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Making the Most of ELDs

Have you ever changed a business process for no apparent reason other than to comply with government regulation? Did employees in the office and on the front lines fear this change would negatively impact their jobs?

For most transportation companies, the answer to both questions is a resounding “yes,” particularly with the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule.

Generally, the industry was well prepared for the original ELD enforcement deadline in December 2017. Many carriers had already implemented logging devices on a voluntary basis before their use became mandatory. After this date, vehicles that did not have a compliant logging device were supposed to be placed out of service if caught during a roadside inspection. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) threw a lifeline to stragglers when it extended the full enforcement deadline of the rule to April 2018.

Many government regulations create inefficiencies for businesses. The ELD rule, in retrospect, has had the opposite effect. Mandating the use of technology to track compliance with hours-of-service rules had a positive economic impact.

The rate pendulum swung toward carriers in 2018 as the ELD rule helped to constrain truck capacity. More importantly, carriers of all sizes gained visibility to their operations to make better pricing and planning decisions. Carriers also used the information from logging devices to provide their customers with more accurate shipment status and to pinpoint inefficiencies such as detention events at shipping and receiving facilities.


The Next Deadline

The positives from the ELD rule are being tempered at present, however, as fleets prepare to meet another deadline.

Electronic logging devices that were sold prior to December 2017 were known as Automatic Onboard Recording Devices (AOBRD) per FMCSA rule 396.15. Any logging device that was sold after December  2017 was supposed to meet the new ELD standard (FMCSA 396.16).

Carriers who voluntarily adopted electronic logs prior to December 2017 had a two-year window to convert their technology to be in compliance with the ELD standard. In most cases, converting from an AOBRD to an ELD version requires a simple over-the-air software update, but in some cases, the change is not that easy.


The Reasons to Delay

One challenge is that software integrations between AOBRDs and operating systems may need to be reconfigured for ELDs. Some vendors make the process easy by using the same integrations they already have established with dispatch systems for their AOBRD and ELD versions.

Hardware could add another challenge. At a minimum, some vendors may require carriers to install new cables in the vehicle even if the AOBRD and ELD versions use the same recording device.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge with ELDs is the way they record vehicle movements when drivers are at customer or parking locations.

AOBRDs allow drivers to move for either 15 miles or 5 minutes before they start to record drive time. ELDs record driving time automatically when the vehicle’s speed hits 5 mph. This could potentially deduct from a driver’s on-duty driving clock while he or she is at a customer facility waiting to load or unload. Moreover, if a driver is not logged into the ELD system when doing these “yard moves,” the device will automatically record them as “unassigned driving events.” A fleet administrator will have to assign the events to a driver’s logbook.

ELDs require that drivers approve or reject these and other logbook edits, which could create more administrative work.

A useful feature in some ELD applications will automatically ask a driver if they want to enter a yard move when their vehicle crosses a geofence at a known customer location. A yard move does not count against a driver’s available drive time.


Use the Mandate to Your Advantage

As the Dec. 2019 deadline approached, motor carriers were busy putting new technology and processes in place. While making these changes, did you consider all of your options to make the most of the opportunity?

Download a complimentary, insightful guide from Trimble Transportation which details five key strategies your fleet can use to optimize your business with ELD data.