Fleet managers continue to face the day-to-day challenges of staying up-to-date and in compliance with regulatory changes along with continuously improving driver knowledge and skills. That’s according to the newly released study conducted by the J. J. Keller Center for Market Insights, the research arm of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

The study, The State of Fleet Management: Insights on Priorities for Today’s Fleet Managers, is based on a survey fielded in February 2024. It is the fourth annual study the J. J. Keller Center for Market Insights has conducted on this topic.

Study Highlights

The study highlights trending concerns from 2021 to 2024, and takes a close look into fleet managers’ current challenges:

• Struggling with hours-of-service (HOS) limits and use exemptions jumped 13% from 2023 to 2024.

• Finding and retaining high-quality drivers remained a top item from prior years and grew 12% from 2023.

• Understanding how the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations specifically apply to them stayed on the list of top concerns, increasing 9% year-over-year.

According to Daren Hansen, senior industry advisor at J. J. Keller, “Despite widespread use of electronic logs, hours-of-service compliance remains a key issue, with HOS violations making up over 40% of all roadside violations and nearly 1 in 5 violations found during audits in 2023. Toss in a variety of exceptions, and it’s no wonder that drivers struggle with HOS compliance.”

Key Findings

Accurate & Well-Organized Recordkeeping Remains a Challenge

For two years in a row, the most important aspects of FMCSA compliance remain unchanged. Forty-seven percent (47%) of fleet managers who participated in the study stated that “Having accurate and well-organized Driver Qualification files” was the most important aspect of FMCSA compliance. This was up 5% from 2023.

Comments from respondents regarding the most challenging aspects of their job included, “Staying up to date with changing DOT and OSHA rules” and “Ensuring all parts of compliance are monitored and records centrally retained.”

According to one respondent, this includes, “The constant changing of FMCSA rules and regulations. Trying to keep up with them all.”

Another respondent commented that they struggled with “Having all the paperwork needed and filed.”

Improving the Knowledge & Skills of Drivers Is an Ongoing Focus

Sixty-five percent (65%) of those surveyed agree that continuous learning is “mostly” or “completely” emphasized by their company.

When it comes to driver training, respondents believe it’s most important that their training is specific to the unique needs of their drivers, operations, vehicles or industry (47%) and that drivers apply what they learn in training (45%).

Training issues showing year-over-year increases involved flexibility and efficiency in delivery. Respondents stated a strong desire for drivers to access training whenever and wherever it’s needed with minimal disruption to daily tasks.

Additional top training concerns included:

• Having accurate and well-organized training records (30%)

• Having engaging and interesting training (28%)

• Being able to prove, if needed, that a driver understood the training content (25%)

A proactive approach, including training, to building a safe and compliant fleet, can minimize the impact of litigation by helping carriers uphold their “duty to act” — a primary consideration for a jury. A “duty to act” means that you should have been aware of and corrected any safety issues before they resulted in incidents.

According to Mark Schedler, senior editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., “The most successful carriers leverage dash cams, electronic logging devices, and telematics data to find and fix compliance and performance issues leading to prevention of crashes, citations, and unnecessary turnover.”

Unfortunately, 35% of respondents stated that they receive less than ideal support from their company for continuous learning.

In Conclusion

The most important aspect of overall safety that fleet managers want to see is leadership consistently showing that safety is important (51%). A close second is employees knowing that they are valued, and that is why fleet managers want them to be safe (46%).

As the risk of “nuclear verdicts” and FMCSA audits continues to increase, fleet managers are likely to continue to prioritize staying up-to date with regulatory requirements and improving driver knowledge and skills. Additionally, ongoing economic challenges mean that avoiding costly incidents, removing inefficiencies, and minimizing driver turnover are crucial to fleet success.

“Driver safety and regulatory compliance were top trends in both the 2024 data and our findings from previous years of research,” said Susan Baranczyk, J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. head of corporate communications. “Our purpose at J. J. Keller is to protect people and the businesses they run. We understand that ensuring safety for drivers and the public is a critical challenge for fleet managers, and we applaud the focus and efforts of our survey respondents to keep their teams and others safe.”

With the insights shared in the report, stakeholders within the industry can better understand the priorities and constraints fleet managers face and continue to help them going forward.