Maybe this isn’t news if you own a new vehicle, but I was surprised by all the bells and whistles on a car I recently rented.
Let me tell you, it could do everything from warning me I was too close to the center line to saying there was a car was in my blind spot. It could even park itself!
It took me an entire two weeks and 2,500 km of driving to figure out most of these options, even with the manual. I thought at one point a hand might reach out and pat my forehead dry on the warm days.
For people like me who drive old cars without new technology, having to suddenly confront changes in the way I drive was pretty jarring. On one hand, I felt like my car genuinely wanted to help me get safely from A to B. On the other, there were times when I was confused as hell. And a little frustrated. When I first started driving the rental car, it was fun to discover what it could do, or really, what it could do for me. But after a while, I turned off the lane cross-over alert. The blind-spot indicator was a distraction at times. Then I went to change lanes and the little light blinked that I was about to drift into the car beside me. Maybe it’s a useful feature after all!
New technology, new procedures, new rules – it’s easy to feel like they get in the way of how we’ve always gotten the job done. But as time goes on, we start to see the value in a new approach.
Anyone in fleet tax management is dealing with two issues that will upend the way we’ve always done business: Unified Registration System (URS) and electronic logging devices (ELDs).
With its many delays, the URS has hit the industry like a slow drip, but it will become a tsunami when the final implementation becomes a reality.
The same is true of ELDs. Even the crustiest of operators are succumbing to the convenience of the smartphone and logging apps.
As fleet tax pros, we can plan and prepare and think we have all the bases covered, but until these two changes are fully implemented, none of us truly knows how they’ll affect us—including any unintended benefits or problems they’ll present. And what does it all mean to the average trucker? Are private carriers paying attention?
In anticipation of URS and ELDs coming into full force, here are a few ideas help you keep up with the onslaught of changes in the lane next to you.
The worst kept secret in transportation is the fudging of hours-of-service logs. It’s been an accepted practice for 50-plus years. Not anymore. Many fleets aren’t waiting for ELDs to be forced upon them. They switched on their own, and I’m hearing good things: when used properly, fleets can manage their operation better and drivers can actually gain time in their cycles.
Drivers can eliminate paperwork and run by the book, while fleets save time and money through automation. ELDs can put drivers and dispatchers on the same page when it comes to planning. For instance, they can both see why it makes sense to send the driver to the shipper the night before so his waiting time can be done off-duty.
Now’s the time to look around and test out various programs. There are a lot available (some for free) that comply with the latest rules and regulations. Shop to your heart’s content and find a program that fits you rather than you fitting it.
If you are an existing carrier of any kind (for-hire or private), register for an account on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) portal: https://portal.fmcsa.dot.gov/URSRegistrationWizard.
But if you’re a private carrier, you really have some work to do. Contact your insurance agent and have them file the appropriate documents with the FMCSA. You will also have to file a BOC-3 form. If you aren’t sure how, find an expert who will guide you in the right direction.
We’re all used to being in the driver’s seat and we all know the rules of the road. We know how to park our own car and hopefully can stay out of someone else’s lane without being warned. But we’re about to confront some new bells and whistles in our business and sometimes it’s going to be frustrating. Objects in the mirror may be closer than they seem, but you still have time to make changes on your own terms. Make good use of it.
Sandy Johnson has been managing IFTA, IRP and other fleet taxes for more than 25 years. She operates FleetTaxPro.com, which provides vehicle tax and licence compliance services for trucking operations from single vehicles to large fleets. She can be reached at 1-877-860-8025 or www.FleetTaxPro.com.