Automated technology such as logistics software will play an important role in helping small and medium-sized trucking operations more easily and accurately comply with regulations. Commercial carriers often have to balance their business activity with a complex web of both state and federal legislation intended to promote safe practices on U.S. highways and streets. Without the right tools, fleet owners must complete the regulatory reporting process by keeping manual records of issues such as the number of hours logged by drivers, as well as routine maintenance activity and equipment updates.
Relying too heavily on record keeping can result in a number of problems for small-business owners. Drivers run the risk of inaccurately logging their hours due to human error. These process can also become a time-consuming burden that limits the ability to complete other daily responsibilities. As a result, staff may feel the urge to forgo the reporting process entirely, which may further exacerbate problems.
Noncompliance leads to trucking safety issues
Foresight in the regulatory reporting process has caused several accidents in recent years. According to The Chicago Tribune, a fatal crash in January along a stretch of Illinois Tollway was attributed largely to driver fatigue after trucker Renato Velazquez had put in a 36-hour marathon shift transporting freight from Illinois to Nebraska and back. The newspaper said 36 hours exceeds the limit established by recent "hours of service" regulations created by the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Investigations into the accident have since revealed that the commercial carrier Velazquez was contracted to work for had a history of poor record keeping and compliance.
These recent events may eventually lead federal regulatory agencies to crack down more severely on companies that fail to control the number of hours their employees and contractors put in for a single assignment.
"Falsification of log books has been a chronic problem in the industry for years," Stephen Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), told the Tribune.
"They continue to be a major violation. We believe electronic logbooks will certainly help curtail that activity."
'Hours of service' regulations likely here to stay for the long run
The increased scrutiny also comes at the heels of a study released earlier this year from the FMCSA revealing the changes made to the "hours of service" rule in 2013 have proved effective in increasing safety. Overdrive magazine reported that a provision requiring additional rest time before restarting another shift has allowed individuals to be more well-rested in general.
"This new study confirms the science we used to make the 'hours of service' rule more effective at preventing crashes that involve sleepy or drowsy truck drivers," said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. "For the small percentage of truckers that average up to 70 hours of work a week, two nights of rest is better for their safety and the safety of everyone on the road."
Many trucking companies have complained that these rules place a significant strain on overall productivity. However, complying with the regulations will become increasingly necessary, especially as the FMCSA becomes more adamant about enforcement. In the mean time, fleet owners can take advantage of a variety of logistics software tools to create an easier compliance process in the long run.
In particular, route optimization software allows businesses to automatically plan deliveries to make the most efficient use of time. By focusing on ways to reduce mileage and avoid traffic jams, drivers will have more opportunities to complete assignments in less time. For other safety-related regulations, tools such as equipment maintenance software make it easier for managers to keep better track of their vehicle updates. It's not always easy to know when vehicles need maintenance, but automated technology provides businesses with a more comprehensive and organized solution. This will result in a more efficient regulatory reporting process, which may even lead to enhanced productivity in the long run.
Commercial carriers no longer have to rely on manual procedures to keep their operations running smoothly. The right technology will ensure compliance with regulations without having any negative impact on future growth. As a result, fleet owners can continue expanding their operations and taking on more assignments on a regular basis.