If you received an email from an attorney or government agency requesting your driver compliance and operational records, would you be able to provide them in a timely manner? 

Perhaps just as important, how confident would you be in the compliance and accuracy of those documents?

If you’re unsure, you’re not alone. Last year’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration audit results reveal as much: 64% of all critical violations found during audits pertained to recordkeeping, including seven of the top 10. 

Violations are something every transportation provider aims to avoid, as they can result in poor safety scores, out-of-service orders and expenses from fines, litigation and increased insurance rates.

With the odds high that a company could receive an audit violation related to the documents it keeps, it’s no wonder that recordkeeping was one of the biggest FMCSA compliance priorities fleet managers reported in a recent study by J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., trusted safety compliance experts within the transportation industry.

J. J. Keller’s study “Insights on Priorities for Today’s Fleet Managers” found that fleet managers’ overall concern with their recordkeeping practices grew from 2022 to 2023. Survey respondents marked the following practices as important: 

Having accurate and well-organized driver qualification files (42%, up from 34% in 2022).

Having all files together in one place to quickly prove compliance (35%, up from 22%).

Having accurate and well-organized drug and alcohol testing records (24%, up from 21%).

Effective organization is something fleet managers strive for, but paper-based methods of storing and organizing critical records require more effort, space and maintenance to keep up than electronic records. This makes it more likely things are missed or issues slip through the cracks, which can make compliance more challenging.

Now more than ever, it’s urgent for motor carriers to implement good recordkeeping practices. Requests for Department of Transportation compliance records are becoming increasingly common — both the frequency and severity of litigation against trucking companies and off-site and on-site governmental audits are on the rise

Companies with organized and accessible records can quickly and confidently respond to document requests from auditors or attorneys. An efficient recordkeeping process facilitates faster decision-making and better risk management, improving operations across a business. 

“When appropriately managed, your records not only show who your drivers and employees are, but also that they are trained, qualified, properly taxed and work within the limits of the law,” said Daren Hansen, J. J. Keller senior editor of transportation safety. “Similarly, vehicle documentation supports DVIR [driver vehicle inspection report] and maintenance processes, and substantiates warranties, equipment legalization, and authorization to be in the transportation business.”

While some businesses still use traditional recordkeeping methods, digital record management is now the most efficient approach to store, utilize and share critical business files. 

FreightWaves sat down with J. J. Keller to find out about some of the most compelling compliance and operational benefits of digital fleet management systems.

Digital records = greater oversight

Fleet legalization, driver qualification, drug and alcohol testing, hours of service, and maintenance/inspections are “The Big 5” areas of a carrier’s compliance program, as noted in J. J. Keller’s 2023 e-book of the same name. 

However, those aren’t the only categories that carriers should be concerned about when it comes to recordkeeping. Payroll, training, insurance, and accident and incident reporting are other pivotal areas that must be documented.

A digital records system offers companies greater control over and more uses for these important documents and others; it expedites and simplifies the processes of uploading, storing, locating information, sharing with internal or external parties, and data analysis. 

Further, electronic records provide greater security through user-based permissions and secure storage. This is especially important for drug and alcohol records, which the FMCSA requires to be kept secure and under controlled access.

Because systems can provide reminders about missing or incomplete credentials, licenses and registrations, safety personnel can more actively stay on top of areas that need attention and address missing items than they can through traditional methods.

Other than simply complying with regulations, complete and accurate documentation — and knowing where to find it — enables businesses to build a history of each driver and vehicle over time, which is necessary for managing liability.

“Good record [document] management is a business asset. It’s a repository of corporate knowledge that makes your business more valuable,” Hansen said.

Quicker sharing with internal and external parties

During the height of the pandemic, 71% of those with jobs that could be done from home were working remotely all or most of the time, according to Pew Research. The need for cloud file access and sharing was among the many trends carried over into the post-pandemic era. 

Now, it’s a norm for businesses to provide their staff with remote file access, allowing them more visibility into necessary records required to do their jobs and more easily share with other internal parties. At the same time, it’s a secure solution that allows companies to restrict access to certain files in order to protect private information. 

Meanwhile, when external partners need access to those documents, such as for off-site audits or litigation purposes, companies can easily locate and email them without the hassle of searching through file cabinets, clearing out cluttered folders, scanning and hoping that their documents are error-free and complete.

“If you find yourself involved in litigation or a government audit, the records you keep — and how you keep them — will have a significant impact on the outcome,” noted Hansen. “And unlike most things in a fleet manager’s day, your records and recordkeeping practices are within your control.”

An efficient digital record system will help safety managers discard expired items ahead of time, reducing a company’s liability, and will allow them to provide complete and compliant documents to auditors and attorneys with confidence.

Get ahead of issues before they snowball

A safety professional’s daily job is filled with constant tasks and issues that need attention, often requiring him or her to refer to driver compliance and operations records for answers. Readily available, searchable documents are invaluable for finding solutions to these problems.

If those documents aren’t correct or up to date, though, it can create a larger issue.

There can be an avalanche effect of risk and liability burdens when companies mistakenly keep the wrong documents for the wrong driver, often finding out after an audit. Last year, failing to keep driver qualification files was the ninth most common audit violation.

Driver qualification and documentation can get complicated, however. For instance, the various records required for a part-time Class B driver from Minnesota working for a company in California will be different from what’s needed for a full-time, Class A, hazmat-endorsed truck driver based in Illinois working for the same company.

An ideal digital record management system can help companies navigate complex documentation requirements, ensuring they get it right the first time, through job classifications for employees. Classification gives them a checklist to follow in order to keep track of the differing requirements and nuances for each employee, including when it comes to licensure and state and federal requirements, as well as necessary maintenance, registration and insurance records for the vehicles they drive. 

This allows businesses to go more assuredly into hiring decisions with the best-suited candidates, knowing they will be able to keep them compliant and qualified. Ultimately, this guidance will help them increase confidence in the accuracy of their records.

When it comes to vehicle inspection recordkeeping, a digital fleet management system that collects odometer readings can alert safety managers to lapsing vehicle maintenance compliance and stay on top of preventative repairs. This helps to avoid issues that arise due to overdue maintenance and out-of-service defects, according to J. J. Keller.

With a digital recordkeeping system, it’s easier to stay ahead of common issues — such as keeping the wrong documents in a driver qualification file or lapsed compliance — giving safety managers more time to focus on larger issues.

The J. J. Keller® Encompass® Fleet Management System helps you meet FMCSA recordkeeping requirements and safeguards your entire risk management program. It allows you to classify your employees, drivers and vehicles correctly, complete and retain all required records for each, and maintain many other required business records on an ongoing basis. Call 855-693-5338 to talk with a J. J. Keller compliance specialist.

To learn more about the J. J. Keller Encompass Fleet Management System, click here.

The post Why now’s the time to step up your record management game appeared first on FreightWaves.

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