Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)
By Marek Krasuski
It’s a relatively inoffensive and short word bandied about in trucking circles, but mention the word ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices) and the reaction is swift and striking. Many drivers I spoke with cringe at the name and what it represents. “We’re already regulated enough, but with ELDs coming down the pipe that’s enough to push a lot of drivers over the edge and find work elsewhere,” complained one driver. His sentiments echo in the comments of others who have similar misgivings. Seasoned drivers well versed in the ways of the trucking world feel they can function better on their own without the intrusion of yet another electronic device monitoring their every move. Loss of autonomy is a concern for them. Older drivers, perhaps more reluctant to adapt to changing technology, and the feeling of not being able to control their daily activities, feed into this visceral resistance toward ELDs.
So why all the fuss? Proponents remind users that ELDs are electronic solutions that make easier and more accurate the recording of Hours of Service (HOS) and Record of Duty Status (RODS). Grant Conrad from CompliancyPlus+ ELD Administrative Services describes the device: “It is a physical piece of hardware installed into a vehicle, generally hardwired right to the Engine Control Module (ECM) which is the main computer for many of the vehicle’s engine performance and drivability functions. From the ECM information is transferred either by Bluetooth or is hardwired to a Driver Interface Unit (DIU) via an application server,” he explained.
When a Driver uses an ELD, as soon as he logs into a vehicle his day begins and so does his RODS! The engine data and the drivers RODS are then recorded and uploaded to the carrier. Electronic logs, says Conrad and other proponents, draw attention to the fact that these logs are essentially the same as paper logs, just more efficient for both the driver and the carrier to keep track of their HOS compliance. “It reduces the chances of error,” Conrad continues, “making the driver’s RODS effectively more accurate, and ultimately the carrier’s HOS records more compliant. It is both the driver’s and the carrier’s responsibility for the integrity of these HOS records, and when properly used ELDs can be an excellent tool to increase that integrity, driver compliance, and overall carrier efficiency.” ELDs, moreover, monitor every movement of a vehicle and provide information on trip sheets, paper logs, and fuel receipts, to name a few.
Sagar Malhi, co-founder of Switchboard confirms Conrad’s assessment. “Ultimately, I believe ELDs will significantly reduce the amount of time that a driver spends filling out paperwork and getting it back to the office. On a typical log, a driver has to fill in vehicle information, odometer readings, location details, and length of the duty status. On an ELD, a driver simply presses a button when they start their drive, and when they end their drive,” he said.
In addition, ELDs also prevent drivers from “creative bookkeeping,” a practice of handling prolonged waits at docking facilities. With limited drive time, every hour a driver spends at a loading dock – beyond the 2 hour duty time limit – cuts into remaining available driving time. Notes Grant Conrad, “Most long-haul company drivers and especially Owner Operators are paid by the mile and not by the hour. So with the implementation of ELDs drivers are now scrambling “to beat the clock”, just to make the same income as before.”
On the plus side, drivers will be subject to less pressure by employers, according to Dan Malloy, Fleet Safety & Compliance Specialist with Mobilizz, a GPS/Telematics Fleet Management solutions provider. “One concern has been that drivers sometimes feel harassed into working past their time limit and with the new US Mandate comes protection for drivers. The new regulations provide a system for drivers to file written complaints. And with a properly registered ELD it is very hard for a carrier to harass drivers to work outside of their allotted hours. So the feeling is that drivers will be better supported to perform their duties as the professionals that they are,” he said.
The final implementation date for ELDs is December 18, 2017. Operators will be allowed to use AOBRDs (Automatic On-Board Recording Devices) until the 16th of December, 2019. The ELD mandate applies only to US operators, but be sure that Canada will follow suit. Dan Malloy says that Canadian companies would do well to make the transition sooner than later. “Moving to an ELD today is quite simply good business sense. The secret to a smooth transition is in providing clear direction to employees. Company policies should clearly spell out expectations and should state what intentions the company has for the information that has been gathered. Clearly stating this to drivers will alleviate much of the anxiety associated with this major move forward.”
ELDs must meet several performance specifications. They must connect to the truck’s engine to record when the vehicle is in motion. They need to allow the driver to log in and select On-duty, Off-duty, or On-Duty Not Driving; drive segments must be automatically selected based on vehicle movement. ELDs have to graphically display a Record of Duty Status so a driver can quickly see hours in a day. They have to provide data in a format that’s standardized and can be transmitted to law enforcement in a number of prescribed ways, such as wireless web services, USB, or Bluetooth 2.0, and be certified to ensure the device meets the proper specifications.
But because they all must meet standardized requirements does not mean all ELDs are the same. “Not all ELDs are created equal,” says Grant Conrad, adding that not all ELDs are going to be able to comply with the requirements for certification outlined in the ELD mandate at the end of this year, though he says many providers will claim their product meets the requirements mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA).
Sagar Malhi of Switchboard confirms Conrad’s assessment. “When looking for an ELD, it’s important to note that all ELDs are not the same. You can find a variety of ELDs, some which are mobile applications and others that include an in-cab device.” Malhi urges prospective users to ask themselves the following questions during the purchasing process. “Is it app based? If so, do all drivers have smartphones? Do all drivers have data in Canada, USA, and Mexico? Does the ELD take the GPS from the mobile phone, or is it a satellite GPS? If your ELD takes the mobile phone GPS, it may be more inaccurate and drain the battery. Does the ELD go beyond the basic FMCSA requirements and provide IFTA and DVIR (digital vehicle inspection reports)?” Switchboard is another comprehensive ELD solution that provides tools for both the driver and the back office. As a part of the ELD package, Switchboard personally pays for any data used across North America so that companies never have to worry about roaming charges or any overages.
As sure as all ELDs are not created equal, unqualified dependence on these logging devices is not to be taken for granted. ELDs are only as good as the Administrators supporting them, and ensuring that the information put into the devices does not conflict with company records is paramount. An ELD on its own does not guarantee full compliance for either the driver or the Carrier. Ensuring that company records align with ELD information is required to guarantee full compliance with H.O.S. regulations.
Despite opposition in some quarters, cost analyses present a persuasive argument for the savings the industry is expected to accrue with ELD implementation. Switchboard’s Sagar Malhi lends clarity to speculation that ELDs are just another expensive money grab. “A common misconception is that ELDs are expensive devices, but contrary to popular belief it’s cheaper than most companies think and it will save its money’s worth relatively quickly. A typical company will ensure that logbooks are error free by spending time and money to look through the paperwork. With the advent of ELDs, much of this process can be automated and time can be spent doing other important work,” Malhi explained.
Dan Malloy of Mobilizz agrees, citing compelling statistics to bring home the fact that savings are in the works. Malloy says that according to GEOTAB, a global leader in telematics, the following statistics speak to the value of an ELD: 45% reduction in collisions, 50% in collision payouts, 5 to 25% reduction in insurance costs, 33% increase in highway mileage, 5% increase in city mileage, 14% reduction in unscheduled maintenance, and a 12% increase in workforce productivity from reduced labour costs.
Omnitracs, a provider of ELD management, claims ELDs will cost companies about $495 (most popular devices) per year per truck based on data provided by the FMCSA.
On balance, ELDs are not a panacea. Think of them instead as efficient recording devices, keeping in mind that full compliance still depends on the accuracy of information entered. And despite reluctance on the part of some, also keep in mind that change of any kind is seldom wholeheartedly embraced regardless of its benefits. The good news is that many drivers, after the initial implementation of the units and training, are happy not to keep track of miles or having to write in every destination, or calculating their remaining available hours. Many are happy with the fast and convenient method made possible by ELDs.☚