Look Beyond Compliance: 6 Tips to Get More From Mobile Technology

By December, 2017, all fleets and drivers will be required to use mobile technology that meets the 395.15 or the more recent Electronic Logging Device (ELD) standard from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Complying with the ELD rule is not the only consideration for your present and future mobile technology, especially if you haul temperature-sensitive freight.

The Food and Drug Administration has submitted for final publication a final rule, The Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food, as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The rule effectively places the burden of proof on shippers to ensure that appropriate temperature controls were maintained during the transport of food-grade products, and we expect that shippers will pass much of this responsibility to carriers.

Under this rule, shippers and carriers will have until March, 2017, to comply with the new FSMA rule to protect themselves from what will be an elevated risk of cargo claims and increased monitoring by federal and state authorities. Having real-time, highly accurate information about the condition of loads and equipment during all stages of transit, including trailer pre-cool verification, will become a practical necessity.

If you already use a mobile telematics and fleet management system to run electronic logs or to monitor and record trailer temperatures, that will make it relatively easier to comply with the new rules and their associated data retention requirements.

More than managing hours of service data or checking on the location and status of your loads, what do you really need?  The answer to that question may change every day, and perhaps by the minute. Ultimately, how you use information and integrate workflows will determine if you operate more efficiently and improve in areas like customer service, safety and fuel efficiency. Herein lies a competitive advantage. Compliance does nothing more than level the playing field.

Having the ability to bring on additional third party devices and applications will also help to create additional value. Driver productivity can extend outside of the cab, for example, by using built-in compatibility and connectivity of an in-cab platform with mobile Apple® or Android™ devices.

To accelerate the payback from a mobile telematics and fleet management system, consider the following strategies to go beyond compliance:

  1. Optimize load planning. With visibility to hours of service data, load planners no longer have to wait, search for, or estimate driver availability to match drivers to loads. The load planning process is more efficient and accurate and dispatchers are able to manage more drivers, thus reducing overhead costs.
  1. Streamline safety. By the same token, safety managers no longer have to spend time processing driver logbooks, and can focus their attention on more impactful activities like driver training and coaching.
  1. Reduce breakdowns. By providing advance fault code information to maintenance managers, trucks and refrigeration units can be pulled into the shop on a scheduled basis for repairs. Costs go down and revenues go up by keeping trucks moving by preventing non-routine maintenance and breakdowns. And in the near future, vehicle owners will be able to initiate the reprogramming and calibration of engines over the air, using the latest updates from manufacturers.
  1. Taking care of defects. Driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) are required by law, but the reality is that reporting equipment defects on paper is a slow and ineffective process. Electronic DVIRs create a repair process that automatically passes information to maintenance. This direct communication line helps to ensure that trucks are safe and ready before they hit the road. eDVIRs are easily handled by the driver and give him or her additional confidence in the vehicle they are driving.
  1. Effortlessly provide documentation. Being able to quickly provide the data needed to satisfy the documentation requirements of the FSMA not only prevents cargo claims, it lowers the cost of compliance. When data is stored in the cloud, drivers and office personnel can quickly and easily access it as needed. This makes it possible to effortlessly satisfy the documentation needs of the FDA, the shipper and the receiver without having to retrieve paper documents that might be stored off site.
  1. Effectively manage trailers. Besides having a detailed, accurate and on-demand record of load conditions, a telematics system can be used to manage trailer pools. Fleets can monitor the utilization of their trailers and reallocate assets as needed to ensure the optimum number of trailers at each location. Dispatchers can also provide drivers the exact location of a trailer in a yard to save on-duty time that otherwise would be lost on unproductive activities.


Jim Gamache