Every day we talk with carriers who know their driver record-keeping system needs an overhaul, but they are reluctant to convert to a paperless solution. They know digital record-keeping will bring them huge benefits, but they’re daunted by the difficulty of bridging the gap between their current paper files and electronic storage.
Let’s take a quick look at existing processes to see where the benefits lie.
Some carriers have their incumbent driver qualification files (DQFs) stored purely in paper format. Others augment the paper with electronic storage of expiration dates and presence indicators, a type of flag that shows that a document is present in the paper file. These supplementary systems are usually either stand-alone systems (often an Excel spreadsheet) or incorporated into their dispatch system.
There are several elements of storage, including initial storage of the documents themselves (either in a file cabinet or in an electronic system), retrieving an individual file or document, and searching/querying the set of documents to determine which are missing, expired, or about to expire.
For small to mid-sized fleets, the first two elements aren’t so bad in a paper system. If you have 50 drivers, your collection of a typical DQF with 8-10 documents would comfortably fit into a few binders or a few inches of a filing cabinet. In fact, the only big issues might be remote retrieval (you can’t access the DQF when you are out of the office) or simultaneous access (if I have Bob’s file, you can’t have it). So converting to a paperless DQF system would typically deliver only “nice to have” benefits related to initial storage and retrieval for a small to mid-sized carrier. It has greater benefits for a large carrier, where physical storage of paper DQFs can take up a lot of space and retrieval takes much more time.
The Big Payoff
But the big payoff shows up with the searching/querying element. If you go back to that 50-truck fleet, finding out whose CDL is about to expire or whose annual certification of violations needs to be signed can quickly become a chore. This chore escalates into an expensive, time-consuming nightmare for a large carrier.
“Why don’t all carriers implement a paperless DQF?”
Conversion is the challenge.
Sure, once a new system is implemented, DQF for newly hired drivers can readily be assembled from electronic documents—the application (or the confirmation IntelliApp), copies of the MVRs, uploaded images of CDL copies that the driver captures with a smartphone, verifications from Xchange. But the conversion of existing paper records can be a big project. In fact, when clients consider implementing a paperless DQF for the first time, one of the issues we hear consistently is their uncertainty about converting the files for their existing group of drivers.
How to Convert
Everyone agrees that converting to a paperless FMCSA Driver Qualification File should be done so that the client gets the most benefit for the least amount of implementation effort.
Our answer to this problem lies in getting only the key data of each DQF into searchable format at first, so the carrier can immediately start deriving the benefits from the system without holding up implementation by scanning and indexing all of their driver data.
Our system allows for capture of “stub” or “placeholder” documents that indicate that a physical document is located somewhere else, and stores only the key attributes of each document. For all practical purposes, these placeholder documents are equivalent to traditional electronic documents, so they effectively give the carrier those big query/search benefits without requiring an all-at-once back file conversion.
Drivers with some or all of their documents stored as placeholder docs sit naturally alongside drivers with all of their documents stored natively in the DQF. Carriers have the option of either converting their back files gradually (a few per week per person, for example) or counting on attrition to change the balance gradually.
The right approach and the right pace can be dictated by your business, not by the technology. We think that’s the way technology ought to support your business.