Since their business is based on operating a fleet of commercial vehicles, towing companies are faced with multiple challenges. Not only do their fleet, drivers, and internal operations have to comply with DOT regulations, they also have to be experts at asset management. That's a huge expectation, especially when the responsibility falls on just a few key decision makers.
It's also an impossible task to accomplish without the help of technology. From DOT compliance help to asset maintenance solutions, using tech means leaders can more effectively track their business operations, ensuring smooth operations, safety, and efficiency.
Tow trucks, like all commercial vehicles, fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as well as the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). They are also bound by the rules and regulations of the Department of Transportation, both locally and federally. Compliance is mandatory and every aspect of the fleet's operations are, in some way, regulated.
Driver Qualification Files
Tow truck drivers fall under the federal guidelines established for all commercial vehicle drivers. In most states, tow truck drivers are required to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). They also have to be able to pass both drug and alcohol testing and a background check before they're legally allowed to operate the tow truck. Employers are required to maintain driver qualification files including the following:
- Driver's application for employment, verification of personal identification, and driver's record.
- Copy of the driver's valid CDL and any additional training, or other certificates earned.
- Driver's safety records including any incidents, accidents, or issues with safety or compliance.
- Results of drug and alcohol testing from the initial hiring process through to random tests and those administered after an accident or incident.
- Records of the hours of service the driver has accumulated according to their ELD, paper logs, and other records.
Licenses, Permits & Insurance
Operating a tow truck can be a dangerous proposition, which is why there are requirements for trucks to be well-lit and visible to other motorists. They're also equipped with safety equipment that ensures the vehicle being towed is secured as it is transported. In addition, tow truck operators are required to be licensed, obtain the proper permits, and acquire adequate insurance to cover their liability.
- Drivers may be required by state law to possess a CDL, and companies may be required to have a business license to operate a tow company in some jurisdictions.
- Special permits may be required at the local level for heavy, wide, or long loads being towed on roadways, or through tricky areas.
- Tow truck companies are required to carry insurance on all of their fleet vehicles and drivers. This protects the company and the public from costly damage, accidents, or property damage.
Beyond its employees, a tow truck company's most valuable assets are its fleet of vehicles. It's imperative that they are not only well maintained, kept in good repair, and presentable, they also need to be protected from theft and loss. Again, technology makes this easy by way of electronic record keeping and vehicle tracking.
Federal law requires tow truck companies to maintain records of all the vehicles within their fleet that have been in service for 30 days or more. Those records have to be made available to inspectors during a DOT audit, or when an incident occurs and the records are requested by authorities.
- Company number, vehicle make, model, serial number, and other identifying information must be recorded for every tow truck within the fleet.
- Records of each fleet vehicle must be kept where the truck is garaged for one year while it is in service.
- If a vehicle is discarded, or taken out of service, records must be kept for 6 months after it has left the carrier's possession.
- Inspection records, both pre- and post-trip, along with periodic inspection reports must be documented and filed for each vehicle.
- Maintenance on fleet vehicles also has to be documented including information such as the date of the maintenance procedure, problems noted, and any repairs that are made.
Fleet Vehicle Tracking
A functioning tow truck is a valuable piece of equipment, both for the company who owns it and for potential thieves. When a truck is parked in the lot, or left outside a truck stop or at a rest area, it's vulnerable. Tracking the movement of a tow truck during its routine operations not only helps prevent theft, but it also helps keep better tabs on drivers and improves productivity.
- GPS tracking ensures fleet managers know where all of their vehicles are at any given time, identifying any that are idle. They can then dispatch the closest vehicle to a customer, improving productivity.
- Tracking also gives dispatchers and managers insight into driver behaviors, allowing them to correct bad habits, improve safety, and ensure efficiency.
- Only about 25% of stolen commercial vehicles are ever returned. If a vehicle is stolen, GPS tracking can be shared with authorities, increasing the odds of the vehicle being found and put back in service.
- GPS tracking, along with electronic logging devices (ELDs) ensure that drivers are maintaining accurate hours of service and mileage records as required by law.
Regulatory compliance and fleet vehicle maintenance are both vital to a tow truck company's operations. Failure to comply with the DOT's regulations can result in huge fines, penalties, lost productivity, and may even cost the company their ability to operate. Record keeping is an essential part of compliance and records have to be maintained for every driver, vehicle, and activity the company undertakes. Likewise, they are under obligation to properly maintain their fleet vehicles to ensure they're safe to operate on the roadways.
Navigating the complex world of DOT compliance and fleet vehicle maintenance requirements can be a daunting task. You don't have to go it alone, though. Contact Whip Around online, or give us a call at +1 (704) 912-5593. Our friendly team will be happy to answer your questions, provide you with quick demos of our services, and we even offer free on-boarding so you can get on the road to success.