Electronic vehicle inspection reports reduce waste, save time

by James Menzies

ORLANDO, Fla. — Transitioning to electronic driver vehicle inspection reports (e-DVIRs) can save money and improve efficiency, but only if carefully implemented. That was the take-away from a tech session at the Technology & Maintenance Council’s fall meetings. For Dean Foods, with its 7,000 drivers across the US, digitizing vehicle inspection reports allowed the company to eliminate 21,000 pieces of paper per day, costing $180,000 per year.

Marvin Psalmond, senior director of the fleet, said his company piloted e-DVIRs at two locations and found there were no more, or less, defects being reported once the company went electronic. This gave it the confidence to roll the system out across the fleet. Drivers use handheld or in-cab devices to note any vehicle defects identified during their pre- and post-trip inspections. Maintenance receives notification of the defect in real-time and can more quickly initiate a repair order. Psalmond said transitioning to electronic records won’t help in the absence of a good management system.

“You have to have a good system in place, regardless of how you do it,” he said. He also noted audits are required to ensure drivers are properly inspecting vehicles.

“If you look at 60 or 90 days of records on an older vehicle and everything is fine, you know that’s not true,” he said.

Chris Disantis, director of training and technical field support with Aim Nationalease, said his company has helped many of its fleet customers move to
e-DVIRs. There’s often a worry among service managers because going digital makes everyone more accountable.

“Service managers think they’re going to get in trouble,” he explained. “There’s a higher level of accountability so service managers tend to fight it a little bit.”

However, once they’ve made the switch, Disantis said 80-90% of fleets stick with electronic DVIRs.

Jarit Cornelius, director of maintenance with 125-truck fleet Sharp Transport, said his company moved to
e-DVIRs after successfully implementing electronic logs and wanting to take it to the next level. Previously, drivers would return to the terminal, conduct a post-trip inspection, place a piece of paper noting any defects in the window and then admin personnel would check the trucks in the morning for any necessary repairs before the truck is dispatched.

“The administrative personnel in the mornings would conduct yard checks, write down the unit numbers, see if there’s a piece of paper in the windshield, go back to the shop, get the keys, go to the truck, get the papers, go back to the shop, talk to the supervisor – it was a very inefficient way of doing things,” Cornelius explained. The goal was to streamline the process, which was achieved.

“It gave drivers a means to communicate with the maintenance department and dispatch without having to pick up the phone and tie up the phone lines,” Cornelius said. But the system isn’t perfect. Cornelius said the system in place at Sharp Transport doesn’t allow for much customization and he said the fleet still prefers drivers call in when there’s a major issue like a flat tire or leaky trailer. And he said there’s still no way to tell for sure the driver is doing a thorough inspection. However, efficiency has been improved, he said.

“We now have the means, within a matter of minutes, to communicate to dispatch and maintenance what the problem is, where they dropped the trailer,” he explained. “It gives us a lot of flexibility and control over our costs.”

Sharp Transport hasn’t made the electronic system mandatory, as it wants drivers to still have the option of communicating with maintenance in person.

“With us not mandating it, I think that has brought them on to adopt it even more,” he said.

All fleet panelists involved in the discussion agreed the key to successfully transitioning to e-DVIRs is communicating it to everyone affected and rolling the program out in a controlled manner. This didn’t happen at the fleet where Ken Eggen worked. Eggen, who no longer works there, warned of the dangers of a poorly executed implementation strategy.

“When you go to roll out something like e-DVIRs, there’s a lot to it. We didn’t have good communication with the driving force or with our operations people. We didn’t have integrated systems.”

In this instance, the move to e-DVIRs came down as a mandate from the safety department, Eggen said.

“It will show you a lot of sins if you don’t have the right communication and buy-in,” he warned. “Make sure everyone is on-board whole-heartedly. If they’re not, you will fail. We were a good example of that.”

Despite the complexity of moving to e-DVIRs, Jack Boetefuer, CEO of Dossier Systems, predicted that, “Within the next two to three years, the majority of fleets will adopt this kind of approach.”

While the inspection requirements do not change, Boetefuer said “Our experience is, the paper method is slower. It’s a lot more labour intensive. It’s error-prone and there’s no standardized workflow.”

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