Telematics is one of those “must-have” technologies in the freight world today, affecting fleets large and small. In this guest column, Pete Allen, executive vice president at MiX Telematics, explains what kinds of policies trucking companies need to put into place to ensure telematics systems are used properly – especially in light of the impending electronic logging device (ELD) mandate set to go into effect of Dec. 18.

About one-third of trucking fleets use telematics today and that number is growing quickly due to the impending ELD mandate, which requires fleets to implement ELDs by December of this year.

With more fleets adopting telematics, it’s time for a refresher on telematics policies, which help establish clear and defined expectations for any employee that is subject to the use of these devices and supporting systems. 

Drivers should be asked to review, sign and date a telematics policy when they begin employment. If you are upgrading your telematics system for ELD compliance, that’s a great opportunity to put a new telematics policy in place for existing drivers.

If you already have telematics in place but no policy, you should prepare one, and set a deadline by which all drivers are required to review and sign it before they are allowed to drive a company vehicle.

Here are some of the “essential elements” a U.S. fleet’s telematics policy should incorporate:

  • Purpose: Explain the reason your company is implementing telematics. Often it’s to ensure compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) final ruling requiring the use of ELDs for drivers of commercial motor vehicles to record their hours-of-service (HOS). Other objectives might be to improve safety and efficiency of the fleet. Explain why telematics are important, and how they will benefit not just the company but also drivers.
  • Roles & Responsibilities: For senior leadership, establish clear expectations and accountability to help ensure that all employees understand and adhere to the requirements of this policy. For Line management and supervisors, make sure they review the telematics policy with all applicable employees to ensure that they understand the expectations and potential consequences if violations were to occur. Finally, all employees must understand and adhere to the expectations as outlined in this policy.
  • ELD mandate and HOS: Describe the ELD mandate in detail, its purpose and key provisions, along with what’s relevant to your operation – including applicable HOS provisions as well. This is opportunity to communicate how important compliance is and the benefits to the fleet and to drivers.
  • Who Must Comply: Describe who must comply with the policy – should include employee drivers, contracted drivers and temporary drivers – and the types of vehicles that must comply (both inter- and intrastate).
  • Proper Recording of Time: This section should conform to the language used in your telematics system, to help drivers understand what each type of time means. For instance, our MiX Fleet Manager system uses: On-Duty Time, Driving Time, Off-Duty Time, Sleeper Berth, Oilfield Exemption, Adverse Driving Conditions, Personal Conveyance and Emergency Driving Exception, among others. Each should be clearly defined with no overlap so drivers know how to record their time in the system.
  • System Use: How drivers log in and out of the system, and what information is recorded while the system is in use.
  • In-Cab Video: Fleets using in-cab video would include details on what is recorded and how the data is used in this section. Many fleets implementing in-cab video are including longer sections in their telematics policy, to ease drivers’ minds about the recording and use of in-cab video – for instance, explaining that managers are not monitoring live video from inside vehicles, but rather reviewing recorded video only when a driving event is triggered.
  • Electronic Log Edits: Defines the process by which logs can be edited, such as overriding automatic collection and recording of data. Ultimately, drivers own their logs and must approve any edits made by supervisors.
  • Compliance: A key provision here is, “Use of the Telematics system in vehicles so equipped is not optional.” We recommend explaining here again why compliance is important – why the company decided to implement telematics. This section should also include a list of items drivers need in their vehicle relative to compliance, such as blank paper logs in the event of a system failure, and procedures to follow for roadside inspections.
  • Driver Performance: Explains how driver performance data will be used. Typically, fleets explain that it is primarily used to counsel drivers on safe driving behaviors and techniques.

The objective of a telematics policy is to make sure drivers understand why the fleet is implementing the system, how the system works, and why they must use it. Ideally, this is a later step in a much longer communications process with drivers.

The first time drivers hear about your fleet’s new telematics system should not be when they are handed the policy for review and signature. That’s because driver buy-in is key to the success of any telematics initiative. 

So make sure your telematics policy an opportunity to convey to drivers that the fleet’s top priority is to keep them safe.