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January 25, 2024

Guide to Understanding Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

What is Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), and why is it essential to keep it updated?

The transportation industry is heavily regulated, with strict laws and regulations in place to ensure the safety of drivers and other road users. One of the rules that trucking companies and owner-operators must comply with is tracking Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about VMT and how your trucking company and operators can stay compliant.

VMT Meaning: Understanding Vehicle Miles Traveled

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) as the total number of miles traveled by a vehicle within a specific time frame.

The FHWA and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics collect VMT data from state transportation agencies to track the performance and usage of public roads.

VMT data is calculated by adding the combined estimated total miles traveled of all commercial motor vehicles in the company’s operation to the nearest 10,000 miles for the previous 12 months.

This data is then used to assess highway statistics, such as traffic patterns, road user charges, and congestion levels.

The Importance of an Updated Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Record

In the trucking industry, VMT is tracked to determine fuel tax obligations (Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax) used for road maintenance and improvements. Trucking companies must keep accurate records of VMT to ensure they pay the correct amount of taxes.

Additionally, VMT is used for compliance with various safety regulations, including Hours of Service (HOS) rules. These regulations limit the hours a driver can be on the road without mandatory rest breaks.

Highway performance monitoring system (HPMS) data is also collected through VMT tracking, which helps government agencies plan and improve transportation systems.

How do you update your Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) record?

One common challenge trucking companies face is dealing with outdated Carrier VMT data.

The process of VMT filing involves reporting the total miles traveled by your vehicle(s) within a specific timeframe. Here’s how you can ensure that your Carrier VMT never becomes outdated:

  • Manual Updates: This is the simplest method to log vehicle miles of travel and the most time-consuming. It involves recording the odometer reading at the start and end of each journey. It’s a good practice to keep a logbook to track these readings.
  • Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs): ELDs can automate the tracking process, making VMT filing more manageable and accurate. They record the distance a vehicle drives and update the VMT in real-time. This eliminates the risk of human errors and can save you a lot of time.
  • Engine Computer Data: Modern trucks come equipped with computers that record various data, including miles traveled. Accessing and downloading this data can provide you with the most accurate VMT for filing.

Why should you prioritize accurate Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) entry?

Accurate entry of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) holds utmost significance for various reasons, chiefly among them are the following:

  • Billing Clients: VMT forms the basis for billing clients, as it provides proof of the total miles driven while transporting goods. This ensures that clients are charged appropriately based on the actual vehicle miles traveled.
  • USDOT Compliance: Accurate VMT logs are critical in demonstrating compliance with Hours of Service (HOS) regulations during inspections by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT). These logs confirm that drivers adhere to the prescribed driving hours, thus ensuring road safety.
  • Tax Deductions: VMT data can be utilized to claim business mileage tax deductions. The Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax is based on a vehicle’s miles; hence, maintaining accurate VMT records can help trucking companies avail tax benefits.
  • Route and Operational Cost Efficiency: Keeping track of vehicle miles traveled can aid in route optimization. By analyzing historical VMT data, companies can identify the most fuel-efficient routes, fuel consumption rates, and many more, which leads to cost savings and operational efficiency.

Common Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tracking mistakes to avoid

Despite the straightforward process of logging Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), several common mistakes can lead to inaccuracies in VMT records:

  • Failure to log vehicle mile data at each shift: Forgetting to log miles at the start and end of each driving shift can result in a significant discrepancy in the total recorded miles. The ideal practice is to record the odometer reading before and after each trip, ensuring an accurate account of vehicle travel.
  • Relying on trip summaries: While they can provide an overall view of the miles traveled, they may not accurately reflect the specifics of each journey. Individual trip records offer a more detailed account, allowing for more precise tracking and the ability to identify any inconsistencies.
  • Combining personal and business vehicle miles traveled: Allowing unapproved passengers to track personal miles as business miles can also skew VMT data. This practice can drastically inflate the total recorded vehicle miles and result in incorrect VMT filing. Monitoring this aspect and ensuring that only business-related travel is recorded as part of the vehicle’s miles is crucial.
  • Other factors: Not taking into consideration other factors, such as detours, traffic, or additional stops, can result in inaccurate VMT filing. These aspects of transportation can add a significant number of extra miles to a trip and, therefore, should be documented accurately.

Technology options to simplify Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tracking

Here are some technological advancements that can simplify the process of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tracking:

  • ELDs with Integrated GPS: Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) equipped with integrated GPS technology can automatically record the miles each truck travels. The data is then compiled into a report that is easy to understand and submitted for VMT filing. Using ELDs can significantly reduce human errors, thus ensuring the accuracy of the VMT report and, consequently, the VMT fee.
  • Fleet Management Apps: These apps sync directly with the trucks’ systems to download mileage data. They can provide real-time tracking and reporting of VMT, thus enabling the creation of a final report that accurately reflects the actual miles traveled. This can help in minimizing costs related to inaccurate VMT filings.
  • Mileage Tracking Software: This software comes with reporting and analytics tools to analyze and interpret VMT data. The research results can be used to identify patterns and trends, optimize routes, and reduce operational costs. Additionally, the final report generated using this software can serve as a robust record of miles traveled for VMT filing.

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) management for trucking companies

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is a crucial aspect of trucking company operations that must be accurately tracked and managed.

It ensures compliance with regulations and offers various benefits such as tax deductions, route optimization, and cost savings.

However, keeping a precise record of VMT can be difficult, especially for larger fleets. At DOT Compliance Group, we understand the importance and challenges of VMT tracking, so we offer efficient solutions to simplify this process.

Our team of specialists can help you manage your VMT and ensure you’re doing well while maximizing operational efficiency. Contact us today for more information on our VMT management services.

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