One of the many responsibilities of today’s fleet manager is ensuring all vehicles are properly licensed, titled, and registered, plus staying up on changes to regulatory requirements and renewal needs.
“From finding the right truck to meet business needs to financing, ordering, licensing & regulatory compliance, maintenance, fuel, compliance, remarketing, and more, it takes a lot to keep a truck fleet up and running smoothly,” said Eric Miller, director of Vehicle Acquisition at Element Fleet Management.
With so many moving parts, it’s easy to make some mistakes. Read on for mistakes to avoid! Looking for best practices? Check this out!
Top Mistakes in License, Title & Registration
Check out these top eight mistakes fleet managers should avoid in licensing, titling, and registering vocational work truck and van fleets:
1. Waiting too Long
Start early – don’t delay.
“The most challenging part of a transaction is often determining what is needed and collecting all the required documents and forms. This process can often take time and involve several parties to ensure the information is current. Documents from a dealer, updated insurance cards, vehicle inspections, and proof of company business licenses are often required,” said Charlie Bussmann, AVP Enterprise Fleet Management, license & title.
2. Avoiding the Internet
Everything today is online, including vehicle registration, license, title forms, facts, and more.
“Among the biggest mistakes fleet managers can make in this area is not taking advantage of online services. They also make a mistake by not having all the paperwork necessary to handle the respective transaction, especially ownership transfers,” said Jeff Jackson, executive vice president operations of dedicated contract carriage for Penske Logistics.
3. Ignoring Varying State Requirements
Each state has statutes that outline the requirements for obtaining title and separate statutes for obtaining registration.
“Complexities with each state’s requirements can lead to mistakes by not having all the documents required by the state. Not all states offer licensing for each GVW but will have gaps, for example, from 44,000 lbs. to 55,000 lbs.,” explained Teresa Grandon, field finance manager for Ryder.
Grandon added that it is important to understand the fleet needs to operate loads as the price difference can be expensive, with this example requiring Federal Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (FHVUT) to also be paid before titling and licensing.
“There are quite a few companies owned by one entity, but operating authority is in another name. It is important to make sure that registration reflects the proper entity and that supporting documents are in the truck for law enforcement to link the two together,” Grandon added.
Ensuring a vocational fleet remains properly licensed can be complex and cumbersome.
“Fleet managers should be well-versed in the rules and regulations across the various jurisdictions in which they operate. This can be particularly challenging for a fleet with a large operating footprint across the U.S. and/or Canada. For large, decentralized fleets, you typically need to understand numerous operating and licensing scenarios that can vary significantly across states/provinces or even by county. Regulations may include operating weight, mileage reporting requirements, tax ramifications, etc.,” said Christopher Karlak, director, licensing & compliance for Holman.
4. Registering Incorrectly
Another common mistake is how a fleet is registered.
“International Registration Plan (IRP) is a great system to use when your vehicles qualify; however, not all vehicles can be placed onto an IRP if they do not meet the requirements. Fleet managers need to ask these critical questions. Which State is best for your IRP? What about the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) for the vehicle/fleet? How are you tracking your renewals and registration copies?” said Lee Brodeur, vice president of lease operations and contract services for Mack Trucks.
5. Not Knowing New Vehicle Requirements
A new vehicle has different needs than one that requires renewals.
“This sentiment extends to new vehicle delivery as well. In addition to being knowledgeable about the initial licensing requirements in the region in which the unit will operate, you’ll also want to be sure to compile all the necessary sales and dealership paperwork ahead of delivery to expedite the initial licensing process,” said Karlak of Holman.
“In terms of ongoing renewals, fleet managers should prioritize timely completion of necessary annual inspections such as emissions and safety inspections. You’ll also want to be mindful of outstanding tax payments and unpaid toll or parking violations which can delay licensing or annual renewals,” Karlak added.
6. Being Inconsistent
When managing licensing, titling, and registration for work trucks, errors Element Fleet Management often encounter include:
- Inconsistent policy and process.
- Deficiencies in preparation around the state and jurisdiction vehicle prerequisites to initiating licensing, and state processing cycle times.
- Not understanding important distinctions in asset type, plate type, and GVW.
- A lack of solid vehicle and driver data.
- Missing feedback loops with drivers to communicate and set expectations.
7. Ignoring Help
A big mistake is handling the daunting task of registrations and renewals independently.
“We don’t recommend that fleet managers allow drivers to handle their renewal processing. In my experience, most drivers are just too busy to stay on top of it. But fleet managers will also run into issues if they try to handle the license, title, and registration process themselves. The more vehicles you have and places you operate, the harder it is to stay on top of it. Ideally, a well-run fleet has batches of vehicles with common renewal dates. Still, with the issues we’re seeing with vehicle availability, most fleets have a variety of assets,” said David Bieber, director of strategic markets at Mike Albert Fleet Solutions.
The titling and registration process demands that you be proactive and build enough time to get all your ducks in a row.
“This is one area where you want to leverage expertise, because the laws and regulations vary so much from state to state, from county to county. It’s too much for one person to understand and manage,” said Joe Matukonis, business development at Mike Albert Fleet Solutions.
8. Ignoring Change
The old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same” doesn’t apply in fleet.
“The other big mistake we see fleet managers make is assuming that everything will stay constant, that nothing will change, and they can do the same thing from year to year. That’s where that element of expertise is especially valuable,” said Bieber of Mike Albert Fleet Solutions.
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