Fleet Compliance: Avoiding Penalties in Your Commercial Fleet
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Fleet Compliance: Avoiding Penalties in Your Commercial Fleet

Headshot of a man with a blurred background By Ben Reiland April 11, 2024

Categories: Mobile Workforce Vehicle Reimbursement

A strong policy is the backbone of any efficiently operating fleet. And there’s a lot to pack into that policy. Fuel and maintenance both make a large portion, as does compliance. So what do compliance standards in a company-provided vehicle program look like? How does a business guarantee fleet compliance?

What is fleet compliance?

At the end of the day, fleet compliance is about safety. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a series of rules and regulations companies with commercial vehicles have to follow. These rules and regulations go a long way towards creating safer travel for everyone on the roads.

Is your industry impacted?

So your business has a fleet of vehicles. That’s the first sign fleet compliance is something you should be addressing in your fleet policy. However, commercial fleet compliance standards apply to a specific set of conditions. Among those are: the size of the vehicles in the fleet, if those vehicles are used to transport people or hazardous waste and more.

You can dive into the FMCSA regulations and interpretations to learn more, but if your fleet includes trucks, utility vans or step vans weighing 10,000 pounds or more, these more than likely apply to you. Industries like construction, manufacturing, food and beverage distribution and even some areas of business services are likely to be impacted. Even if these conditions don’t apply to your business, it’s still a good idea to stay up to date on the compliance guidelines.

Meeting Fleet Compliance Standards

Keeping commercial fleet vehicles compliant means holding the vehicles, their drivers and fleet managers accountable to certain standards. Some of those include hours behind the wheel, regular inspections, mileage submission and CSA scoring. Let’s look at what those mean to businesses with commercial fleets, starting with time behind the wheel.

Maximum Operating Hours

People falling asleep at the wheel is a serious cause of accidents. To help cut down on the amount of fatigue-related commercial vehicle accidents, the DOT restricts the number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel without a break. For property-carrying drivers, the maximum number of hours is 11, following 10 hours off duty. For passenger carrying drivers, the maximum is 10 hours, following 8 hours off duty. Regulations do change based on number of breaks or road conditions, but businesses must ensure their drivers adhere to these rules.

Vehicle Inspection Reports

One of the most important elements of road safety regarding commercial fleet is vehicle maintenance. When a vehicle isn’t road safe, it puts the driver and everyone else around them at risk. To follow FMCSA regulations, all drivers must fill out a Driver-Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) before and following each trip. This report covers essential safety and operation systems, including lights, tires, mirrors, brakes and more. Drivers should also address wear and tear in these reports.

Mileage Submission

Companies must pay a fuel tax for commercial vehicles of a certain size. These payments go to the International Fuel Tax Agreement, a non-profit that distributes taxes to the right states (and, for those in Canada, provinces). To remain compliant with this taxation process, drivers must keep record of the miles they’ve driven, the amount of fuel they bought and where they bought it. These submitted records help the IFTA determine where the fuel taxes go.

Personal-Use Chargeback

A majority of the vehicles meeting the commercial fleet requirements are unlikely to be used outside of work. There are however a number of trucks that qualify as commercial fleet vehicles employees might benefit from the personal use of. Employees with this benefit must track and submit their personal mileage to ensure employers charge them an accurate personal-use chargeback each year.

CSA Scoring

One other aspect of commercial fleet standards is a Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score. This score, provided at roadside inspection points on highways all over the US, measures how fit a vehicle and its driver is. The seven categories making up these scores include controlled substance or alcohol use, compliance with hours of service, driver fitness, frequency (and intensity) of collisions), hazardous material compliance, unsafe driving and vehicle maintenance. Failure to achieve a suitable CSA score can result in commercial fleet vehicle removal and consequences for the business.

Consequences of Failing Fleet Compliance Standards

What happens if one or more vehicles in your fleet are found out of compliance? The likely end result is the DOT and FMCSA fining your business for not meeting safety standards. Potential compliance issues aren’t limited to vehicles. Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) can also hold drivers and fleet managers accountable when conducting checks for compliance.

Ensuring Compliance in Your Fleet

Across company size and industry, businesses with fleet vehicles place liability and compliance at the top of their concerns. Even with a solid company-vehicle policy, mistakes are made and accidents happen. It’s important for companies to consider internal repercussions for compliance violations and procedures that remove as much possibility for human error as possible. Some companies use telematics to gain visibility into the driving behaviors of employees.

When Your Fleet Isn’t Mandatory

Businesses today are doing everything they can to minimize liability. And a large liability for most companies is their commercial fleet. If your company is concerned about meeting fleet compliance standards, chances are your work vehicles are essential to your business. Specialty vehicles like semis, utility trucks and vans cannot be easily replaced. That doesn’t mean other vehicles in the company need to be company owned. Find out how fleet costs are adding up and the alternatives companies are turning to in our blog, Fleet Vehicles: More than a Fleeting Expense.

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