DOT & ELD Guidance Blog

Vehicle Tracking Is a Safety Management Control

Learn how vehicle tracking GPS technology supports 5 important FMCSA safety management controls.

J.J. Keller Editor Rick Malchow

Rick Malchow - Industry Business Advisor - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

December 03 , 2021

Many companies implement tracking technology to assist with operational metrics, including knowing where their equipment is located, measuring the productivity indicators of time in transit and at customer locations or job sites, and creating accurate driver trip reports for IFTA and IRP. Additional benefits include productivity increases, improved billing collection, accident rate and severity reduction, and preferred insurance rates. However, once the operational return of investment (ROI) is realized, carriers are thrilled to find substantial compliance benefits related to vehicle tracking technology that tie directly to safety management controls.

"What are safety management controls?"

Safety management controls are how the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) determines a carrier's Safety Fitness. The agency states that effective safety management controls "ensure the safe movement of products and passengers through the transportation system and reduce the risk of highway accidents" that result "in fatalities, injuries, and property damage." The program's foundation, known as the Safety Management Cycle (SMC), comprises the operation's systems, policies, programs, practices, and procedures. The first layer on top of the foundation is policies and procedures, but safety management controls are most effective when supported by technology.

The FMCSA regulations require carriers to have safety management controls in eleven areas. Nearly half of which can be directly supported by vehicle tracking technology:

  • Improperly using and driving motor vehicles,
  • Unsafe vehicles operating on the highways,
  • The use of fatigued drivers,
  • Driving and parking rule violations when carrying hazardous materials, and
  • Reducing the risk associated with motor vehicle accidents.

Let's look at each of these in more detail.

Improperly Using and Driving Motor Vehicles

Unsafe Driving is the CSA BASIC listed first in the order of the seven behavioral categories. This means that violations in this area have the strongest relationship to the risk of a crash. The violations in this area include reckless driving, improper lane changes, speeding, running through traffic control devices, texting, and cell phone use. Without appropriate technology, the only way a carrier knows if their drivers are engaging in these risky behaviors is if they receive tickets or violations. By using effective technology, including electronic logs, drivers receive timely coaching regarding the dangers of unsafe driving.

Unsafe Vehicles Operating on the Highways

Complete and effective pre-trip, en route, and post-trip inspections are the best ways to avoid unsafe vehicle operation. Unfortunately, without technology to document thorough inspections, a company often learns of an unsafe vehicle from a roadside inspection report violation.

The Use of Fatigued Drivers

An electronic logging device (ELD), like the J. J. Keller® ELD, is the most used technology to mitigate fatigue and document hours-of-service compliance. For drivers that are exempt from using ELDs, however, tracking technology is vital supporting documentation used to audit driver time records. Depending on the solution, the technology may also assist in creating a time record for short-haul drivers.

Driving and Parking Rule Violations When Carrying Hazardous Materials

The regulations stipulate where vehicles carrying hazardous materials can park and specific route requirements based on the commodity and individual security plans. Therefore, adherence to the rules is critical. Without vehicle tracking and mapping, it's difficult for a company to document the vehicle park locations and the routes traveled.

Reducing the Risk Associated with Motor Vehicle Accidents

Aside from recording accidents and participating in investigations, very few safety rules apply directly to accidents. The reason for this is the FMCSA's mission statement, "To reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses." The agency contends that the purpose of the safety regulations is to make the roads safer by reducing accidents.

In Conclusion

Studies have shown that carriers with a strong safety management culture readily adopt safety technologies. These organizations lead the way in safety standards, going above and beyond compliance to eliminate risk for the public, drivers, and their businesses. They are front-line innovators focused on continuous improvement and readily incorporate technology into their safety management controls. Consequently, they enjoy fewer accidents and incidents compared to carriers without similar safety management controls.

Are you ready to join these front-line innovators, embrace continuous compliance improvement, and build the strength of your safety culture? It's not as complex as you think. With J. J. Keller® Encompass® Fleet Management, you can! Talk with a compliance specialist to see how Encompass automates everyday recordkeeping tasks, provides powerful technology to improve operations and compliance, and delivers fleet visibility to enhance decision-making.


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