization expiring in 2021 and continued pressure for infrastructure investment, it is expected that President Biden and Congress will seek to make bold decisions in the area of transportation, which makes engagement with key decision makers critical. Further, several iterations of the bill in both the House and Senate contemplate additional underride requirements that would be potentially more expansive than existing regulation. All NATM members are encouraged to get involved in the Association’s government affairs outreach, particularly if you see your Member of Congress on the list below.
Historically, plant tours have taken place onsite at member company facilities. As COVID-19 protocols limit visitors, NATM is encouraging members to host virtual plant tours online for 2021.
For those companies interested in engaging, NATM has template invite letters and other resources to make the process easier. NATM’s government affairs group K&L Gates will contact the congressional offices and schedule the event once the company completes the template invitation letter. The Association will provide a suggested tour outline and talking points. With the switch to virtual, the plant tours will take place on a Zoom call and feature a slide deck of photos of the facility and/or a pre-taped video walk through.
If your business is represented by a new legislator, listed below, or sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (Committee list here), NATM highly encourages you to host your representative for a virtual plant tour.
If you are interested in hosting a plant visit, contact Assistant Director Meghan Ryan at Meghan.Ryan@natm.com or call NATM Headquarters at (785) 272-4433. If your business is represented by a new legislator, listed below, or sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (Committee list here), NATM highly encourages you to host your representative for a virtual plant tour.
In the trailer manufacturing industry, a successful business is dependent upon an educated, highly skilled workforce; however, it is becoming a challenge to retain this type of worker. That’s why NATM wants to feature members who have overcome this challenge to successfully obtain a skilled workforce.
NATM is looking to collect information regarding the workforce challenge your company faced, how you successfully navigated said challenge, and any advice you might have for those in the industry with similar obstacles. Combating Workforce Issues social posts will feature your company’s story, tagged social media profile, as well as a photo related to the story being discussed.
Photos and stories can be submitted here: www.natm.com/get_social.
By Dennis Poter & Brody Garland, K&L Gates
The dust has finally settled, and 2021 has ushered in a unified Democratic government, with President Joe Biden occupying the White House and Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress, both by the slimmest of margins.
The 117th Congress will be defined by two new and competing dynamics: unified government bringing the opportunity for the Democratic Party to execute an ambitious legislative agenda, in some cases by simple majority votes, while the narrow majorities in both chambers will embolden the bi-partisan center and promote moderation.
The Georgia runoff election victories of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock delivered the 2 seats needed to even the partisan split to 50-50 in the Senate. With the inauguration of President Biden, this means that Vice President Kamala Harris will break all ties on votes in the Senate. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will ascended to the role of Majority Leader. With the even split, the work of the new Senate will be contingent on power sharing agreements and cooperation with his minority counterpart, something we last experienced in 2001 when the Senate was briefly 50-50.
A shift in the majority has also ushered in new leadership on the Committee level, with Senate Democrats holding Chairman gavels for the first time since 2014. A notable new Committee Chair is Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who will have jurisdiction over highways, shipping, transportation security, interstate commerce, economic development, and technology. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) continues his efforts on the Committee as the Ranking Member.
With the narrowest of possible majorities and a group of moderates anchoring the center such as Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the legislative agenda will not skew as far left as some might expect, but it is important to remember that control of the chamber does furnish Leader Schumer with certain procedural advantages that may embolden him – control of floor time and which priorities receive votes, reconciliation measures (which will allow Democrats to pass some big ticket items with a simple majority), the ability to uncoil certain Trump Administration regulations via the Congressional Review Act (another procedural tool that requires only a majority threshold), as well as more leeway to advance President Biden nominees.
On the other side of the Capitol, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was re-elected to serve as Speaker of the House for the 117th Congress. A condensed majority, coupled with the voting restrictions of COVID-19, threatened to challenge the Speaker’s fourth run at the gavel, but in the end just 5 members of her caucus voted against her or abstained. Speaker Pelosi will possess the gavel, but election losses have narrowed her ruling majority, creating opportunities for moderate Democrats and frustrating the ambitions of the progressive left. On the Committee level, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) returns as Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, alongside Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO).
In addition to changes in leadership and shifts in the governing majority, the new Congress will add over 60 new members to the rank and file. Below is a list of the new members of the 117th Congress. Many of these Members will be joining the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee where they will have a voice on issues important to NATM’s members. With the highway reauthorization expiring in 2021 and continued drumbeats for infrastructure investment, it is expected that President Biden and Congress will seek to make bold decisions in this area. NATM has already begun engaging in these discussions and will continue to promote its legislative agenda.
We encourage NATM members to get involved in the Association’s government affairs outreach, particularly if you see your Member of Congress on the list below and would be willing to invite them, when COVID-19 protocols allow, to tour your facility, meet their constituents, and learn more about the light- and medium-duty trailer manufacturing industry.
Dennis Potter is a Government Affairs Advisor and Brody Garland is a Government Affairs Analyst at the law and lobbying firm of K&L Gates, where they represent NATM and other clients on legislative, regulatory, policy, and political matters. Mr. Potter can be reached at email@example.com and Mr. Garland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NATM is pleased to announce the launch of the NATM Resource Library! In line with the Association’s mission and the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan, NATM is excited to provide members with relevant educational information that’s easily accessible. This long-awaited member benefit will streamline how NATM members receive the latest information regarding new technology developments, best practices for manufacturers, HR, and administrative needs as well as a host of other topics. The NATM Resource Library provides members with a sense of community via live chats, member profiles, and comment threads on the articles.
The NATM Resource Library also provides the Association another opportunity to lead the industry in safety. NATM is proud to offer a library of resources specifically dedicated to trailer users—a highly requested resource. This area dedicated to trailer users is just another way the Association is working towards educating this audience on the importance of compliant trailers, trailer safety, and the NATM Compliance Verification Program.
Members can access the NATM Resource Library by visiting www.NATMShop.com.
Once on the site, navigate to the top right-hand corner where the Log In bar is located. Click on this bar to create a NATM
Resource Library username and password. Make sure to either use a NATM member company email or indicate the member company name while logging in.
NATM staff will approve the log-in request so the NATM Resource Library can be accessed. Once approved, log-in and navigate to the top of the site page where it says “Resource Library” and click.
Once on the NATM Resource Library landing page, members can either utilize the search bar or browse through the five categories: Technical, Compliance Verification Program, Membership/ Marketing, Business Administration/HR, or Consumer Information.
This exclusive benefit will be updated regularly with new articles and topics ensuring NATM members have access to the latest information regarding the trailer industry.
Questions? Reach out via the chat box on NATMShop.com or by email at email@example.com.
An Excerpt from “You’re the Problem (and the Solution)” by Bob Clements and Sara Hey
Many of the dealers we work with put themselves last. They put everything and everyone else first—their employees, their expenses, their sanity—until there is nothing left at the end of the month for them. When we start talking about cash flow, it’s not uncommon to hear an audible gasp as this is a subject that dealers don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. In my mind, I think that’s because there are major misconceptions around cash flow and money in a dealership. Many times, it starts with your employees. Your employees assume that, since you own the dealership, you go home at the end of the night and count your piles of cash, which is all locked in a secret room in your house that you designed specifically for that purpose. If you are doing that, more power to you; but, if you’re not, you are like most dealers around the country.
While your employees might see money coming into the dealership, what most employees don’t see is the large amounts of money going out of the dealership. They assume that since you sell X number of units a year, you just put that money directly into your pocket. They don’t see the cost of the equipment, payroll, payroll taxes, liability insurance, workers compensation, building maintenance, or any of the other hundreds of expenses you have to pay from your ever-thinning margins. They may assume you are filthy rich with no care in the world and can’t reconcile why you aren’t driving an expensive sports car to the dealership every single day. We all know that the scenario many of your employees have created in their heads may not be reality.
The struggle, many times, is how you bridge this gap of the misconceptions that the people around you (and maybe even you) have around money management inside of your dealership, with the changes that need to happen in order to have a profitable and thriving business. And heck, a happy and full bank account.
So, let’s work on changing the misconceptions that you walk into your dealership with, and start taking your profit before anything else. The idea of taking your profit first may seem a little (or a lot) overwhelming. So, how do you do this without feeling like you are going to faint every time?
1. Make the decision that things aren’t going to remain the same.
In Habit One, we talked about our surviving-versus-thriving vision. Surviving is a fine place to be, but not a place you want to stay. You are not doing anyone any favors being the last one paid, or not being paid at all. You have put too much time, sweat, and tears into your dealership for it not to provide you with the life you want. So, plan to take your profit first. Step one is to make the all-in, scary decision that you are going to make a change. This means that you choose, from now on, to pay yourself first, even when things seem like they are getting tight.
What you are getting ready to do makes a lot of logical sense from a numbers standpoint, but emotionally it will feel uncomfortable. As you begin this process and experience this discomfort, you will have to make the decision over and over again that you are going to require your business to pay you before anything else gets paid. So long are the years of looking at your P & L statement and seeing that you made a profit but have no idea where it went. So long to paying yourself but not cashing the checks. You are going to know exactly where it went because you are taking it out on a regular basis.
The decision you are getting ready to make is that you, maybe for the very first time, are going to take control of your cash flow, and not let your cash flow take control of you. How do you do this? You do this by creating a budget that pays you first. What is left, after you are paid, is what you have available to pay your employees and the other expenses that come with running your dealership. What do you do if there isn’t enough? You either need to increase your revenue or decrease your expenses. I wish there was more to it, but there isn’t. You have to make the decision to deal with being uncomfortable, so that you can gain control of your dealership, your life, and your sanity.
Do you know what the easier, but disastrous, option is? Letting your cash flow take control of you. Do you know what will help you be profitable and help you sleep better at night? You, taking control of your cash flow. It’s up to you. Do you want easy or do you want money in the bank? This decision is solely up to you.
2. Start with 1 percent.
So, you decided to choose money in the bank, over easy, or at least you are really starting to consider it. How do we start? How is it that after this decision your bank account will start reflecting the choice?
To start, I want you to pick a percentage that you, as an owner, are going to take as profit or retained earnings out of your business, as well as a salary. It doesn’t need to be big, but I need you to get used to taking a paycheck. So often, the dealership owners we work with take a little here and there out of the business, wait until the end of the year, and hope to see something left in the bank account.
So, instead of taking the approach that doesn’t work, pick a percentage that you want to set aside as profit or retained earnings, and an amount of salary that you deserve for all of your personal investment, risk, and liability. Then, off the top of your budget, deduct the percentage you’ve decided on from the profit that is produced and set it aside. Then, deduct the amount of your pay. The portion that’s left is what you are going to operate your business on.
If just simply reading this is giving you incredible anxiety and possibly heart palpitations, start with 1 percent off the top. That’s it. One percent of every dollar of profit produced in your dealership should be deposited in a separate bank account. This money is for your use. You can hold it as retained earnings, pay yourself as a distribution or dividend, or maybe begin to reimburse yourself for money you have previously invested into the dealership. How you do this may be decided by how your business is set up: sole proprietorship, LLC, S Corp, or C Corp. Connect with your CPA to make sure you are taking this money out of the business in the correct way for your situation.
Here’s an example of what this looks like. Let’s say you expect to gross $100,000 in revenue next month. From that you generated $9,000 of gross profit in sales, $10,000 in parts gross profit, and $7,500 in service gross profit. You now have a $26,500 pool of gross profit to run your dealership for the month. You would take 1 percent out of that amount ($265). Then, let’s say you plan to pay yourself $3,000. You would deduct that amount.
$26,500 – $265 – $3,000 = $23,235
This leaves you $23,235 to operate the dealership on for the month.
Moving forward, look at the next month. You know the season will begin to slow down and you anticipate bringing in only $80,000. Using the same percentages as before, sales would produce $7,200 of gross profit, parts would produce $9,600 in gross profit, and service would produce $6,000 in gross profit.
So, your gross profit pool now has $22,800 in it. Take the 1 percent ($228) and set it aside. Deduct your gross salary of $3,000 and the rest ($19,572) is what you have to run your dealership on for the month ($22,800 – $228 – $3,000 = $19,572).
If you fear it will not be enough, then now is the time to consider how to increase revenue or decrease expenses. No matter what, don’t leave yourself out of the equation. This will force you to consider other approaches to fix the problem. If you are wondering how I came up with the gross profit numbers, I used our balanced dealership approach. As we work with dealers, we work to have 60 percent of gross revenue generated by sales, 25 percent by parts, and 15 percent through service. I used a 15 percent gross profit margin on sales, a 40 percent gross profit on parts, and a 50 percent gross profit on labor.
The most important part of the exercise is that you created a habit of paying yourself first. Is 1 percent where it ends? Absolutely not. You should work toward the goal of putting 10 percent of every profit dollar produced into your pocket. I know that seems like a huge number when you are simply celebrating a 1 percent payment to yourself, but it is possible.
Something interesting starts to happen when you give the business less money to run on. You and your team will find a way to adjust expenses and force your business to run on what is available (or you will find new ways to make money).
Think about it this way. If you were given a brand-new tube of toothpaste, how would you use it? At first, you might be overly generous with the amount of toothpaste you put on your toothbrush. If some extra fell off and landed in the sink, it wouldn’t be a big deal. However, if I were to give you a tube of toothpaste with only a small amount of toothpaste left in it (and you couldn’t go buy any more for at least a week), how long could you make it last? My guess is as long as you needed. In fact, I bet you could make that toothpaste last two more weeks! When you feel like there is an excess of resources available to you, you typically get careless in using them. However, when you feel like what you have is scarce, you use it more wisely. That’s exactly the mindset shift that I need you to take on in regard to your money. Take what you should off the top and learn to run the dealership on what is then available or left over.
3. Put your 1 percent (or more) somewhere you won’t touch it, and have someone hold you accountable.
Where you put your money is equally as important as taking the money out. Now, I’m not saying an account in the Bahamas is the answer; that just looks shady. But you can’t leave your money in the same account that you pay your expenses out of (or an account where you will be tempted to loan it right back to the dealership—we know you do this!) because you know as well as I do that the money will be simply absorbed, and your hard work and determination will be all for nothing. When that happens, you feel defeated and wonder why you even tried.
So, open a separate account simply for this money. That’s all you want to put into this account. Maybe you know yourself well enough to know that a separate account at the same bank won’t do and you need to move the money to a different bank that is not linked in any way to the business. If that’s what you need to do, just do it. There is no judgment here. Our focus is simply that we want you to get in the rhythm of having your business pay you, as the owner, on every single profit dollar that is generated each month.
Some of the dealers we work with go one step further when starting to implement this change. One of our advisors has his dealers send him a picture of the “off the top” check as proof that they are taking it out of the business. Above that, he asks them to tell him what they are going to use the money for. Sometimes it is to accomplish a goal they have set, maybe it is designated for something fun, or at other times it’s simply to help them survive. Now, you may or may not need that accountability, but I will tell you, if you aren’t currently paying yourself on a regular basis from your business, at first, it will feel strange. And, if you need someone to tell you that it’s okay to pay yourself first, I’m here to tell you, IT’S OKAY!! In fact, it’s critical.
4. Consider doing something fun with the money you are earning (at least in a small way).The last step is the best step. This is where you get to dream a little. Think about something you would like to do and how you could use this money on something you and your family would enjoy. Maybe it can go toward a vacation or furniture fund, savings for a lake house, or just a night out at your favorite restaurant. You have worked hard to generate this revenue in your business, and now is your time to celebrate your hard work, risk, and focus. So, pick something fun and do it.
Now we need to turn our attention to another matter. Let’s say that after you take out your salary, there is not enough money to cover all your expenses, specifically your employee expense. It might be that you are overpaying your people. Let’s walk through how you should calculate what each employee, by department, should be earning.
For 15 years, Monica Johnson has been a fixture of NATM and an invaluable contributor to the Association’s success. On Jan. 31, Monica will be joining her husband in their next great chapter —retirement!
In 2006, NATM hired Monica to assist with part-time administrative work. She quickly proved herself to be capable, versatile, and meticulous with details, and as such, she started supporting the Convention, member services, and the NATM Compliance Verification Program. While in this role, Monica became the master user of NATM’s membership database, serving as a resource to her entire team. On top of this, Monica has also been a vital part of NATM’s onboarding process over the years. Her expansive knowledge of NATM’s programs and processes as well as her innate teaching ability and endless patience have made her a key trainer for new staff.
As NATM’s staff structure continued to evolve, and Monica continued to prove her adaptability and attention to detail, she was promoted to Trade Show Director, working with exhibitors and overseeing registration. She helped to streamline processes and sold out the trade show floor year after year. In this role, Monica also led the transition of the Association with the unenviable task of switching membership databases —a project which took many months and long hours to carry out. Monica quickly learned the new system and again trained her fellow employees. Not long after, Monica played a significant role in transitioning NATM’s Convention booth sales process to an online software—a transition which has paid dividends in time, resources, and user ease since its implementation.
In 2017, as the NATM staff again evolved, Monica was approached to take over the role of Quality Director, handling NATM’s Quality Management System and ensuring its adherence to ISO 17020, an international standard for certification bodies. Monica was the perfect fit for this role. Her attention to detail, expansive knowledge of NATM and its processes, and ability to work independently and self-motivate set her apart. While the Quality Director role was not one that Monica had envisioned for herself, it was her commitment to what is best for her team that led to her taking on the role willingly and with fervor.
Monica is a “Jane-of-All-Trades”, the best example of a utility player. She knows it all because during her 15 years she has done it all. She provides historical perspective, but is equally invested in change and progress—she truly lives a life devoted to continuous improvement. Monica has spent her tenure being a reliable, hardworking, and loyal member of the NATM team. She has taken on new roles and changing responsibilities with incredible grace and flexibility. She is trusted by her entire team to do whatever needs to be done and to do it well. She will be leaving the Association better than she found it.
As Monica embarks on her well-deserved retirement, NATM will miss her immensely. The NATM staff will miss her steadfast approach to all tasks, her willingness to pitch in, and the baked goods she would bring throughout the year —but most especially the giant tray of goodies around the holidays. She treated her coworkers like friends, she cared deeply about everyone, and she showed that in countless ways over her 15 years with NATM.
NATM wishes Monica well as she settles into the full-time role of wife, mother, and “Grandmama” to four adorable grandsons! May this next chapter be filled with things she loves most!
NATM headquarters receives frequent questions from trailer dealers and end-users about state troopers and local law enforcement officers pulling over towed trailers the drivers thought did not require a commercial driver's license (CDL). Is this a result of overly-aggressive law enforcement at work? Or a lack of awareness regarding CDL laws? Perhaps a combination of both?
What appears to be behind these inquiries is the vagueness of the CDL laws and the general confusion and disagreement this vagueness naturally generates. So, let’s try to clear up some of this confusion. Congress has charged the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) with responsibility for implementing the federal CDL laws through federal regulations and has directed the states to issue CDLs in conformity with these regulations. The FMCSA’s CDL regulations appear in the Code of Federal Regulations, 49 C.F.R. Part 383. The FMCSA requires drivers to have a CDL – either a Class A, a Class B, or Class C (for transporting passengers or hazardous materials) – in order to operate defined types of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce.
To clarify its regulations, the FMCSA publishes a graphic illustrating the various vehicle configurations constituting the groups of CMVs requiring a Class A or Class B CDL. That graphic can be found to the left. State and local law enforcement often refer to it for guidance.
The FMCSA requires drivers to have a CDL to operate a motor vehicle if that vehicle meets the FMCSA definition of a “commercial motor vehicle” and is used in “commerce.” The FMCSA defines both terms in this two-part requirement in 49 C.F.R. § 383.5. The great misunderstanding out there, within the trailer industry and probably within the law enforcement community, about the CDL requirements springs from those two definitions, particularly the word “commerce.”
The FMCSA defines a “commercial motor vehicle” as a motor vehicle, or a combination of motor vehicles, in certain GVWR-based configurations, when used in “commerce” to transport “property or passengers.” The physical configuration component of the CMV definition is very mechanical, very objective. When dealing with a tow vehicle-trailer combination, you look at the gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of the tow vehicle if the tow-vehicle manufacturer has assigned it a GCWR and displays it on its certification label. With respect to the familiar combination, a tow vehicle (whether truck, automobile, or tractor) towing a trailer, the driver needs a CDL if the tow-vehicle manufacturer’s assigned GCWR exceeds 26,000 lbs. (as shown on its cert label) and the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) exceeds 10,000 lbs. If there is no assigned GCWR, the FMCSA regulations require the driver to have a CDL only if the sum of the GVWRs of the tow vehicle and the trailer together exceeds 26,000 lbs. and the trailer’s GVWR exceeds 10,000 lbs. In either scenario that satisfies the definition of “commercial motor vehicle,” the driver will need a Class A CDL, assuming the trailer’s use also satisfies the second component of the CDL requirement, “used in commerce,” as discussed below.
With respect to a single vehicle, the FMCSA requires the driver to have a Class B CDL to operate that truck, bus, van, or automobile in commerce if that vehicle has a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs. It is required even if that vehicle is a power unit (truck, automobile, or van) and is towing a trailer with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less. If the trailer’s GVWR exceeds 10,0000 lbs., a Class A CDL is needed if its use also satisfies the second prong of the CDL requirement.
The second prong of the CDL requirement, and of the CMV definition, is much more troubling, much more subjective, and the primary source of the confusion. To qualify as a CMV requiring a CDL, that vehicle, even in a qualifying GCWR/GVWR configuration, must be used in “commerce.” “Commerce” has its own separate definition in § 385.3 of the FMCSA’s regulations. The FMCSA defines it broadly as any trade, traffic, or transportation between points in one state and points in another state or any trade, traffic, or transportation that “affects” trade, traffic, or transportation in the U.S. between points in one state and points in another. Not exactly an enlightening definition, to say the least. How this “use” assessment turns out often varies depending upon who is doing the assessing. And that is often the law enforcement officer on the scene.
As a starting point, the proper inquiry, then, is whether this questionable CMV is transporting property (across state lines) for some commercial purpose, as opposed to for the personal use of the owner, driver, or some other person. What the trailer owner considers his or her own “personal use” may in fact, upon close examination, turn out to be for a “commercial purpose” when viewed through the critical eyes of the state or local law enforcement officer. Let’s examine several tricky examples:
The trailer owner is towing his own horses to a horse show or his livestock to the state fair where monetary prizes are awarded. That familiar scenario is likely to be categorized as a commercial undertaking or commercial purpose from the vantage point of the diligent state trooper who pulls over the driver looking for that CDL.
Suppose instead those horses belong to a stable whose owner charges the public by the hour to ride them. Another commercial purpose according to a strict interpretation of the term. It does not matter that no business name or logo is displayed on the side of the truck or trailer towing these horses.
Now suppose it is a college student behind the wheel of Dad’s 16,000 lbs. GVWR truck towing his family’s lawn mower around the neighborhood in Dad’s utility trailer to earn a few bucks mowing lawns to off-set that college tuition. He is likely to need a Class A CDL if that trailer’s GVWR exceeds 10,000 lbs. Remember, this is in intrastate commerce – see below for discussion of further complication.
Complicating the question of whether a CDL is necessary are a hodge-podge of state CDL laws, many of which are at variance with the federal law that FMCSA has issued. States are not prohibited from enacting their own state CDL laws, applying them to non-interstate movements (i.e. the trailer does not cross the state line), if those state laws are stricter than the federal law. In theory, the state law of State A might require its residents to have a different class of CDL, perhaps designated as a “Class D,” to tow a 26,000-lbs. GVWR trailer when used for personal use. In the third “tricky example” above, even if the student does not need a CDL under federal law to haul his lawn mower (because the trailer’s GVWR is less than 10,000 lbs.), he may need one anyway because the state law of the state where he resides requires one even to pull a light-duty trailer.
State A must, however, honor the out-of-state driver’s license issued by State B to its residents: for example, if State B does not require a CDL for its residents to operate a vehicle for personal use, then State A may not require a State B resident to have a CDL while operating a vehicle for personal use in State A even if State A requires its own residents to have a “Class D” CDL for this purpose.
The CDL complaints that NATM fields typically revolve around the smaller, medium-duty trailers (between 10,000 lbs. and 26,000 lbs. GVWR) and the debate over personal use vs. commercial use. In sum, assuming commercial use, when the GVWR of the truck exceeds 26,000 lbs., a CDL is required, regardless of the GVWR of the trailer, and when the GVWR of the truck is less than 26,000 lbs., a CDL is required only if (1) that truck’s GVWR and the trailer’s GVWR, added together, exceed 26,000 lbs. and (2) the trailer’s GVWR exceeds 10,000 lbs.
Dealers should be prepared to provide that objective guidance about what tow vehicle-trailer configurations may need a CDL when asked by their customers, but they would be well advised to stay away from declaring, when asked, that the customer’s intended end-use of the trailer meets or does not meet the FMCSA definition of “used in commerce.” This precaution is especially warranted if the trailer’s intended use, as described by the owner, falls within the murky, gray area of personal vs. commercial use or the dealer is unsure about the niceties of the state CDL laws that might apply. It is also important for the dealer to keep in mind that a trailer’s use might be “personal” on one or more trips but “in commerce” on others. Better that the driver have that CDL and not need it than not to have one when stopped and forced try to explain to the officer that this “trip” is really only a “one-off,” a rare exception to his usual personal use.
The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM), known as the resource for safety and compliance for the light- and medium-duty trailer industry, has published the 2020 edition of the Guidelines. This massive document takes the guesswork out of meeting federal requirements governing the manufacturing of trailers under 26,000 lbs. GVWR and is a benefit of NATM membership.
Building trailers to meet the federal regulations outlined in the NATM Guidelines is not optional. It is required by law and enforced by law enforcement every day on the nation’s roadways. But it can be very time-intensive for trailer manufacturers to research the numerous federal rules, regulations, standards, and accepted industry practices that govern trailer construction.
NATM addresses this by compiling the Guidelines for Recommended Manufacturing Practices for Light- and Medium-Duty Trailers. The document consists of over 400 pages of laws, regulations, rules, standards, and industry best practices. This information is gathered from resources such as the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, the Traffic Safety Administration, the Maintenance Council, and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association amongst others. The Guidelines is updated annually by industry experts that stay abreast of changing regulations and who vet the addition of recommendations and best practices.
Members report substantial time savings by utilizing the Guidelines, particularly on the topics of lighting and reflectors, VIN and data plates, gross vehicle weight ratings, and state brake requirements. While the Guidelines focus on U.S. regulations, many may have an interest in Canadian compliance. For more information, visit Transport Canada’s website at www.TV.GC.ca/en/transport-canada.html.
In recent years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has increased its enforcement activity concerning the compliance of motor vehicle manufacturers, including trailer manufacturers. NHTSA has placed particular concern on meeting tire recordkeeping requirements, which includes both manufacturer records as well as the provision of TIN cards to dealers, distributors, and purchasers. This is only one of the many requirements outlined in NATM’s Guidelines.
NATM assists its trailer manufacturing members in avoiding costly fines and decreasing liability related to trailer compliance through the NATM Compliance Verification Program (CVP). The NATM CVP is an unbiased, third-party audit of the trailer manufacturing process and uses the Guidelines as the backbone for the program. The CVP provides biennial on-site consultations to trailer manufacturers and technical assistance throughout the entire process to ensure companies are manufacturing trailers consistent with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and other industry best practices.
Once a trailer manufacturer has successfully passed the Compliance Verification Program, the company is able to purchase NATM Decals and market their company’s dedication to fulfilling their safety requirements by participating in an unbiased, third-party audit of their trailers. While participation in the NATM Compliance Verification Program is an additional, voluntary cost for manufacturers, there are economic benefits of participation.
“The first-year sales saw a 20 percent boost and blew past the forecast over three years for the sales improvements for revenue targets for the existing trailer product. We will continue to use up the [NATM] labels we have in stock, and then order more,” said Pete Dixon, Engineer at Karcher North America, Inc., regarding the benefit of being a member of the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers.
For more information about how the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers can assist your trailer manufacturing company, visit www.NATM.com, email NATMHQ@natm.com, or call (785) 272-4433.
Your 2021 NATM membership renewal notice was mailed to the attention of your accounts payable department in November. For international members, invoices were emailed.
You have the option to renew your membership online at www.NATM.com. Log into the Members Only section to view and pay the invoice. Should you decide to pay online, please advise accounts payable to disregard the notice. Your membership login credentials are below.
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Troubleshooting Online Payments: No Invoice When Logging In?
Thank you for attempting to renew your membership with NATM online! Did you try logging into the Member’s Only portal to pay, only to find that there are no open invoices attached to your account? Are you seeing your main contact’s first and last name instead of only your company’s name?
Then unfortunately your computer is remembering the wrong credentials! When logging in, you should only see your company’s name.
To ensure that your computer accepts the new credentials sent to main contacts in late November, please try the following:
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Membership dues must be paid no later than January 31, 2021. If dues are not received by Jan. 31, the member company will be considered delinquent and all membership benefits will be terminated until paid per the NATM Bylaws.
Thank you for your continued support of the Association. Please don’t hesitate to contact Meghan Ryan, NATM Assistant Director, at Meghan.Ryan@natm.com if you have any questions or concerns.