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Tag Archive for electronic logging devices

Unanswered Questions on ELD Usage

For some, the need for electronic logging devices (ELDs) comes with a list of unanswered questions. Many believe the devices aren’t completely necessary, although for larger fleets ELDs help make back office duties run much more efficiently.

Others point to the potential fuel savings brought on by ELD use, but are there other, more effective ways to reduce idling, speed, safety gains or unnecessary miles? Perhaps, but that may not be the full story.

The fact is, the hours-of-service rules likely cause accidents not because of anything the ELD can fix, but because truck drivers are forced out of their natural rhythms and sleep patterns.

Another point of contention lies in parking issues. It is likely many HOS violations happen because the operator finds a hard time finding a place to rest during their mandated downtime. As they drive and drive to find a spot, they may be going over hours. The expectation is that an ELD will only make it worse.

Does No Paper Make Up for It?

Of course, having a lot less paperwork with no logbooks to manage is definitely a big draw for both company drivers and owner-operators. But are the benefits on the front end outweighed by the potential costs?

While dispatchers should never ask operators to stretch the numbers, just as operators should not want to fudge them, where is the margin for those who, say, can’t find a place to park in that moment? Is there enough flexibility built into the system?

Beyond questions of what may arise on the fly, other questions come in other forms, one such being what operators do when they have to rent a truck.

What If It’s a Rental?

Trucking experts know quite well that the December ELD implementation rule will not be a simple matter of getting rid of the old to make way for the new. There are hiccups that will arise as companies cope with the new paradigm.

In fact, the Truck Rental and Leasing Association was reportedly “disappointed” when their recommendation for a rental vehicle exemption rule as not accepted by the FMCSA once the final rule was published.

The main concern lies in what trucks rented to different businesses and commercial customer types will do when renters have varying ELD log requirements. Another consideration is in how managed the data that ELDs produce. With different technologies and different platforms working together, the FMCSA has provided no clear guidance on who does what.

Who Does It Effect?

While it must be noted that the majority of rental companies would be exempt, due to their 100- and 150-mile radius, there is a certain percentage who would fall under the regulation’s umbrella.

What this does is require every truck in a rental fleet to be retrofitted with ELD technology, whether or not the customer needs to utilize it. Having to deal with ELD data generated by different platforms makes it crucial for a motor carrier to find the right telematics partner.

The expense required to retrofit vehicles and find the time or partner to analyze the data is not small, and it is likely some smaller rental companies may not survive the change. There are some questions to consider, however, before selecting an ELD solution:

  • Does the ELD mandate limit the technology available under compliance?
  • Will you get reliable and easy access to applications and reports that will be able to offer you actionable data on improving your fleet’s safety parameters and operating performance?
  • Will you be provided with an actionable growth path in order to get the most out of the predictive analytics and diagnostics mechanisms?
  • Will you be provided with the resources and understanding to get through the technological hurdles without leaving your fleet scrambling for other outside help?

Of course the thought of fully integrating with the ELD mandate can seem overwhelming, hopefully some of these hanging questions will be answered. With time left, how will organizations plan for the change?

Truckers – Say Goodbye to Paper Logs

Well folks, it’s official, on December 10 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the long-awaited final rule regarding interstate truck drivers and electronic logging devices (ELD). The rule, which will go into effect in 2017, details specifications and mandates regarding ELD usage. The moral? Get ready to say goodbye to paper logs.

According to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk.”

It’s easy for someone to throw a few soundbites out there, but what does the ELD rule actually mean for truckers? And has the writing already been on the wall for a while now? Let’s dig a little deeper.

A Story of Logs

The fact is, complex logs for on- and off-duty truck drivers have been made with pencil and paper since 1938, and are very hard to verify. Although ELDs originally hit the scene in the 1980s, it’s been a story of trial-and-error regarding their adoption.

Early adoption of ELDs came under a very different Hours-of-Service (HOS) regime. But still, the problem of unexpected occurrences remained.

During the time of paper logs, any delays, whether it be traffic, unloading, or spending too much time in the bathroom, compromised the round trip. If everything went perfectly the trucker would return with a few minutes to spare.

When things went less smoothly, however, truckers could make minor adjustments to their paper logs to account for the irregularities of life. It wasn’t cheating, per se, perhaps only 10 – 20 minutes’ worth of adjustments, but illegal just the same. With ELDs, the paradigm shifts.

A Cautionary Tale

The transition to ELDs will be hardest for smaller fleets that don’t have the capacity to relay or repower loads whose truck drivers have expired the available time on the clock. But even larger fleets have not been without their share of problems.

One well-known 300-truck fleet who does retail store deliveries for big-box retailers implemented ELDs in the late-80s and suffered greatly for it in the beginning. The fleet knew that ELDs would make it impossible to adjust for delays, so they created a video explaining to their customers how the HOS rules and ELDs would impact the operation.

The company also let its customers know it intended to increase its rates 10 percent across the board and pay that 10 percent to its drivers to make up for lost miles or revenue. Furthermore, it announced it was going to add a day to most of its delivery times.

What happened? They immediately lost 40 percent of their business within the first few months, although all of their truck drivers stayed. But within a year, after ELDs became more commonplace, almost all of their customers returned and were happy to pay the higher fee for excellent service.

How to Prepare

The good news is that fleets have between now and 2017 to prepare. They will need to work closely with their customers to ensure a smooth transition without a major loss of business. Small fleets will have to successfully adapt to the new reality and ensure their customers are on board with them.

The fact is little adjustments can add up in a big way. While truck drivers may use a few hours of potential driving time as a result of ELD adoption, the primary question is when those hours will disappear. Quite frankly, it could mean the difference between a quick repositioning or an annoying layover, or perhaps making the delivery one day before you normally would. These kinds of changes can have a net reduction in operating time and make a big impact.

For small fleets who are worried these changes will put their business model at risk, there is one surefire way to make sure the rubber stays on the road. Start logging your paper logs as you are now, while you have a chance to work out the problems associated with no leeway. Don’t wait until the new rule is already here to take the action you should make today.

How Are Third-Party Companies Helping Fleets Handle Compliance?

There’s more to compliance than just the cost of doing business. While accounting, payroll, or expense mistakes might cost someone a job, problems with compliance could put an entire company out of business.

As regulations become more expansive, fleets are increasingly trying to find new ways to handle the burdensome level of meeting and tracking compliance measures. This is where third party servicers are coming in to relieve carriers of the load.

Logbook Management

It’s no secret that hundreds, if not thousands, of fleets have ditched paper in favor of digital logging. As the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) gets set to mandate their use, electronic logging devices (ELD) will wind up in every rig.

To further the transition, companies are outsourcing compliance to third-party providers. They take in the paper and electronic records and use them to develop fleet-wide solutions through a single portal.

These advanced systems also provide greater visibility and control over assets, no matter where they are. They can also seamlessly integrate with systems that manage compliance.

Data Analytics

Where before fleets got buried under vast mounds of paper, now they are drowning in data. By integrating systems that provide ELD data, these providers are using real-time software to single out exceptions, compliance violations, or risk. These systems can also take the lead on managing a response.

One of the largest providers in this sector offers a web-based solution with multiple sets of compliance tools. Fleets use this online portal to manage their data. Proprietary systems analyze the data – along with vehicle inspection and miscellaneous activity information – and generate reports.

Some servicers have even gone further in offering in-house consulting for fleets looking to get some assistance remediating exceptions. This one-stop-shop service setup provides carriers with the peace of mind that crucial operations are being managed effectively and efficiently.

New Truck Drivers

Another area in which these companies are increasing their reach is in the hiring process. Recruiters are always looking for ways to speed up the application and qualifications process. After all, delays equal missed opportunities.

Also, let’s not forget that compliance is also a big part of hiring truck drivers. The FMCSA requires instant pre-employment checks. Third-party providers are stepping up with online portals that make the screening process quick and painless.

In addition to handling pre-employment checks, online portals can also retrieve MVR and other employment records. Some offer tracking tools that can monitor changes in the MVR on either an individual or fleet-wide level.

When recruiters can combine applications and pre-employment checks into one easy-to-use digital solution, time is saved, and time is money. Being able to access tools that help manage the hiring process at all levels provides a competitive edge.

A Paperless World

There’s no doubt that this represents a big change. Trucking is only just now hopping onto the digital bandwagon.

The process by which this may happen is simple. First, the servicers creates an online application that’s suited to the client’s need. Then, the potential truck driver fills out the application. Pre-employment screens are integrated.

The on-boarding process – from maintenance of employee files to management of background checks – is completely automated. In some cases carriers can even overlay their own logos and information over the portal.

One company provides a screening solution through an online portal that can be customized with a fleet’s logo and link to their application. These links can also be sprinkled through other websites and recruiting media.

The application also has specific compliance fields that the applicant fills in, such as the past three years of employment history. The application interacts with the information contained within a pre-employment screening database. Suddenly, hiring decisions become instant.

In the past, handling compliance – whether in-house or third-party – has been a laborious process, with all the paper files that need to be managed. Now, we have digital solutions that allow us to combine multiple facets of the employment process. It seems easing the burdens of compliance are merely a mouse click away.

 

How Technology is changing the Face of Trucking?

The fleet of today is nothing like the fleet of yesterday, and the fleet of tomorrow will be even more unrecognizable. Technology is changing the face of transportation in ways that haven’t been easily predicted.

As electronic logging devices, cameras, GPS units, and computing devices of all sorts invade the cab, carriers and drivers have to adjust. No longer is “staying connected” a landline phone call away; today it’s the way we live in modern society.

Trucking Evolves

For decades the trucking industry languished in a low-tech environment. Efficient connectivity and interoperability was limited to primitive mobile communication systems. These devices simply inventoried assets, sent messages, and logged performance and maintenance information.

                                                                                                    

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Today’s technological revolution means that even with an aging workforce, approximately 70 percent of drivers now utilize personal devices that keep them in communication with their vehicle and the road. And with regulations always waxing and waning, independent operators and commercial and private fleets need to utilize these new technologies to stay in compliance.

More and more the requirements of the business demand applications such as electronic logbooks, driver workflow monitors, and performance and maintenance tracking. Meeting the demands of a new day requires new ways of thinking.

Many fleets have become adept at utilizing their own technologies, but still others are not quite up to the challenge. These operators outsource fleet optimization and data analysis, creating a whole new sub-set of jobs and market growth.

This interconnectivity is being driven even when the wheels aren’t rolling. Drivers are using personal smartphone or tablet-like devices to handle things like finding their next load, planning their route, or managing their expenses.

New commercial platforms are available that can combine the needs of the fleet with the needs of the driver through the use of specialized applications and services. So what are the trends that are creating the fleet of the future?

The Network Evolves

The cloud is changing more than just computing. New software-based fleet management systems are becoming increasingly compatible with personal computing devices that drivers use to manage their operation.

Today’s most popular smartphone and computer operating systems are able to smoothly run a host of fleet management applications.  Electronic logging applications, proof of delivery and driver messaging are only a few of the options available through modern technological applications and services.

Devices are able to connect to the cloud and utilize any number of mobile device management (MDM) applications. By removing the hardware element, information can be quickly accessed and efficiently distributed across an internal network.

The Vehicle Evolves

Innovation in trucking is visualized in today’s advanced vehicle designs. New technologies are coming available and manufacturers are adapting to the idea of a connected truck.

As mobile fleet management system and truck manufacturers team up, the in-vehicle communications hub expanding. Now the communication web encompasses personal devices, vehicle hardware and software, back-office networks, and more.

The idea of keeping moving assets in contact with maintenance, for example, has long been a static process. With new technologies, how this connectivity takes place, how data is stored and analyzed, and how quickly the transfer of information happens is upending the status quo.

New platforms are offering much more complete mobile solutions that go beyond traditional telematics devices. Thousands of trucking-related apps are available for multiple devices and platforms.

Specialized deployment and training can now be accessed and driver learning curves are low. In an industry used to standard office paperwork, these new ways of running the business may seem complex. Fortunately drivers have always been at the forefront of technological change and they adapt quickly.

What is the Future of Trucking?

Mobile technology trends are almost always centered on user experience, whether for personal or business applications. Interconnectivity, fast data transfer and accurate analysis all become crucial factors in the fleet of the future.

As technology marches on, carriers and drivers will utilize devices that offer ease of use and convenience while lowering costs, increasing efficiency and spurring return on investment. Services will spring up that cater to specific needs, and indeed are already available. Things like freight factoring, load optimization, and load boards are continually advancing with technology.

Will you be ready for the fleet of the future when it pulls up to your operation?

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