The ELD mandate has been at the top of everyone’s mind over the past two years, yet there are many other technological innovations that fleet managers can take advantage of to enhance their operations. In fact, the ELD mandate has so dominated the conversation that many motor carriers may be overlooking the potential uses and benefits of in-cab telematics. As fleets expand in a red-hot transportation environment, they are warming up to the idea of combining ELD and telematics solutions to get the most out of a cab installation that they already must make.
A recent survey called the Telematics Benchmark Report: U.S. Edition took the temperature of 2,400 fleet professionals just a few months after the ELD mandate went into effect. The results of the survey were quite interesting and showed that there is a great desire to combine the benefits of an ELD and telematics solution.
The Survey Details
At the time of the survey, around 64% of all motor carriers surveyed were using ELDs to track their hours, while 31% were still using paper logs. At the time of the survey the industry was still working under phased-in enforcement, set to go into effect on April 1. At the time, truck drivers and transportation companies were also not being put out of service for CSA issues.
Motor carriers surveyed reported that the ELD mandate was their biggest compliance concern. Overall, three-fourths of all respondents reported ELD compliance as their biggest headache, with the next nearest issue being hour of service and pay issues, at 14% of respondents. Another 14% commented on fuel taxes, 11% took issue with hourly truck driver fraud and 8% regarding highway transport.
Although the survey participants marked these as potential concerns, 72% reported seeing benefits from ELD solutions, with “less risk of compliance,” being among the top ELD solution. Another 20% reported “eliminating manual processes” as another major benefit. While compliance issues were a concern, transportation companies find synergies within ELD adoption. Even more, they are reporting that moving beyond simple ELDs into complex telematics are assisting them in making their operations more efficient and productive.
Beyond the ELD
It is important to note that ELDs are merely one function of in-cab telematics. The survey showed that nearly 80% of all fleets are using telematics for vehicle tracking, but not for other uses, which means they could be missing out on a plethora of potential benefits. The survey went on to ask fleets how they are using telematics and the answers were somewhat telling.
The top benefit gleaned from telematics use was the peace of mind of knowing where all the fleet’s vehicles are at any given moment. Nearly half of all respondents marked that at the top of their list. Next up, at 32%, fleets enjoyed a higher level of routing and dispatching efficiency. On the flipside, the survey noted that some measures actually decreased since the prior survey. As one example, motor carriers found telematics less useful in 2018 for things like monitoring speeding and reducing harsh braking.
While 36% of fleets surveyed reported that fuel expenses were their largest expense, only 29% were using a telematics solution to monitor and optimize fuel usage. Even more troubling, only 30% reported using telematics to track maintenance needs, which is down 10% from the prior years. Many openly wonder, what is the reason for the drop in telematics usage for such critical fleet factors?
Addressing Hiring and Growth
There were key areas where fleets acknowledged opportunities for growth in telematics usage. More than half of all transportation companies surveyed reported experiencing a talent shortage. More than half stated that they are increasing truck driver pay while 36% said they were improving benefits packages to recruit and retain new truck drivers.
Fortunately, 41% reported the desire to upgrade the equipment their fleet utilizes in 2018 and 2019. An even more eye-popping number was the number of motor carriers who are expanding their fleets in 2018. In 2017 the number was 13%, while in the new survey the number is 37%.
Another large growth potential factor was in short-haul delivery. Small package and oil and gas deliveries also posted strong numbers. Long-haul freight showed strength with nearly half of all respondents reporting big potential in that category. Yet, the question remains, what are the motivating factors behind trucking companies investing in a comprehensive telematics solution?
More trucking companies are making the decision to invest in telematics, but unfortunately many are doing so simply to check a compliance box, rather than investing in the technology to make the most of it for the betterment of their business. While some fleet managers point to a phenomenon called “tech fatigue,” it may not be the only problem.
Smaller fleets have harder times making large tech investments and, in many cases, ELD compliance is already putting a strain on many motor carrier’s bottom lines. Yet, as the technology matures and decreases in price, we should see the gap between transportation companies utilizing these for greater efficiency compared with companies using it to simply get compliance credit.
Telematics Policy Essentials
For many within the transportation sector, they consider it their duty to take every possible step to ensure the safety of both their operators and those operating on the roadways around them. Ensuring truck drivers are equipped with all the tools necessary for safe road operation shouldn’t be optional and to many trucking companies, it is not.
Telematics provides a practical way to both increase overall safety measures and improve fleet efficiency, whether it be through analyzing truck driver performance or a shop maintenance program. A comprehensive telematics and fleet management solution also helps fleets create policies and procedures outlining expectations of safe road use and the consequences of not operating within safe parameters.
There are specific measures a motor carrier must take to ensure they are getting the most out of their telematics program:
- Outline its purpose: A fleet must determine the overall purpose they are going with a telematics solution. Common reasons generally include FMCSA compliance, HOS assistance, and improving a fleet’s overall safety and efficiency.
- Specify roles and responsibilities: When it comes to successfully rolling out a telematics program, the roles must be clearly defined, from senior leadership down to truck drivers, back-office employees, technicians and more. Policies must be reviewed from managers to workers and back up the chain.
- Include ELD and HOS: If you are running a comprehensive telematics program, a motor carrier must ensure they are including ELD and HOS regulations and considerations when they are deciding on a solution. Doing so also presents an opportunity to communicate and reinforce how important compliance is, whether truck driver or fleet manager.
- Outline compliance: It is important to also describe who must comply with the policy and in what capacity, this way everyone is clear on their specified function. Whether it be contracted truck drivers or truck drivers on staff, or even the types of vehicles included in the policy, this information must be made clear.
- Time enforcement: Truck drivers must be educated on the proper use of the equipment. The language, terms and use of specific functionalities must be properly spelled out. For example, the following factors must be properly fleshed out:
- On-duty time;
- Off-duty time;
- Driving time;
- Sleeper berth;
- Driving conditions;
- Personal conveyances, and;
- Emergency exceptions.
- Access clarifications: It is important to outline roles and responsibilities in relation to a comprehensive telematics solution. Key fobs are one example. Who receives a key fob and what will the charge be if a key fob is lost?
- System use: Truck drivers need to know how to log into and out of the system. They should also be well aware of what information is recorded and reported. For in-cab video systems, truck drivers will have difficulty buying in if they do not understand the system parameters. Success of telematics solutions rely heavily on operator buy-in.
The main objective of any telematics system is to ensure that everyone, fleetwide, understand why the system is being implemented in the first place, and how it is designed to help the fleet perform better. The fact is this: The people within a transportation company working with a telematics program should not be learning about it the first time they sign the policy for review.
Telematics programs, when combined with a comprehensive ELD solution, can dramatically change how a motor carrier operates. These systems are beneficial on so many levels, but motor carriers must ensure they are paying close attention to how they are rolled out and that the people operating within the parameters of the program have bought into it.
Even more, in the age of the ELD, there are evermore technological solutions. Fleets shouldn’t be adopting a telematics solution simply to do so. By keeping compliance in mind and ensuring there are no gaps in the process, motor carriers can achieve true levels of efficiency and organizational success.