Insights, ideas and inspiration for modern-day fleet managers
As time marches on, many of the influences on our businesses change as well. This change alone is a great reason to frequently review your operations and make sure you are employing the very best practices in every facet of your business operations. In a recent research study conducted by Vanson Bourne trucking professionals reported that only 61% of their companies had conducted any type of process re-engineering effort in the previous 12 months. That leaves 39% of transportation operations as a whole (33% of private fleets and 53% of for-hire operations) that have not made a focused effort to innovate and improve their operational processes. When you contrast that static approach to business against constantly evolving regulatory requirements, you have an obvious disconnect. For example, let’s take a topic like commercial vehicle inspections. All commercial fleets perform them since they are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) initiative. Yet, how many companies execute these inspections and reports in a manner that not only improves the fleet’s Vehicle Maintenance BASIC score, but also improves the efficiency of the operation, positively impacting everything from driver performance to customer satisfaction? Over the last year, the FMCSA has issued nearly five times more imminent-hazard out-of-service orders than it did in fiscal 2014. And small fleets, which can range from one to a few hundred trucks, are seven times more likely to be inspected.
The most likely answer is yes. In the U.S., any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight over 10,000 pounds operating in interstate commerce is required to comply with the safety management system implemented by the FMCSA.
What does that look like?
Companies with small private fleets are focused on their core business, such as fresh bakery goods, building supplies or home delivery. Fleet management is often a secondary concern. But the FMCSA doesn’t see it that way. Private fleets are held to the same regulatory requirements as large transportation companies.
With the MAP-21 federal funding of highway projects, the FMCSA now has the money to enforce regulations—and it’s doing so with a vengeance.
The regulations mandate motor carriers to produce a daily driver report detailing issues that could affect a vehicle’s operational safety.
This report includes:
The FMCSA rolled out the CSA initiative in December 2010. It is intended to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles. The CSA did not include any new laws. However, almost every aspect of the U.S. commercial motor freight industry is subject to new, expanded safety reporting and enforcement measures. This includes drivers who operate the equipment, shippers who hire carriers to move freight and those who operate their own private fleets.
The CSA scores for private fleets, carriers and owner operators are updated monthly. The FMSCA calculates scores based on inspection results, violations and crash data from drivers as well as how recently the issues took place. These CSA scores are calculated from scores for each of the seven Behavioural Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs): 1.
Up to 75% of CSA violations fall under the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC. This makes compliance with DVIR inspection processes mandatory without exception.
Compliance documentation is time-consuming, costly and often inaccurate. In fact, the FMCSA estimates only 5% of DVIRs identify vehicle defects. And this has significant consequences.
CSA scores are public: they are seen by the entire industry, insurance companies and customers. Although an end customer purchasing goods may not have heard of CSA regulations, shipper customers are keenly aware of CSA scores and may use them in selecting the carriers with which they do business. With respect to private fleets, the National Private Truck Council states that there’s a perception among foodservice and retail customers that if a company has a poor CSA score, then it’s probably not handling its food products in a safe manner.
Perhaps even more significantly, many private fleets don’t have dedicated resources to manage reports and compliance. Skipped equipment inspections by rushed drivers or lost DVIR paperwork can create significant issues. On top of that, enforcement agencies tend to look where they think they will find issues—and that’s in small, private fleets.
In fiscal 2012, the FMCSA performed 54,559 carrier reviews/investigations. For these audits, companies must have three months of DVIR history on file, or they will be non-compliant. If the FMCSA finds a pattern of violations, it can result in a corrective action plan. If those requirements aren’t met, the next step could be a cease-and-desist-operations order.
Despite the enormous importance of DVIR compliance, the process of drivers filling out daily reports that must be filed and purged can be cumbersome and costly. As companies evaluate their operations for non-value-add processes to achieve greater operational efficiency, DVIR compliance is a good one to tackle, both for streamlining and cost savings.
Most private fleets use a paper-based process for DVIR requirements. In fact, a recent research study conducted by Vanson Bourne found that 60% of organizations still use paper-based systems. Although companies may find this inefficient, many are unaware of the true costs of these paper reports. But that changes once they see the full process and the resources it consumes.
For further information about the FMCSA regulations, visit these websites: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrruletext.aspx?reg=396.11&keyword=396.11 http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrruletext.aspx?reg=396.13&keyword=396.13 http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrruletext.aspx?reg=396.11&guidence=Y
According to a 2013 article in the Commercial Carrier Journal, many small fleets find it cost-effective to invest in tools such as management software, electronic logging and/or driver vehicle inspection report systems to proactively manage compliance.
Technology that offers a customizable, in-vehicle software application combined with a web application for the office and maintenance shop can increase operational efficiency, saving time and money. It also enhances compliance by reducing errors associated with manual entry.
One such technology-based solution is Whip Around. It is made to comply with FMCSA pre- and post-trip report regulations and is specifically designed for quick adoption by both fleets and software solution providers.
The Whip Around application works on iOS and Android Smart Phones. The Whip Around application facilitates a completely paperless process. At a major LTL carrier, the Whip Around DVIR application has been integrated and deployed fleet-wide. It processes more than 14,000 DVIRs daily and eliminates over 9 million paper forms annually.
Let’s take this LTL fleet example and compare it to the Lifecycle of a Paper-based Report illustration.
As a paperless solution, Whip Around eliminates the need and time required for drivers to repeatedly write known information, such as their names and truck numbers.
Process improvement is not merely about spotting where processes can be made more efficient. It’s also about understanding how automation can reduce human intervention as well as decrease the number of “man hours” necessary to complete processes. Automating the DVIR process enables companies to confidently manage regulatory compliance efficiently, accurately and effectively —yet keep their resources focused on their core business. Being able to speed up every day processes even by a minute—or a few seconds—can have a significant impact on overall operational efficiency and costs. In addition, updates for applications like Whip Around allow fleets to have access to the latest FMCSA regulations as they evolve.
With automated DVIR reporting, fleet inspections can be managed proactively while eliminating the costs and risks associated with paper-based reports. This enables better maintenance and even improvement of CSA Vehicles Maintenance BASIC scores. In addition, automated DVIR reporting eradicates the cost of paper. The removal of paper alone can be significant savings as it eliminates at least one piece of paper per driver per day. In some cases, the savings can be more if carbon copies are used and/or a driver operates multiple vehicles and/or trailers each day.
Using technology like Whip Around, along with Android and Apple smart phones that drivers may already be using on their routes, enables drivers to follow a compliant process and create consistent, accurate DVIR documentation at appropriate times. In addition, there’s also the benefit of a lower risk of equipment being operated without being repaired. During roadside inspections, which can be especially critical in avoiding audits, DVIR reports and results are easy for an officer to see, limiting inspection time.
Furthermore, Whip Around can be customized to a fleet’s specific needs. For example, Whip Around can be customized to implement the desired driver workflow with other third-party applications, automatically prepopulating information and ensuring vehicle and trailer DVIRs are not skipped. Customizable defect lists facilitate faster and more consistent documentation, which also increases productivity: less time spent filling out reports means more time on the road or on the work to be done.
Immediate notification of vehicle defects through the technology-based DVIR process can result in faster repairs and more uptime. The Whip Around web application makes information available to maintenance personnel in seconds—not days. Optionally, Whip Around can be integrated with back-office maintenance systems via its public API, thus providing all maintenance and DVIR information in a single system. Automated record retention can also save back office personnel the time to file and purge individual DVIR reports. In addition, with Whip Around, clerical errors are virtually eliminated; information is now accurate and legible.
There is no sign that the FMCSA will be slowing down its enforcement of CSA regulations. This continues to put small fleets, especially those whose expertise is not in transportation and logistics, at risk for an audit. The FMCSA will continue to look where it thinks it will find problems—and that tends to be small fleets. However, fleets of all sizes have found that technology-based DVIR solutions facilitate compliance while also reducing the costs incurred with paper-based systems and increasing efficiency so drivers spend more time on the road and less time filling out cumbersome reports.
Fleets have access to advisors who understand these regulations and the importance of compliance as well as expertise in technology and transportation. Whip Around has leveraged its extensive transportation experience to create the Whip Around software package, which helps fleets comply with the FMCSA’s vehicle inspection and electronic driver log regulations. Whip Around is easy to deploy, facilitates a paperless process, contains intuitive in-vehicle and web interfaces, and allows for fleet customization.
Whip Around is a web and mobile based inspection platform catering to the heavy vehicle, construction and transportation industries. Offering businesses, the ability to maintain control over the inspection process whilst making the user experience simple and effective is at the core of Whip Around ethos. With customers in New Zealand, Australia and the United States, Whip Around is fast becoming the preferred inspection platform of health and safety conscious businesses worldwide. whip-around.com twitter: @whiparoundapp