When it comes to trucking, time is money. Compliance issues and violations not only hit the pockets of the trucking company, but also its drivers and customers.
But what if companies could be proactive when it comes to these issues? Smart compliance tools may offer a solution, and using them could save time and money up and down the logistics chain.
“Smart compliance alleviates the question mark of what’s going on with drivers while they are out there,” said Carolina Freightways Director of Safety Brian Turner during a recent webinar hosted by ISAAC Instruments.
Turner said the utilization of smart compliance technology has streamlined efficiency for Carolina Freightways, which has more than 200 vehicles, providing a more streamlined efficiency when it comes to transporting. He said the company’s drivers no longer must stop and fill out logbooks.
ISAAC Director of Compliance, Client Service and Technical Support Melanie Simard said during the webinar that smart compliance technology notifies companies of potential compliance issues, sending a real-time alert if there is one.
“You can shift from being reactive to proactive in order to mitigate risk,” Simard said.
Fleetworthy Solutions Marketing Specialist Ethan Quimby agrees.
“Too many times, either after an accident or before an audit, these trucking companies are finding out issues way too late. (This) either increases their fines, increases lawsuit payouts (nuclear verdicts), prevents their drivers or trucks from being on the road (not cleared for dispatch), or worst-case scenario — shuts down their whole business,” he said.
Quimby said smart compliance allows safety teams to monitor data in real time to make sure items such as licenses and accounts are renewed, documents are properly filed, and inspection reports are accurate.
“If any of these are not looking right, a good compliance software will alert you via a notification system and tell you something isn’t right, and the driver or truck needs to pull over immediately if they are already on the road,” he noted. “If they are not on the road, our system will say they are not dispatch ready; this saves your company from potential fines or lawsuits.”
Smart compliance technology also helps drivers take a more active role in identifying and addressing potential problems.
“We’ve actually improved greatly; the notification from our drivers has increased 50% to 60%,” Turner shared. “Now the driver has a tablet, walks around the vehicle, finds the defect takes a picture immediately and submits it. Our maintenance guy sees it, and he calls the driver and says, ‘I need to get a maintenance crew to you if they aren’t on our site.’”
Better maintenance leads to more efficient performance at all levels.
“Smart compliance technology is powering the future for drivers and fleets by improving the in-cab experience and boosting efficiency,” said Platform Science Director of Product Management Stephanie Webster. “Fleet management systems and other technology providers are partnering to use the power of data to provide a holistic view of what’s happening in the truck directly to the driver and to office staff.”
Webster said fleets should expect to see solutions that provide driver-coaching recommendations in real time, along with insights about where operational improvements need to be made to meet government or safety requirements.
“Without a doubt, the goal behind the tech is to foster a safer and more efficient industry,” said E-Smart Senior Manager of Marketing and Public Relations Callie Myers. “In terms of exactly how it will change the trucking industry in the near future, I think we’ll see things move and develop quickly. Early adopters will lead the way.”
One of the biggest advantages of smart compliance technology is that it reduces risks for many drivers, who have a variety of factors to take into consideration before they even start the truck’s engine. It also helps them mitigate — and possibly avoid — situations where they could be stuck on the road past their allotted drive time or face hazards on the road ahead.
“One of the biggest benefits is the ability to plan,” said Equipment Express Safety and Compliance Manager Brian Sillett. Equipment Express is a Canada-based heavy-haul company with a fleet of 35 vehicles. Many of its loads are extra-large size, and Sillett says the company’s drivers regularly cross the U.S.-Canada border.
“Not all of our loads fit in typical parking spaces,” Sillett said. “Moving to this platform, it’s been significantly improved our planning abilities for our guys to see the hours of service. The hours of service switch automatically when they cross the border.”
Sillett said the company has reports delivered every morning so they can keep an eye on the current situations with their vehicles.
“It allows us to see if they’re in the best situation they can be,” he added. “It’s nice for the drivers to think less about it and have the computers do the hard processing for them. It allows them to focus on completing their work.”
Streamlining the path to compliance could even improve a carrier’s driver retention.
“Fleets that adopt technology focused on using compliance data to strengthen operations give their drivers simplified, easier to use tools for their day-to-day management,” Webster said. “This builds driver retention and improves driver experience.”
Webster says automating compliance information also provides visibility to the back office to mitigate risk and meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements, helping to prevent fines and potential time-consuming audits.
“An example of how using compliance data can drive ease of use and save time is pairing hours-of-service data with weigh-station requirements,” Webster explained. “Automatically sending the driver’s FMCSA required data directly to the inspector saves steps for the driver and gets them back on the road much faster.”
Webster said innovative technology helps drivers plan their day using hours-of-service smart timers instead of manually calculating when to take a break or switch their duty status, vastly simplifying the process. This makes it much easier for drivers to comply with electronic logging device (ELD) regulations, and can help prevent violations. That translates to time and money savings for the whole fleet.
“The shift toward ELDs really helped with hours-of-service regulation and compliance,” Simard said. “Smart compliance goes beyond just having an ELD that records your duty statuses. The technology allows you to configure notification or send an alert so that the drivers know if they’re about to limit a specific limit.”
The days of “cooking the books” — keeping one set of records for enforcement purposes and a second set that shows drivers’ actual activities and vehicle status — are in the rear-view mirror.
“Being able to have a single version of the truth depicting both your compliance performance across your drivers and assets allows carriers to make sound decisions based on a 360-degree view of the risks you currently face or could face in the future,” Quimby said.
“The advantages we already see in terms of intelligent speed adaptation is a decrease in speeding events by more than 88%, which translates into fewer accidents and improved CSA scores,” Myers said. “The technology is moving so quickly; I think we’ve only just begun to see the advantages. We see the development of new features being driven by the needs of customers. Specifically, low bridge collision prevention was a customer request. We now see bridge strikes almost eliminated.”
Sillett said Equipment Express’ system can find a defect or piece of equipment that needs service.
“Once it fails, operations, shop mechanics and the dispatcher get an email,” Sillett said. “We used to have to wait for the paper. (Now we) lock that piece of equipment right away.”
Quimby said one of the challenges facing smart compliance technology is getting carriers to make the decision to either outsource their compliance or invest in the software to use themselves in-house.
“Fleets are interested in the benefits of smart compliance technology, but some may be hesitant to take the time to evaluate new technology and change out existing software or build-out time to train their employees on new processes,” Webster said. “Fleets that do adopt smart compliance technology are realizing and appreciating the benefits of these solutions from the start because they improve driver experience, strengthen operations, and enhance efficiency.”
Embracing change and technological advancement is crucial to a motor carrier’s continued success.
“The challenges are those one might expect when talking about emerging tech and change in general,” Myers said. “Those who are the most successful are the ones who value being on the forefront of integrating new technologies into their safety plans.”
Joseph Price has been a journalist for almost two decades. He began in community media in 2005 and has since worked at media outlets in Virginia and Arkansas. He is also a commercial drone pilot and video editor. He hosts a weekly community radio show focused on goth, metal and industrial music that airs Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. at www.kuhsradio.org.