6 Minute read

Owner-operators looking to start their own business, grow their trucking fleet, or expand their operations have to be familiar with the intricacies of compliance. Compliance is a serious matter, as DOT truck inspections and other enforcement measures are constantly in play.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at compliance as it relates to regulations, safety, qualifications, efficiency, and similar topics.

Organizations like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) seek to ensure that trucking companies and drivers conform to safety requirements and other guidelines that affect nearly every aspect of the trucking industry. Owner-operators who stay on top of regulatory changes, monitor compliance scores and indicators, identify and fix compliance issues, and train and learn from other carriers focused on safety and compliance stand to operate and grow a successful business.


IFTA and IRP: What Owner-Operators Need to Know

Owner-operators in the trucking industry will need to become familiar with the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and the International Registration Plan, Inc. (IRP). Each agency’s purpose is relevant to owner-operators running their own trucking businesses.

Historically, carriers were required to apply for individual state licenses and file their fuel taxes with each state based on the amount of fuel purchased and consumed within each individual jurisdiction. This process was highly tedious and inefficient, so a number of states in the U.S. formed the IFTA cooperative agreement to simplify these requirements. With this agreement, carriers could file just one set of tax forms quarterly through a base jurisdiction. Today, the lower 48 states in the U.S. and 10 Canadian provinces are member jurisdictions.

Based in Arizona, the International Fuel Tax Association, Inc. manages and administers the International Fuel Tax Agreement by overseeing tax collection agreements among the various U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

The IRP, Inc. recognizes and manages the registration of commercial motor vehicles that are registered by other jurisdictions. Their ultimate goal is to improve interstate business by encouraging the use of U.S. highway systems.

Owner-Operators who travel across state lines transporting loads, or plan to in the future, need to be familiar with IFTA and IRP eligibility, requirements, and compliance. While these organizations both serve official capacities, knowing about their roles, regulations, and policies is key for all owner-operators.


Federal and Local Regulations: From Hours of Service to Truck Inspections

Regulations are a part of doing business, which is why owner-operators should become familiar and understand the many differences between federal and state regulations, especially among high-volume states such as California, Texas, and Illinois. Knowing what to expect during truck inspections and how to manage Hours of Service (HOS), among other regulated practices, is critical to keeping your business running smoothly.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a sub-agency of the Department of Transportation (DOT), is responsible for ensuring that carriers are safe on the road. They enforce and monitor a number of federal regulations related to unsafe driving, a driver’s crash indicator, HOS, vehicle maintenance, controlled substances and alcohol, hazardous materials, and driver fitness. Owner-operators should be aware of these regulations and the FMCSA’s intervention process if there is a violation.

In addition to federal regulations that are consistent from state to state, there are local regulations that carriers need to remain mindful of if they plan to transport loads across different jurisdictions. Based on which state you are traveling through, there may be different regulations related to commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), HOS, speed limit, and lane and cargo rules.


Trucking Compliance Tips and Tricks

line of semi-trucks in parking lot
Compliance with rules and regulations for owner-operators can be the difference to making it in the trucking industry, so it’s helpful to have some tips for remaining compliant.

Some components of compliance owner-operators should keep top of mind include HOS, your Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC) status, and your compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) score. Owner-operators also need to know the difference between MC Numbers and DOT Numbers and which they’re required to have by the FMCSA.

Remaining compliant involves combining knowing the rules with having the right gear and technology, like a good electronic logging device (ELD) to track hours driven and staying on top of regulations as they are updated or changed.


Safety Versus Compliance

As the FMCSA continues to refine its rules for trucking and safe operations, owner-operators need to stay on top of regulation changes. However, not all best practices related to safety are mandated by regulations; owner-operators can learn about the differences between safety and compliance in order to know what’s required and what’s recommended to optimize safety.

Compliance regulations are ultimately in place to help keep CMV drivers and other motorists safe. Driving, especially a CMV, is highly dangerous; it’s critical that drivers take precautions to prevent unsafe driving behaviors for their own and others’ well-being. Some safety best practices include using defensive driving behaviors like cutting out distractions, visual signaling, and leaving plenty of room between yourself and other vehicles.

Improve your safety practices by making sure you’re up to speed on how to best navigate maintenance and inspection, idling, taking breaks, and parking properly.


Carrier Qualifications: RMIS and More

Owner-operators need to be aware of the different compliance factors and qualifications brokers and shippers weigh when determining who to partner with. For example, brokers will evaluate carrier compliance and look for possible red flags like major DOT violations.

For owner-operators looking to grow or get started, learning qualification criteria and how qualification is validated is a key step. For example, owner-operators will need to maintain appropriate insurance and driving records.

If you plan to work with freight brokers, it’s critical to register with a verification service like the Registry Monitoring Insurance Services (RMIS). RMIS and other similar verification services are used to track carriers’ insurance and ensure compliance. When you partner with a brokerage like Xpress Technologies, you’re able to register for both RMIS and a digital account on the proprietary Xpress Technologies platform all at once so you can hit the ground running and quickly access load recommendations that match your lane preferences.


How to Master Your Efficiency with Hours of Service

Understanding the rules around HOSand learning tricks to maximize the time you can spend on the road is a skill set that carriers tend to develop over time. This means you’ll want to start as soon as possible, measuring the HOS that you can drive on a haul, planning your drive time, and learning how to anticipate any delays or detentions that can affect your HOS. Once you know how to optimize your HOS, you can avoid driving fatigued and keep yourself and everyone else on the road safe while improving your efficiency.

You can use our helpful guide to optimize your HOS.


Running an Efficient Trucking Company

Running an efficient trucking company requires maintaining regulatory compliance to ensure your business is always up and running. Staying on top of regulatory compliance not only boosts efficiency but can also help cement your reputation as a reliable and trustworthy carrier.

Running a trucking company can be extremely profitable if you know how to strategically plan your time on the road, negotiate rates, and stay compliant. Owner-operators run an efficient trucking company when they manage operating costs, have a thorough understanding of the market, and stay compliant with local and federal regulations. Staying on top of all the components of an efficient trucking company is much easier when you work with the right partner and use the right tools.

Xpress Technologies is a technology company built by truckers, for truckers; we are well versed with the challenges and pain points of making your trucking company run as efficiently as possible. Xpress Technologies wants you to run your company in the way that works best for you. That’s why we’ve designed a full suite of no-cost tools that help you manage everything from finding freight with our hybrid load board to mastering compliance and regulatory issues.


Electronic Logs: What to Look For

An electronic logging device (ELD) is one of the most critical pieces of technology for any carrier. ELDs sync with a vehicle’s engine and record driving times to share the most accurate information possible about Hours of Service (HOS).

As it stands, all qualifying vehicles and carriers must adopt ELDs as part of their operations. As an owner-operator, you’re responsible for obtaining and using an ELD, but which one best fits your needs? Could your ELD be doing more for you? Learning what to look for will prove invaluable.