Fleet Business Owners: How To Keep On The Right Side Of The Law

Fleet businesses belong to one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world. First, a fleet business involves heavy vehicles, each of which can cause serious damage if a driver is not handling it properly or is not in good condition. This is why regulations for both vehicles and drivers are quite rigorous.

Then, these vehicles drive incredible quantities of valuable goods, loss or mishandling of which could cause incredible financial damage. The damage to the vehicle itself is quite expensive.

Ultimately, the sheer volume of data available to these companies (routes, work orders, inventory audits) is sensitive and prone to industrial espionage.

Here are some of the biggest decisions you must make as a fleet business owner to stay on the right side of the law.


1. Vehicle compliance

Car accidents are one of the most common types of violent deaths in the world. This is why government regulations regarding vehicle safety features and technical properties are so strict. For instance, your vehicles must have airbags, functioning seat belts, etc. These need to be evaluated at least once yearly for privately owned vehicles, while standards for vehicles operating in a fleet are often somewhat higher.

The way to determine this is to conduct a regular vehicle inspection. These don’t have to reevaluate the entire vehicle. Instead, they should mostly focus on tires, breaks, and lights. Now, if you’re running a fleet, it’s advisable to conduct daily inspections before the vehicles set out or after they’re back at the garage. You also need to keep a paper trail of these inspections in the form of reports (signed by an authorized person).

Then, there are weight and size regulations that you need to honor. Some areas and routes won’t tolerate vehicles of a specific size and weight. Make sure to optimize your routes with that in mind to avoid any potential problems.

Legality is one of many reasons for focusing on vehicle compliance. Averting potential accidents and ensuring that your vehicles are operational (low downtime) are two things you need to focus on the most. This also helps you with predictive maintenance, and with the right spare parts automotive e-commerce platform, you’ll have a much easier task of keeping this downtime to a minimum.

This way, sticking by the rules and avoiding cutting parts will be easier. After all, you’re avoiding consequences and reaping benefits at the same time.

2. Driver compliance

Your drivers need to have all the necessary qualifications, like the license for the type of vehicle they’re going to operate, as well as a few additional certificates.

At the same time, driving for work and driving your own part are not the same things. Technically, you could drive a car for 48 hours straight without legal repercussions if you choose to. Would this be smart? No, but it would be legal! However, as a fleet manager, you need to abide by the HOS (hours-of-service) compliances and pay special attention to driver fatigue. You need to have all of this documented and recorded.

Next, you need to test your driver for drugs and alcohol regularly. This is something that commercial drivers just have to pass. Also, you must have reliable tests and a zero-tolerance policy for substance abuse.

Your drivers also need to undergo regular medical examinations. This is mandated by regulations and all you need to do is schedule their appointments, remind them, and inquire about the results. Also, keep all the records.

One last thing that is not a requirement but is a smart thing to do is to monitor their on-road behavior. All modern fleets are managed through fleet management tools, meaning you can track their driving behavior in real-time. Not only that, but you can keep records of it. This allows you to be proactive and fire or reprimand reckless drivers.

3. Inventory compliance

You should never forget what matters in your fleet - cargo. This means you must be extra careful and vigilant when managing it. The first thing you need to handle is an accurate record of all cargo that’s being transported. This means keeping all the invoices, bills of lading, shipping manifests, and more. With the help of software like Fleetios tool inventory spreadsheet, you’ll have an easier time keeping track of it all.

Namely, as a fleet business, you take responsibility for the goods you’re transporting. Without assuming this responsibility, no one will ever entrust you with their shipment. This means you need to have all the necessary documentation regarding when, what you received, and what you unloaded.

Previously, we talked about the size and weight limit of the vehicles in the fleet. Well, this also reflects on the weight and limit of the cargo. There’s usually a law about how much weight each vehicle can carry. You need to have the loaded cargo data to prove that you never exceeded this limit.

Then, there’s the perishable goods compliances. Perishable goods need to be delivered on a time-sensitive schedule. Not only that, but there’s often a situation where you also have to control temperature. Refrigerated transport also needs to be properly maintained and calibrated, which means that you’ll have an obligation to submit even more reports than you originally intended.

4. Data privacy

Staying compliant in this digital era is, arguably, one of the hardest challenges you’ll face.

As a fleet business, you’ll have access to the valuable data of your clients and partners. This is why you need to abide by various data privacy laws. Most importantly, these privacy laws are regional. For instance, the key regulation in the EU is the GDPR, while in California, you’re dealing with CCPA. While the general principle behind these regulations is quite similar, the differences can sometimes be quite significant, which is why you need to study them and study them well.

It is also important to remember that these laws apply to you even if you aren’t from the region of their jurisdiction. As long as your clients or partners are from this region, it still applies to you.

Then, even as a fleet business, you’re likely to have a website, and you might use cookies on this site. This is why you need to follow a few important rules.

First, you need to ask for consent. Then, you need to stick to the principle of data minimization. Only collect the most necessary data and ensure you don’t keep more than you need. This reduces the risk quite considerably.

Then, regarding sensitive information, restrict access as effectively as possible. So, do the vetting of your employees and allow access to different types of information based on their role (need-to-know basis) and the level of trust you have in them.

It’s also important to train your employees in cybersecurity. A poorly trained team or a negligent employee might compromise even the best cybersecurity system. With just a bit of extra training (and better onboarding), this disaster can be averted.

5. Insurance

Every business needs insurance.

When it comes to the issue of protecting your business from negative outcomes of various accidents, disasters, and unfortunate effects, when it comes to a fleet business, there are a lot of types of insurance that are mandatory (you can’t legally be in business without them). There are also a few types of insurance that you would be unwise to ignore.

- General liability insurance: Some businesses go with general liability insurance, but for a fleet business, it’s not enough as a standalone. You need something more.

- Commercial auto insurance: This type of insurance will protect your vehicles and any bodily injury resulting from an accident. This is the bare minimum and your highest priority.

- Cargo insurance: When protecting against damage or loss of the cargo transported, you must go with cargo insurance.

- Workers’ compensation insurance: You would be surprised at what kind of toll this industry may have on the drivers. So, you need insurance that will provide medical benefits and wage replacement for those injured and develop medical conditions in the line of duty.

Remember that these four are just the tip of an iceberg, but they’re also the bare minimum that your fleet business should have.

Doing things legally means doing them the smart way

The last thing you need to remember is that doing things legally benefits you in other ways.

Even if the law did not mandate it, it’s still in your best interest that your cars are serviceable and that all the safety features function. Knowing more about your drivers and ensuring that their record and behavior is up to code are also so many benefits. Having insurance is smart either way, and your data leaking is always a horrible thing.

In other words, even if there were no way for you to land in trouble by ignoring these rules, it would still be a bad idea. On the other hand, abiding by these rules is always a smart thing to do.

By Srdjan Gombar

Veteran content writer, published author, and amateur boxer. Srdjan is a Bachelor of Arts in English Language & Literature and is passionate about technology, pop culture, and self-improvement. His free time he spends reading, watching movies, and playing Super Mario Bros. with his son.

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Posted - 12/05/2023