DOT proposes streamlined paperwork requirements

Fleets often find their processes hindered by lengthy and unnecessary processes, but if the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has its way, one current cumbersome obligation could soon be eliminated. This move has the potential to have a significant impact on fleet operations and help teams save time, cut back on regulatory requirements, streamline internal practices and limit costs. While some businesses are already slashing expenses by requesting drivers take the most direct route and employ new technology, they could save even more in the coming months.

Proposed changes could have significant implications
The DOT has proposed to reduce paperwork filing requirements for driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs), an obligation many in the industry see as time-consuming and burdensome. These daily reports require drivers to complete a form that details whether any vehicle defects or deficiencies are present. The mandates could soon be eliminated if a recently announced initiative manages to gather steam.

The DOT noted only 5 percent of these DVIRs filed annually detail any vehicle defects, making this regulation time-consuming and often unnecessary. It mentioned DVIRs are the 19th-highest paperwork burden of mandates imposed across all federal agencies.

The plan would not get rid of a requirement for drivers to complete pre- and post-trip inspection reports and for companies to retain this paperwork. DVIRs would still be necessary if a driver noticed defects or deficiencies while completing daily operations. The switch will save the trucking industry an estimated $1.7 billion annually, while still allowing companies to meet all safety standards.

"President Obama challenged his Administration to find ways to cut waste and red tape, a challenge I pledged to meet during my confirmation hearing," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "With today's proposal, we are delivering on that pledge, saving business billions of dollars while maintaining our commitment to safety. It's the kind of win-win solution that I hope our department will continue to find over the coming months."

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will collect and review comments on the proposed change before any alterations are made. The department eliminated a similar requirement back in 2012, when it lifted the mandate for truck drivers to complete daily inspection reports when operating intermodal equipment trailers.

Move well-received throughout the industry
If the new initiative manages to go through, both individual drivers and the companies they work for will be pleased by the change. Drivers will spend less of their time complying with paperwork requirements, lifting a substantial burden they have dealt with in the past.

Transportation companies and groups are also enthused by the idea. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has encouraged Foxx to continue moving forward with this proposition, as well as other proposals that will limit restrictions on the industry and make it easier for carriers to operate.

"ATA appreciates the Obama Administration's proposal to provide relief on a longstanding paperwork-related burden in the trucking industry, and we look forward to working with Secretary Foxx to implement it in the near future," said Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO. "Though this step will provide modest relief to professional drivers and motor carriers, ATA is optimistic this signals Secretary Foxx's willingness to provide reasonable and appropriate relief to the industry and he will quickly act to provide relief on more substantive issues."

The group released a list of items it hopes Foxx will address, including a request that the Compliance, Safety and Accountability crash processes be made more fair to truck drivers. The ATA also hoped the DOT will lift or restrict the new hours-of-service rules put into place in July and review sleeper berth flexibility.

While getting rid of the paperwork could help limit expenses, using route planning software in conjunction with the initiative could further cost savings efforts.