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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.

An Intro Into Preventative Maintenance For Trucking Companies

Welcome to the introduction to what will be a long-running series here at the QuickTSI blog. We want to take a comprehensive look at preventative maintenance. Because in order for a safe and efficient operation to exist, fleet vehicles must be inspected and maintained on a regular basis.

As a professional truck driver, a successful preventative maintenance program requires your involvement. In fact, your participation is key. It is you who is often the first one to spot a problem or notice in issue. You are, after all, working with the vehicle day-in and day-out.

So let’s dig a little deeper into what constitutes preventative maintenance. There are primarily three kinds of preventative maintenance:

  1. Routine servicing;
  2. Scheduled preventative maintenance, and;
  3. Unscheduled maintenance and/or repairs.

Routine, Scheduled Preventative Maintenance and Unscheduled Maintenance

Routine servicing is described as times when you may need to add oil or coolant to the system, or perhaps drain moisture from the fuel or air systems. You don’t want to overlook routine maintenance items, lest you run into larger problems down the road.

Scheduled preventative maintenance (PM) is governed by Section 396.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and requires a fleet to carefully and systematically inspect, repair and maintain all of the vehicles within its stable of operations. In other words, if you operate as a commercial motor carrier, you are required to have a preventative maintenance program in place.

You can arrange PM schedules in various ways, depending on your scope of operation. Mileage, engine hours, and time are all factors in the timing and frequency of your PM schedule.

Since worn, failed or incorrectly adjusted components can lead to major problems, including accidents and other safety issues, you need a PM program in place to prevent your CSA scores from taking a hit. Preventative maintenance combined with periodic inspections helps to prevent failures from happening while your rubber is on the road.

Unscheduled maintenance is anything that pops up as an unexpected expense. Some examples would include items noted on your driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR), or incidents otherwise noted as accidents or breakdowns.

What Are You Responsible For?

When it comes to keeping your vehicle in safe operating condition, you are ultimately responsible. You are a professional truck driver, and as so, it is incumbent upon you to ensure your vehicle’s operating components are in good working order.

The best way to stay in compliance and ensure safe operation is to:

  • Detect maintenance and repair needs as you travel.
  • Immediately refer maintenance and repair needs to the correct place for handling.
  • Always conduct a thorough pre- and post-trip inspection.
  • Never take shortcuts when inspecting pertinent components.
  • Ensure your annual vehicle inspection is always conducted on time.
  • If you think there may be a potential problem with your vehicle, immediately stop and check it out.

If you ever do discover problems on the road, remember to never get back behind the wheel if you aren’t satisfied with the results of your inspection. Both federal and state regulations mandate that you do not drive your vehicle if you are not satisfied it is in 100 percent safe operating condition.

What You Risk

If you don’t immediately report defects and deficiencies as soon as they are discovered can result in serious consequences, from a simple violation to a terrible accident. Do you want to risk it?

Breakdown costs encompass more than the mere repair. Every minute the truck is out of service, it isn’t being used to generate revenue for the fleet.

Here are just some of the costs associated with unnecessary breakdowns:

  • Towing costs;
  • Operator wages, meals, and lodging;
  • Rental vehicle costs;
  • Late delivery costs;
  • Lost customers, and;
  • Potential cargo transfer fees.

All of these impact your profitability. If a defective part winds up causing an accident, you can add insurance rates and potential litigation to those costs. Perhaps even citations and medical costs are a part of the equation. Could your operation survive it? Best not to take the chance and ensure you have a preventative maintenance program firmly in place.

How Electronic DVIRs Can Streamline Trucking Operations?

Have you heard of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulation governing driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs)? Complying with them is supposed to be a simple task.

To comply, they outline four simple steps:

  1. Truck drivers must conduct a pre- and post-trip inspection.
  2. Truck drivers must record all safety-related vehicle defects.
  3. Truck drivers must submit the reports to their fleet managers.
  4. Maintenance must be scheduled before the vehicle is returned to active service.

In reality, these steps are loosely followed. Either truck drivers are half-heartedly scribbling nothing while management takes its time acting on any reported issues. Curious as to how we come by that information? Just take a look at the share of maintenance violations bulging the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program metrics.

Over the past 24 months alone, over half of reported CSA violations are related to maintenance problems. Lights, brakes and tires rank at the top of the defect violation list. The highest concentration of maintenance violations can be found in California, where the total number is around 70 percent of the state’s overall total.

From Paper to Electric

One of the best way to address the problem with driver inspection reports is through the use of electronic DVIRs. They are widely available and can be fully integrated with most modern fleet telematics systems. Many motor carriers are already using them in concert with electronic logs.

In some case studies, after fleets have installed telematics systems that include electronic DVIRs have greatly reduced cost while increasing operational efficiency and compliance.

These advanced systems often come with portable display units installed outside the cab. The unit tracks the truck driver to ensure they walked all the way around the cab through RFID zones placed strategically around the vehicle. Once the truck driver scans each zone, the inspection is marked complete in an app or heads-up display.

Information captured by these systems also make if quite easy to determine what may be wrong. Fleet mechanics can be instantly notified by email if a defect is reported, while also having visibility on the location, truck driver, and reporting time.

Truck drivers also like them because they can be assured fleet mechanics are seeing the information they are reporting, without it having to be passed through someone else first.

Telematics providers have been increasingly expanding the capabilities and connectivity solutions available with electronics DVIR devices, mobile apps, e-logs, and more. Some software providers have even released forms-based software applications that fleets can customize to create their own inspection process.

The forms can be set up in a proprietary software system and will prompt the truck driver to capture pictures of any defects and provides a signature area for verification of the report.

Full Maintenance Integration

Beyond simply capturing inspection information, new trends involve using DVIRs in conjunction with maintenance management software. Full vertical integration into the repair process creates new opportunities where cost and efficiency are concerned.

Vendors are providing new systems that integrate repair order scheduling with critical defect notifications. Cloud-based systems allow fleet technicians to manage service events and repair orders. The software itself can manage almost the entire process.

When a defect is entered into the DVIR, the system sends a notification to the shop and automatically schedules the repair. If the defect is safety-related, the system can prevent the truck from being put into service until the repair work is completed.

As the CSA program ramps up the pressure on fleets nationwide, it’s ever more important to ensure you’re staying on top of vehicle maintenance. As such, interest is growing in technologies like DVIR, which make once error-laden processes much more effective and efficient.

The fact is, once you integrate these processes into your fleet’s operation, only good can come from it. When there’s no paper to be misplaced, vital information doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

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