August 29, 2016 3:30 AM, EDT

Facing Increasing Regulatory, Business Pressures, Private Fleets Seek Assistance With Compliance

This story appears in the Aug. 29 print edition of Transport Topics.

Private fleet operators are increasingly using outside service providers to comply with a growing number of regulations and face pressure to adapt to an array of legal issues and business trends that go well beyond the traditional realm.

Corporate fleet owners are also spending more on training, upgrading equipment and doing more to recognize their best-performing drivers, according to executives interviewed for Transport Topics’ 2016 Top 100 list of largest private carriers in North America.

Among the top issues facing private fleet operators is compliance with driver hours-of-service rules and a federal mandate to adopt electronic logging devices in December 2017.

Top 100 Private Carrier rankings

“We needed a solution that would simplify compliance with HOS regulations and time and attendance tracking,” explained Charlie Battler, regional fleet and safety manager at SRS Distribution Inc., a company that distributes roofing materials and contracted with a telematics provider to automate driver logs.

Carol Heinowski, an executive with Meijer Inc., a grocery distributor, said she is concerned about possible changes in HOS rules, including a provision that allows drivers to restart their work week after 34 hours off.

“That will impact how we currently do our driver scheduling during our busy times,” Heinowski told Transport Topics.

Other top concerns for fleet managers include new training requirements for entry-level drivers and tighter review of medical issues, such as sleep apnea.

Some issues beyond the control of private fleet managers include action by the U.S. Department of Justice to block proposed mergers between food service companies Sysco Corp. and US Foods, and oil field service firms Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Inc.

Food manufacturers and processors also face more oversight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in response to a new law designed to protect food from contamination.

Fleets that may be eyeing the potential of drones and other automated vehicles to make deliveries more efficient will also be watching the development of regulations by the Department of Transportation.