- Fleet managers identified three contributors essential for an ideal work environment: leaders who demonstrate their safety commitment; drivers who make safe choices; and knowledge and application of regulations.
- A significant concern for fleet managers is leadership’s support for safety as a priority above all else in decision-making.
- Distracted driving is the number one gap in driver knowledge and skill identified by respondents.
- Fifty-two percent (52%) of respondents rated their job as very or extremely challenging; 58% work in fleets with less than 25 trucks.
- Notable fleet manager frustrations include rule awareness and impacts to the organization (74%), visibility to driver compliance/non-compliance (77%), and recordkeeping (47%).
The J. J. Keller Center for Market Insights, the research arm of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., the nation’s leading provider of safety and regulatory compliance solutions, released its second Transport Industry Study, The State of Fleet Management — Insights on Today’s Fleet Manager. The survey, fielded from November 12 to December 21, 2020, reveals that 2020 was a year of profound challenges for fleet professionals. They feel a significant burden for driver safety and desire leadership support. Most are part of smaller organizations (less than 100 trucks) and feel stresses with too many meetings, multiple responsibilities, and insufficient time to do what they need to do.
In publishing this study, the Center anticipates more effective collaboration for improved safety among industry stakeholders as they better understand fleet professionals’ desires, constraints, and priorities.
An Ideal Work Environment Includes Leadership Support
Respondents desire leader support and the opportunity to make a difference in their organization. They want leaders who live out their safety commitment and include safety as a primary consideration when making decisions about the organization. Strong responses (mostly and completely) indicate that more companies strive to improve safety (74%) than focus on solutions that improve the bottom-line profit (52%).
“It’s not easy, and there’s a tremendous amount of give and take required to find the balance of profits and safety,” states J. J. Keller Sr. Marketing Director, Tom Reader. “It’s encouraging that most fleet professionals believe their c-suite values the ROI that safety delivers.”
Distracted Driving Identified as the Most Significant Gap in Driver Knowledge and Skill
The survey allowed fleet managers to identify their top driver concerns. The top five include how to help drivers: avoid distracted driving, avoid injury, safely operate vehicles, comply with HOS limits and use of exceptions, and understand how FMCSA regulations apply.
Distracted driving is an industry hot topic, also identified as a significant concern in the Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry – 2020 report, released late last year by the American Transportation Research Institute.1
The FMCSA found that 71% of large-truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was doing something besides driving the truck.2
Fifty-two percent (52%) of respondents rated their job as very or extremely challenging; 72% work in a company with <99 drivers, 58% work in a company with <25 trucks.
“Not surprising,” states Tom Bray, J. J. Keller Sr. Industry Business Advisor. “Fleet management at a small company is challenging and exhausting. Most managers have multiple responsibilities and oversight, including hiring, training, safety and compliance, recordkeeping, maintenance, financial reporting, and even dispatch. Everyone has to contribute in a small organization, and those who have more knowledge and experience contribute more.”
Survey comments include:
- “…interruptions, work is continuous, and is never fully complete.”
- “Communication, scheduling, too many online meetings, finding a balance between work and personal life, always have the feeling that you are on
“Most important frustrations” include compliance knowledge (74%), awareness and visibility to driver compliance/non-compliance (77%), and recordkeeping (47%).
Compliance knowledge revolved around staying up to date on FMCSA (40%) and understanding how FMCSA impacts the business (23%).
Respondents are also concerned with how new technology will impact and improve their compliance (11%), how to find out if their driver is non-compliant (31%) and if he/she is using the HOS exemptions correctly and in compliance with limits (17%).
With 72% of respondents being from small companies, it’s not surprising that managers are struggling to have accurate and organized files (23%) and get all their files in one place (24%).
The COVID-19 pandemic allowed FMCSA to start ramping up off-site audits, in which files are sent from the motor carrier electronically to the auditor. “Off-site audits are up over 300%, and the focus is on the small carrier — 82 percent of carriers audited had 20 or fewer power units, and 54 percent had six or fewer,” explains Daren Hansen, J. J. Keller Sr. DOT editor. “There has been a dramatic shift to off-site auditing, where there’s little direct contact between the DOT investigator and the motor carrier being audited. If there’s ever been a time to automate records, it’s now.”
The survey allowed respondents the opportunity to enter comments about their struggles. When compiled, the following challenges were consistently noted: not enough time to train and keep accurate records, too many meetings, multiple responsibilities, ongoing interruptions, inability to proactively address safety, getting driver buy-in for compliance, and a struggle to balance work and personal life.
“More than ever, fleet professionals are passionate about safety but struggling to manage compliance proactively, and maximize the return on their efforts, while being able to document their success. But there’s hope,” says Reader. “Fleet management systems, like J. J. Keller® Encompass, help managers to stay on top of the rules, identify risks, and elevate their achievements. These systems provide a meaningful way to relieve the stress and inefficiency around much of the fleet management process.”