Sponsored by Zonar Systems

Verified Vehicle Pre- and Post-Trip Inspection Tech Saves Time, Money, and Lives

Posted on August 22, 2019

Motorcoach operators are realizing the value of implementing digital tools throughout various aspects of their business, including the vehicle inspection process. By using digital vehicle inspection tools, operators are saving time, money, and most importantly, bolstering the safety of their fleets. Verified digital inspection technology takes this even further by introducing accountability, so operators can have peace of mind knowing when the job is done, it’s done right.

Motorcoach travel is considered one of the safest forms of transportation in the U.S. This is largely due to adherence of federal safety regulations by motorcoach owners and operators. Delivering passengers safely to their destination is their number one priority, which starts with ensuring that vehicles are in top shape before and after a trip.

However, according to recent National Transportation Safety Board data, the condition of the vehicle was the root cause in 13% of the crashes it investigated, with vehicle maintenance identified as a significant problem. Vehicle condition was also cited as the root cause of 20% of motorcoach fatalities investigated by the agency.

DOT mandated pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections are a key tool to keeping fleets safe and accident-free. Before the introduction of electronic inspection technologies, paper-based inspections were the only way to complete these requirements. “In addition to being wasteful, paper inspection reports move slowly throughout the system and often aren’t reviewed,” says industry expert and Zonar Sr. VP, Passenger Services Kevin Mest. “With electronic inspections, these reports are captured, transmitted and documented automatically — reducing processing time exponentially,” Mest says. With paper, it can take up to two weeks for logs to be reviewed and stored properly, he adds.

Without the verification aspect of digital-based inspections, operators are more likely to “pencil whip.” This is when a driver completes his or her paper inspection log without actually conducting a thorough visual of the vehicle’s critical and mandated inspection points. In an effort to streamline the inspection process and improve compliance and accountability, companies are developing digital-based technologies, such as Zonar’s EVIR® (Electronic Verified Inspection Report) system.

The EVIR requires drivers to scan RFID tags placed in critical inspection zones around the vehicle. The scans verify that the driver was physically present at each inspection zone. Once the EVIR inspections are completed, a report is digitally transferred to the back office and maintenance shop.

By using verified digital-based inspection systems, “no vehicle will ever leave the terminal without verifying an authenticated inspection has been completed,” adds Mest.

It is these types of time-saving efficiencies that appealed to Michael Giddens, General Manager of Garden Grove, Calif.-based Pacific Coachways Charter Services, which has been in operation for more than 25 years. An active member of the UMA, ABA, Trailways, and the International Motorcoach Group, Giddens has been using digital inspection technologies for his fleet since 2015.

“Everything is electronically signed, which eliminates a lot of vehicle back-and-forth by the driver to ensure that forms are properly completed. Also, dispatch and maintenance staffers don’t have to decipher poor handwriting,” Giddens explains. “Best of all, we have verified proof that the driver went to predetermined locations on the vehicle to check those components and we know exactly how long they spent doing the inspection.”

In addition to streamlining the pre- and post-trip inspection process, vehicle inspections using digital technology also simplify the federal compliance review process. With nearly 40 years in the transportation industry under his belt, Rich Tisone, Project Consultant with NJ-based Stout’s Transportation knows how vital it is for operations to stay on top of compliance.

“We recently had a Federal DOT inspection, which, in years past, would’ve taken a full week to complete. With the use of the technology and time-stamped information, a complete compliance review was probably cut in half,” says Tisone, who is charged with leading the maintenance of the operation’s 35-vehicle motorcoach fleet, as well as its school buses, mini buses, transit buses, vans, and cars.

The old-school written reporting system was also problematic in that drivers didn’t explain defects effectively, which led to difficulty prioritizing fixes. “The system definitely helps improve fleet safety by ensuring that drivers are completing proper inspections and giving management an easy way to manage any defects that are found,” explains Tisone.

Pacific Coachways’ Giddens agrees, “[the digital inspection system] has helped us identify trends, so we can potentially predict problems based on how other vehicles have performed.”

Available technology features can include photo and video capabilities, so if a driver spots a defect, he or she can send an image or video of the issue to a maintenance technician, who can then advise the driver if the vehicle is still operational or if it needs to be repaired immediately. “This ability to identify and relay defects to maintenance before they cause more damage to a vehicle allows organizations to shift from being reactive to being proactive, which can help save an organization’s bottom line and keep vehicles on the road longer,” Mest says.

Another advantage digital inspections have over paper inspections, is that it can also be easily integrated with maintenance software. “Because the system integrates with our RTA maintenance program, we have an even greater advantage,” says Tisone. In addition to creating work orders, the system notifies the upcoming driver that the work was completed.

The use of digital-based inspection technology has also been beneficial in training drivers by showing them what to look for. “I believe that drivers are able to perform a better inspection with the help of this system because it provides a listing of components to identify and conditions that may exist without those components,” Giddens explains.

By switching from analog to digital, operations can streamline the hard cost of papers and storing the completed reports while also saving money. Eliminating paper is one way to save, but there are other ways too, such as proactive and preventative maintenance practices developed from inspection data. Also, electronically verified inspections provide instant equipment failure notifications and immediate maintenance planning, allowing fleets to increase vehicle uptime dramatically. “More time on the road means more business in the long run,” says Mest.

While paper inspections have been the norm up until recently, now digital inspections can ultimately save money, time, and — most importantly — lives. By making the switch, motorcoach fleets can start benefiting from streamlined inspections, improved compliance and accountability, and a strengthened safety program. It’s not a question of whether or not fleets have to make the switch to digital inspections; it’s a question of whether or not they can afford not to.

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