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Things to consider before buying a franchise

Many people in North Carolina who dream of owning their own business have considered purchasing a franchise. Becoming a franchisee allows a person without much business experience to adopt a proven business model and benefit from an established company's brand identity. However, the familiar business name, marketing support and training that come with a new franchise do not necessarily guarantee success.

A person who is considering opening a franchise should understand that the same business model could be wildly successful in one location and fail to make money in another location. The skill-set of the franchisee can also affect the business' chances of success. Before choosing a franchise to invest in, an entrepreneur should consider many different factors besides the nationwide success of the franchise brand.

How trucking may change with self-driving vehicles

In the coming years, the roads in North Carolina and throughout the U.S. could be more populated with self-driving vehicles for personal and commercial use. The American Transportation Research Institute recently released a report discussing changes that might occur in the trucking industry when autonomous trucks are available.

One of the largest concerns among those in the U.S. trucking industry is jobs for drivers. The report notes that jobs are safe because automated systems require human operators. Additionally, the general public would likely feel safer if a human is present in a large vehicle. Self-driving trucks could actually help workers as they may lead to more flexibility when it comes to hours of service. Regulations currently exist to ensure that drivers only work a certain number of hours. This includes the 14-hour on-duty limit and the 11-hour limit for consecutive driving time to prevent fatigue.

Advice for those thinking of buying a small business

In many ways, buying an established and proven small business is better and easier than trying to launch a brand new startup. Budding entrepreneurs who are thinking about purchasing and operating an existing enterprise may take advantage of the fact that many baby boomer business owners are expected to retire in the near future.

Prior to taking over a small company, a person should be sure that they truly want to own and operate the business. Taking time to research the available options and selecting the business that matches one's talents and experience is important. Attending trade shows and speaking with potential customers as well as researching the company's competitors may also help to confirm if the particular business opportunity will be successful or not.

Brake violations again top reason for out-of-service orders

Following its annual three-day inspection blitz geared toward improving roadway safety in North Carolina and elsewhere around North America, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance reported that brake violations were the leading cause of vehicle out-of-service orders issued during the June 2016 Roadcheck event. Later, comparable results were reported during CVSA's Brake Safety Week, which was held in September 2016.

During the latter event, 2,352 commercial trucks were removed from the roadway due to potentially critical brake violations. Although estimates regarding the total number of vehicles that were removed from service vary, brake violations appear to represent approximately half of all violations that resulted in out-of-service orders during the week.

Marijuana remains off limits for truckers following election

Twenty-eight states now allow the use of medical marijuana, and approximately 80 million Americans can legally enjoy recreational use of the drug following the Nov. 8 vote, according to the Associated Press. However, the Department of Transportation has indicated that in spite of these gains, marijuana use remains off limits for truck drivers who travel the roadways of North Carolina and other states across the nation.

In responses related to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado and the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the DOT effectively stated that its established drug testing policies and programs for truck drivers would not change. As late as Nov. 9, 2016, a spokesperson for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicated that the DOT could not make any change to its policies unless approved by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Private equity acquisitions

Selling a North Carolina business to a private equity group is a two-step process that allows owners to maximize their earning potential. First, the group will buy a majority stake in the business while allowing the owner to sit on the board or otherwise have a say in how the company continues to grow. The idea is to scale the company, get a higher valuation and then sell the remaining stake.

For most, this can be an effective way to sell a company. However, it may not be for everyone. In some cases, existing owners may not fully understand that their partial share will ultimately be worth more than it would if they had retained full ownership.

Lawsuit against FMCSA's ELD mandate fails

North Carolina motorists who have heard about accidents caused by overworked and sleep-deprived truck drivers might be interested in learning that most commercial trucks will be mandated to have electronic logging devices installed in them. A challenge that was made to the regulation received an adverse ruling in late October 2016 from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put the rule into place, and it is scheduled to be fully implemented by December 2017. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, on behalf of two of its members, filed a lawsuit against the FMCSA, claiming that the electronic logging devices would violate their constitutional rights to privacy. The 7th Circuit disagreed, however. In 2010, an earlier version of the rule was held to be unconstitutional because it required truck drivers to have cameras installed in their trucks. The current mandate does not have a camera requirement.

FMCSA grants exemption to hours-of-service rules

The amount of time that professional truck drivers in North Carolina and around the country can spend behind the wheel before taking mandatory breaks is tightly controlled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. However, the federal safety agency sometimes grants exemptions to its strict hours-of-service rules. The Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association, which represents companies that transport large objects like cranes and earth-moving equipment, was recently granted an exception to one FMCSA regulation.

According to the industry advocacy group, the drivers of oversize vehicles sometimes find it extremely difficult to find appropriate parking, and the pressure of meeting hour-of-service regulations sometimes results in drivers leaving huge commercial vehicles in potentially dangerous places. To address this problem, the organization asked the FMCSA to grant an exemption to both its 14-hour shift and 30-minute rest break rules.

Things to do before selling a business

Even the most successful entrepreneurs in North Carolina and around the country sometimes choose to sell their businesses. Some commercial ventures are sold because they have failed to live up to expectations, and some companies are disposed of because their owners have decided to pursue other opportunities or retire. Selling a business can be a complex and protracted process, but there are some steps that entrepreneurs can take to avoid many of the most common pitfalls.

Setting an unrealistic price is one of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make when putting their businesses up for sale. While the value of assets like machinery and vehicles can be checked fairly easily, business valuations are made after factors like goodwill and the amount owed to creditors have been taken into consideration. Businesses that are not performing well are unlikely to draw many potential buyers unless the price is set low, but even companies that have failed could be attractive if they are located in high-traffic areas or have sizeable inventories.

Racial bias in wrongful death cases

North Carolina residents may be familiar with research indicating that the criminal justice system could be rife with racial bias. However, they may not know that women and minorities can also face significant obstacles when pursuing civil remedies following the death of a loved one. In wrongful death cases, the accident victim's lifetime earning potential is often taken into consideration when defendants draft settlement offers or juries determine damages. Some experts say that the data these calculations rely on is often heavily biased against people of color and women.

Many of the forensic economists and lawyers who make these decisions have admitted that white accident victims often receive higher settlement offers than black plaintiffs would have. In addition, men are generally offered more than women. In one wrongful death lawsuit filed after two children died in a fatal accident, the insurance company involved offered 84 percent more for the loss of a male fetus than they did for the loss of a 6-year-old girl.

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