In December 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) finalized new regulations for the trucking industry. According to Anne S. Ferro, Administrator for FMCSA, the rules were crafted to provide safer roadways by addressing driver fatigue. Although the final restrictions are less stringent than earlier models, the American Trucking Association (ATA) is poised to contest some modifications that impede fleet operators’ scheduling activities surrounding hours of service and downtime.
While the debate over how effective self-regulation within the trucking industry has been in reducing accidents attributed to fatigue, managers are obligated to comply with current regulations and prepare for the 2013 effective date of these new guidelines.
Compliance with legal mandates, hiring professional drivers and updating equipment are necessities to reduce operating costs and accidents. Clearly accidents cannot be eliminated entirely. However, fleet managers continually monitoring their drivers and policies to find more efficient and safer methods of delivery. Addressing the ubiquitous triad of causation for avoidable accidents—driver fatigue, irresponsible driving patterns and lack of experience—presents the best avenue for executives to reduce fleet incidents on the road.
Technology has enhanced safety on the road for over two decades with onboard devices like electronic stabilizing controls (ESC). The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) corroborates research studies that ESC reduces accidents by more than one third. Deploying technology to reduce engine power and apply brakes give drivers the opportunity to regain control—avoiding accidents.
ATA President and CEO Bill Graves told attendees at the annual Leadership Meeting that he supports regulations that would require electronic stability controls on large trucks. The safety record for cars and light duty trucks is significant. Based on this, Graves expects the technology to enhance the impressive safety record of an industry that is proud of their self-regulation efforts to date.
Some enterprises use speed governing controls and programs to manage fuel consumption, reduce accidents, and qualify for lower insurance premiums. Technological applications can also improve efficiency and safety related to new HOS regulations. In light of the upcoming HOS changes, more companies are expected to convert their fleet structures to include electronic logs in an effort to promote company-wide conformity and avoid costly fees associated with non-compliance.
Leveraging on-board systems that include electronic driver logs seamlessly increases efficiency through management engagement. Real-time data gives dispatchers notice before a driver exceeds his allotted hours behind the wheel. Team-driving and route planning strategies can be employed more efficiently through analyzing drive-time between the terminal and key delivery points.
Another cost-saving benefit that appeals to managers is the audit and inspection support. Drivers can access reports and solution providers are available to answer questions that arise during roadside inspections and DOT audits. Consistent compliance can lead to fewer stops and inspections on the road—resulting in quicker turn-around time and fewer unplanned stops. Providers of intuitive fleet management solutions assume the responsibility for updating software and technology to put your fleet in compliance with FMCSA requirements as they happen.
Maintaining electronic logs relieves your drivers of manual log duties and eliminates errors caused by inaccurate reporting and failing to complete logs at each stop. Accurate logs help your company control potential legal issues from non-compliance and accident related charges of fatigue. Depending on whom you talk to, lawyers and drivers either love the new e-logs or hope the technology doesn’t become universal equipment for all fleets. Lawyers often rely on erroneous manual logs to bolster their claims of negligence against trucking companies in court, so e-logs represent a huge change for them. Discussing options with your drivers will give you a better idea about how changes will affect your workforce.
If your management techniques do not currently employ electronic monitoring and on-board technology, perhaps it’s time to move into the twenty-first century. By utilizing GPS tracking and on-board systems to record fuel consumption, driving time, driver efficiency and performance can greatly impact management decisions. Establishing operating budgets, driver schedules, risk management guidelines and more, hinge on having a complete picture of your fleet activities on the road.
The capability to reduce spending, increase revenue and improve your fleet safety record is within reach for your enterprise. Your competition is already using the latest technological advances to mitigate damages and improve return on investment. Trucking executives across the nation face challenges daily as they search for ways to improve profit margins, boost employee retention and meet compliance requirements.
As you prepare for the 2013 changes for HOS, find time to assess current management strategies governing fleet performance for your enterprise. Intuitive IT solutions, like electronic logs, may be a viable option to achieve all three.