Many trucking company executives consider information to be a vital asset – second only to people. Information provides visibility, control and competitive advantage.
With technologies such as “virtualized” storage area networks and cloud computing, companies can ensure information always is available. Document imaging and data warehousing technology also can help fleets cut through the clutter to find what they need quickly.
A drawback of technology, however, is that information doesn’t disappear the moment it’s no longer needed. Storage is so inexpensive that fleets rarely need to clear their hard drives to make space for more data.
Cross Country Courier has at least 90 days of information stored in a high-availability disaster-proof environment; the Bismarck, N.D.-based company also backs up data monthly and annually. But the amount of images and operating data it has on hand goes back to 2004, which probably is more data than necessary, says Jay Dillman, vice president of information technology for the 200-truck less-than-truckload carrier.
The company’s transportation management software system mostly is to blame; the software lacks a feature for archiving data on a set schedule. Having previously worked at a large bank before joining Cross Country Courier in 2006, Dillman has experience with executing data retention policies with precision.
“At 90 days, we shredded paper like there was no tomorrow,” he says. “We did the same thing with data.”
Destroying data can be as important as retaining it. The destruction of data is more of a risk management strategy than an IT strategy for freeing up resources. Amid the changing landscape of rules, regulations, risks and data sources, a fleet should give its data retention policies and the technology used to execute those policies a closer look.
Forces at play
Data retention policy took a serious turn on Dec. 1, 2006. That’s when a change in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure placed the burden on the parties involved in a lawsuit to discuss early in litigation what electronically stored information could be available for discovery.
In practical terms, this law means a party has a legal obligation to preserve all data that could be relevant to a dispute that reasonably could lead to litigation. Exempt from this so-called electronic discovery law is data destroyed during the normal course of business.
All data that is related to a dispute must be preserved or placed in “litigation hold” until the dispute is resolved, says Steve Silverman, an expert of electronic discovery matters and an attorney at Pittsburgh-based law firm Tucker Arensberg.
Before this electronic discovery law, Southeastern Freight Lines was retaining all documents and data according to established legal and regulatory guidelines. But the e-discovery law caused management to review all corporate data and decisions about retention for data that did not fit within specified guidelines.
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