How E-Logs Can Drive Owner-Operator Success

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August 20, 2019

Investing in becoming an owner-operator is no small decision. It requires up front capital or financing, experience and knowledge of the trucking industry, and so much more to get started. There is a lot of risk involved. Now that technology has transformed nearly every aspect of life as we know it, it’s time for owner-operators to take the leap in adopting compliance technology to run their business successfully.

Compliance with industry mandates

For owner-operators compliance is one of the biggest challenges. Government regulations are constantly changing and new mandates are being introduced. In large fleets and trucking companies, entire teams are dedicated to managing compliance. For privately owned, small businesses, the onus for ensuring compliance usually falls on a single individual or fleet manager. But getting compliance right isn’t optional - it’s an absolute must. That’s why choosing a trusted technology partner that works in compliance and can understand your business is a great option for owner-operators. Below we’ll cover technology solutions for compliance with the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs), and Hours of Service (HOS).

ELD compliance for owner-operators

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ELD Rule applies to commercial interstate truckers, including owner-operators and small carriers, who are required to maintain record of duty status (RODS) and HOS. Now that the ELD mandate is being enforced fully (although there are many ELD exemptions) all owner-operators who meet the requirements must have ELD devices and software to be compliant as opposed to paper log books. There are several benefits in switching to an ELD solution for small businesses, including:

  • Reduced paperwork with data readily available via the cloud at all times, simplifying operations and reducing operating costs for fleet owners.
  • Faster completion of roadside checks and assurance that your truck drivers and vehicles are compliant, leading to greater uptime and more revenue.
  • Lower costs for fuel and maintenance using improved GPS routes, monitors for unproductive idling time, leading to reduced vehicle wear and tear.

Owner-operators should be aware of the AOBRD clause of the ELD mandate. AOBRD stands for Automatic On-Board Recording Device and it records a driver’s HOS. AOBRDs have been used as an interim solution prior to the ELD mandate going into full effect. The FMCSA temporarily grandfathered AOBRDs in as long as they were installed before the first ELD compliance deadline in December 2017. But the grandfather clause is coming to an end and all CMVs that are not exempt must have an ELD solution by December 16, 2019. Learn more about the difference between AOBRDs and ELDs.

HOS compliance for owner-operators

Maintaining HOS compliance can be a struggle, especially for smaller operations. HOS regulations are enforced by the FMCSA and are designed to keep drowsy drivers off the road by limiting the number of hours they are allowed to drive in a given time period. Using an HOS mobile application makes it easy for drivers to review and track their drive time, know when it’s required for them to take a break, and to avoid driving time out of service violations. HOS apps can run on most Android and iOS smartphones or tablets, so it’s easy to take a bring your own device (BYOD) approach to HOS compliance in owner-operator situations.

DVIR compliance for owner-operators

Size does not matter when it comes to completing driver vehicle inspection reports, or DVIRs. All CDL drivers must complete pre-trip safety inspections to confirm that their vehicle is safe to drive. The FMCSA states the following in regards to DVIRs:

Before driving a motor vehicle, the driver shall:

(a) Be satisfied that the motor vehicle is in safe operating condition;

(b) Review the last driver vehicle inspection report; and

(c) Sign the report, only if defects or deficiencies were noted by the driver who prepared the report, to acknowledge that the driver has reviewed it and that there is a certification that the required repairs have been performed. The signature requirement does not apply to listed defects on a towed unit which is no longer part of the vehicle combination.

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Electronic DVIRs make it easy for drivers to check off each inspection item on a digital form (customized to suit the vehicle or equipment type) and then digitally sign to confirm they have completed the inspection. Paperless DVIRs can improve safety for owner-operators, reduce maintenance turnaround time, and extend commercial vehicle life. Also, with observable defects triggering many roadside checks, you’ll also save time with fewer DOT inspections and reduce your risk of costly violations.

CSA scores for owner-operators

Owner-operators are also subject to CSA scores. CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) is a FMCSA initiative that grades carriers based on several safety-related factors. Owner-operators with a known poor CSA score, or carriers who have received a warning letter from the DOT, should immediately take action. Fleet compliance issues such as Hours of Service violations, failed DOT inspections, vehicle maintenance issues and electronic logging device compliance issues will impact your CSA score. Find out more about how to improve CSA scores.

IFTA compliance

Reporting fuel use across state lines and the U.S. / Canadian border can be one of the more complicated compliance rules for owner-operators. But thanks to IFTA, The International Fuel Tax Agreement, reporting fuel usage is somewhat easier. IFTA is an agreement between the lower 48 United States and Canadian provinces relating to the reporting of fuel use by motor carriers operating in multiple jurisdictions.

Owner-operators must first be registered with the International Registration Plan (IRP) in order to be compliant with IFTA. All trucks will be provided with IFTA decals that expire annually and must be displayed at all times to avoid fines. Under IFTA, carriers are only required to report fuel usage to their base state, rather than making separate reports for each state they operate in.

After addressing any outstanding safety and compliance violations, carriers should work to develop stringent safety policies and procedures and implement them from the top down. Along with the adoption of a safety culture, carriers should strive to hire drivers with safe driving records.

Keeping costs low by improving fuel efficiency

Aside from staying compliant, keeping costs low is key to small owner-operators fleets and technology can help. Fuel costs can have a huge impact on profits so efficient fuel use is essential. Fuel tracking tools can help you reduce unnecessary and unproductive engine idling and according to the American Trucking Association, idling causes excessive wear and tear on trucks.

E logs and GPS fleet tracking software can also keep track of fuel usage for fuel tax reporting beyond IFTA regulations.

Owner-operators should also consider purchasing an auxiliary power unit (APU). An APU is a device that can be added to a truck or vehicle to be used as an added power source for functions other than driving. APUs are being used primarily to reduce idle engine running time, especially during rest tops, by allowing drivers to enjoy cabin features such as electricity for lights, air conditioning or heat, without running the engine while parked. Reducing unproductive idle time is key to limiting fuel use and saving on costs. For owner-operators who have the capital upfront to invest, an APU can have a big impact.

GPS tracking can also help improve fuel efficiency by helping you take the fastest routes available for deliveries. Near real-time routing helps steer you clear of traffic congestion, accidents, and impassable areas.

If you’re new to being an owner-operator, evaluating a decision to take the leap, or are currently looking for ways to improve your business, consider the benefits GPS fleet tracking technology can have. Despite the upfront cost of hardware and software, fleet management systems can reduce long-term costs of doing business by helping you stay compliant, improving fuel efficiency, and extending the life of your assets.

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