License, title, and registration is a complicated, yet essential, aspect of every fleet manager's job. With a ton of moving parts, it's easy to make mistakes.
But, what can you do to avoid mistakes and effectively and efficiently accomplish your vocational truck license, title, and registration needs?
Learning from the Pros
“Perhaps the best advice I can offer fleet managers: if you have a complex fleet that operates across multiple jurisdictions, you should strongly consider partnering with an experienced fleet management provider who can ensure your fleet stays ahead of licensing requirements and remains compliant,” said Christopher Karlak, director, licensing & compliance for Holman.
Other subject-matter experts echoed this sentiment: “We recommend relying on experts. It’s a major challenge for fleet managers to understand all the licensing requirements in every jurisdiction their business operates. By leveraging professional relationships and their specific expertise, the licensing process becomes stress-free,” said Eric Miller, director of Vehicle Acquisition at Element Fleet Management.
But, if you are doing it in-house, be proactive.
“Start the process of renewals well in advance to ensure you have time to get your inspections done, to get all the necessary paperwork, etc. Our team starts the process 90 days out, for instance. Another familiar tip is automation. Automated alerts can help keep drivers abreast of what they need to do ahead of the deadline,” said Joe Matukonis, business development at Mike Albert Fleet Solutions.
Remember, the complexity of each state and its requirements should always be kept in mind before attempting to procure title & registration.
“Do some research. If you are still unclear, reach out to the respective state and inquire about what is required. Some states require VIN inspections, weight slips, safety inspections, etc. Be mindful of the current weights offered by the state, and don’t overspend. If you are IRP plating and have multiple locations across the U.S., you can plate in any state of your choosing. Seek out options to consolidate your IRP plating to optimize ease of obtaining, limiting administrative burden, and optimizing the transfer of funds from one unit to another when fleet changes with new or selling vehicle(s),” said Teresa Grandon, field finance manager for Ryder.
Some easy best practices include researching and being prepared (which you are already doing, hurrah!).
“It is important to know your jurisdiction’s requirements for the type of transaction you perform before submitting it to the jurisdiction. When selecting a base jurisdiction for International Registration Plan/Apportioned Registration (IRP) purposes, careful consideration must be given to various other taxes (e.g., sales, excise, and property) that are due, in addition to fees that are apportioned through the plan,” said Jeff Jackson, executive vice president operations of dedicated contract carriage for Penske Logistics.
And remember, every fleet is different, and each fleet changes year over year.
“Consider your registration needs and ensure they are accounted for during the acquisition process. Fleets should strive to acquire vehicles in a way that allows the vehicle to deliver to the fieldwork ready with L&T completed. Avoid special manual processes that impact the ability to complete L&T on a vehicle or allow you to take delivery of a vehicle before its L&T is completed. Leverage courtesy delivery dealer networks where applicable and consider using transporters to provide service during the vehicle delivery process. It doesn’t quite matter if the vehicle is upfit and in your driver’s possession if the L&T wasn’t completed before or as part of the delivery process. Doing so creates a negative experience for the driver/end user,” said said Jared Spaulding, truck operations, sr. manager technical truck operations, for Wheels Donlen LeasePlan.
Focus on always maintaining accurate, up-to-date vehicle data: license plate information, VIN, annual registration dates, inspection prerequisites, etc.
“Accurate information will ensure you have all the necessary information readily available. You’ll also want to be as timely and proactive as possible to avoid unnecessary vehicle downtime due to non-compliance. Compile all necessary paperwork well before expiration, provide all required information and inspections upon the first submission, and submit it to the state/province at the earliest allowable date. A DMV rejection because of missing or inaccurate information can lead to unnecessary downtime or the inability to put a new vehicle into service,” said Karlak of Holman.
Additionally, each new delivery should have a registration plan.
“Too often, we see an acquisition take place with little to no consideration for the registration process. Knowledge and expertise in this area make Enterprise Fleet Management a valuable business partner because it has a team of over 200 people that oversee the process, including dedicated teams to manage each state desk and monitor changes at a state level. Each month the team oversees more than 50,000 license and title transactions across 50 states,” said Charlie Bussmann, AVP Enterprise Fleet Management, license & title.
Information and recordkeeping are key.
“Keep track of property tax receipts and necessary vehicle inspections to ensure that registration stays up to date. Calendar notifications for upcoming inspections can be helpful to keep these deadlines top of mind. It’s also important to be mindful of staying current on toll fees and property taxes as this can adversely affect the ability to quickly register vehicles,” Bussmann added.
Enterprise Fleet Management noted a challenging inventory environment recently, which has caused fleet operators to look at acquiring vehicles from new and unfamiliar places and locations.
“This adjustment often causes challenges with registration — if you plan on moving the vehicle from one state to another, for example, there are different requirements for the sale and registration process. Pre-planning is necessary to ensure the registration goes smoothly and you don’t experience any downtime with a new unit,” Bussmann said.
And consider legal actions to save time.
“Using a blanket power of attorney to authorize vehicle license, title and registration can allow fleet managers to avoid passing transactional documents back and forth on all vehicle purchases,” added Miller of Element Fleet Management.
Looking for License, Title & Registration Help?
The subject-matter experts that participated in this article are here to help. Check out what they have to offer (companies are listed in alphabetical order:
Element Fleet Management
“Element’s services and solutions address every aspect of clients’ fleet requirements, from vehicle acquisition, title and registration, maintenance, accidents, and remarketing to integrating EVs and managing the complexity of gradual fleet electrification. Clients benefit from Element’s expertise as the largest fleet solutions provider in its markets, offering unmatched economies of scale and insight used to reduce fleet operating costs and improve productivity and performance. We offer wide-ranging services that keep truck fleets in compliance with federal, province, state and local requirements,” said Miller of Element Fleet Management. “Our Licensing & Regulatory Compliance program includes title management, re-titling, state-to-state/province-to-province transfers, base plates and IRP plating. In the U.S., we offer Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance services."
Additionally, Element can help process license, title, and registration work from start to finish for fleets in all 50 US States, taking the administrative burden off fleet managers.
“Element manages transactions for all product classes and asset types. Additionally, we can provide consolidated reporting on in flight transactions and historical transaction management while working to meet aggressive objectives for cycle time and accuracy,” Miller said.
Additionally, Element Fleet Management's state-aligned associates are subject-matter experts at state/jurisdictional processes and pre-requisites.
"We offer a team of qualified resources who proactively work with licensing agencies to clear any issues quickly and cost-effectively,” Miller concluded.
Enterprise Fleet Management
“Enterprise Fleet Management offers license, title, and registration services on our client’s leased vehicles as well as vehicles owned by our clients. This service allows clients to leverage our large team of experts, innovative technology, and proven business processes to successfully manage any needed title and registration transactions. This administrative ease provides the ability for clients to better focus on their business objectives. Navigating state and government agencies, the department of revenue, and sending client alerts of necessary vehicle information on their behalf is a great time-saver,” said Bussmann of Enterprise Fleet Management.
“Holman offers a variety of licensing and renewal services to help keep fleets compliant throughout the entire lifecycle. These solutions range from initial licensing and annual registrations to more complex scenarios such as state changes, buyouts, toll and violations management, title storage and replacement as well as IFTA/IRP compliance for vocational units. In addition to managing initial licensing and annual renewals to keep fleet vehicles compliant, these solutions virtually eliminate all of the administrative burden for the fleet team, allowing them to focus on strategic initiatives. Additionally, fleet drivers have access to important documentation 24/7 via Holman’s innovative driver app and can upload licensing pre-requisites and inspection reports to help streamline the process,” said Karlak of Holman.
“Managing compliance is not typically a fleet’s core competency. It tends to be one of a fleet’s biggest operational pain points. Today, the data that comes from a fleet’s truck is very valuable, and compliance is no exception. Many fleets have decided to partner with a third-party compliance expert. These third-party compliance suppliers focus 100% of their capabilities to managing the full set of compliance requirements a fleet has. The most advanced third-party compliance companies come with a full suite of software that is integrated with all the data coming from their fleet trucks. A fleet can simply use the compliance supplier’s software as a service or they can also couple the software with the compliance supplier’s subject matter experts in a full managed service offer. In either scenario, a fleet gets the benefit of years of expertise in compliance and the ability to leave the pain points of compliance to the experts so that the fleet can focus on growing their business,” said Lee Brodeur, vice president of lease operations and contract services for Mack Trucks.
Mike Albert Fleet Management
“Mike Albert has a team dedicated to license, title and registration services. They’re an incredible team—the amount of knowledge they have about each state, county and municipality we serve is incredible. Regarding the benefits, using a service will save you and your drivers time, it keeps you out of the DMV lines, and a good title and registration service partner should streamline the renewals process as much as possible. For instance, at Mike Albert, we have a vault of plates that we can pull from, so we don’t have to go to the DMV to get a new license plate for a fleet vehicle,” said David Bieber, director of strategic markets at Mike Albert Fleet Solutions.
“For all full-service lease equipment Penske Truck Leasing provides title and registration services. We handle all annual renewals and replacements; and track all distance and fuel records required for interstate registration under IRP, and in jurisdictions which have weight distance taxes. We have a team of experts with hundreds of years of collective experience behind them to assist our customers,” said Jackson of Penske Logistics.
“We offer title & registration services to our customers. Benefits to our services include expertise in a complicated arena ensuring that units are operating legally. Our customers are experts on what they manufacture, produce and deliver but may not be around statues to be able to operate their fleets. Ryder has a Licensing Team that is diligent in ensuring that we are up-to-date on ever changing regulatory updates and changes, state requirements, and have relationship with local State contacts to keep our trucks in compliance so our customers can do what they do best,” said Grandon of Ryder.