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Why Early Adoption of ELDs Matter

04/08/2016 by Sarah Barbod

Mandatory implementation of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) throughout the transportation industry has become law. And some carriers are less than happy about the change—giving early adopters an advantage over the competition.

ELDs traverse a spectrum of needs for both drivers and carriers. They protect drivers from pressure to forgo their rest breaks and eliminate the need for time-consuming paperwork. The devices give carriers information they can use for more efficient fleet management to improve productivity and lower costs. Its purpose is wide reaching and simultaneously interconnected in the inner workings of a fleet business.

In practice, carriers consistently see a small but very real drop in productivity when they switch over to ELDs. If the company actually had a serious problem with fraud, the switch could be extremely disruptive, requiring massive changes in the carrier’s business plan. For example, if a driver’s hours ran out 15 miles shy of the destination, it was simple for the driver to just complete the day’s work, take a slightly longer break somewhere else to compensate, and adjust the books as necessary. With ELDs, the only option is to stretch that trip into a second day.

Naturally, some carriers are dragging their heels on conversion. As the 2017 deadline for ELD adoption looms, these companies will be forced to do one of two things: either rush to make the conversion last-minute and endanger productivity. Or simply choose to go out of business.

Shippers do not want to be stuck with late-adopting carriers when the deadline hits. Some have already begun distancing themselves from carriers that have either not converted already or put a conversion plan in place. Drivers may soon start making similar choices, for while some drivers find ELDs intrusive, once operating their vehicle with the devices becomes inevitable, working for an early adopter is going to seem a lot more appealing.

For carriers, some do have legitimate reason to hesitate when implementing ELDs. But delaying the inevitable could cost them both business and talent. Furthermore, productivity losses is always relative; early adopters risked losing market share, but late adopters face competition that has already gone through the adjustment and come out the other side.

Ultimately, the best bet may be to use the grace period for what it was intended--a long, carefully planned transition to a new way of doing business.

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The Hunt for Chameleon Carriers

03/24/2016 by Sid Nair

A chameleon carrier is one that attempts to avoid the consequences of safety violations by closing down and then reopening, or “reincarnating”, as a legally separate entity. They have also been referred to as “zombies” for their ability to seemingly come back from the dead. But whatever they’re called, these carriers can be dangerous. By definition, they have a history of unsafe practices and they prefer to compound the problem by using legal judo to hide rather than simply fixing the way they do business.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, chameleon carrier drivers collectively were responsible for a total of 3,561 injuries and 217 deaths from 2005 to 2010. These drivers are three times more likely to be involved in major crashes than the employees of companies that treat their business and safety responsibilities seriously.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is vetting carriers to find businesses evading regulated safety standards. According to rules adopted in 2012 and 2014, placing the zombies out-of-service is already FMSCA’s policy. Thanks to these two rules, the agency has both a clear, legal definition of chameleon carriers and the authority to identify them, consolidate their safety violation histories, and shut them down. But as the name implies, chameleons can be hard to find. Although FMSCA has been vetting new applicants for the highest risk categories—passenger service and household goods carriers— allotting time and budget to search through the records of all new carriers has proven to be a challenge.

As a countermeasure, the FMCSA is developing a process to automatically flag new carriers that might be operating as chameleons.

The FMCSA partnered with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to work with their web-based interface containing the necessary data warehousing capabilities known as the Hazmat Intelligence Portal (HIP). The prototype screening methodology can run in the HIP environment during its development and testing phases.

The resulting prototype method was named ARCHI, for Application Review and CHameleon Investigation. Its process is to first compare each new carrier to older carriers for similarities in name, ownership, and other criteria. Each new carrier then gets a score based on how closely it matched older businesses. Those that score above a certain cut-off are then evaluated for motive—did the older company declare bankruptcy? Did it have outstanding safety violations or fines? Was it previously placed out of order or was it involved in a serious crash? Carriers that match older companies that had a motive to reincarnate can then be evaluated manually. Those ultimately found to be chameleons can be shut down.

ARCHI was initially tested using data from known chameleon carriers and proved effective at flagging suspicious companies, although the tests also identified areas of needed improvement. From there, the system entered a multi-year process of study and improvement and was scheduled for full implementation last year.

Even so, identifying chameleon carriers remains serious business. Individuals who are caught operating reincarnated businesses do not always obey subsequent disciplinary action and can either ignore orders or simply start yet another chameleon operation. In such cases, individuals have faced prison sentences.

A fully implemented, industry-wide automatic vetting process, can serve as an important tool for hunting down zombie carriers and ultimately keeping America’s roads safer.

*About the Author- Sid Nair is the Senior Director of Transport and Compliance at Teletrac Navman, and serves as an expert in GPS tracking software and hardware for the transportation sector around the globe. He focuses on how technology can help trucking and private fleets be safer, more efficient and compliant with federal and state regulations.

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The Robotic Transformation of Delivery

03/06/2016 by Rich Lambourne

Advances in technology and automation are fast approaching the logistics sector.

Alphabet, Google’s new parent company, has received a patent for an automated package delivery system, essentially a way to robotize last mile delivery. The company is also working on developing a fully autonomous vehicle, taking drivers out of the equation. Meanwhile, Amazon already uses robots in some of its warehouses and is in the process of adding more machines. From these two companies alone, that is a potentially large amount of the supply chain that will not need human workers.

Even though Alphabet owns the patent, that does not mean the company is ready to move into production of automated delivery vehicles. For one thing, the patent only clearly addresses one aspect of the machine, the system of pre-loaded lockers that would let customers access their own purchase using a PIN number or a credit card number. The lockers would ride on a fully autonomous car, small truck, or van supervised remotely through an advanced version of telematics—but such a vehicle does not quite exist and the patent does not specify how one would work. Company representatives are also careful to point out that they apply for a lot of patents and not all of them will ever actually be developed.

Robotic delivery will depend not only on whether Alphabet gets its self-driving cars fully road ready, but also on how transportation policy ultimately adapts to such technology. The former seems all but inevitable (self-driving cars are already being tested by a variety of companies and are reportedly doing well), but the latter is far from certain. For example, if a driverless car caused an accident, who would be legally responsible for damages? We as a society might decide that even a car that can drive itself needs a responsible human in the driver’s seat.

The development of this technology will have a direct impact on chain service providers including food delivery, the postal service, and others. Unlike people, machines don’t require a 401K or paid holidays. Thus automating package delivery is becoming an attractive low-cost alternative. Both Google and Amazon’s new ventures are worth observing as they develop, if they develop. They are among the top global companies who have set the stage in technology and innovation. Amazon serves as the most prominent e-retailer, and the word “search” has become one and the same as the word “Google”. These two companies could serve as examples of what to expect years from now.

Amazon’s automated warehouses still require humans for more complex tasks. The robots, which are something like a cross between a Roomba and a forklift, only bring crates or “pods” of goods to human workers for sorting and packaging. Alphabet’s delivery platform would need a human to manage the many moving assets, and would probably require a person to help load.

The “robot apocalypse” is not here, yet, but a major change in the basic economics of logistics is arising.

*About the Author: Rich Lambourne is the Director of Fulfillment at Teletrac. He is an expert in Supply chain and logistics.

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Coping with a Soft Resale Market

02/26/2016 by Oswaldo Flores

Nearly five years ago, used truck inventory was strained. It served to be problematic because some companies or owner-operators depended on the used truck market for affordable equipment. Today, the industry is facing the opposite issue; too many used trucks are flowing into the market, with few selling, thus forcing prices to drop. The National Automobile Dealers Association reports used truck sales are down over 20 percent in November of 2015. Their value has been steadily falling in the past six months. It’s a great environment for buyers; not so great for sellers.

Carriers able to buy completely new trucks many times depend on the income from selling their used inventory to offset the cost of new equipment. A new truck can cost approximately $80K for a single day cab up to $200K for a sleeper cab with higher horsepower. Brand-new equipment is expensive and business plans are frequently built around the expectation of being able to sell vehicles for a certain price after a certain number of years. When that price doesn’t materialize, carriers can be faced with challenging businesses decisions.

A fleet can sell its old trucks for less than the budget called for and take a loss, or it can delay replacing the old vehicles. But since older vehicles tend to have higher operating expenses, that, too, represents a loss. Or the fleet can accept over-allowance cost on a new truck when trading the old one to a dealer. That means shifting money from the value of the new truck to the value of the old one, which works out great if used vehicle prices rebound by the time the new truck is due for trade-in.

While the market is favoring lower selling prices due to an oversupply of used trucks, carriers interested in selling can take steps to improve the vehicles they have now in order to make them as attractive as possible to a buyer. That means cleaning and repairing the truck before sale so that vehicles look and perform their best. Performance is key; the truck has to be mechanically sound so that the buyer is really comfortable making the purchase. GPS fleet tracking software can help keep maintenance and diagnostics reports, providing key service data that would otherwise go unseen. By planning ahead with organized maintenance schedules, vehicles can stay in good working order for longer periods of time, thus increasing the truck’s value. Lastly, price the vehicle to reflect the current market so that it has a fair chance of being sold.  

Ultimately, the soft resale market will probably be temporary, butkeeping resale value as high as possible with proper maintenance is always a good idea.

*About the author: Oswaldo Flores is a member of Teletrac's marketing team. He is an expert in product management in the transportation sector for the United States and Mexico.  

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Transportation in the Books

02/26/2016 by Parth Raval

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia has brought new attention to the Supreme Court, the nine justices who interpret the nation’s law at the federal level. They make up one of the fundamental bodies of the United States government and are some of the nation’s top legal minds. It may feel like the dealings of this court are far removed from the day-in, day-out work of fleet managers and drivers. In reality, the Supreme Court’s rulings on landmark cases have directly affected how drivers and dispatchers work today.

Take, for example, Munn v. Illinois, an 1877 case that dealt with transportation charges. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that a state is legally allowed to regulate how much a private industry charges if that private industry affects the public interest. The private industry in question, Munn and Scott, was a grain warehouse whose maximum rates for transportation were set by a third-party, the National Grange. The effects of this ruling can be felt directly in modern transportation. There are several regulations around freight costs that prevent companies from monopolizing the industry.

In view of the Supreme Court’s entire history, the response to Munn v. Illinois was fairly tame. On the other end of the spectrum is Lochner v. New York, an infamous case that kick-started the so-called Lochner Era. The Supreme Court ruled that individuals have a basic right to form contracts with employers. This seemingly benign ruling led to a period of judicial overstepping, in which the Supreme Court interfered with private business and, for all intents and purposes, created new laws rather than interpreting existing ones. However, Lochner v. New York established an important precedent that today allows drivers to sign contracts with carriers. Without Lochner v. New York, owner-operators would be unable to contract with multiple companies without federal interference.

Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and appointed for life. The American public cannot vote a justice into or out of office. In an election year, however, it is worth paying attention to the opinions of those running for office, for it may come to one of them to appoint Antonin Scalia’s replacement. A justice sympathetic to transportation may be influential for decades to come.

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Meeting the Climate Pledge, One Fleet at a Time

02/23/2016 by Caroline Ailanthus

President Obama’s climate policies have been in the news again recently, in part because of debate surrounding new regulations. Major parts of the President’s plan have always involved voluntary action, and many of America’s businesses have already climbed on board.

The American Business Act on Climate Pledge originally launched in July of 2015 and has since grown to include over 150 of the largest companies in the nation. These pledge-takers agreed to publically support the Paris climate talks and to “demonstrate an ongoing commitment to climate action,” as stated in the Office of the Press Secretary’s release. Each company is free to decide what type of climate action to take, but many have agreed to emissions reductions of up to 50%, purchasing 100% renewable energy, dramatic reductions in water use or waste generation, and achieving zero net deforestation in their supply chains.

The Paris talks passed in December of 2015. While the Paris deal itself will not cut emissions enough to forestall catastrophic climate change, this is the first time all of the parties have agreed to substantive emissions reductions. It represents a foundation upon which future agreements can build.

The American businesses that have pledged thus far are part of that foundation. Collectively they employ nearly 11 million people across all 50 states and have over $4.2 trillion in annual revenue and a market capitalization of over $7 trillion. That is a sizeable chunk of the U.S. economy.

Meeting these pledges will require creativity and dedication, but companies do have some powerful tools they can employ. For organizations with fleets of vehicle, GPS tracking and fleet management software is one such tool.

A GPS fleet management platform can provide more efficient routing to help save fuel. But fleet managers can also use the system to flag instances of inefficient driving, such as speeding, excessive acceleration, or excessive idling. Drivers who demonstrate these habits, and many times unsafe driving behaviors, can then get additional training. While drivers who practice more efficient behavior on the road can be rewarded. Over time, the entire fleet has the capacity to reduce its fuel use.

The same technology can also report engine fault codes remotely and help keep better track of maintenance schedules so that each vehicle gets into the shop when it needs to, before problems become serious. Vehicles in good repair run more efficiently, meaning they get substantially better gas mileage. That is another win for the climate.

American businesses have a great opportunity to adapt their operations with technology that can combat issues affecting the climate. To learn more about creating an environmentally friendly fleet, click here

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Truck Owner Calls DEA’s Bluff with GPS Tracker

02/15/2016 by Caroline Ailanthus

Truck owner, Craig Patty, got some bad news recently when a Federal court ruled that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) does not have to pay for damages to his truck. According to court documents, Patty’s employee, Lawrence Chapa, was working as a confidential informant for the DEA and agreed to drive one of Patty’s trucks in a drug sting—without Patty’s consent or knowledge. The sting went horribly wrong and Chapa was killed. The truck was also badly damaged. From the beginning, Patty had difficulty deciphering what had happened and the DEA tried various routes to cover their botched operation, and even treated Patty as a suspected trafficker.

But Patty was able to call their bluff with some help from his GPS Tracking system. When law enforcement was interrogating him, they accused him of having sent his truck to Mexico for a load of contraband. Unbeknownst to the officers, Patty’s truck had been fitted with a GPS tracker and he was able to use the tracking data to prove the truck never crossed the border, thus confirming the law enforcement official’s false claim.

It may be small comfort, but Patty seems proud to have been able to, as he tells the story, call the officer’s bluff.

Craig Patty is not alone in relying on GPS fleet management software to track his vehicles in order to tell him what his vehicles didn’t do. Commercial vehicle operators of all kinds, from long-haul truck drivers to repair crews working out of vans, occasionally find themselves falsely accused—of being late to a job site, or speeding, or of being at fault in a traffic accident. Owners can then use the tracking data to fight for their driver’s honor and resolve the dispute unambiguously. That’s an important form of security for drivers, and keeping drivers happy is critically important in the extremely tight job market the trucking industry now faces. Being able to weed out false accusations also substantially reduces a carrier’s exposure to liability, legal issues, and even helps garner discounts on insurance rates.

A company can take certain steps to make sure its drivers are safe, competent, and law-abiding, but of course they cannot control the actions of others. With the library of data offered through a GPS fleet tracking platform, fleet managers can challenge false claims from outside entities and defend their employees.

The legal process for Patty’s complaint is still ongoing. The case has moved to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

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A Computer that is Almost Human

02/15/2016 by Parth Raval

On January 27th, 2016, something remarkable happened in Google’s London office – a computer beat a human player at the game Go. One of the world’s oldest board games, Go is primarily played in East Asia, with over 40 million players worldwide. The rules are simple: two players take turns placing stones on a 19 x 19 grid, trying to cover more territory than the other. There are many strategies to capture and contain an opponent’s stones and gain an advantage.  This combination of simplicity and intricacy has made Go popular for over 2,500 years.

The fact that a computer was able to beat a human player at a game may not come as a surprise. After all, computers have been able to defeat humans in a range of games for years. In 1996, a computer beat Gary Kasparov, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time. Computers have successfully learned how to play Atari games just by reading the pixels on the screen. What does it matter if one more game is added to that list?

It matters because Go is one of the world’s most complex games – far more complex than chess. Computers learn how to play games by following patterns and predetermining outcomes. There are more possible Go games than there are atoms in the universe. Until now, this number was thought to be too big for a computer to handle. That was until Google’s AlphaGo program beat European Go champion Fan Hui, 5 games to 0. AlphaGo is programmed to learn using trial-and-error. It uses reinforcement learning, which takes human psychology principles and applies them to machines.

AlphaGo is a major advance in artificial intelligence. A computer with AlphaGo’s capabilities was thought to be at least ten years away. Though exciting, AlphaGo may seem to occupy a world far removed from that of fleet management.  The truth is that software that can learn complex tasks, as AlphaGo can, will be the foundation of transportation’s future. Drivers and dispatchers will work with vehicles that can perform many tasks of their own, including caravan driving and navigation. A major concern with current autonomous vehicle technology is that machines cannot replace a human’s instantaneous decision-making or intuition. It is likely that they never will – but they will get close. AlphaGo’s advanced abilities to predict human behavior may do much to close the gap between fleet managers and the future.

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New FMCSA Rule Boosts Driver Rights and Safety

02/08/2016 by Caroline Ailanthus

The final rule prohibiting the coercion of drivers to violate hours of service (HOS) regulations is now in effect, as of January 29th.

The basic idea is that shippers, brokers, and fleet managers may not in any way pressure truck drivers to ignore hours-of-service (HOS) or other regulations. Those that engage in coercion anyway face fines or even the loss of their operating licenses. Any fines collected would go to the Highway Trust Fund.

The new rule is a response to complaints from drivers over the last several years who reported being under pressure from their employer to violate FMCSA safety regulations. The specific areas protected by the new rule are HOS, CDL requirements, drug and alcohol testing, and hazardous materials regulations.

The new rule defines “coercion” in very specific terms; among other details, the driver must not only be asked to do something against regulation (such as taking on a schedule that would require forgoing rest breaks) but must also inform whoever made the request of the problem. Coercion then occurs when a supervisor, shipper, or other relevant authority attempts to pressure the driver to do the task anyway. An actual violation is not necessary, however.

There are now two clearly defined procedures drivers can use to report coercion and seek relief.

To file a coercion complaint, drivers can contact either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Division Office of the state where the complainant works or the National Consumer Complaint Database. The complaint must be filed within 90 days of the coercive event. Complainants should present as much supporting evidence as possible, such as email or text records or the names of any witnesses.

Drivers may also file whistleblower complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Besides the Federal processes, some states have their own OSHA department as well and can accept complaints.

The new rule should be a great relief to drivers, but fleet managers have more incentive than ever to demonstrate safety and HOS compliance.

One important way to keep drivers safe and businesses compliant is to invest in a GPS fleet management system with an HOS solution that incorporates an electronic logging device (ELD) feature. The system is user-friendly for drivers and allows them to enter and submit daily hours of service from the in-cab display. This process also allows drivers to save time from error-prone manual logbook entries, thus eliminating possible audits. All relevant HOS information is sent to the user’s computer for storage and retrieval via a wireless network.

A wealth of data can be found right at a fleet manager’s fingertips. And both drivers and fleet managers can ensure the business is operating under safety compliance. 

 

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Six Technologies to Keep an Eye on in the Transport Sector

02/04/2016 by Sarah Barbod

The Department of Transportation’s National Transportation Systems Center, Volpe, has released a list of 11 emerging technologies that could radically change transportation. Here, we examine six of the 11, and take a look at what innovations might be coming down the road.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things means a network of sensors, software, and electronics that are attached to physical objects. This network has the ability to connect to each other, exchange GPS data, and in essence speak to its connected community. For example, a road’s sensors that detect rain, icing, or potentially dangerous driving conditions, can alert maintenance crews and approaching drivers who share the network. The technology could revolutionize road safety and fleet management. But it still carries serious privacy and security concerns, including hacking.

Advanced analytics and machine learning

Transportation already generates a large amount of data. From telematics, to traffic reports and speed-monitoring cameras, even sales records at truck-stops. Advanced analytics means developing computers that can find patterns in this vast quantity of information and respond intelligently in real-time. An end to traffic congestion thanks to system-wide management is one possible benefit.

Automated vehicles

Partially automated vehicles, such as those that can avoid collisions or stay within lanes on their own, are already on the road. Fully autonomous vehicles are in development. Some benefits of the technology are obvious; a self-driving car could take its drunk owner home safely, for example. Other consequences are harder to predict, such as how autonomous vehicles might change demand for mass transportation.

On-demand ride services

Taxi alternatives are the best-known type of on-demand ride service, but similar platforms are being used for demand-responsive bus routing, local delivery service, and more efficient freight brokerage. In all cases, the result is greater flexibility, efficiency, and price transparency for users, but the law has not yet caught up to these new business arrangements, so the services typically operate without clear regulatory guidance.

Wireless power transfer

Wireless power transfer means using magnetic technology within the road to recharge electric vehicles either as they drive or as they sit at dedicated fast charging stations. Such systems would allow electric busses to stay in service longer at a stretch as well as offering an alternative way to charge privately-owned plug-ins. Autonomous vehicles could charge themselves without waiting for a human to plug them in.

Hyperloop

Hyperloop is something like a high-speed train, except it runs inside tubes with very low air pressure, thus dramatically reducing wind-resistance. Hyperloop does not exist yet, but early research looks promising. The technology would offer all the social and economic benefits of traditional train lines but more efficiently and with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Each of these technologies could have unpredictable consequences, both good and bad, depending on how they interact with each other, how the transportation industry responds, and ultimately how laws and policy respond.

What we do know is that the future of transportation will not look like the past.

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Your ELD Questions Answered

01/29/2016 by Oswaldo Flores

This week, the product and marketing teams at Teletrac hosted a webinar on the ELD Final Rule, breaking down this rule into its components and helping carriers understand how they would be affected. With three panelists and an hour allotted, we unfortunately weren’t able to answer all questions submitted. Here are some of those questions, with answers provided by our team. The issues below are common sources of discussion when it comes to the ELD Final Rule and we hope this makes ELDs clearer for your organization.

What does engine synchronization mean for the purposes of electronic logging device (ELD) compliance?

Engine synchronization means the ELD can automatically record engine power status, vehicle motion, miles driven and engine hours. This helps verify the Hours of Service data that the ELD records.

Why must an electronic logging device (ELD) collect engine hour data?

Engine hours allow managers to cross-check the odometer data collected by the ELD. Having two points of reference for vehicle use ensures Hours of Service records are accurate.

Does the electronic logging device (ELD) rule require real-time tracking of commercial motor vehicle (CMVs) with ELDs?

The ELD Final Rule does not require real-time tracking of CMVs. When transmitting data to officials, ELDs limit location information to protect drivers’ privacy. However, carriers can use ELDs to track their vehicles in real time to enhance their business performance. Carriers can use this data as they wish, as long as they do not harass drivers or violate federal regulations.

Are Canada- and Mexico-domiciled drivers required to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) when they are operating in the United States?

Canada and Mexico-domiciled drivers are required to use ELDs when operating in the United States. They are not required to use ELDs if they fall under one of the exceptions of the ELD rule. A driver operating in more than one country can note this information within their ELD’s records.

Is there an exception to the requirement to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) for drivers who infrequently use records of duty status (RODS)?

There is an exception for drivers who use RODS infrequently. If a driver is not required to use RODS for more than 8 days in any 30-day periods, that driver is not required to use an ELD. This exception also applies to drivers who use time cards rather than RODS.

What is a “grandfathered” automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD)?

If an AOBRD was installed before December 16, 2015, it is considered “grandfathered.” In this scenario, carriers may continue using an AOBRD until December 16, 2019.

What must a driver do with unassigned driving time when he or she logs into the electronic logging device (ELD)?

Drivers must review all unassigned driving time when logging into the ELD. If the unassigned time belongs to the driver, the driver must add this time to his or her record. If the time does not belong to the driver, the driver must make an annotation in the ELD record to indicate this.

***

Teletrac is working hard to make sure carriers get the most possible out of the ELD Final Rule. Stay on the lookout for future content that covers federal compliance and regulations. Our team is dedicated to providing clear, accurate, and useful information that helps carriers stay safe and make compliance an inherent part of their business. Keep an eye out for future articles and webinars that delve into this important topic.

 

 

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What To Know About Driving in Stormy Weather

01/29/2016 by Caroline Ailanthus

Winter has finally arrived in the Eastern United States, with parts of West Virginia and Maryland receiving over three feet of snow in a single storm. Baltimore and New York City each received over two feet. Wind, rain, and beach erosion damaged other communities. Eleven states in total, plus the District of Columbia, declared emergencies. Thousands of people were left without power and at least fourteen people died.

Snow and ice are especially dangerous for motorists. All the normal road safety guidelines are even more important in winter when road conditions are bad. These guidelines include:

  • Wear a seat belt
  • Pay attention to the road and never text or talk on the phone while driving
  • Get in the correct lane well before your exit, since erratic lane changes could cause accidents
  • Stay out of trucker’s blind spots: if you cannot see the driver’s face in the truck’s mirrors, he or she can’t see you
  • Never cut in front of a large truck. Big, heavy vehicles have longer stopping distances and cannot slam on the brakes to avoid you.

The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) America’s Road Team also offers the following tips specifically for winter road safety:

  • Slow down and give other drivers plenty of room. Brakes do not work well on ice and snow.
  • Clear snow and ice off your vehicle completely so it does not limit your visibility or fall off and cause problems for other vehicles.
  • Leave early to allow for delays
  • Remember that conditions can be very different a few miles down the road or at different times of day. Snow melting during the daytime can freeze into black ice at night.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working order, since winter is a bad time to be broken down on the side of the road.
  • Carry an emergency kit in case you do become stranded. Your kit should include warm clothes, blankets, food and water, emergency medical supplies, a flashlight, a battery powered or wind-up radio, maps, tire repair kit, and flares. Make sure your cell phone has a full charge.  

The best bet, of course, is to stay off the roads entirely when conditions are dangerous, but not everyone can do that. The demand for goods is high and drivers are needed to make deliveries.  Often times professional drivers still have to go to work except under the most extreme circumstances. Fleet managers can do a lot to ensure their drivers’ safety by using a GPS tracking system.

GPS fleet management technology allows fleet managers to see exactly where their vehicles are in real time. If a driver in their fleet goes off the road, the manager can be alerted to mobilize emergency personnel to that exact spot, even if the driver is injured. For heavy-duty operators, the Ruggedized Prism TM470R is an especially good option as it can handle extreme weather conditions including heat, rain and cold temperatures. Geofence options, alerts, and reliable operation add up to peace of mind when conditions on the road aren’t always predictable.

This winter season, make sure to equip your fleet with a secure GPS fleet management system.

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