Please disable your Ad Blocker in your browser's extentions.

Learn how to leverage technology and data to get the complete picture on compliance

By Aaron Huff

Complying with state and federal trucking regulations is more than a cost of doing business – and an expensive one at that. It’s also a risk protection plan.

But paperwork and a large volume of information to comply with fuel taxes, hours of service, driver qualification files and other regulations may burden fleets needlessly.
Applying more human resources to the problem not only raises costs but also adds to the risks of missing or ignoring critical information.

With modern technology in vehicles, the office and the cloud, fleets of any size can stay connected with real-time information and lighten the workload and risks associated with compliance.

By outsourcing compliance, third-party firms can handle administrative tasks and help fleets free up human resources for more productive and safety-sensitive activities such as driver training.

While total automation for compliance may not be possible, technology can eliminate much of the paperwork burden and deliver timely information to the right people at the right time.

In this edition of CCJ’s Tech Toolbox, we look at some of the technology and services that fleets can use to streamline and solidify compliance for fuel taxes, driver qualification files, driver logs and Compliance Safety Accountability performance. Be sure to visit CCJTechToolbox.com for other installments and multimedia content and to sign up for special Tech Toolbox webinars and newsletters. Next month: Technology’s role in finding drivers.


Fuel tax automation: Tech helps fleets streamline data collection and analysis

By Aaron Huff

Electronic payment systems from Comdata, Wex, U.S. Bank and other suppliers can capture fuel purchase data.

All fleets must file quarterly fuel tax reports with the International Fuel Tax Association, the organization that collects and redistributes fuel taxes from states where they are collected to states where they are due. Automated technology can accurately record gallons purchased and miles traveled in each state.

Electronic payment systems from Comdata, Wex, U.S. Bank and other suppliers can capture fuel purchase data. Commercial applications from ALK, ProMiles and Rand McNally can calculate state-by-state mileages by entering the dispatch information — origins, destinations and stops — either manually or, through software integration, automatically.

Mobile fleet management and telematics systems can capture state-by-state mileages automatically from GPS and odometer data. Many systems offer state mileage reports as a standard feature in their online user interfaces.

Many fleets also use dispatch software that captures fuel tax data automatically through integration with fuel cards, mileage applications and telematics systems.

Another option is to send fuel and mileage data to a third party. Carriers using KeepTruckin’s telematics and electronic logging device platform can transmit mileage data to Comdata’s MyFleet program, which includes a fuel tax offering.

Carriers using KeepTruckin’s telematics and electronic logging device platform can transmit mileage data to Comdata’s MyFleet program.

Bulletproof fuel taxes

To bulletproof fuel taxes from IFTA auditors, fleets should use all sources of mileage data and reconcile any differences. A fleet’s GPS and odometer miles always will be higher than dispatch miles, likely between 8 and 10 percent, since drivers may not adhere to the exact planned dispatch routes.

Some firms that administer fuel tax services have software that automatically extracts fuel, mileage and dispatch data from their clients’ information systems. These third-party systems capture any differences in mileages and report them to fleets for visibility and to minimize audit risk.

Weight-mile taxes

As vehicles become more fuel-efficient, state and federal governments are using alternative funding mechanisms to shore up their fuel tax revenues.

Oregon implemented the nation’s first GPS-based weight and mileage tax in 2014 for commercial vehicles. California is testing a similar program that taxes motorists based on the type of vehicle, weight and distance traveled on state roads.

Kentucky, New Mexico and New York also have weight-mile taxes in addition to a standard fuel tax.

To better comply with these evolving tax programs, fleets are supplying accurate mileage data to states directly from their telematics systems. To include weight information, fleets can use features in some mobile platforms, such as forms that drivers complete as part of their workflow process to enter load weights from bills of lading.


Electronic driver files: Moving driver management online brings savings, visibility

By Aaron Huff

TivaCloud’s web-based compliance platform offers a file management process that begins with an online job application form for hiring drivers.

A simple spreadsheet may be all a small fleet needs to manage driver qualification files such as commercial driver’s license information, motor vehicle records, employment records and drug screenings. But to stay on top of the growing amount of driver compliance and performance data, more robust applications may be needed.

One advantage of online driver compliance management applications is having central control and visibility from any device. J.J. Keller’s Encompass portal is used to manage driver hiring, qualification files and training records.

TivaCloud’s web-based compliance platform offers a file management process that begins with an online job application form for hiring drivers.

TransAm Trucking, a Kansas City, Mo.-based refrigerated carrier with 1,000 trucks, selected EBE Technologies to process its driver job applications while ensuring that all qualification tasks with each are completed.

When drivers apply online for a job at TransAm, applicants who pass the first level of qualifications appear on a recruiter’s dashboard. EBE’s Ships Recruiting system provides a workflow that guides recruiters through the ensuing steps, says Ron Crum, the fleet’s applications manager.

TransAm has seven different workflow tasks for hiring drivers. When recruiters order an MVR and employment background report, a mouse click submits the request to HireRight.
EBE has other Ships modules that fleets use to capture data and build workflow around driver safety, compliance and performance data from any source.

EBE Technologies’ Ships Recruiting system provides a workflow that guides recruiters through the onboarding steps when drivers apply online for a job.

The system’s Driver Manager dashboard shows exceptions or notifications, such as an upcoming CDL expiration, a physical exam, a sudden dip in fuel economy or a harsh-braking incident.

The dashboard also can alert drivers of upcoming expiration dates and other compliance tasks. Drivers can use an online portal or mobile app to complete forms and submit documents.

“Everything is moving to mobile apps to give the driver the ability to do everything and take the burden off fleet management,” says Cindy Nelson, EBE’s vice president of marketing.

EBE’s system is modular, and companies with less than 100 trucks are not likely to use the full Ships Driver Management suite, Nelson says, since it carries a monthly subscription from $1,000 to $1,200.


ELD compliance: It’s all about the data

By Aaron Huff

Of all of the information generated by ELDs and other compliance technologies, what matters most to fleet managers is what they need to do quickly to make a difference.

By December 2017, motor carriers must have their vehicles outfitted with devices that meet the standards of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic logging device rule.

In terms of compliance, any ELD may work. But managing all of the information coming from ELDs is a greater challenge.

Carriers will have to become adept at managing real-time log violations, many that weren’t visible when using paper logs. If drivers exceed hours-of-service limits by a few minutes to find a parking spot, they technically are in violation.

Other information challenges include retaining supporting HOS documents to audit ELD data such as fuel purchases and dispatch information.

An auditing process likely would uncover instances where drivers logged off duty while doing work-related activities such as fueling, pre-trip inspections, getting cash advances and hooking up to trailers.

Technology can automate the ELD auditing process. PeopleNet, a supplier of ELDs and fleet mobility technology, offers a “Line 4” log auditing product through its Vusion analytics group.

The term “Line 4” is a carryover from the grid in paper logbooks where drivers record nondriving work activities. The Vusion product uses data from PeopleNet’s eDriver Logs application and integrated dispatch systems to find exceptions, says Eric Witty, vice president of product for PeopleNet.

To have a manageable process to respond to alerts, Mesilla Valley Transportation’s IT department used business intelligence tools to create a dashboard-style reporting system.

Getting to the heart of it

Of all of the information generated by ELDs and other compliance technologies, what matters most to fleet managers is what they need to do quickly to make a difference.
When Las Cruces, N.M.-based Mesilla Valley Transportation implemented electronic logs, the company’s safety and compliance department was deluged by e-mail alerts, says Mike Kelley, chief information officer.

After further review, only about 10 percent of the alerts required follow-up action. The rest did not need intervention – at least not at the moment they were received. Some alerts were merely warnings that drivers had two hours remaining on their 11-hour drive limit.

MVT has 10 employees – four full-time and six part-time – who manage HOS compliance for its 24/7 operations. To have a manageable process to respond to alerts, the company’s IT department used business intelligence tools to create a dashboard-style reporting system.

The dashboard gives MVT’s compliance staff instant information about whether or not drivers are compliant. If they aren’t, click-through reports show staff members what they need to do.

The reporting system filters the alerts to show only the most critical information, such as when drivers are moving without remaining hours. The system also links alerts with data from other sources to provide more context, Kelley says. For example, a driver might not have logged fuel transactions, cash advances or inspections as on-duty time.
“By bringing all of this data together, we are not just blasting people with a firehose of information,” Kelley says. “Now everybody has their own water fountain.”


Outsourcing: Third-party firms take away nonproductive tasks

By Aaron Huff

Solid waste hauler Custom Ecology Inc. “grew” its safety department by outsourcing its driver qualification files, drug and alcohol testing, fuel taxes, vehicle registration and more to ITS Compliance.

To focus company resources on areas that matter most, such as customer service and driver management, many for-hire and private fleets outsource their routine administrative compliance tasks.

Outsourcing does not mean fleets lose control or flexibility; it helps safety managers remove themselves from repetitive tasks to concentrate on more safety-sensitive functions.

Outsourcing can be a paperless process since fleets generate much of their data electronically. With the added IT resources and expertise of outsourcing providers, the arrangement can become a virtual extension of a fleet’s safety and compliance department.

Custom Ecology Inc. contracted with ITS Compliance in 2012 and has since acquired two companies. The Mableton, Ga.-based fleet operates 750 tractors and 2,100 trailers to transfer solid waste to landfills for its commercial waste collection customers.

Outsourcing can be a paperless process since fleets generate much of their data electronically. With the added IT resources and expertise of outsourcing providers, the arrangement can become a virtual extension of a fleet’s safety and compliance department.

With the new drivers, equipment and terminal locations it added through its two acquisitions, CEI would have needed at least seven more people in its safety department to manage compliance effectively, says Rob Arbeiter, national safety director.

By outsourcing its driver qualification files, drug and alcohol testing, fuel taxes, vehicle registration and more to ITS, CEI “grew” its safety department and now focuses its resources on coaching drivers to improve performance and reduce risk.

“The only thing we don’t outsource is electronic logs,” Arbeiter says. CEI uses Omnitracs’ in-cab system to manage hours of service.

CEI and other ITS clients scan images of paper documents and upload files through a Web portal. The images then are routed internally to ITS specialists who are assigned to each customer and audit the documents for exceptions. They also enter data into proprietary software applications that ITS uses to manage and report the information back to clients.

By partnering with ITS, CEI is making progress toward its goals of being 100 percent paperless and 100 percent compliant, Arbeiter says. The fleet also has eliminated the impacts of employee turnover, vacations and training to keep compliance up to date.

J.J. Keller’s Managed Services group handles driver qualification files, drug and alcohol screening, driver logs, vehicle registration and fuel taxes.

J.J. Keller’s Managed Services group handles mostly driver qualification files and drug and alcohol screening, says Kari Gloudemans, product manager of Managed Services. The company also manages driver logs, vehicle registration and fuel taxes.

Customer fleets are assigned a dedicated account manager who communicates the tasks they need to complete. Customers also can access a web portal that shows any exceptions that need attention.

J.J. Keller receives documents and information from clients in any format, including secure file transfer protocol, email or regular mail.

For small carriers with fewer than 25 trucks, outsourcing may be cost-prohibitive, Gloudemans says, though J.J. Keller has different pricing options that have lowered the threshold.

J.J. Keller also provides Driver DataSense, a data management service that creates a holistic view of compliance from HOS data that is captured automatically from electronic logging devices and transferred from paper logs.

“As the ELD mandate approaches, we expect to get busier,” Gloudemans says.


Catching violations early: Software simplifies CSA data management

By Aaron Huff

By integrating with fleet telematics systems, Vigillo can quickly identify exceptions such as speeding violations and provide real-time alerts to drivers to slow down.

Software products can deliver exception-based information from various sources of driver compliance and performance data.

EBE Technologies’ Ships system can monitor data from telematics devices to catch violations that would impact a fleet’s Compliance Safety Accountability scores if left unchecked.

“Companies tell the system what type of violation they want to be looking for,” says Cindy Nelson, EBE’s vice president of marketing. The system then executes a corrective action, such as giving drivers a violation letter or scheduling a coaching meeting with them.

Vigillo provides CSA scorecards and data mining products. Steve Bryan, chief executive officer, says fleets initially were reluctant to have their data processed by Vigillo’s cloud-based systems.

“A lot of that fear is gone,” Bryan 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.

By integrating with fleet telematics systems, Vigillo can quickly identify exceptions such as speeding violations and provide real-time alerts to drivers to slow down.
The company’s big-data platform, Athena, can receive information from a variety of sources, including electronic logging devices and telematics systems from different suppliers.

PeopleNet’s Safety Analytics dashboard identifies a fleet’s most at-risk drivers based on a four-tier scoring system that mirrors ATRI’s crash predictors.

Centralized CSA scoring

Food service giant Sysco Corp. uses TivaCloud’s web-based compliance management system that offers DOT Insights reporting. Prior to using TivaCloud, a centralized view of CSA compliance seemed impossible since Sysco has more than 10,000 tractors and nearly 100 locations.

“Our main interest in TivaCloud came from our inability to manage all the data coming out of the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration] portal,” says Jerod Estapa, Sysco’s 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 Houston-based company’s CSA scores. Fleets that want TivaCloud’s DOT Insights tool separately can subscribe for $1 per truck per month.

Safety dashboard

Mesilla Valley Transportation used business intelligence tools to develop its own safety dashboard that shows how events from the previous day impacted the company’s CSA scores. The report is distributed daily to higher-level managers and includes data from the FMCSA portal. All of its metrics have a “click-through” feature to view more detailed reporting and exceptions such as inspection violations.

Management has used the report to take proactive measures that improve CSA scores, especially in light of varied enforcement nationwide. “We found that certain states are more active, while other states are less active,” says Mike Kelley, chief information officer for the Las Cruces, New Mexico-based fleet. “We found that 80 percent of our violations came from a single county in a single state. We are no longer taking that route.”

PeopleNet’s Safety Analytics dashboard identifies a fleet’s most at-risk drivers based on a four-tier scoring system that mirrors the crash predictors determined from studies by the American Transportation Research Institute.

The dashboard encompasses information from PeopleNet on violations for speed limits, hours of service and risky driving relayed by the company’s Onboard Event Recorder application. It also imports Vigillo’s daily CSA violation data.

Various data visualization tools identify drivers by degree of risk. Those with scores in the worst 10 percent in each category and overall are highlighted in red, followed by yellow for better performance and green for the top drivers.

Zonar’s Electronic Verified Inspection Report ensures drivers are conducting vehicle inspections and not just documenting occasional defects.

Coaching behaviors

Many mobile applications and telematics systems can help fleets improve CSA scores by alerting drivers and fleet managers to behaviors that, if left unchecked, could lead to violations.

Zonar, a transportation technology company, offers a mobile platform with several applications that fleets can use to manage their performance in the CSA BASICs for Unsafe Driving, HOS Compliance and Vehicle Maintenance.

FMCSA requires drivers to complete a vehicle inspection report only when a defect is found, but most fleets require drivers to complete daily pre-trip inspections regardless, says Fred Fakkema, vice president of compliance for Zonar.

The company’s Electronic Verified Inspection Report system is designed to ensure drivers are conducting vehicle inspections and not just documenting occasional defects. The EVIR system uses RFID tags placed in zones around the vehicle and a tablet with a scanner.

“By keeping track of the completed inspections regardless of a defect, the driver can prove during a roadside inspection that it was actually conducted when questioned and avoid receiving an additional violation of failing to conduct an inspection before operating the vehicle,” Fakkema says.

Video-based driver risk management systems also offer liability protection and can capture a variety of driver behaviors that impact carrier CSA scores, specifically in the Unsafe Driving BASIC, including texting, speeding, reckless driving and improper lane change.

Analysis by SmartDrive, a provider of video-based safety systems, shows that during the first year of implementing its system, fleets realize the following improvements:

• Texting: 78 percent reduction.
• Speeding (1-5 and 6-10 mph over): 82 percent reduction.
• Speeding (11-14 mph and more than 15 mph over): 56.5 percent reduction.
• Reckless driving: 52.6 percent reduction.
• Seatbelt compliance: 72.5 percent improvement.

Vnomics’ fleet management platform provides distinct audible tones when drivers exceed speed thresholds. Drivers also receive a daily score that shows their fuel and safety performance.

Speed management

FMCSA issued a rule proposal for speed limiters last year that would require vehicles to have a top speed setting of 60, 65 or 68 mph. Lost productivity would be offset by increased fuel efficiency and accident reduction, the agency said.

With today’s technology capabilities, speed limiters are an entry-level compliance tool. Companies already use advanced telematics to gain insights on speed behaviors and fuel economy that can yield greater results.

Many systems allow drivers to use mobile devices to receive automated feedback with easy-to-understand scores and participate in competitions to earn rewards and recognition.

Vnomics’ fleet management platform provides distinct audible tones when drivers exceed speed thresholds. Drivers also receive a daily score that shows their fuel and safety performance in relation to what they could have achieved by staying within the optimal ranges.

Fleet managers also can receive immediate e-mail alerts for excessive speed events, says Bob Magnant, vice president of product management for Vnomics.

Telematics systems can do more than report speeding violations. Many have integrated their speed and location data with SpeedGauge, a provider of business intelligence and location-based analytics, to know how their drivers complied with posted speed limits along their routes, either on- or off-highway.

Teletrac’s telematics platform focuses on safety analytics and driver scorecards “to provide data in a more holistic way than speed,” says Sid Nair, senior director of marketing and product management.

Using Teletrac’s driver scorecard, a manager can drill down to an interactive mapping tool to replay the driver’s profile and identify where he was speeding, had a harsh braking event or ran a stop sign. Drivers receive instant alerts if they exceed a posted speed.

“There is no more excuse about not knowing what the speed is,” Nair says.


Make your ELD decision Make your ELD decision
MANDATE DEADLINE IS COMING. Make your ELD decision