Tag Archives: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

How To Operate Trucking Effectively Under The Umbrella Of The Coercion Rule

It’s likely you’ve already heard of the rule prohibiting acts of coercion designed to get truck drivers to somehow violate or bend safety regulations. It went into effect in January, and operators have been driving under it ever since.

The rule is officially called “Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Rule,” this regulatory measure – in very specific terms – prohibits fleets, shippers, receivers or other transportation operators from actively forcing truck drivers to break the rules.

There are three key areas that the final rule governs:

  • What a commercial truck driver should do if there is an incident of coercion
  • What the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must do in response to allegations of coercion
  • What sort of penalties will be imposed if a particular entity, whether fleet or individual, has coerced a truck driver

Where it comes to penalties, we are talking up to $16,000, which is no small number. The history of this rule dates to as far back as 2014, when the federal government was fielding concerns from truck drivers that carriers and others acted as though truck drivers weren’t governed by specific operational restrictions and regulations.

Specifically, the FMCSA pointed out that truck drivers routinely reported having been coerced to violate regulations with threats implied, whether implicit or explicit, up to and/or including termination, reduced pay or forfeiture of benefits or good working hours.

What You Need to Know

Since the rule has gone into effect, it has essentially forced the FMCSA to move truck driver coercion complaints to the top of their priority list. In many cases, when the FMCSA follows up on complaints, whether the operator was coerced or not, the agency oftentimes uncovers other things.

What’s the moral of the story here? You may have great CSA scores, but that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. If you aren’t focused on the specific processes and procedures involved in ensuring compliance, you might wind up with more than just a small fine for a minor violation.

There are specific areas of focus that the FMCSA seems to put more emphasis on, the first of which being hours of service violations. Hours of service complaints also seem to be the most often cited. The best way to do this is by ensuring you have the proper documentation trail outlining time and date. Are you utilizing technology to your advantage?

Another area to keep an eye on is your fuel reports when compared to your fuel receipts. Always remember that you must record the time of the transaction. Whatever third-party supplier you use, whether the receipts are paper or electronic, must record the date and time when the transaction took place.

Generally, inspectors will use information from your GPS system to cross reference your driver log information. Fleets still using older e-logs will have to square their system’s proprietary settings with what the inspectors will be looking for.

Watch for These Things

First, set your automatic onboard recording devices or AOBRDs to a synchronous setting as the federal standard for such devices. An area where fleets are seeing violations are often reported when the truck is marked as moving by the GPS unit when the AOBRD doesn’t concur.

The reason for this lies in that some AOBRDs account for speed and distance movement before the time on the GPS begins tracking. If an ELD is set at 5 miles per hour with no distance setting, then you may end up thinking you have “yard time” where there is none, thus generating a discrepancy.

In the end, whether you are an independent operator or a fleet manager, you need to ensure a policy is place to hold to a minimum standard where the potential for coercion is concerned. After all, the last thing you want to do is run afoul of new FMCSA regulations.

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.


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.

Is There An Easy Fix For Trucking Companies Safety Profiles?

Can you believe it has been over five years since the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) safety-monitoring system was rolled out? You would think everyone would be used to it right now, yet it still it bedevils many a fleet manager. Fortunately, we’re here to dissect it for you.

CSA is a complicated structure. It has a methodology that tries to paint an accurate – and actionable – picture out of various disparate elements and seemingly unrelated factors. It’s a lumbering system that tries to put a pinpoint shot onto a moving target.

Where Are We On CSA?

The fact is, CSA scores and Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICS) are meant to distinguish carriers that operate safely from those who do not. On the flipside, some argue that the scores inaccurately portray some carriers as “unsafe” for the simple reason that the scoring method is heavily weighted to violations, no matter how many clean inspections said carrier may have to their credit.

While a provision in the 2015 highway bill did force the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) to remove the CSA scores from public view, is that just a temporary fix? Indeed, some scores may stay down until a Transportation Research Board (TRB) report is commissioned.

Fortunately, the agency has been mandated to create said report within 18 months of the passing of the highway bill. The agency must submit a report to Congress and, 120 days later, be able to supply a so-called “corrective action plan”. The plan should be designed to address any deficiencies found within the study.

Even so, the inspection data that drives CSA remains publicly visible. Percentile ranks and alerts are still available to fleets and law enforcement can prioritize their actions around CSA scores.

Using Technicians

The best way a fleet can ensure its safety profile accurately reflects the nature of the business is to promote measures that bring down the types of violations that drive up CSA scores, and not just in numbers, but in their severity and frequency as well.

First, focus on what is most in your control: Vehicle maintenance. Always make sure you are completing and documenting any and all annual inspections of trucks and trailers. Additionally, make sure you have as many technicians as you need, and in some cases maybe one or two more.

More technicians mean more inspections. Technicians can also help to train the drivers on how to conduct proper pre- and post-trip inspections. Having shop guys on the ready when pre- and post-trip inspection data is relayed is necessary best practice.

Don’t solely focus on hours of service violations to bring your CSAs down. Remember that improving equipment maintenance also goes a long way to lowering your CSA score.

Using Technology

Have you made the technological migration yet? While the vast majority of truck drivers go above and beyond what is necessary to ensure safety, some still get dinged for not properly tracking hours or missing or incomplete inspections.

It’s a lot harder to keep accurate track of your fleet’s safety performance measures if you are using paper logs. Switch to telematics and take the headache out of tracking safety measures and potential performance issues.

Have you considered in-cab video systems? Safety-conscious drivers enjoy the positive reinforcement when their performance measures up, and video systems help propagate the “safety effect”. They move fleets beyond just monitoring drivers, but assist in addressing behavioral aspects as well.

When used properly, technology can be an incredibly useful tool in the effort to keep your safety profiles and CSA scores in tip-top shape. And with the ELD mandate coming in 2017, fleets will have no more reason to stay sitting on the technological fence.



Details On The New ELD Mandate For Truckers

Have you heard? By 2017, truck operators will be federally mandated to use an electronic logging device (ELD). The rule will officially go into effect on December 16th, 2017. While many fleets are already volunteering to switch, if for nothing else than to utilize the benefits of this technology, the new rule will put a stamp on the total phase out of paper logs.

Once a fleet begins using an ELD, they will no longer be required to record and maintain paper logs. The rule requires truck drivers who may be currently using paper logs to move to ELDs, with a few exceptions, which we will cover below.

The rule also outlines specific safeguards against truck driver harassment, hardware specifications and supporting documentation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says the rule will save an estimated $1 billion in industry costs, mainly on the time and money that goes into maintaining extensive paper logs. Let’s take a look at each of the mandate’s key components.

Required ELD Use

The ELD mandate will apply to all truck drivers who are required to keep records of duty statuses. Exceptions include:

  • Truck drivers operating vehicles built before the year 2000 and before;
  • Truck drivers who keep records of duty status in eight or fewer days out a total of 30 working days at a time;
  • Truck drivers in drive-away and tow-away operations.

Device Specifications

The mandate does not require that ELDs track a vehicle or truck driver in real time. Furthermore, they do not mandate that the device include driver-carrier communication capabilities.

What they must be able to do is automatically record:

  • Date;
  • Time;
  • Location;
  • Engine hours;
  • Vehicle miles;
  • Truck driver ID information.

The rule also requires that compliant devices be able to transfer the data stored on them during roadside inspections, whether it be “on-demand”, wireless, email, USB 2.0 or Bluetooth. The ELD must also be able to create a graph grid of daily status changes, whether on the units themselves or in printouts.

Supporting Documents

While fleets and truck drivers will no longer be required to keep paper logs, they must have supporting documents on hand, whether electronic or on paper, for every 24-hour period of on-duty time. They must also submit these supporting documents to their carrier within 13 days. The carrier must then hold on to the documents for six months.

The supporting documents include:

  • Bills of lading, itineraries or schedules;
  • Dispatch or trip records;
  • Expense receipts;
  • Electronic mobile communication records;
  • Payroll records, settlement sheets or similar documents.

Harassment of Truck Drivers

Back in 2012, a similar ELD mandate was tossed out in court over its lack of protections against truck driver harassment. In accordance with that court ruling, the FMCSA’s new rule makes it expressly illegal for motor carriers to use the devices to harass truck drivers.

In addition to making it illegal to harass their drivers, the rule also puts fines in place for doing so. Additionally, it outlines a system by which truck drivers can report harassment.

But what exactly is truck driver harassment by ELD? The rule defines ELD harassment as any action by a motor carrier toward a truck driver when the carrier “knew or should have known” said action would interrupt a driver’s off-duty time. It goes on to define harassment as “involving information available to the fleet through an ELD or used in combination with, but not separable from the ELD.

There’s Still Time

While all of these changes may seem like a lot, fortunately motor carriers have until the end of 2017 to get them implemented. While it is estimated there will be some increased cost associated with the mandate, perhaps efficiencies in other areas will make up for the up-front cost.

Still, as the winds continue to shift on Capitol Hill, could we see even this rule relegated to infinite legislative flux? Only time will tell.