By Steve Saltzgiver, Director of Strategic Innovation, RTA Fleet Management Software
When operating complex equipment, it has been a long-standing fleet management practice (since the invention of personal conveyance and vocational vehicles) to perform daily safety inspections on the assets. Ensuring equipment is safe to operate is an operator’s fiduciary responsibility to both themselves and their company — as well as the general public-at-large. Unfortunately, this responsibility was not taken seriously, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted stringent regulations in the early 90’s as part of the Commercial Driver License (CDL) requirements to ensure compliance.
When the program was rolled out by the FMCSA, companies and individual businesses that operated commercial equipment designed formalized paper inspection forms to adhere to the guidelines. The formal program was coined the “Driver Vehicle Inspection Report” (DVIR) and included the visual inspection of several primary components on vehicles to ensure they were safe to operate. These inspection forms were primarily used to inspect heavy-duty vehicles requiring a CDL. However, shortly after these inspections were mandated by the government, individual fleet managers and operators discovered it was a good practice to use the daily safety inspection on all types of equipment prior to operating them.
Like everything else, with the advent of new computer applications and technology, the daily safety inspections were reimagined. As smart phones and handheld devices became widespread, eDVIR applications were created to streamline the process for both drivers and the shop. These eDVIR devices became more pervasive when the FMCSA required the implementation of electronic logging devices (ELD) to record drivers’ hours of service. Coupling eDVIR technology with ELD devices made sense since drivers were already utilizing a handheld device in the cab to log hours.
Benefits of Using eDVIR¹
Electronic DVIRs help operations simplify the inspection process and streamline the paperwork and information. These apps let operations keep records and store all inspection information in a device, such as a phone or tablet. Drivers can easily input the data, and it can then be synced to the operation’s fleet management software to allow information to be easily accessed by technicians and fleet managers at the shop.
Some of the additional benefits of using eDVIRs are:
Time savings: eDVIRs allow drivers to more quickly complete inspections since they do not have to fill out handwritten forms. It also saves time in notifying the technicians of what issues need to be repaired on the vehicle when it comes back into the shop. Lastly, the eDVIR can be designed optimally by vehicle type to reduce the number of steps required to conduct a walkaround inspection.
Increased communications: Drivers and technicians can communicate easily through the eDVIR device, allowing drivers to notify them of what issues need to be repaired. It also lets technicians update the vehicle status in the app to inform drivers when the vehicle is ready.
Take photos: Drivers can take photos of any issues on the vehicles with their mobile devices. This added detail and visualization can help technicians pinpoint the defects such as the check engine light (CEL). These photos can be quickly emailed using a smart phone device.
Record noises: Drivers can record odd noises emitted by the defective assets (e.g., engine noises, vibrations, etc.) and transmit these directly to technicians via email with a smart device. The noises can be diagnosed perhaps on-the-fly, providing drivers with extra assurance as to whether the vehicle is safe to operate.
No lost papers: Keeping track of paper forms can be troublesome. These forms are expected to go from the driver to the technicians, and then get filed away at the shop and stored for three months. Electronic DVIRs simplify this process by eliminating paper forms and keeping all information digitally.
Reduced administrative costs and risks: Documenting inspections with an eDVIR app lets fleet management recall data quickly, assuring leaders and regulatory authorities inspections were completed. The ability to recall historical eDVIR data (versus sifting through piles of paper forms) affords organizations the extra assurance should they be involved in a lawsuit or regulatory audit, reducing an organization’s legal exposure and risk. Likewise, eDVIR records can easily be purged every 90 days as recommended. Lastly, since the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the California forest fires, the ability to acquire paper products has become problematic and expensive. Using an eDVIR eliminates the need to purchase expensive triplicate DVIR paper forms.
Enhancing Preventative/Predictive Maintenance: Integrating the eDVIR with a Fleet Management Information System provides fleet professionals with the data to make informed decisions. This electronic data is valuable to enhance the preventative (PM) and predictive (PdM) maintenance inspection processes. Fleet management has the data at its fingertips. This can be quickly queried to identify reoccurring issues. The data allows operations to proactively update both the PM inspections and PdM programs’ component replacement prior to an anticipated failure.
Ensuring compliance: One of the challenges with paper forms has been staying compliant with FMCSA mandates and ensuring the loop is closed properly. The transfer of paper forms between the driver, their supervisor, the shop personnel and back to the driver was rarely executed properly. Conversely, using eDVIR technology includes automated sign-off procedures built into the app, ensuring the proper chain of custody is followed. Using the prescribed process protects the driver, shop personnel and the company from operating an unsafe vehicle.
Paperless and Sustainable: As companies seek opportunities to become more sustainable, the use of eDVIRs reduces the need for paper, saving money and time, and increasing the company’s sustainability and recycling programs.
The routine use of automated eDVIRs greatly enhances each operation’s vehicle safety program. This extra sense of security with eDVIR forms reduces the legal liability and risk involved with operating vehicles. Moreover, drivers and shop personnel can perform their fiduciary responsibilities, shielding themselves and the organization from lawsuits or damage to the company brand. Further, driver and shop productivity are optimized considerably, and the maintenance program is strengthened. With eDVIRs becoming so pervasive, what are you waiting for?