Regulations impacting the trucking industry can be complex, but compliance doesn’t have to be a constant source of stress when you put the right systems and methods in place. In fact, if you implement best practices and ongoing oversight, your trucking operation can run like a well-oiled machine.
Most regulations are determined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a full list of which can be found here. In this article, we’ll outline some valuable tips for maintaining and monitoring your regulatory compliance to avoid penalties and other enforcement actions that can impact the health of your business, including:
The FMCSA sets Hours of Service (HOS) regulations for the trucking industry which apply to commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) engaging in interstate commerce. First, you should have a clear understanding of the criteria to recognize whether some or all of the vehicles in your fleet qualify as CMVs and the documentation requirements for your drivers. Even mechanics and other occasional drivers are subject to HOS rules, although they don’t necessarily need to complete a Record of Duty Status (RODS) log if they can claim the 100- or 150-air-mile exception.
States are responsible for setting forth regulations governing intrastate commerce, and these regulations may vary from state-to-state, so it’s imperative to understand both state and federal regulations and know which requirements your fleets and vehicles fall under at any time. For instance, vehicles that typically engage in intrastate commerce may abide by the state guidelines, but a vehicle that crosses a state line immediately falls under federal regulations.
FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) determines a BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories) status for motor carriers based on roadside inspection results and any prior violations, resulting in a score called the CSA score (Compliance, Safety, Accountability).
Monitoring your BASIC status offers insight into your company’s performance compared to other carriers with a comparable number of safety events, which may include crashes, inspections, and violations. There are seven BASICs, which include:
Screenshot via FMCSA
Upon logging into SMS, a warning symbol is displayed for companies with safety compliance concerns. You can also review records pertaining to crashes and request a review of records that may be inaccurate. However, remaining vigilant about internal processes to oversee the BASICs, proactively ensure compliance, and avoid safety hazards is the best approach to maintain a safe and efficient trucking operation.
Monitoring compliance issues through the FMCSA’s SMS can help companies identify non-compliance patterns among their drivers. This information can then be leveraged to guide ongoing compliance and safety training. Your drivers should understand HOS regulations and know how to complete daily logs that are both complete and accurate, as well as understand the ins and outs of Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs), all of which they’ll be responsible for on a day-to-day basis in order to meet their job requirements.
Because regulations are often revised and new requirements implemented by regulatory agencies, even the most experienced drivers need a regular refresher course to stay up-to-date with the latest regulations and job requirements. And again, a proactive approach internally will help your company remain compliant while also creating a safe, productive working environment for drivers and other staff.
The many documentation requirements can seem overwhelming, and to some drivers, the ever-increasing regulatory demands are perceived as a time-consuming hassle. That said, most drivers recognize the importance of maintaining clean and accurate compliance documentation (violations can impact a company’s SMS for as long as 24 months), and there are also tools that can make these requirements less cumbersome for your drivers.
For instance, Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) – which all drivers are required to convert to by December 2017 if they’re still using paper-based logging systems – streamline the process of logging mileage and other documentation. Many companies use labels to mark inspection points on vehicles, but exposure to weather and harsh driving conditions can render traditional sticker options unreadable. Choose durable data plates and equipment tags that can withstand exposure to harsh conditions and remain readable throughout the vehicle’s lifespan to avoid costly mistakes from missed inspection points.
Above all, trucking companies and fleet managers should prioritize the creation of systems and monitoring processes to gain visibility into performance and optimize operations. By staying on top of regulatory changes, conducting ongoing monitoring of compliance scores, identifying patterns and leveraging those insights to design targeted training, and implementing the use of tools and technology to streamline regulatory compliance for drivers, your trucking operation will be poised for success.