There are two things that routinely rank in the top of things trucking companies think about. One is safety and enforcement and the other is fuel costs. Yet, is there more your fleet can do? Sure, there is. There could be better ways to manage a fuel program or more emphasis on recognizing what to expect from enforcement. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Should You Use a Fuel Card?
How can fuel card data be used to make smarter business decisions? One major benefit of fuel cards for small business owners is their effectiveness at capturing an array of data, such as vehicle mileage, how much fuel was used in each vehicle, and whether vehicles need to be serviced or repaired.
The fact is this: Small businesses can better track, control and forecast expenses by monitoring the data associated with each transaction. By monitoring this data, small business owners can get ahead of problems before they arise and by doing so, minimize costs.
Technology can go a long way to helping business owners reduce their fuel spending. If you think about it, fuel card programs typically have an online program management administration system whereby business owners can view dashboards and pull customizable reports. There are highly technological ways to be involved with your fuel card program. And if you outsource, make sure you use a vendor who can offer you unique features.
Some fuel cards also offer telematics, which can provide impressive tracking and control over vehicles. For example, a small business owner could monitor a driver’s odometer reading to make sure they’re abiding by the speed limit — not just for safety reasons, but to help hold the line on fuel costs.
So, how can fuel card data be used to provide better security? Fraud remains a concern for plenty of small business owners, and fuel cards can help minimize these concerns. Fuel cards are safer than cash, both from an internal-abuse standpoint and for external loss coverage. Plus, with centralized billing, fuel cards can provide far more control over the business.
When fleets give them to their truck drivers, they can set usage for fuel use only. By collecting and making sense of fuel card data, small business owners — no matter the size of their fleet — can solve major pressing issues, boost operational efficiency, protect their business, and create more effective business models for the future.
A Closer Look at Enforcement
Nationwide, law enforcement officers are being trained on how to identify different violations during a roadside inspection. Armed with a general understanding of the most typical violations officers are looking for, you can stay on the right side of the law.
First, live by the cardinal rule. Always know what is going on with your equipment. As simple as it may seem, be very specific when answering whether you are on AOBRD or ELD. While both may, in a technical sense, be electronic logging devices, when it comes to inspection criteria, it is imperative to start out on the right foot with the officer. AOBRDs are subject to less stringent regulations than ELDs; keep it as simple as possible for the best result.
One of the most common confusions at roadside right now is a driver indicating they “have an ELD device,” when they are actually operating AOBRD device that is compliant due to the grandfather clause. If you are on AOBRD, be very clear from the start to avoid being inspected incorrectly.
Next, always make sure that your ELD is on display. It must be visible. During an inspection an officer will first check if the ELD’s display screen is properly visible from outside the vehicle, as well as mounted to a fixed position. If the officer cannot see the screen without entering the vehicle or it appears to be in a position not visible to the driver, they may issue a violation.
You should also have any necessary paperwork on you. Every time a driver hits the road it is essential to carry proper documentation, specifically an ELD user manual, instructions on how to perform the data transfer and how to manage malfunctions. Not knowing how to perform a data transfer electronically could result in a citation being given.
Truck drivers should know if their device is FMCSA self-certified and on the ELD registry. Additionally, drivers must always carry and be able to produce a supply of blank driver’s records-of-duty status graph grids. Not having these items is an easy inspection item for violation.
Cooperation and Technology
Officers will request access to a driver’s communication records, as well as driving logs to be transferred either through the telematics or local method on an ELD device. A violation occurs if a driver refuses to provide supporting documents upon request.
Once an officer obtains the ELD records they will check the hours-of-service log. If unassigned driving miles belonging to the driver are uncovered and a driver fails to accept the unassigned driving, they may be placed out of service for attempting to conceal hours.
The easiest way for a truck driver to be cited is by neglecting to follow the basic ELD requirements. To avoid a citation a driver should always:
- Connect the vehicle to the ELD device by entering the commercial motor vehicle power unit number to the device.
- Follow the prompts from the device when editing or adding missing information. If the ELD shows an edit, and it is not accompanied with an explanation, the driver could be cited.
- Ensure your previous seven days of logs are certified.
- If you are driving under special circumstances that affect your hours, that must be noted.
- Use your ELD device! If a driver is caught using paper logs to record hours-of-service, you will be placed out of service in accordance with CVSA.
When it comes to technology, what are your responsibilities? Before starting a trip, you should always check your ELD is working properly. Drivers will be cited if an ELD cannot transfer records electronically, unless there is proof of a real-time technical issue.
If a truck driver is unable to produce the previous seven days logs due to a malfunction that occurred prior to the inspection, the driver may be cited for failing to reconstruct their Record of Duty Status (RODS). While it may seem like a lot to remember initially, these initial steps will become easier to incorporate into your general inspection experience. Over time, using an ELD device will become second nature; however, it’s important to know your responsibilities to avoid violations or suspended service.
Fortunately, there are solutions. A quality ELD solution includes more than just the devices. Look for one that also includes features and functions to help ensure continued, uninterrupted hours-of-service compliance and minimizes the margin for error and violations. For example, let’s look at some features and functions of popular ELD solutions.
What to Look For
One ELD provider offers an exclusive feature that makes it easy for law enforcement to view the truck driver’s logs during a commercial roadside inspection. Other features provide access to key driver data such as live statuses, availability, performance and hours of service. You also want to go with a provider who gives you updates when regulations change.
You want logs to automatically update as regulations change, which they often will. Doing so saves you the time and trouble of keeping your ELD solution current yourself. Plus, automatically updating with regulation changes helps ensure that drivers and managers stay compliant—without interrupting their day.
Law enforcement around the country has been trained to conduct inspections using specific tablets. You must ensure your ELD is interoperable with the devices law enforcement uses. By keeping the process going smooth and by the numbers you can avoid a lot of time lost in a prolonged inspection.
So, what is your fleet doing about fuel? Are you fully focused on safety and enforcement? As the trucking sector once again goes through a cyclical fluctuation, you need to ensure your fleet is flexible. Invest in a solid fuel card solution and make sure violations don’t bring your operation down.