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Not Totally Suspension…SMALL BUSINESS SUMMER

summer business ideas

Now that we’re in the dog days of summer and vacation season is in full swing, don’t think you’re missing an opportunity to support local small businesses.

Joe and I like to vacation in Cape May County.  There are pristine beaches, quaint shore towns and boardwalks.  Know what else there are plenty of?  Local businesses who earn most of their money from tourists during the summer season.  Places like The Crooked Tail Thrift Shop and Sisters Sweet Shoppe in Sea Isle City or Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Stone Harbor or a multitude of stands along the boardwalks in Ocean City and Wildwood.  And it’s not just the shore mom & pops that we frequent. Our favorite ice cream shop, for example, is located in a neighboring, more inland town and when we need something for our RV we make a stop at the local RV center.

I’m all for Small Business Saturday in November and National Small Business Week in the spring.  Even though my business doesn’t lend itself to these types of events, they are great opportunities for small and local businesses to be showcased.  It’s a great way for people to see what these businesses mean to the community.  Small businesses make a substantial contribution to our economy.  In fact, recent statistics suggest that 42% of private sector payroll and 46% of private sector output is from small business.  But beyond that, local businesses add color and character to a community.  Overall their contribution is too substantial for them to be ignored during the long summer months or at any time of the year.  So if you’re taking a vacation or having a stay-cation, get up, get out and shop small.







Some Basics About Trailer Repair…The Heat Is On


BLAZING SUNSHINEOne year ago today I published the following blog post because summer had officially started the previous day and it offered some valuable tips for working in the heat.  Well one of the nice things about summer is that it comes again every year along with the heat, humidity and blazing sunshine.  I think this advice bears repeating so I’ve decided to re-post it with a few additional comments. 

Yesterday was the first day full day of summer and the heat is on again.  Several areas across the country are forecast to be in the upper 80’s and the 90’s, with a few unfortunate areas to go well over 100 degrees.

We’re a trailer repair company and for us work doesn’t slow down during the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.  And our clients need their trailers in good working condition.  For my mechanics that may mean climbing up to…

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Not Totally Suspension…IT’S ROADCHECK TIME

Around this same time last year I wrote a post about International Roadcheck.  Well a year has gone by and it’s time again for that 3 day inspection blitz.   In fact, it’s happening as I write this.  I’ll give a brief overview of Roadcheck again as well as a few tips for an inspection.




Annually there is a commercial vehicle inspection event across North America known as International Roadcheck or, simply, Roadcheck.  This program is conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).   During this 3 day period commercial vehicles across Canada, the United States and Mexico are subject to random inspection stops.  Commercial vehicles include trucks and buses.  Typically during these stops, the vehicle is given the 37 Point North American Standard Level I inspection which examines both the vehicle and the driver.  2017 is the 30th year of Roadcheck.  In years past there has been a special emphasis on one aspect of safety among commercial vehicles.   This year that area of emphasis is cargo securement.  If you’re not sure that cargo securement should get the focus this year you should know that the most common citations regarding securement  are for “shifting of cargo” and “leaking, spilling, blowing, falling cargo”.

If you are stopped during Roadcheck (or at any other time) it’s best to be prepared. Drivers, you should always make sure you have the proper documentation before you even get on the road.  During an inspection the inspector will examine the following

  1. CDL (Commercial Drivers License)
  2. Medical Examiner’s Certificate
  3. Record of Duty Status (commonly referred to as the drivers log)
  4. Documentation of annual inspection (FMCSA required for all commercial vehicles)
  5. Hazardous Materials paperwork, if applicable
  6. Permit credentials

You should make sure these documents are handy and ready to present.

Drivers, you should also be doing a daily post- and pre-trip inspection.   This will help to identify any mechanical problems with the vehicle and have them corrected on an on-going basis thereby reducing citations during an inspection.   If your not doing these daily inspections, have the vehicle inspected before you get on the road during this event.

Also, it’s a good idea to keep your vehicle neat and clean.  Look at it this way, many vehicles will be stopped but they won’t all be inspected.  If you’re stopped, the decision to inspect will be made based on some criteria.  Don’t let that criteria be an untidy vehicle.

Lastly, be professional and polite with the inspector.  Approximately 10,000 inspectors will perform inspections on thousands of vehicles.  This is simply the inspectors job and the goal is improved highway safety.  A little courtesy will go a long way in making the stop easier for you both.

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We had a customer with damage to the exterior walls on a refrigerated (reefer) unit and the walls needed to be replaced.  Here’s how we did it…

1.  First thing we did was remove the damaged exterior panels.

2.  Then we removed all the interior kemlite walls.  We also had to remove the old insulation.  To do this we cut the insulation with a hack saw in between the posts and pushed it out.  In this picture you can see some of the old insulation on the floor.



3.  It might sound backwards but we installed the new exterior panels next because they have to be riveted from inside the trailer.

4.  Once the exterior panels were back in place it was time to re-insulate.  We used a spray foam kit.  We let the insulation “cure” then plane (or smooth) out the walls.  In the picture below, Joe, Jr. is “shaving” the insulation to make sure it’s even and as smooth as possible for the kemlite.



5.  Next, we applied a spray adhesive to the insulation and re-installed the kemlite.  If you look at the photos, you can see the big roll of kemlite in the background.  The kemlite is what forms the interior walls.  It gets rolled out and we rig up a contraption with plywood and cargo locks to hold the kemlite in place until the adhesive drys.  The below picture shows the plywood held in place with the cargo locks.



The drying can take up to 24 hours.  Then the plywood and cargo locks are removed and the trailer is ready to roll.




Stress WordsIf there is one thing a small business owner knows about its stress.  There never seems to be enough money, enough time to get everything done, enough resources, enough customers.  We worry about everything.  We thrive on it but it can be very stressful.

These days life for everyone seems to be more stressful than for previous generations.  Often we just accept it without even thinking very much about it.  But stress can be dangerous for people and it can be expensive for business owners.

Some of the most common sources of stress are work related.  A company downsize suddenly means an increase in workload; there are office politics, power plays and jockeying for positions and promotions; technology threatens to take away jobs as employers look to automate as many positions as possible; people work longer hours and have longer commutes to get there.

Of course there are stressful situations in our personal lives as well.  Child care issues, possibly caring for aging parents or a failing spouse.  And one of the biggest sources of stress is that elusive work/life balance we hear so much about but never seem to achieve.

As we’ve heard in recent years, stress can have negative health effects.  Many of us are aware of things like heart attacks, stroke, and ulcers or other stomach/digestive issues.  But there are other health issues that may not be as well-known.  There are mental health issues like depression, anxiety and even panic attacks.  It’s possible that stress can be a cause of problems such as overeating or alcoholism.  Increased stress can lead to a suppressed or decreased immune system leading to other and/or more frequent illnesses.  According to some estimates, up to 60% of missed work days can be attributed to stress.  It’s possible that 75% to 90% of medical visits are due to stress related conditions.

I have seen estimates that claim the negative effects of stress cost businesses anywhere from $190 billion to $300 billion annually.  Not possible you say?  If you’re a business owner or manager you know that there is a cost attached to things like high turnover, increased absenteeism and decreased employee engagement.  All these can affect your bottom line through recruitment costs, lower sales, lost production and fixing mistakes made by employees not working at top capacity.  And we all know that increased medical costs lead to increased health insurance premiums.





It behooves the business owner or manager to, at the very least, be aware of stress levels and, at most, to work with employees to keep stress in check.  There are some things that can be done regularly and pretty easily:  You can keep employees informed about changes in the workplace, whether due to automation, promotions, downsizing or even due to a new technology they might need to master.

Try to increase employee engagement.  It’s no secret that a happy, engaged employee is a more productive employee.  Sometimes simple things, like team building or employee recognition, will do the trick.

Everyone needs time away to recharge so make vacation time a priority.  There are some companies that offer a bonus to employees who plan a trip abroad or that make it a requirement that employees take their full vacation time.  If this is beyond your capability keep it simpler.  Ask your employees what vacation plans they have.  When an employee returns from vacation,  ask them how it went or what they did.  And make it easy to schedule vacation time, not a hassle.

Recognizing stress and making a few changes can go a long way.  You can create a culture that values employees and counteract some of the negative effects stress will have on your business.

Not Totally Suspension…WINTER DRIVING SAFETY

ice removal I can’t speak for all parts of the country but I can tell you in the northeast we are experiencing a weather roller coaster!  About half way through February it was so warm that I’m sure we broke some records.  Now that it’s March, a time when people are hoping for some true spring weather, the temperatures seem to be headed in the wrong direction!!  The first weekend of March saw the thermometer drop well below normal.  And, though it warmed up a little the following week, right now we are experiencing the Blizzard of 2017.  Let’s face it, March is no stranger to winter weather.

If you’re in an area that gets frozen precipitation, winter can be a tough season and it makes sense for all drivers to be aware of snow removal laws in the states they drive.

Over the past decade or so, several states have enacted “snow removal laws” for the safety of everyone who uses the roads.  Often these laws are introduced by a legislator in response to a constituent who suffered an injury from flying ice chunks.  But the laws make sense for safety.  Now, not all states have a law and the laws vary in the states that do.

In New Jersey, the law calls for motorists to remove snow and ice from vehicles or they can be fined up to $75, even if it does not dislodge from the vehicle.  If snow or ice flies off the vehicle causing injury to a person or causing property damage, the fine can increase to $200 to $1000 per offense.

Other states in our region have their own laws.  In Pennsylvania, for example, drivers must remove snow and ice from vehicles before getting on the roads.  Snow or ice that flies off a car and hits another vehicle or pedestrian can get you a fine up to $1000.

In Connecticut, the law is know as the “Ice Missile Law” and similarly requires motorists to make sure their vehicle is free from snow and ice.  Violators of the law can be fined $75.

Other states that require drivers to clean off their vehicles include Alaska, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Generally, these laws cover commercial and non-commercial vehicles alike.  Which means that trailer drivers are required make sure there is no snow or ice on the roof of the truck cab or on the roof of the trailer.  This could prove dangerous for drivers if they are expected to climb up on the trailer to clean it off, which has been pointed out by various trucking associations.  But there are other options available.

There is a device, used by some trucking companies, that resembles a football goal post with a scraper across the top.  When the driver drives through the “goal posts”, snow/ice is scraped off.  In fact, since states have been enacting snow removal laws, trucking associations have argued that all weigh stations, truck stops and rest areas should have one of these devices.

But until these “goal post” devices are more common place, drivers can use a snow rake that has a telescopic handle to reach to the top of the trailer and cab.  Or they can hire someone else to do the job.  Total Suspension offers snow removal services to its customers.

In this post I’ve given most attention to cleaning off the top of your vehicle but be advised that these laws require motorists to fully clean off their windshield, back window and front and back side windows.

Drivers should also be aware of the laws pertaining to headlights.  All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some law regulating when headlights are to be used; most involve three things: time before and after sunrise/sunset, distance of visibilty, use of wipers (wipers on lights on, as we say in New Jersey) or some combination of these.

The important thing is to famlarize yourself with the laws in the states that you drive.  With minimal effort, winter driving can be safer for motorists and pedestrians alike.

Not Totally Suspension…LOVE IS IN THE AIR

For most of my professional life companies have frowned upon couples working together.  In fact, it was common practice for companies to have a policy against it.  But could it be that the conventional wisdom is wrong?  February is the month of love, cupid and Valentine’s Day.  Maybe it’s a good month to reconsider how a couple working together can benefit a company.

Some recent studies suggest that married couples who work for the same company may experience greater happiness in their personal lives and better work/life balance.  This could be due to the additional time they’re able to spend together or because couples who work together are uniquely able to understand the stress level of each other.  Whatever the reason, it seems to make for a happier couple and happier people tend to be more productive at work.

Some people also believe that married couples who work together exhibit a greater loyalty to the company.  Knowing that their spouse works for the same employer can make employees more willing to work through work problems/issues, work harder, and make a better effort to get along in the workplace.

And it may be good for the company’s bottom line if the employer can save on benefit costs for employees.

To recap, employees may be happier, have higher morale, be more productive and may save the employer in benefit costs.  So far it sounds pretty good.

But there can also be some pitfalls such as jealousy if one partner gets promoted faster than the other; additional tension in the office if partners disagree at work; other employees feeling excluded if a working couple seems “too close” or exhibits unprofessional behavior; the perception by others of favoritism if one person in the couple is a supervisor or even in a higher ranking position; in the case of an unmarried couple working together, the prospect of sexual harassment claims if a relationship ends badly in a supervisor-subordinate romance.

So, is it best to prohibit romances in your workplace?

It’s best to proceed with caution.  When considering a policy on romance in your workplace consider whether it will be beneficial to your company or not.  If you determine relationships are beneficial, craft your policy to minimize damaging aspects by specifying when and between whom relationships will be allowed.  At the very least it should probably be prohibited between employees of “significantly different ranks” and between employees in the same department.  As with all policies, make sure it is clearly communicated to employees and then stick to the policy.

One final thought, be prepared to make changes in the future.  Some studies suggest that employee attitudes may be changing about this issue, especially among younger workers.  One study discovered that 84% of millennials would be open to an inter-office relationship.  This was quite a bit higher than GenXers (36%) or Boomers (29%).