That’s right. Is your fleet ready for it? The countdown until ultimate ELD Mandate absolution is upon us. You now only have a few months to get yourself ready to transition to full-on ELD. So, why not dive in headfirst and prepare yourself for the inevitability. So many fleets have been waiting until the last minute. Whether that is the right way to do it or not, now is the time to make the switch.
In mere months, the window to make the switch from an AOBRD to an ELD will slam shut. Will you be prepared? Consider that a deadline is only as flexible as the day its due. You have no more time. And when we are talking about deadline flexibility, the most inflexible of deadlines are the ones the government sets out. Considering how much time the FMCSA has given to come into compliance, there is no excuse to wait until the 11th hour only to be caught flat-footed and fined.
Consider that the compliance date is also December 17th. Do you want to be trying to make a fleet-wide technological implementation during the heaviest shopping and transportation time of the year? Certainly, the FMCSA did not intend to provide an extra two years to comply only for trucking companies to wait to the last minute or decide they aren’t going to covert at all.
It is true that those who have not yet complied are primarily small fleets, but even then, if the fleet does not have the capital, there are bare bones ELD solutions that barely rise above the requirement to track hours. These inexpensive solutions offer a way to remain in compliant without breaking the bank.
Another problem lies in the lack of truck driver training and buy-in. Waiting until the last minute could result in a lower truck driver training and acceptance rate. And what if you have glitches or integration problems with your new unit(s). You could face long delays that could potentially cripple operations or leave you open to violations if you are operating without an ELD passed December 17.
It is also important to consider supply-side economics. With so many waiting until the last minute, the vendor you choose may wind up short or backlogged on cables or other critical equipment. The longer you wait, the closer to a violation you get. Of course, some delays are the result of confusion about the underlying technology or interoperability problems. Converting as soon as possible allows motor carriers to address these problems without running out the clock.
Ideally, you should have your conversion plan hammered out by now. This will give you three to four months to work out the kinks and set up your program. Even if you are a small or one-man/woman carrier, you still may experience issues simply due to the higher volume of activity around the mandate come the final deadline. Since many ELD providers serve a training capacity for their carrier partners, they could be bogged down.
Motor carriers typically make the most money in the fourth quarter. Waiting to manage such a huge transition could eat into what you bring home during the most profitable part of the year. You also may want to consider something as simple as cell coverage. With 3G sunsetting, older ELD devices will be impacted. In other words, if you don’t do your due diligence, you could wind up upgrading to a device that is obsolete by early next year.
What Are the Pain Points?
One of the biggest pain points is truck driver buy-in. It is critical that truck drivers understand that ELDs are not a big brother-type of annoyance, they really do make a big impact on safety and efficiency. They help truck drivers do their job. The last thing a truck driver wants is to be hustled and overworked. If positioned rightly, they should understand that an ELD prevents the hustle and stressed-out feeling.
Another pain point to be on the lookout for is integration with your existing systems, whether for fleet management or otherwise. Many vendors have open APIs that may conflict with routing or payroll systems. If you have problems integrating what you currently use with the ELD, you may be looking at excessive troubleshooting time, which eats into profits and adds additional cost.
Another consideration should be the business type. Many don’t realize that industries such as oil and gas have specific rules they must follow. Any old ELD will not do. If not properly sourced or understood ahead of time, this causes fleets big headaches.
For those who have been using AOBRDs for a long time, there may be a training transition time. Truck drivers need to understand the basic differences between an AOBRD and an ELD. Truck drivers must be more involved with an ELD than they are with an AOBRD. One such example is the data transfer procedure for law enforcement. If your truck driver doesn’t know how to move information over, you may face a violation.
Consider practicing mock inspections to reinforce what steps a truck driver needs to take in those situations. This reduces the stress truck drivers deal with when it comes to operating a new technology and helps with their overall preparedness. You want to ensure you have created a hands-on experience. The more they work with the tools, the easier their adaptation will be to their use.
One of the biggest learning curves for truck drivers is to identify driving events and know when and how to manage and catalog them, even if they are not automatically cataloged by the system. Everyone operating the ELD needs a unique login, even the shop technicians. Furthermore, what if there is a malfunction while the truck driver is on the road. Will they be equipped to know what to do in that situation?
Managers must also be trained on the devices. Full-featured devices come with lots of features and reports. It shouldn’t be expected the truck driver will know how to manage every aspect of the ELD, but at the minimum, the fleet manager must do so. In some cases, ELD systems can integrate with health, safety and finance. If people from other departments are involved, training is critical.
How to Choose
You want to choose a compliant ELD that can scale to your needs. Why go with an ELD solution that only does one thing when you can integrate a device that helps move the needle forward for your business. Integrate your ELD solution with a comprehensive fleet management solution to improve the experience for your truck drivers, keep them safe, and operate in a secure fashion. Get valuable insights into fleet behavior and protect and extend the life of your critical business assets.
There are many solutions out there that offer scalable, full-featured solutions. Go with a device that has reliable GPS tracking and fleet management built-in, including breadcrumb trails and truck driver behavior tracking. You should be able to tack on specialty add-on hardware features. Can you diagnose engine problems or integrate a truck driver scorecard into your ELD solution? Does it manage federal compliance regulations such as HOS and DVIR?
You may also want to look at whether a mounted or tablet solution would work for your fleet. Consider this: If you do go with a portable device, it must be mounted in the cab while the vehicle is in use. So, you can go with a permanent mount or a portable solution with a temporary mount. Spring-loaded, quick-release cradles offer easy in and out operation while also keeping the device secure. You can also outfit your tablets with drop protection, since truck drivers routinely enter and exit the cab. Quick-docking and quick-locking mechanisms allow for charging and data transfer in a pinch.
Other features to consider include:
- 24-hour truck driver support
- Roadside inspection hotline
- A way to asses DataQs
- Integrated dash cam video technology
- Online training library
Basic features that should be included in every ELD encompass:
- User manuals describing how to operate the ELD
- An instruction sheet describing the data transfer procedures
- Enough blank logs to handle duty statuses
- Support for documents such as BOLs and itineraries
Can you edit and annotate entries in the ELD? When things are mistaken or not entered properly, you need to know that your truck drivers can fix the record. You cannot specifically edit an entry, but you can annotate it. This should be a basic functionality with any ELD. Truck drivers will also need to know how to explain the annotation to an enforcement officer.
There are certainly many more considerations when choosing an ELD, but the primary point of this whole blog post is that you don’t have much time left. If you aren’t ready with your device by the end of October, you could wind up facing a violation. Enforcement officers will be out in full after the deadline. Will your fleet get caught flat footed?