A recent survey completed by a major trucking telematics company and a research service revealed that full 100% compliance with the ELD mandate is still a long way off. The research polled 194 trucking industry executives to better understand where we stand with ELD compliance today. They also wanted to determine if fleets are using the data gathered from their ELDs and, if so, how. Furthermore, are trucking fleets getting any kind of return on investment from ELD adoption.
Most of the companies surveyed had between 51 and 100 vehicles. Another fifth had 101 to 200 and less than 50 vehicles. Nearly all the fleets were running at least one Class 8 vehicle in their fleet. In what is good news for the industry, a full three-fourths of the companies surveyed have implemented an ELD solution that puts them in compliance with the mandate. Even more invested in ELDs that were full featured and offered much more than simple time tracking. Only 18% of the responders invested in a compliance-only device.
Still, that leaves one-fourth who stated that they have not yet implemented an ELD solution. While around 12% said they would do so by December of 2019, another 13% were not subject to the mandate. Obviously, more must be done to ensure everyone complies, especially since the technology can be so useful in other situations.
Of the companies utilizing ELD technology, a whopping 88% said they were actively using the data they collected. Considering how valuable that data is to an organization, this number is encouraging. For companies who were not actively using the data their ELDs are collecting, they cited either time or a lack of value as the reasons.
Obviously, most data being collected related to the Hours of Service rule. But those who were gathering and using additional information, they are focusing on vehicle location, mileage, fuel, status, idle and speed information. In a few cases the ELD is paired up with a comprehensive video or sensor system. Over half of the responders expect the safety and efficiency improvements will result in more growth and a better ROI over time.
Considering the final deadline for adoption is December 16, 2019, motor carriers don’t have much time to get a solution spread across the fleet. The devices used must be self-certified and registered with the FMCSA. Probably the most alarming statistic of all was that 15% of those surveyed said they do not know if they will have an ELD solution implemented by the December deadline.
Fortunately, most fleets have been doing their best to stay ahead of the game. Of those who are currently in compliance with the mandate, 62% implemented their solution way back in 2017. 23% implemented it in 2018 and only 14% implemented it this year. Still, one of the reasons why some may have been holding out is to see if they could wait for a device that has more features.
Almost a fifth of responders stated the ELD they are using is an entry-level device. The fact that 80% chose to go with a solution that has a lot of features shows promise. Fleet executives obviously understand these solutions not only help them remain in compliance with the law, but they also increase overall fleet safety and efficiency.
As ELDs have evolved over the past few years, we have seen them expand into areas beyond their mandate, such as monitoring unsafe truck driver behavior or tracking fuel consumption. Fleets can even improve their utilization and monitor engine diagnostics. The best statistics in the survey was whether fleets intended on using the data collected by their devices. A full 88% said yes.
Here’s how the data usage methodology broke down by fleet:
- 92% – Hours of Service Compliance
- 83% – Truck Driver Safety Improvements
- 80% – Truck Driver Coaching and Training
- 78% – Enhanced Reporting for Management
- 70% – Improve Overall Fleet Efficiency
- 44% – Implementation of Truck Driver Report Cards
- 42% – Use in Truck Driver Incentives and Bonuses
- 26% – Use in Payroll
- 5% – Other
Although some see the ELD as something that was forced upon them, with a small percentage saying they wish they didn’t need it, many others see it to improve ROI. A large percentage of responders stated they expected to see big safety and efficiency gains. Over half said they expected to see 2019 ROI gains.
The fact is, if they are implemented right, 100% of all full-featured ELD solutions should generate ROI. Still, there were plenty of negative comments regarding the ELD returned in the survey. Some said the only reason they had invested in an ELD solution was to avoid fines related to non-compliance. Still others stated that the ELD they invested in did not work the way it was advertised, or they received pushback from their truck drivers.
The Many Uses for an ELD
There are plenty of trucking companies who recognize the potential that an ELD solution can bring to their organization. ELDs offer a wealth of different functions, such as:
- Data capture
- Data integration
- Elimination of manual processes
- IFTA compliance
- Tax reporting
- Truck driver monitoring
- Coaching and KPIs
- Asset utilization
- Maintenance cost reduction
Companies that have gone beyond simple compliance into the realm of a full-featured solutions are reaping the benefits. The problem is, many don’t know what to look for, or who to ask, when it comes to implementing an ELD solution. Fortunately, we’ve got some tips.
What to Ask
While some businesses did only what was necessary to comply, others are using their ELDs to improve truck driver behavior and increase their operational visibility. Yet, there are questions you should ask. Why? Because the accuracy and reliability of your ELD plays a critical role in its implementation. When you need to have consistent, detailed data on routes, activities, and truck driver behavior, you should be able to rely on your ELD.
- Does the ELD capture enough data to monitor truck drivers and help with accident investigations?
- Can the ELD help you capture off-highway tax credits?
- Are there issues or gaps in service coverage?
There are essentially two different options, either hard-wired in-cab device or a Bluetooth device. The problem with Bluetooth is that it tends to be a bit unreliable. In fact, dropped wireless connections are among the highest-reported complaints among trucking companies who have adopted an ELD with Bluetooth technology.
If you do end up choosing an ELD that uses Bluetooth technology, figure out if the channel is dedicated between a Bluetooth dongle and in-cab device. Or is it a BYOD setup that will try to pair with other Bluetooth devices? If you aren’t connected to the ECM directly through the j-bus, then you need to be using a dongle, which will prevent dropped connections.
Consider that there are more than 300 ELDs on the market and nearly as many suppliers. With so many to choose from, it isn’t a surprise that many won’t live up to their promise. Ask targeted questions to get to the bottom of an ELDs effectiveness.
- Is the ELD self-certified?
- Is the ELD third-party certified?
- Is it easy for truck drivers to incorrectly use exemptions?
- What is the success rate for eRODS data transfers during roadside inspections?
- Can truck drivers transfer their logs to inspectors or are they viewed in the application?
Ideally, you want to go with an ELD that is both self-certified and third-party certified. You also want to make sure your truck drivers don’t end up out of service or non-compliant simply because they weren’t able to properly utilize the exemptions function.
Another critical factor are the regulations themselves. HOS regulations are ever-changing. Specific guidelines can be moved at the government’s whim. Therefore, you need a solution that will meet federal requirements even when they change. Another thing to look for is whether your preferred ELD vendor participates in trucking trade associations or participates in FMCSA efforts to gather industry data.
There are plenty of extras you should look for as well. Does the ELD work with your fleet management system and is the accuracy of its data consistent? Can you monitor truck driver safety programs? Don’t settle for second best just because you aren’t sure if you can get the most out of it. And don’t hesitate to ask for examples or case studies. Vendors should be asking for your business, not the other way around.
Yet, the most important thing may be customer service. When you are working with a device you are unfamiliar with, having someone within easy reach when you have a problem is critical. You can have all the features in the world, but if you need assistance and no one is there, you are up the creek without a paddle. Do your due diligence and don’t hesitate to ask questions and research. You will be working with these devices for a long time. So, make it count.