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Truckers: The Latest Update On Mobile Resources Management And Telematics

The industry has been going through waves of changes as new technologies get adopted. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the coming era of mobile resources management and advanced telematics adoption.

The fact is, mobile resources management (MRM) was barely a phrase on anyone’s tongue a short five years ago. But today, as apps proliferate and new technologies allow fleets to track their equipment use down to the most minor detail, the game is changing.

Today, terms like Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) are the norm. So how well is the industry adopting these new technologies?

From GPS fleet management systems to GPS-equipped smartphones and other portable devices and apps, managing workers and equipment has never been easier.

Today, the U.S. fleet market currently stands at around 18.5 million vehicles. Of those, around 5 million are using some version of advanced resource management or telematics technology.

By 2019 it is projected that around 8 million trucks will be using some form of MRM technology, with hardware and service revenues approaching a staggering $4.7 billion. Looking at these numbers, it’s not hard to see that MRM adoption has seen major growth over the past decade.

The Trucking Fleet Solution Renaissance

If you are a trucking fleet solution provider, you have got to be looking ahead with a pretty satisfied eye. Average growth for GPS tracking solutions has grown around 15% a year in the local sector, especially in regional and city applications.

But with the recent FMCSA ELD mandate about to go into effect, expect MRM and telematics growth to really explode. By as soon as the end of next year, operators will be required to record hours of service using electronic logging devices instead of paper logs. This will open the door to GPS-tracking systems that have HOS-related features installed.

With these ELD regulations set to affect 3.1 million trucks, finding the appropriate MRM or telematics solution will be critical for most fleets. 2017 will also see the growth of the trucking sector surpass that of the local service and delivery fleets.

Today, hardware solutions are also seeing wide adoption. Now you can find driver interface devices that can be connected either through the data bus in the vehicle’s hardware, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or other means.

From Cost to Value

For many, reading this brings to mind the inevitable question: What about cost? While there are definitely large, dominant fleet telematics and MRM providers, new companies have recently hit the scene and are capably holding their own.

It’s these newer providers that are increasingly bringing low-cost solutions to market. In some cases, this undercutting of prices has forced the established players to lower theirs.

Now the focus turns from lowering cost to adding value. Sure, you can start a race to the bottom on price, but what about the features fleets need to get the job done?

Fleet managers are now looking for more than just GPS fleet tracking. Of course, simple fleet management solutions can be delivered at low cost, features like behavior monitoring or fuel card integration provide added bang for the buck.

The more features are added, the more revenue per unit increases. Countering the competition in this way sets the stage for real innovation in the product space.

Customized to Your Need

As providers begin to differentiate themselves within the MRM and telematics spaces, they are also focusing on customizing their solutions to the needs of their fleet customers, and not the other way around.

Let’s say you’re a utility fleet that needs to integrate your maps of a particular facility with in-vehicle tracking services. A provider might then offer tracking, geofencing and possibly arrival and/or departure time monitoring.

In the end, the best way to see these technologies grow is through ensuring fleets see a positive return on their investment, and not just in the bottom line. Fleets should expect to see gains in productivity, safety and security, as well as efficiency.

How Can Trucking Companies Prevent Tire Violations

Well, the news is in, RoadCheck 2016 has officially passed. In case you don’t know, RoadCheck is a program put on by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance every year for the past 29 years.

During the two-day period, almost 10,000 CVSA-certified local, state, provincial, territorial and federal inspectors across all of North America perform inspections on large truck and busses. Each year the group puts particular emphasis on a particular aspect of the check. This year, they focused heavily on tires. Were you prepared?

They measured tire tread depth, tire pressure, overall condition and a visual inspection to ensure items were not lodged between dual tires. Things like bulges and cuts received particular attention. Fortunately, it’s easy for you to avoid tire-condition violations. If you know what to look for, they are usually pretty easy to spot.

What to Look For

The fact is, there are more than a dozen tire-related violations contained within the CVSA’s Out-of-Service handbook, and you could be hit for any number of them. At least a half dozen finds themselves at the end of an inspector’s pen with predictable regularity.

One such example is those related to tread. They include:

  • Casing separation
  • Extremely worn tread
  • Visible cords or belts
  • Tread depth below the minimum standard
  • Air leaks
  • Sidewall damage
  • Bulges
  • Cuts
  • Deformities

While tire inflation used to be an issue, it is no longer. The American Trucking Associations requested the FMCSA remove the rule from the book, so they did. A victory, in this case.

The main reason for this is that coming up with a definition of “underinflated” that would work across the board for all applications, truck models and types, would be incredibly difficult to do. Because of how complex the issue was, the rule was stricken from the book.

A flat tire could cause you problems, however. If the tire has separated from the wheel, or is shredded at all, of course it will be considered flat.

If a tire appears soft, it could still be measured. In this case use the simple formula of 50 percent of what is printed on the sidewall of the tire. If the tire is measured to 120 psi, then anything below 60 would be considered flat and could be placed out-of-service.

Other Considerations

For 2016, a new violation was added, perhaps to account for the one that was removed. Now you must watch for items lodged between a dual set of tires. This includes anything from rocks to road debris. If the object is in direct contact with your tire sidewalls, it would be considered a violation in the rulebook.

While some violations only result in fines, others can put you or your vehicle out of service. No matter how you look at it, you could be out of pocket for a while you wait for the vehicle to be serviced. Never mind the few CSA points you’ll get out of the deal.

Whether you were caught in the RoadCheck, or whether you are simply running your loads out on the road, there are quick and simple ways you can ensure your tires are in good working order. First, check out this good, common-sense list compiled by the CVSA to help you ensure your equipment is in good working order.

Other than that, always make sure you are looking for unusual wear patterns. Anything from feathering to cupping should warrant the attention of one of your fleet technicians.

Also make sure you are staying on top of your wheel alignments. A correctly aligned truck is not only good for your tires, but it can have a measurable impact on fuel consumption.

Finally, ensure you aren’t running mismatched tires. Incorrect matching diameters can create problems like scrubbing patterns for the smaller tire.

In the end, make sure you are always keeping a close eye on your tires. You don’t need a RoadCheck to ensure you are staying safe on the road.

Unanswered Questions on ELD Usage

For some, the need for electronic logging devices (ELDs) comes with a list of unanswered questions. Many believe the devices aren’t completely necessary, although for larger fleets ELDs help make back office duties run much more efficiently.

Others point to the potential fuel savings brought on by ELD use, but are there other, more effective ways to reduce idling, speed, safety gains or unnecessary miles? Perhaps, but that may not be the full story.

The fact is, the hours-of-service rules likely cause accidents not because of anything the ELD can fix, but because truck drivers are forced out of their natural rhythms and sleep patterns.

Another point of contention lies in parking issues. It is likely many HOS violations happen because the operator finds a hard time finding a place to rest during their mandated downtime. As they drive and drive to find a spot, they may be going over hours. The expectation is that an ELD will only make it worse.

Does No Paper Make Up for It?

Of course, having a lot less paperwork with no logbooks to manage is definitely a big draw for both company drivers and owner-operators. But are the benefits on the front end outweighed by the potential costs?

While dispatchers should never ask operators to stretch the numbers, just as operators should not want to fudge them, where is the margin for those who, say, can’t find a place to park in that moment? Is there enough flexibility built into the system?

Beyond questions of what may arise on the fly, other questions come in other forms, one such being what operators do when they have to rent a truck.

What If It’s a Rental?

Trucking experts know quite well that the December ELD implementation rule will not be a simple matter of getting rid of the old to make way for the new. There are hiccups that will arise as companies cope with the new paradigm.

In fact, the Truck Rental and Leasing Association was reportedly “disappointed” when their recommendation for a rental vehicle exemption rule as not accepted by the FMCSA once the final rule was published.

The main concern lies in what trucks rented to different businesses and commercial customer types will do when renters have varying ELD log requirements. Another consideration is in how managed the data that ELDs produce. With different technologies and different platforms working together, the FMCSA has provided no clear guidance on who does what.

Who Does It Effect?

While it must be noted that the majority of rental companies would be exempt, due to their 100- and 150-mile radius, there is a certain percentage who would fall under the regulation’s umbrella.

What this does is require every truck in a rental fleet to be retrofitted with ELD technology, whether or not the customer needs to utilize it. Having to deal with ELD data generated by different platforms makes it crucial for a motor carrier to find the right telematics partner.

The expense required to retrofit vehicles and find the time or partner to analyze the data is not small, and it is likely some smaller rental companies may not survive the change. There are some questions to consider, however, before selecting an ELD solution:

  • Does the ELD mandate limit the technology available under compliance?
  • Will you get reliable and easy access to applications and reports that will be able to offer you actionable data on improving your fleet’s safety parameters and operating performance?
  • Will you be provided with an actionable growth path in order to get the most out of the predictive analytics and diagnostics mechanisms?
  • Will you be provided with the resources and understanding to get through the technological hurdles without leaving your fleet scrambling for other outside help?

Of course the thought of fully integrating with the ELD mandate can seem overwhelming, hopefully some of these hanging questions will be answered. With time left, how will organizations plan for the change?

The Latest Update On Trucking Regulations and the FAST Act

It’s been a while since we took a comprehensive look at the various trucking regulations set to affect our industry, so in that spirit we want to update you, our loyal readers, regarding what’s going on in Washington.

It’s no secret that the past few years have been a regulatory roller coaster ride for the trucking industry. From the FAST Act to the 34-hour restart rule, the trucking industry has a lot to prepare for.

The 34-hour Restart Rule

The first item on the table is the 34-hour restart rule. In a prior house bill, the Department of Transportation (DOT) was told that before they could reinstate the 34-hour restart provisions, they had to complete a comprehensive study showing how the rule improved safety and operator fatigue. In the end, the results would have to be certified by the DOT inspector general.

But a subsequent law removed the statement that the 34-hour restart rule would stay in place. It is expected that when the FMCSA reports to Congress in the second quarter of this year, the 34-hour restart will be removed entirely and reverted back to the 2003 hours-of-service rules.

Now it seems a deal has been struck in the Senate to instead put a cap on on-duty time after 73 hours in a week. This would be in exchange for trading out the 34-hour restart rule. Yet in an election year, things could change. We’ll see what happens with hours-of-service after November.

Next up is the latest highway bill, otherwise known as the FAST Act. Did you know the FAST Act made some provisional changes to the CSA program?

Let’s dig a little deeper.

CSA and the FAST Act

The FAST Act changes the CSA program in the following ways:

  • An 18-month study must be conducted by the National Academy of Sciences to analyze the accuracy of CSA, SMS and the BASIC scoring system.
  • The study will review specific methodology related to how BASIC percentiles are calculated. It also aims to determine the ties between crash risk and specific violations.
  • Congress must receive a corrective action plan within 120 days of the report being submitted and it must outline how the FMCSA intends to address deficiencies.

Beyond these provisions, the FMCSA has been directed to not make publicly available information on how the information is analyzed and what the BASIC percentages are. The agency is also not permitted to use CSA data for alerts and safety fitness determinations. The agency can still use the data behind the scenes for enforcement actions, however.

More on the FAST Act

With the FMCSA recently announcing they were seeking input on implementation of the FAST Act requirement regarding installation of safety equipment and driver fitness measures, expect fleets to quickly begin implementing these changes well ahead of any rule implementation.

The FAST Act is also governed by specific impact analysis events and how the FMCSA makes rules. Congress has required that all proposed and final rules use the best available science and data to evaluate the effects of said rules on motor carriers of various types and sizes.

The FMCSA has also been instruction to post a summary of all the rulemaking petitions and regulatory interpretations or clarifications. This information must be posted on the agency’s website within 180 days. Petitions must also be prioritized to reduce crashes, improve specific enforcement actions, or reduce unnecessary hang-ups.

Finally, the FMCSA must exempt allow carriers to conduct their own proprietary pre-employment drug and alcohol tests, and to use hair-testing in place of urine, where available.

As it turns out, there’s still a lot in the pipe where regulations are concerned. Congress has been hard at work both imposing then removing rules on the trucking industry. Join us next time when we dive back into regulatory requirements and take a deeper look at the Safety Fitness Determination rule and the ELD mandate.

Regulatory Requirements Surrounding Preventative Vehicle Maintenance And Inspections

Welcome to our final look into preventative maintenance. So far, our in-depth series has provided you with a comprehensive introduction of what preventative maintenance is, and why it’s so important. Today we will bring you the final word on what the federal government has to say about vehicle maintenance.

Although ensuring you are properly maintaining your vehicle is good for safety and CSA reasons, it’s also about what the government wants you to be doing. Let’s take a deeper look into what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has to say about preventative maintenance and trip inspections.

Part 396 of the FMCSRs addresses vehicle inspection and maintenance. These regulations cover three aspects of your vehicle’s condition:

  • Systematic maintenance
  • Pre-trip inspections
  • On-the-road inspections
  • Roadside inspections

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors on an individual level.

Systematic Maintenance

Systematic maintenance is covered under section 396.3 of the FMCSRs and it states that every motor carrier is required to systematically inspect, repair and maintain all the vehicles under its control, or otherwise make provisions for such work.

The term systematic is used intentionally, and describes a regular or scheduled program to keep your vehicles in safe working condition. You could also refer to this as a preventative maintenance program.

While it is up to the fleet to determine the time and frequency of said requirements, they must make sure they meet the dual criteria of reasonable and systematic. Fleets can then base them on things like mileage, time or hours.

Pre-Trip Inspection

The pre-trip inspection is covered under section 396.13 of the FMCSRs and states that you much do the following:

  • Do not hit the highway unless you are satisfied your vehicle is in safe working condition.
  • Do a thorough review of the last vehicle inspection.
  • If no deficiencies or problems are noted, sign the report.

The most important part of a pre-trip inspection is to ensure you are being very thorough. Without a keen eye and a deft hand, you may miss something.

On-the-road Inspections

As a professional truck driver, on-the-road inspections are simply a part of the job. As such, you must follow certain inspection rules while you are on the road.

Within the first 30 miles of a trip, you must check your cargo and load-securing devices. If any adjustments need to be made, you must make them at that time. You must also re-examine under the following circumstances:

  • When you make a change of duty status;
  • After the vehicle has been operated for three hours.
  • After the vehicle has driven 150 miles.

The only time on-the-road inspections apply is if you are driving a sealed vehicle and have been instructed not to open the vehicle or inspect the cargo. Also, if the vehicle has been loaded in such a way that inspection is quite difficult to inspect, an en-route inspection is not necessary.

Roadside Inspections

A roadside inspection is represented by an examination of a truck driver and his or her commercial cargo by a member or members of law enforcement. The goal of these inspections are to ensure safe drivers and vehicles are in the road.

The majority of roadside inspections happen at weigh stations or scales along the highway. They are completed by trained law enforcement personnel and follow specific guidelines, as outlined under the North American Uniform Out-of-Service criteria.

Preventative maintenance is even more important where roadside inspections are concerned. If placed out-of-service, a vehicle cannot be operated again until any or all of the defects or deficiencies have been resolved. Additionally, both you and your company can be fined and you could be complete disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle.

So as we conclude our comprehensive look at preventative maintenance, remember that how your vehicle operates it not only key to your safety and the safety of those around you.


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