Fleet operators often consume reams of paper, sometimes for no reason other than to comply.
Driver files, logbooks, vehicle inspection forms and receipts of all kinds go through their offices to be processed, audited and stored away.
The paper model has changed due to an ever-increasing amount of information that needs to be managed to stay in compliance, and to become more efficient at doing so.
The Compliance, Safety, Accountability program is a recurring stream of inspection and violation data. Electronic logging devices (ELDs), telematics systems and other technologies create enormous amounts of data too.
A variety of software applications can be used to manage compliance, and outsourcing is a popular option for fleets to reduce costs and focus on what they do best.
Custom Ecology, Inc. (CEI) operates 750 tractors and 2,100 trailers to transfer solid waste to landfills for customers in the commercial waste collection business.
Since 2012, CEI has acquired two companies. The new drivers, equipment and terminal locations it added would require at least seven more people in its safety department to manage compliance, estimates Rob Arbeiter, national safety director for the Mableton, Ga.-based fleet.
By outsourcing driver qualification (DQ) files, drug and alcohol testing, fuel taxes, vehicle registration and more to a third party, ITS Compliance, CEI did not grow its safety department and is better able to focus on coaching drivers to improve performance and reduce risk.
“The only thing we don’t outsource is electronic logs,” he says.
The decision to keep compliance in house or to turn over some — if not all — to a third party may depend on how efficient and automated you want to become, and what technologies and services will work best to get you there.
Applications for managing electronic and paper records abound. Some companies now offer cloud-based systems that cover the entire gamut of compliance.
J.J. Keller and Associates’ Encompass portal, for example, is used by fleets to manage log data, both paper and electronic. The portal interfaces with the Keller Mobile ELD application. Fleets can upgrade to the Compliance edition to manage driver hiring, qualification files, training, and other safety and compliance processes. The Premium edition includes telematics information for driver performance — fuel use, speed, braking — and GPS location.
Products in the market also deliver information and insights from data that the FMCSA collects on motor carriers.
Vigillo has been providing CSA scorecards and data mining products in the transportation industry for nine years. In the beginning, Steve Bryan, chief executive officer, recalls fleets were reluctant to have their data processed by systems that reside in the cloud.
“A lot of that fear is gone,” he says. “There is a comfort with technology that didn’t exist before.” That comfort level may be born of necessity since managing CSA, hours of service and other data can be overwhelming without technology, he says.
Quickly identifying exceptions such as speeding violations, and providing real-time alerts — especially in states like Indiana where law enforcement more closely targets speeding — is one of the services Vigillo provides, he says.
Vigillo can send alerts directly to drivers to warn them to slow down by integrating with fleet telematics systems. Its big data platform, called Athena, can take in data from a variety of sources, including electronic logging devices and telematics systems from different suppliers. Normalizing all that data “is what we do,” he says.
Building on the cloud
Jeffrey Stilwell founded a web development company in 2005. Friends and family members in the transportation industry asked him to build a compliance management platform, which led to the start of a new company, TivaCloud.
Last year, TivaCloud released a new platform that centers on DQ file management. It then developed a business intelligence tool called DOT Insights for fleets to manage CSA data.
DOT Insights breaks down compliance data into an easily consumable format, he says, with driver scorecards and other data visualization tools that make data meaningful and manageable.
The company recently released a driver onboarding application that streamlines and standardizes the driver hiring process. Stilwell says the goal for TivaCloud is to become an all-inclusive, compliance management platform.
In the second quarter, TivaCloud plans to release a fully compliant, low-cost ELD. Fleets do not have to use the new ELD app to manage their hours of service data, however. The online platform can import data from other ELD manufacturers and provide a single, clear picture of compliance, he says.
The full platform today costs $5 per employee per month. Fleets that want the DOT Insights tool separately can subscribe for $1 per truck per month.
Food service giant Sysco Corporation, based in Houston, Texas, began using TivaCloud for its DOT Insights reporting.
“More than anything, our main interest in TivaCloud came from our inability to manage all the data coming out of the FMCSA portal,” says Jerod Estapa, manager of driver and fleet compliance. “The TivaCloud system does exponentially more to help us manage all that data. These large data solutions are becoming what companies like ours need.”
DOT Insights helps Estapa identify trends and problem areas in the company’s CSA scores; it also identifies cases where Sysco trucks are given violations meant for a different carrier, he says. In these instances, Sysco is able to petition FMCSA to make corrections.
Sysco now has a centralized view of CSA performance. Prior to using TivaCloud, Estapa says this almost seemed impossible given the fact that the fleet has more than 10,000 tractors spread out at nearly 100 locations. Each location has its own DOT number, and getting CSA information on all locations through the FMCSA portal “was a mess,” he says.
Sysco is in the midst of a multi-year process to consolidate all of its DOT numbers down to two numbers. Once this is complete, Estapa believes TivaCloud will continue to help the company manage CSA performance for all locations.
Consolidating log data
As commercial and private fleets gear up to comply with the ELD mandate, many find themselves managing HOS data from multiple sources. Some use paper and electronic logs simultaneously. Others use ELDs from multiple suppliers.
In January, J.J. Keller & Associates released a new data management service called Driver DataSense that creates a holistic view of HOS compliance using data captured from paper logs and multiple ELD systems, says Kari DuBois, J.J. Keller’s director of Managed Services for major accounts.
The service is a new option in J.J. Keller’s outsourced Managed Services offerings.
Fleets can send in paper logs to J.J. Keller for scanning and auditing. Likewise, Driver DataSense captures hours worked for drivers that operate within a 100 to 150 air-mile radius of their terminal, which exempts them from HOS rules.
Fleets that subscribe to the service pay a monthly fee based on driver count. The subscription includes access to a web-based Client Information Center, which is the same portal that Managed Service clients use to view information for other areas they outsource like vehicle licensing, fuel tax and DQ files.
Driver DataSense gives users a dashboard-style view of compliance metrics with drill-down reporting. E-mail notifications are also sent to clients on a nightly basis to help focus priorities and resolve problem areas in compliance, she says.
A human contact, a J.J. Keller Client Service Specialist, is always on call to help mitigate risk, interpret information and overcome compliance issues.
In addition to HOS data management, Driver DataSense can capture and report driver performance metrics from telematics systems that include hard braking, idle time, fuel economy and more, DuBois says.
By partnering with ITS Compliance, CEI is making progress towards its goal of being 100 percent paperless and 100 percent compliant, Arbeiter says.
“We had nine large file cabinets. We now have one,” he says.
CEI and other clients of ITS Compliance scan images of paper documents and upload files through a Web portal. The images are then routed internally to specialists assigned to each customer.
The specialists audit each document for exceptions. They also enter data into proprietary software applications that ITS uses to manage and report the information back to clients.
By visually reviewing each image, specialists can tailor the auditing process to each customer’s needs; and besides, “clients love the flexibility and ability to retain use of their own forms,” says John Vosters, chief sales officer of ITS Compliance.
Data also comes electronically, in real time, from GPS locations, hours of service, vehicle inspections and other data captured by onboard computing systems. Exceptions are automatically noted and reported together with the data captured from images.
“We’ve always been able to utilize multiple sources of electronic and paper information from our customers, and match the two up for consolidated final reporting,” explains Vosters. “Our systems are also able to incorporate data received from multiple telematics providers within a single fleet.”
Using real-time electronic telematics data versus paper-based source documents reduces labor costs for ITS Compliance significantly, and it passes these savings onto clients as an additional benefit of investing in telematics. Eventually, Jim Matras, president and chief executive, believes all information will be arriving electronically.
“The objective for our clients and ITS is to become as paperless as possible in our relationships,” he says.
For CEI, outsourcing has eliminated the impact of employee turnover, vacations, and training to keep its compliance up to date. CEI is able to ensure that its hiring standards are uniformly being met by all 18 terminals, Arbeiter says.
The hiring process begins when a terminal uploads a completed driver application to ITS Compliance. Next, ITS Compliance processes the application by doing the background checks and PSP reports, he says.
ITS Compliance provides CEI with a variety of reports through a customer-facing website. One way CEI uses the website is to track the actual costs of equipment licensing and compliance for each terminal to create more accurate profit-and-loss accounting reports.
Prior to using ITS Compliance, the company allocated its compliance costs, he says. The company can also monitor the utilization of equipment to see if any terminals are trailer or tractor heavy, he says.
Outsourcing compliance has largely become a paperless process with much of the data now generated electronically. With added IT resources and human expertise from outsource providers, the arrangement works like a virtual extension of a fleet’s safety and compliance department.