The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate sparked an incredible year of transition for the trucking and logistics industry, as trucking companies of all sizes scrambled to make sure they were ELD-compliant following the December 16, 2017 deadline.
On that date, all drivers were required to upgrade to an ELD solution by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which provided a list of vetted, preferred ELD providers as a helpful guide.
Simple enough, right? Not exactly. Some providers shut down in mid-year, leaving the market and abandoning their customers. Others sold (and are still selling) ELDs with automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) technology, despite the fact that it will be obsolete and non-compliant in December 2019.
So yes, there’s a lot of confusion out there. This guide will help you plan your way to ELD success.
All fleets must have ELDs fully deployed by December 16, 2019. The following steps provide simple guidance, put together by experienced managers who have worked with thousands of fleets to implement ELD successfully.
Step 1: Talk with your team. There’s a great deal of confusion around ELDs and how they’re used. Many drivers and fleet managers are uneducated about what ELDs are, or how they differ from paper logs and AOBRDs. The biggest difference is that the ELD records all locations, engine power events, vehicle motion, miles driven and engine hours, at least every 60 minutes while the vehicle is in motion. The device puts you into driving status automatically once the vehicle exceeds 5 miles per hour, assigns the information to a logged-in driver, and transfers the record to a server where the data is stored. All motion in excess of 5 miles per hour must be assigned to the driver behind the wheel or, in the case where the truck was moved by another person, to an unidentified driver.
With paper logs or an AOBRD, the driver can manually edit driving time and miles traveled, and engine hours don’t have to be reconciled to a specific driver. The new FMCSA ELD regulations do not allow any editing of recorded driving. These small differences are not well understood in the trucking industry. Talking with your drivers and helping them understand the differences is critical to a smooth and successful transition to ELD technology. If drivers are not on board with the need to learn and use the ELD, your fleet will struggle to be compliant, and will miss the massive benefits that real-time data can provide. Safety and the company's reputation are critical considerations in achieving driver stability and company success.
Step 2: Determine the fleet information you need. There’s a host of data available from ELD providers and fleet-management companies. Some of this information is critical to efficiently running your fleet, but some might be irrelevant for your operation. The key is understanding exactly which information points are important for you to operate a productive fleet. They include:
- Log auditing,
- GPS tracking,
- Maps and directions,
- Dispatching to mobile,
- Mobile document capture, and
- International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) reporting.
Once you know exactly what you need, make a list and ask for the ELD provider to do a live demo of its product. Chances are, you’ll quickly see how easy it is to use the product and better understand how your team can quickly implement the new device. Understanding the needs of your business, and how data can improve operations, will help you see a fast return on your investment.
Step 3: Decide what type of device is best for your business. It’s important to note that hardware and communication methods have changed dramatically over the last few years. AOBRD technology is outdated and will be eliminated by December 16, 2019 from all fleets. Bulky, high-maintenance display devices are out like flip phones. The new generation of ELD devices are smaller, more powerful and run on common operating platforms, creating flexibility to manage large fleets without significant downtime.
There are two basic types of ELDs: proprietary hardware that’s directly connected (hard-wired) into the engine control module (ECM) of the truck, and “bring your own device” (BYOD) hardware, which wirelessly communicates via Bluetooth with a smart phone or tablet.
The market shows that the bulk of new sales belong to the BYOD-style option. Owner-operators and fleet managers understand the value of using an affordable, mobile platform (iOS or Android) that is continually being improved and upgraded, versus the proprietary, expensive hardware of old-school providers. Simply put, most consumers understand the value of using a platform that spends millions per year in R&D, driving better technology at a lower cost.
Many fleets like the flexibility of the driver using a personal phone or tablet, while others provide the tablet that remains in the truck, regardless of who is driving.
Step 4: Find a company that will help your drivers. Implementing an ELD solution is not rocket science, but it does require user input, a willingness to learn, and world-class customer support.
Many drivers have anxiety about ELDs, primarily because they aren’t comfortable with new technology. They might not understand that it’s relatively simple and just takes some time to master. Most users become confident in two to four weeks. That’s why it’s important to talk to your driver base and secure buy-in from the start. Once drivers are committed, you should look for a company with a strong support staff that answers the phone, understands the mandate, listens well and is willing to coach your drivers.
Questions to ask your potential provider:
- What hours does the company work to support your dispatch and drivers?
- Is the company knowledgeable on FMCSA hours of service (HOS) rules and regulations?
- What is the company’s callback policy?
- Does the company have a positive track record of achieving compliance?
- Does it have a positive track record of passing audits?
- Can it provide references to show product and support success?
Step 5: Create a plan to win — and celebrate your success. Once you’ve determined the ELD/fleet-management provider best suited for your business, set a kickoff meeting with your team. Share your research of different firms, and be transparent about why ELDs are necessary to compete and how they can strengthen the company. Inform them of the benefits in terms of safety and achieving company goals. Make a visual aid that shares key milestones to implementation, such as installation date, learning period and how information and metrics will be shared. People want to understand more about the business and how their job can help make it a success. Employees want to know what they can do to support and grow the business.
Finally, plan an event to celebrate your success. Whether your fleet is small or large, we all appreciate being part of a goal that’s achieved together.
Ken Evans is CEO and founder of Konexial, a provider of ELD technology.