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What You Need To Know About FMCSA Compliance Review Trends

When it comes to pre-trip inspections, it is now far easier for a safety auditor to see when a driver is not properly doing their job. Why? Consider that the FMCSA has now changed the process for completing a compliance review.

The revamped compliance review – which has been in place for some time – expands the interviews the FMCSA completes with specific members of the organization. Still, this doesn’t mean there has been a major overhaul in how the FMCSA completes a compliance review.

For some time now, the FMCSA has been moving away from full reviews and closer to focused reviews. Still, new trends are emerging as the FMCSA slightly shifts its focus.

CSA Scores or Complaints?

If you look at historical trends, the FMCSA has generally put complaints below CSA scores on their list of review priorities. Up until now, a BASIC alert was the primary factor for whether the FMCSA decided to complete a compliance review. Now, that is changing.

The main reason for the shift is in two areas. One is the truck driver coercion rule and another is how easy it has become for a complaint to be filed, which has dramatically increased the volume of complaints flooding into the office.

Many complaints are now treated as though some form of coercion has taken place, even if little to no evidence of coercion is found. This is leading to carriers who have no BASIC score alerts undergoing a focused review.

Hours of Service

Despite a move away from paper logs and toward electronic logging, hours of service violations still abound. This is especially the case where false logs are concerned.

Therefore, it is so important for fleets to ensure that the time being reported is cross referenced with the truck driver’s log. And this must go beyond a simple accounting for the date.

Whether the fleet looks at fuel reports, tolls or reimbursements receipts, there are several ways to cross-reference what is being reported.

Medical Card Changes

With the “grace” period ending, it is more important than ever that a motor carrier verify a physician’s license utilizing a national registry or running a CDLIS report.

Should you run a report from an arbitrary fleet system or utilize the CDLIS report? To avoid a potential focused review, it is very important to utilize a CDLIS report.

Consider that on your own internal report, you may not have all the necessary information at hand. The fact is, you don’t want to risk it, so why not run the report that you know will ensure you have all the boxes checked?

Managing Your DVIR Process

It is now easier than ever for an inspector to make a case against a truck driver who doesn’t have a proper vehicle inspection report on hand. The new rule now requires that a DVIR must be filled out when a defect has occurred, which makes it easier for an inspector to make a case for a focused audit.

This essentially means inspectors can use a roadside inspection with a maintenance issue listed and corroborate that issue with a DVIR that correspond with the date listed. It’s also important to pay close attention to breakdown reports, repair orders and maintenance records. If these show obvious problems that the truck driver should have been aware of – but weren’t listed – you could find yourself on the receiving end of a review.

Finally, it’s important to ensure your operators are not operating with a suspended or invalid CDL. While this may seem like a very basic requirement, it is resulting in even more violations than ever. Ensure an internal process is set up to monitor each of your truck drivers’ CDL statuses.

Are Private Toll Roads The Answer To The Infrastructure Spending Question?

There’s been a lot of talk, both within the Trump administration and within Congress regarding infrastructure spending. Promises have been made on both sides, but where will the money come from?

While the Trump administration wants to rely in private sector money to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund, this would also likely lead to more tolls, paid by both truckers and passenger drivers alike. After all, the private companies building out our nation’s new infrastructure will need to recoup this money from somewhere.

The Administration View

In his most recent address to a joint session of Congress, President Trump expressed an interest in a “national rebuilding” of the nation’s infrastructure.

He said, “President Eisenhower initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program, the building of the Interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.”

The President also referenced a discussion he had with a friend in the trucking industry during a speech to the National Governor’s Association. He was quoted as saying his friend mentioned trucks getting destroyed on the drive from New York to Los Angeles because the roads are so bad.

Per the administration, funding for the $1 trillion-dollar program should come from both public and private sources. But is this feasible, and where exactly would the money come from?

The Current Situation

Ask anyone with an insider’s view on the situation, and they’ll tell you we need a ton of money just to keep things at the status quo. According to Joung Lee of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, $110 billion would be needed in the next ten years just to keep infrastructure development from backsliding.

With infrastructure funding nowhere near that level currently, where can we expect the Trump administration to get this money? Up until now, the Highway Trust Fund has relied heavily on gas and diesel taxes to fund infrastructure improvements. Yet, the gas tax hasn’t been raised in over twenty years. As fuel efficiency increases, the problem is compounded.

Ask the Highway Users Alliance, and they will tell you that private funding would likely come in around 10 percent or less, a paltry number when it comes to funding the entire project. Are cheap financing and tax breaks the only answer or will funding must come from increased tolls?

Are Tolls the Answer?

When it comes to recouping funds on heavily used roads and highways, private infrastructure financiers will likely turn to toll roads, as this is generally the only way to generate a revenue stream from these projects.

The Alliance for Toll Free Interstates says that toll roads are the worst of all available funding options, but is this really the case? Others see no other way out. If private companies are to step in and provide some of the funding, increased tolls may be the only answer.

Fortunately, American policy-makers need only look across the pond for examples of where robust highway systems and vibrant trucking companies co-exist. From France to Italy and Spain, toll-supported highways help operate well-maintained, top-level super highways.

Still, while increased tolls provide one answer to the problem, they can’t be the only solution. Public-private partnerships must be bolstered and money has to come from almost every possible source if a true $1 trillion is going to be leveraged to complete the nation’s infrastructure upgrade needs.

The fact is, whether it’s significant federal investment through taxes, borrowing or increased tolls, it is neither wise nor feasible to say that there is one single silver bullet that will solve this problem. What will happen next is a matter for time to tell.

How To Manage Cybersecurity In The Age Of Telematics: Part II

In Part I of our series we looked at what it means to manage your data in the age of hacking. From what types of hacking you can expect to a general overview of methods and strategies, there’s a lot to cover on this topic.

Today we will dig a little deeper into the different aspects of data protection that you and your business can employ. It’s time to look at cybersecurity from an IT angle.

The Human Element

The integrity of a fleet’s data management system relies on how well you manage said system, as well as systems upkeep.

Beyond the technical aspects, it’s also important to address the human element. After all, you will be having employees and partners regularly interacting with these systems. If you don’t have a comprehensive telematics security program in place that addresses the human element, you aren’t as protected as you think.

There are generally four aspects of telematics security at play in any given situation:

  • Management: Do you have an established team of security experts and a management crew who understands the meaning of cybersecurity?
  • Policies: Does your organization have a set of comprehensive policies and procedures in place regarding cybersecurity?
  • Design: Are your systems designed with product safety and software development in mind?
  • Training: Are you regularly training your employees and management staff on the various cybersecurity policies, procedures and technical aspects you’ve put in place?

Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s important to address the resiliency of the platform itself. Let’s take a closer look at this topic.

Platform Resilience

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recommended that operators of commercial motor vehicles should not connect third-party devices to OBD II ports. The fact is, if you don’t know where a particular device was manufactured, you shouldn’t be connecting it to your expensive commercial motor vehicle.

Any fleet manager worth his or her salt in the field knows that there should be specific policies in place to ensure connected devices are safe. There are also a number of tried-and-true principles to follow to ensure your telematics platform and subsequent data collection efforts are safe.

They include:

  • Ensuring data transfers are secure
  • Signing updates digitally
  • Using proprietary hardware code protections
  • Assume codes are public, ensuring you are constantly changing or updating them
  • Employ the use of strong random numbers and encryption when transmitting information from one system to another
  • Compartmentalize critical security-related data
  • Do not use the same encryption key for multiple roles
  • Have a verified third-party audit your telematics security systems
  • Limit your server access to a need-to-know basis
  • Constantly test and verify your systems

If you don’t take a rigorous approach to your systems security, you are leaving the vital, digital lifeblood of your software and hardware systems vulnerable to attack. To ensure full redundancy and security, you must be constantly reviewing, improving, testing and validating your cybersecurity measures and telematics protection initiatives.

Design Security in the Cloud

Since most telematics systems store their data in the cloud, you have to make sure your systems are protected at both the beginning and end-points. Telematics systems relay their data to a storage or processing server, so they must be secured at the source on both ends.

Also, it is vitally important to remember that no system is ever perfect. Never rest on your laurels and assume that because you addressed it once, it’s addressed forever. Only constant vigilance will ensure that your systems remain ahead of potential attackers.

Once you have the right protection in place, ensure responsible parties stay up-to-date on its operation. Only through proper care and consideration can you ensure your telematics data remains safe over the long term.

A Vending Machine For Truck and Trailer Parts

It seems that every time we look, technology continues to reshape the trucking industry. From semi-autonomous trucks to advanced safety systems, advances in technology and automation continue to reshape our industry.

Today, we’ll take a look at new ways technology is advancing how the job gets done in trucking. We’ll start with… vending machine?

Parts On-Demand

Did you ever imagine you might work in a world where you could obtain parts from a vending machine? Sure, it may sound like science fiction, but get ready because soon it will be science fact.

No longer will these ubiquitous machines be purely for soda or snacks, but they will also be used for more advanced industrial applications. Manufacturing and parts supply companies are already installing vending machines in industrial plants. Workers can obtain things like specific tools, safety goggles or even small-scale parts.

One company, Fastenal, has created a shipping container store, of sorts. The container is modified to accommodate computer equipment, is completely secure and houses specific tools. For workers coming and going, the container is insulated and air conditioned or heated, as necessary.

Management and Procurement

What this idea comes down to is parts management. Trucking technicians and other fleet workers are essentially widget managers. Bringing the parts store to them is all about more efficient procurement and management.

While initially parts vending machines might be used for high value items, customer demand has driven the evolution of these new systems to include more low-cost items. The last thing a fleet needs is to run out of items they use the most.

While you can generally get parts delivered from an out-of-state supplier within a day or two, imagine having them right there, at your fingertips, ready to be dispensed from a machine as needed. The fact is, this technology has the potential to revolutionize how fleets get work done in the shop.

Trucking Applications

But how exactly would a parts vending machine work for the trucking industry? Imagine a heavy truck business being able to access common items like belts, hoses or bearings all through the simple tap of a button on the front of a vending machine.

Of course, something like an entire suspension or transmission kit couldn’t be wedged into a vending machine, but individual parts needed for bigger jobs could certainly be included, from rotors to drums to windshield wipers and LEDs.

Truck stops would also be a logical place to place parts vending machines. Imagine a 24/7 pod or vending machine where a trucker could easily grab him or herself a headlight, diesel additive or quart or two of oil.

Tracking Purchases

Rather than using a vending machine the old-fashioned way, I.E. with money or coins, these advanced models could use a magnetic swipe card. Parts obtained can be tracked by department or specific use case.

Through a cloud-based database, inventory levels can be tracked and alerts can be sent out when a certain amount of stock becomes low. Additionally, different machines can stock different product, depending on the location and application.

For those who are wondering how practical this is, consider that a decade ago, purchasing truck parts online seemed far-fetched. Today, Amazon does almost $2 billion in sales from truck parts alone.

Of course, putting parts into a vending machine isn’t going to answer all the questions or solve all the problems, but it will go a long way to solving the waiting game that so many technicians play. To not see the huge potential in this concept is akin to not seeing the forest for the trees.

How To Manage Cybersecurity In The Age Of Telematics: Part I

We are moving into an age where heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles are increasingly connected to the internet, providing advanced web-based solutions and analytics, allowing better fleet management across the trucking spectrum.

With so many third-party options out there for business both big and small, it can be difficult for intrepid fleet managers to figure out how to manage cybersecurity in this age of integrated vehicle management.

Yet, through machine learning and the proper leveraging of multiple data streams, fleets can optimize their fuel consumption, increase safety measures and ensure better regulatory compliance. The new question is how to do it in an age of increased hacking and advanced cybersecurity measures.

Securing Telematics

In Part I of this two-part series, we are going to discuss a certain aspect of trucking that we’ve touched on before: Telematics. The fact is telematics generates a huge amount of data, whether it be a detailed history of truck driver or vehicle activities or fleet operations. Advanced telematics can even be used to reconstruct an accident or benchmark specific aspects of equipment performance.

The key is to ensure this data is protected. If your fleet’s data is accessed by a malicious third party, you could be looking at serious consequences, whether it be jeopardizing customer data or giving away your shipment or schedule information to the highest bidder. From cargo securement to identity theft, your company’s information provides a wealth of opportunity to bad actors.

This is why your fleet’s cybersecurity matters so much. As a small business or fleet owner, it’s vitally important that you keep tabs on how you handle and secure your telematics data. Fortunately, there are proven methods you can employ.

The Telematics Ecosystem

When it comes to telematics, what should you be looking for? There is a proven telematics ecosystem that relies on the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect vehicles with separate devices, all through one managed, centralized computer system.

A number of third-party devices can be connected to the system, including:

  • Bluetooth sensors and beacons
  • Temperature and tire pressure sensors
  • Salt, sand or de-icing spreading sensors and monitors
  • Verbal feedback monitors delivered from within the cab
  • Collision avoidance and automatic steering and braking systems
  • Internal and external camera systems

When you have so many connected devices, it can be hard to figure out how to secure each piece, whether when connected or individually. Now it’s time to look at best practices for cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity Best Practices

As your business migrates from hardware to software-based solutions, your telematics data security will become even more important. These systems are often multi-tiered and interconnected. Since there are so many components and systems all talking to each other, with a combination of both hardware and software, there are a lot of potential vulnerabilities.

Such vulnerabilities include:

  • Theft
  • GPS jamming
  • Cellular sniffing
  • Firmware manipulation
  • Server exploits
  • Software phishing
  • Trojan viruses

Ensuring your systems are secure from these threats takes a multi-pronged approach. You must be both comprehensive and proactive in how you handle potential threats.

Addressing these problems also takes more than just installing new products designed to protect your internal systems, it also requires you to address how the entire company handles cybersecurity. Keeping your data protected involves your people feeling it ingrained within the culture of your company.

In the end, the best way to create resiliency against malicious attacks is to both protect the data on the hardware and software level, but to also ensure everyone who touches said data is aware of the safeguards and vulnerabilities.

But how do you address those safeguards and vulnerabilities? Join us in Part II of our series where we answer just those questions.

About QuickTSI

QuickTSI is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to run your transportation and freight logistics business. Our website allows you to post load or find trucks, post trucks or find loads, look up carrier profiles, view trucking companies, find truck driving jobs, and DOT medical examniers.

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Quick Transport Solutions, Inc.
11501 Dublin Blvd. Suite 200
Dublin, CA 94568

510-887-9300
510-284-7280

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Quick Transport Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 3686
Hayward, CA 94544-3686

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