Caring about compliance is a must for almost anyone working in our industry.
To prepare for the upcoming Canadian ELD Mandate, we sat down with Omnitracs VP of Regulatory Affairs Mike Ahart to get his thoughts on his role, the importance of compliance in our industry, and how fleet businesses can empower themselves on the regulatory front. Read on for what he had to share.
Q1: Tell us a little about yourself!
I joined Omnitracs in February 2019 after spending nearly 20 years in trucking operations, where I worked most recently as an executive for a large private carrier. In my previous role, I was responsible for centralizing fleet operations consisting of nearly 6,500 drivers by establishing processes and policies to ensure drivers were being coached in the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles. It is this experience that has helped shape my current role and responsibilities at Omnitracs.
In addition to working as a VP, I have also recently joined the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2021-2022 Research Advisory Committee. I look forward to identifying top research priorities for the trucking and transportation industry in this exciting new role.
Q2: What first got you interested in compliance and regulations?
I first became interested when I was working at my previous job with Dean Foods back in 2004. I was working in finance at the time, and Dean Foods came together through acquisitions of smaller companies. Each of those companies brought in their unique challenges of owning private fleets, which led to a decentralized fleet organization.
I started looking at our structure from a finance perspective (i.e., the amount of money we spent on registrations). I quickly began asking questions and educating myself on how large fleets operate. From there, I developed a comprehensive understanding of fleet operations and compliance, leading me to leadership roles focused on these areas.
Q3: How do official government mandates and regulations, like the Canadian ELD Mandate, impact your day-to-day (before implementation)?
So, I spend a lot of time developing a thorough understanding of what those regulations are. What do they mean, and how do they ultimately intend to impact fleets? I figure out if I must discuss these learnings with other experts from government offices, associations, businesses, and within Omnitracs. With the help of professionals in our marketing team, I develop and deliver various training tools, including web content, blog posts, and webinars.
Q4: Do you believe compliance evolves with technology?
In fact, I believe technology evolves to support compliance, in turn leading to improved compliance. The heightened level of legal and regulatory scrutiny facing companies today has resulted in the need to examine new and existing technologies to monitor existing compliance programs. Technology helps companies answer questions from regulators about credibility, measurement, continuous improvement, and accountability.
Q5: What is something many people get wrong about compliance in the trucking world?
People who believe truck drivers don’t care much about safety have it all wrong. Drivers are heavily trained and tested on trucking regulations and proper safety measures before they are even issued a commercial driver’s license. They are usually put through after a motor carrier hires them.
Q6: How should trucking and transportation businesses approach compliance to remain ahead of the game?
Technology has placed a treasure trove of data in the hands of the trucking industry. But, it must be interpreted so it can be used to make the right decisions. Fleets can use the data collected from vehicle telematics systems for insights on ways to improve efficiency, driver safety, customer service, and other aspects of the operation. Therefore, in a similar manner as technology assisting with answering questions from regulators, it also supports discussing the essential role compliance plays in performing transportation-related services.
Q7: As the regulatory specialist at Omnitracs, which different departments and people do you work with closely on a regular basis?
I have the pleasure of working hand in hand with the product management teams that support our compliance products. It is vital to have a good working relationship with the teams responsible for ensuring our products are designed and remain compliant with the regulations. Since compliance is at the core of so many of our products, I also work closely with our engineering and customer support teams. I also must mention the work I do with supporting our Customer Success Managers and sales team members with compliance-related questions and requests they receive from customers.
Q8: What is your favorite part about being the VP of Regulatory Affairs?
I enjoy the opportunity to help others develop their understanding of the regulations that form the basis of our compliance products. Providing Omnitracs employees with an elevated level of knowledge allows them to win customer confidence necessary to develop and protect our customer base.
Q9: What does a typical day in the life in your role look like?
I generally start my day by clearing emails that came in during the evening and following up on my commitments. From there, I jump on a conference call or two before transitioning to other aspects of my job. That may include anything from participating in an industry conference to spending several hours in the cab of a truck testing our compliance products. In concluding my workday, I make every attempt to clear emails and return any phone calls that I missed, even if it is to say, “I received your message, and I will follow up.”
Q10: What is one piece of regulatory advice you’d like to offer people and businesses in trucking and transportation?
Reading regulations is fundamentally different from reading fiction, or even the news, because the statute's framework is about the power of the government. The words create the tools by which the government exercises that power. So, the words matter, the intent matters, rendering our own life experience and emotional reaction to how we interpret the text irrelevant.
For more helpful information and tips on compliance and the upcoming Canadian ELD Mandate, visit our EverythingELD page.