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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.

Welcome To Trucking’s New Classroom – Entry-Level Driver Training – ELDT

FMCSA published an entry-level driver training (ELDT) on February 6th 2017 but it will be followed by a 3-year grace period, allowing trucking companies time to adjust to the new training requirements.

The new core requirements establish training standards that govern both core classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training requirements.

FMCSA-Approved

There will also be a FMCSA-governed registry of approved trainers available to train entry-level truck drivers across the nation. There will be separate standards of training for Class A and Class B CDL applications. For those looking for hazmat or passenger endorsements, additional training will be required.

In what may be a rarity for trucking industry advocacy groups, both the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) strongly support the new training rules.

There are some differences, however, from the prior guidance the FMCSA put out in March. In this new version they have removed the requirement that potential truck drivers must complete 30 hours behind-the-wheel prior to getting their CDL.

Left in were the requirements for behind-the-wheel and public road training, but it no longer requires the 30-hour timeline. As the rule is now written, new applicant training will be considered completed when trainees are able to show they have successfully completed both behind-the-wheel training and that “all elements of the curricula are proficiently demonstrated while the driver-trainee has actual control of the power unit during a driving lesson.

The Specifics

The FMCSA has also removed the time requirement where classroom training is concerned. Instead, the agency requires that the training make sure to cover all aspects of the suggested curriculum:

  • Basic operation of the vehicle
  • Backing up and docking
  • Coupling and uncoupling
  • Pre- and post-trip inspections
  • Distracted driving
  • Vehicle communication – including signals and other equipment
  • What to do in an emergency
  • Roadside inspections
  • Trip planning
  • Cargo handling
  • Regulatory compliance

For those applying for a Class A CDL, the required curriculum will include elements administered by the FMCSA-approved trainer. The state will be required to certify people applying for their CDL have been properly trained according to the guidelines. Only then should they be allowed to take the skills test and move on to get their CDL.

But who are these trainers? The agency is pushing to use trainers from registries managed by the states. They will go by the term Trainer Provider Registry (TPR).

Motor carriers who want to conduct their training in-house are permitted to do so, but their trainers must complete a curriculum that meets the standards any other trainer in the registry will had to have gone through. For an individual to personally train a friend or family member, they must go through a process and receive verification from the FMCSA.

The Costs and Benefits

As always with new rules like these, there is an associated cost. The FMCSA estimates the total cost of the rule will run the trucking industry over $3.6 billion by 2029. That breaks down to over $366 million per year, starting when the regulation goes into effect – 2020.

But while some people say the cost is too great, the FMCSA points to potential cost offsets in the way of $2.38 billion saved from increased fuel efficiency, more efficient operational capacity, reduced maintenance costs and far fewer accidents.

Considering these training programs are coming as a mandated rule, motor carriers are increasingly preparing to get out in front of this change. Whether they are utilizing video systems, on-site training or other methods, they are preparing their truck drivers for the future of trucking. After all, if they don’t do it, who will?

An Update On Congressional 34-Hour Restart Measures

Remember back in January 2016 when a FMCSA acting administrator Scott Darling appeared before the Senate’s commerce committee regarding the 2014-instituted 34-hour restart study? Well, the 34-hour restart rule is now back in the news.

The senate recently passed a bill clarifying the 34-hour restart rule, but here’s the detail on the original story.

A year ago, Congress inadvertently put the 34-hour restart rule on the chopping block, but recently unveiled new legislation designed to address the original problem. As recently as last week lawmakers are meeting to clarify the rule governing trucker’s use of the rule.

The Present Situation

For now, professional truck drivers can continue operating as normal, with normal being that truckers do not have to include two rest periods at 1:00am and 5:00am. Also, the 34-hour restart rule can be utilized by truck drivers as many times as they would like without restriction.

But now, with a new study on the horizon, could this all change? A pending study by the FMCSA is once again putting a spotlight on two early morning rest periods for truck drivers. They would also limit the 34-hour restart limit to once per week, rather than as many times as desired.

The study currently under review will conclusively determine whether the rules would be safer with these proposed changes. The study was originally requested by Congress to clarify the rule.

Still, Congress managed to include clarifying language in a 2017 Continuing Resolution government funding bill. This hours of service clarification appears to be the only trucking-related item in the spending bill, and the bill is expected to pass both chambers of Congress.

Even as Congress takes these actions, the FMCSA is still amid the study, having recently stated that they have completed the data gathering phase. Although the agency still has not said when they will release their final rule, it appears they are getting closer.

What’s Next?

Whether the Hours of Service rule reverts to the pre-2014 regulation depends on whether or not the FMCSA’s study finds that truckers are abiding by the rules. Their specific verbiage states that the agency needs to see truck drivers “demonstrate statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules, in comparison to…drivers who operated on the restart provisions in effect June 30, 2013.”

Essentially, the FMCSA wants to know if safety numbers are vastly different depending on which hours of service rule the truck drivers in the study operated under. The study followed hundreds of truck drivers as they operated within several different work schedules and conditions.

The original Congressional intent two years ago, when lawmakers rolled back the 2013 rules was to put the study in place. The problem is that lawmakers never clarified which specific provisions would be left or removed based on the study’s outcome.

Then, trying to fix the problem, Congress put language into a bill to rectify the hours of service problem, but that language had unintended consequences, essentially cutting the 34-hour restart option completely, depending on what they find.

With the new legislation, the original 2014 rule stays in place and the problem with the 2015 bill was fixed. Now the question is: What next?

With a new administration taking shape and a unified Republican government, what’s next for these rules? As the trucking industry holds its breath, everyone waits for what’s to come. At least for now, truckers across the country seem to have some consistency in rules regarding their work. How long that will last, however, is anybody’s guess.­

Why In-Cab Cameras Are So Beneficial for Truckers and Trucking Companies

We are going to tell you a story. This isn’t a real story, but the story itself will help us get a crucial point across about today’s topic. So, let’s get started:

Something wasn’t quite right about the vehicle as it pulled up and into the turn lane next to Johnson’s tractor-trailer. As an owner-operator, Johnson is always on the lookout. His truck is his income, so he’s always got to keep his eyes open.

Either way, as Johnson watched, he had a feeling that the driver of the vehicle next to him was just a tad closer than normal. But as the light turned green, the other vehicle slowly entered the truck’s lane and as Johnson turned, the vehicle continued towards the truck until – almost gently – it brushed up against the left fender of the truck.

Of course, both vehicles immediately pulled over and before Johnson’s feet had even hit the ground, the driver of the passenger vehicle was already out in the street, rubbing her neck, and very loudly complaining that the tractor had run into her.

Before Johnson could even reply, the woman made a quick phone call, just out of earshot, then continued telling onlookers that the truck had run into her and she feared she might have suffered a terrible neck accident. As soon as she finished, she turned to Johnson and asked, “Do you have nothing to say for all this trouble you’ve caused? You injured me! This is going to cost you big time,” she stated dramatically.

Finally, and with all the calm of someone who has seen this a time or two before, Johnson jerked his thumb back towards the cab and pointed to a small device just on the other side of the windshield planted firmly in the center of the dashboard.

“Do you see that?” He asked.

“Yeah, of course I do, what is it?” The driver of the passenger car replied, suddenly sounding unsure.

“Well,” Johnson replied, “that’s a forward-facing camera that recorded everything that just happened.”

Instantly, the passenger car driver stopped rubbing her neck, merely staring wide-eyed at Johnson for a couple of seconds before she turned, ran back to her vehicle and fled the scene.

Johnson merely smiled, knowing that his forward-facing camera had saved him before. Once, as he rolled through a traffic light, Johnson’s truck was side-swiped. While the passenger car driver and several witnesses told arriving officers it was the truck’s fault. Yet, when the in-dash camera video was reviewed, it showed that Johnson had the green and it was – in fact – the passenger car who ran the red light.

Cameras Don’t Lie

While this story may be fictional, we can pretty much guarantee you that it is a story told by more than a few fleets. In fact, it is the primary reason many motor carriers completely revamp their safety programs to include in-dash forward-facing cameras.

The fact is, cameras don’t lie. Many carriers will begin with the basics and eventually upgrade to a fleetwide program. Good, in-cab video systems not only help with truck driver safety measures, but they also keep accidents from harming your bottom line because you had no evidence to prove, well, it wasn’t you.

Still, it’s important that you do your research to ensure you are investing in a system that is both reliable and will stand the test of time and hard use. Some systems don’t have functionalities you need, like cloud-based video storage or superior video quality. But even if you don’t invest in the most expensive unit, one thing you can count on is that cameras tell the truth.

Beyond Simply Finding Fault

Even better, in-dash camera systems have evolved considerably over the years. Today, newer systems do much more than simply determine who is at fault in an accident. Beyond capturing vital footage, they can also record things like vehicle speed, type of motion and other truck driver specific actions that were taken at the time of incident.

While many fleets do their best to ensure a proper safety culture is put in place, everyone knows that once a vehicle leaves company HQ, the age-old rule ‘out of sight, out of mind’ comes into play. Yet with in-cab systems recording everything it isn’t hard for a fleet manager to know exactly what’s going on with the truck at all times.

That’s why in-cab video technology systems have gone from nice-to-haves to must-haves. As a matter of fact, signs point to the possibility that the FMCSA could one day mandate that these devices be installed in cab in all big rigs on the road.

Still, fleets find that installing these systems are about more than just a mandate. Many fleets who install in-cab video systems also see their collision and litigation costs plummet. Not only do in-cab video systems invalidate fraudulent claims, but they also dramatically improve the driving skills of fleet vehicle operators.

Video systems can also add solutions beyond avoiding fraudulent accident claims and helping improve truck driver skills. They can also assist fleets address things like cargo security and workers’ comp claims outside the cab. Fleets can better understand the video being produced and integrate video systems with other technological solutions that help them better understand the data.

Distinguishing Between Raw Data and Video Integration

There’s a big difference between gathering video and then being able to offer clarity on the information it provides. In-cab video solutions should be used to integrate data with vehicle sensors, analyze truck driver behaviors and offer feedback and coaching sessions based on said behaviors.

Let’s face it, it’s impossible to optimize your operational costs and measurably lower claims with just video alone. Video clips of operating events that mean something are quite different than unmanaged video streams that don’t include data from telematics sensors and other, equipment control modules and other systems – such as safety control systems like roll control.

Utilizing the proper video system allows you to do a thorough review of the video clips and fully analyze what went wrong – or what went right in coaching situations. Algorithms built into advanced in-cab video recorders can tune in on millions of miles driven and – in tandem with other systems – help fleets predict risk and offer up actionable solutions. Video systems become an active part of a fleet’s risk management and mitigation program.

This is why it is so important for a fleet to understand what they are purchasing. In-camera systems can run anywhere from $650 – $1,500 per unit. When you multiply that across an entire flee, that’s no small amount of money. If the system is working through an existing telematics provider or delivering information through a cellular or satellite link, you may be also looking at a monthly subscription charge.

But what exactly are you getting for all these extra capabilities? And furthermore, how much can you expect from the future tech built into your in-cab video system?

Advanced In-Cab Video Solutions

There are mainly two types of video systems in development today.

  1. Works in conjunction with the driver, where the data is used to generate positive driving habits and help create coaching sessions. These systems offer truck driver assist technologies, whether it be by removing blind spots or providing things like lane-changing warnings to the trucker.
  2. Legacy video systems that trigger only when certain events occur, whether it be sudden breaking or a swerving event. These cameras generally record for about 15 – 30 seconds of video, which is analyzed by the operations center hours later. They are often only one- or two-camera setups.

Yet, as technology continues the long march, even the legacy systems are coming online with far more capabilities built in.

Some are so advanced that they can be seen as superfast computing systems that analyze video using ‘deep learning’. Essentially, these systems record real-time and offer immediate suggestions, rather than recording now for analysis later.

These systems can even go so far as to analyze the types of vehicles driving in front of the truck, their speed, relative motion and more. It can spot traffic lights up to a half-mile ahead and even identify road signs, weather conditions and more. When put together, the computing power at the center of the system offers immediate situational information to assist both truck drivers and those back at fleet HQ to respond to circumstances before they’ve even happened.

This ability to watch and analyze what is happening on the road provides for immediate calculations that can potentially save lives. The fact is, in-cab camera system technology will continue to improve and provide the ability for truck drivers to operate in a safer environment.

Has your fleet invested in technologies such as these? Consider that your competitors may be already researching and outfitting their fleet with in-cab video systems then ask yourself, “Do you want to be left behind as another fleet steals your business because their technology outstrips yours?”

Consider these questions as you shop for big rigs equipped with in-cab video systems, or set about outfitting your fleet yourself.

The Secret Tips to Running a Trucking Business

Running a business of your own is basically part of the American dream. There’s nothing more exciting than the thought of being your own boss and being able to make a lot of money. You’d like to run your own business, but you aren’t sure what kind you’d like own. You don’t want to sell things to other people, and you don’t want to go into the food or service industry. You’ve considered turn-key operations where the money makes itself, but you think you’d want something that’s more hands on.

If you want to try something different, running a trucking business could be the new venture you’re looking for.

A profitable industry

It’s been known that the ability to drive a fleet vehicle is a coveted job skill. Being able to drive a big rig can make you money, but owning a company that sends out the rigs is even more profitable.

If you’re looking for something that’s profitable, the trucking industry could be what you need.

It’s estimated that the industry itself generates around $650 billion in revenue every year, and that number is only expected to grow.

There are over 11 million registered large trucks in the country, so you won’t have an issue finding the equipment you need to get started.

There’s money to be made in the industry, but only if you’re a good fit for the job.

What to consider before running a trucking business

Trucking is a growing and popular industry, but that doesn’t mean that just anyone can succeed in it.

Almost any budding entrepreneur thinks that they would be perfect for it, but a lot goes into being able to manage a fleet.

Aside from having a good business sense you need to have management skills, the ability to problem solve, and the ability to analyze data.

You’re going to be wearing a lot of hats when you’re running your business, and you need to be prepared to handle the workload.

If you want your business to be successful, there are a few things you need to do.

Estimate your costs accurately 

Starting a trucking business isn’t as simple as buying a few fleet vehicles and getting some drivers.

Running a trucking business costs a lot of money that goes beyond the price of the trucks and the employee’s salaries.

Maintenance can cost a significant amount of money.  Trucks need to be examined frequently to make sure that they’re running well.

Some companies take maintenance so seriously that they’ll have a mechanic look at each truck when it comes back from a delivery.

There’s also the cost of employee benefits and insurance. Both vehicles and employees need to be insured for a variety of things.

On top of this, there’s rental costs for your lot and business, and other costs are bound to pop up along the way.

Talk to a financial adviser so you can determine what you’ll need money wise to start your business.

This is important because you’ll need to…

Get a good loan 

 

When you’re discussing your budget with your financial adviser, make sure to talk about the loan amount they think is best for you.

Since you’re getting a loan, it’s also important to make sure that you look like a great potential investment to your lender.

Take some time to bring up your credit score before you apply.  Also, consider asking someone with stellar credit to co-sign your loan if you’re worried about your score.

Consider subcontracting truck drivers 

Now that you’ve spent some time considering finances, you may be wondering how you can afford to pay your employees.

If you want to save money on operating costs and still have good drivers, you may want to consider using subcontracted truck drivers.

These truck drivers are hired per contract for specific jobs, they’ll only work when you need them to.

This can be the ideal set up for people that are interested in running a trucking business but want to start their company with less capital.

Data and software are your best friends

When people think about running a trucking business they usually don’t think about software.  But the right kind of software and data collection methods can ensure that you’re running your business in the best way possible.

The right kind of software can make managing finances a breeze.  You’ll have one place where you can keep all of your paid and outstanding invoices, employee payment information, account balances, and more.

Collecting data from trips is equally important.

Find out how often drivers are stopping to fill up, and how much fuel costs them in each state.  See which routes are the most efficient and which ones seem to take more time.

Having all of this data on hand could help you find more efficient routes for your drivers or could help save you money on fuel.

Perform maintenance frequently 

Remember how we mentioned that some companies will perform routine maintenance on every truck after it gets back from a delivery?

That may seem like too much, but it helps ensure that all fleet vehicles are in top running shape.

When you’re running a trucking business, it’s important to keep in mind how much wear and tear can occur on a running big rig.

Some of these truck drivers are running their vehicles non-stop for hours at a time while they travel across the country. Even trucking businesses that stay local can put some serious miles on their rigs.

If certain issues go unnoticed for too long, your rigs can get seriously damaged.

A loose belt or low oil may go unnoticed in a regular car for a few weeks or even months depending on how much it’s driven. All it takes is one long trip for damage to become apparent in a big rig.

Aside from having professionals routinely handle truck upkeep, it can be helpful to train your truck drivers in simple maintenance. Their dashboard can only tell them so much about the state of their vehicle.

Always put safety first 

Overall, it’s important to make sure that your trucking company and your drivers are compliant with all safety standards set by the American Trucking Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association.

There are rules about hauling certain kinds of materials, equipment usage, and nearly every aspect of trucking you can think of.

The trucking industry on average produces 5,360 fatalities and 142,000 injuries each year. When you’re running a trucking business safety should be your number one priority above all else.

Highway and driver safety clearly is a priority. Your truck drivers need to observe safe driving practices when they’re on the road. Drivers that constantly take shortcuts, speed, or drive aggressively shouldn’t be a part of your company.

Driver safety is only a small part of the issue. There are other hazards associated with trucking people can forget about.

Unsafe loading and unloading practices have the potential to harm employees or damage products. Drivers should also be thoroughly trained on hauling hazardous materials if you choose to go into that industry niche.

Find good clients 

The key to running a trucking business is to have a lot of clients you can rely on.

Some owners lull themselves into a state of false security once they land their first big contract. But it’s important to remember that the 6 or 7 figure contract you have today may not be there tomorrow.

Even if you have an excellent client you think will be with you for decades, you still need a solid business development plan to ensure that you’re bringing in new work.

If you can’t devote yourself to finding new clients you need to hire someone that can handle sales. Look for someone that specializes in the trucking industry and may already have some connections.

Bring on good talent 

Running a trucking business will be hard if your drivers have a reputation for being late or rude to clients.

Your truckers are going to represent your business on each trip, and you want to make sure you hire people that are up for the task.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring people that are new to the industry, but you may want a seasoned vet or two on your team in the beginning.

They’ll know the ins and outs of the industry, and they could even serve as a mentor for newer drivers.

Don’t risk bringing on someone with a bad driving history. They may have their CDL, but you should look into their personal background.

If they have speeding tickets, road rage incidents, or any charges involving drugs or alcohol, they probably won’t be good for your business.

Wrapping up

As you can see, running a trucking business requires a lot of work. You’ll need a good mix of reliable employees, the right equipment, and a mind for business if you want to succeed.

Do any seasoned trucking business owners have advice for people new to the industry? Tell us about it in our comments section!

If you have questions about trucking services, contact us so we can answer them.

 

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