If you are operating commercial motor vehicles or handling a fleet of commercial trucks as an owner-operator, you must have been a part of the hot discussion on Electronic Logging Devices (ELD).
What is ELD all about? It is a feature-rich technical device to be installed in vehicles to maintain the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. The primary objective of ELD compliance is to minimize the impact of driver fatigue and reduce the chances of road accidents.
Therefore, as a fleet manager, staying compliant and conforming to FMCSA regulations has become crucial, especially for driver safety. If you are interested in ELD systems, you must update your knowledge of electronic logging device functionalities and benefits.
In this article, we provide a comprehensive idea about Electronic Logging Devices, how they work, who needs them, and best practices and tips to use them to the best of your advantage.
What is an Electronic Logging Device?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has released the mandate for specific commercial motor vehicles to install Electronic Logging Devices (ELD). The primary objective is to ensure safer working conditions. An Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is an electronic hardware tool capable of recording the driving time for commercial vehicles. By simply plugging it into your truck’s onboard diagnostics (OBD) port, you can access all data relevant to the location, distances driven, speed, and engine performance.
You may find recording driver duty status is a complex job, but with the electronic logging device, this task is automated. You also get vehicle information and performance in real-time, which are significant resources for you as a fleet manager.
With an ELD connected to the commercial vehicle, it becomes easier for you to monitor the service hours and receive necessary insights that help you maintain compliance with regulations.
What Does ELD Record?
The primary task of ELD is to keep track of the regulated HOS as a part of the fleet management system, but there is more to it. Electronic logging devices can readily capture other data for review and analysis, which are crucial for effective fleet management. Most ELDs have built-in GPS tracking systems and sensors to capture real-time vehicle data for recording and transmission. The ELDs generally record the following information:
- The driving hours of drivers
- Real-time GPS location of the vehicle
- Engine speed and running hours
- Fuel efficiency and mileage
- Driving time and idling hours
- Engine diagnostics and fault indications
- Risky driving behavior like overspeeding, acceleration, and hard braking
- Safety-related events like accidents and collisions
What Does ELD Mandate Cover?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has mentioned that trucking companies and other transporters using commercial vehicles need to install electronic logging devices to comply with the mandate. The primary purpose of ELD regulation is to create a convenient system to monitor drivers’ duty hours and streamline the reporting and compliance process.
The FMCSA intends to ensure safety and reliability in commercial vehicle operations through ELD compliance and regulations. One of the critical aspects is driver fatigue due to extended working hours which might lead to accidents. But, with ELDs, you can monitor and control the duty hours of drivers, thereby ensuring improved driving performance and safety.
When you go through the electronic logging devices overview, you will understand that implementing this system can help your drivers comply with safety norms and practices that substantially reduce the chance of accidents.
ELD Mandate Timeline
ELD Features To Satisfy Compliance
The FMCSA has laid down guidelines on the compliance criteria that ELDs must satisfy. These are as follows:
- It must meet the required technical specifications and self-certify by FMCSA
- It should be connected to the engine of the vehicle to check engine status (moving or idle)
- It should record the duty status of the driver (on-duty, off-duty, not driving)
- Able to maintain and transmit data in prescribed format via Bluetooth, USB, or web services.
- It can provide a graphical display of duty status for an easy view of the driving hours.
Who Needs an Electronic Logging Device?
The features of ELD and its benefits make it a vital tool for different companies operating commercial motor vehicles, including truckers. The ELD mandate says that you must install an electronic logging device if you constantly need to maintain records of duty status (RODS) and Hours of Service (HoS) for your drivers. Simply, ELD is mandatory for long-haul drivers who need to maintain and provide RODs.
How ELDs Work?
You have heard a lot about the ELD mandate and its implications. But, how do you utilize ELD for accessing actionable data and establishing compliance? For this, understanding electronic logging devices is a must. The electronic logging devices connect to the truck’s onboard diagnostic (OBD) port and access information directly from the engine, even when the engine is not running.
The GPS-enabled technology allows transmitting the data to the concerned authorities. Therefore, as a fleet manager, after installing the ELD in the vehicles, you can conveniently procure information regarding the real-time location, running condition, and driving performance.
Electronic logging devices are flexible enough to support a range of technologies, especially for transmitting actionable data. You will find how convenient it is to access ELD data through a network plan or via Bluetooth in the mobile app. It would be useful for drivers to have a device with a built-in WiFi hotspot to obtain necessary information on the go.
If you are using ELD, it would be much easier for your drivers to handle the roadside inspections. Inspectors can always ask the driver to provide the details for cross-referencing, and the ELD makes the process hassle-free by transferring required reports via wireless web or emails. It can also transmit data directly to the Department of Transportation (DOT), making the compliance process more streamlined.
Why do Truckers Need an ELD?
You must be wondering why you should install an ELD, just to comply with the regulations. But, do you know that ELDs for commercial trucking can go beyond just as a compliance-driving resource? It is capable of monitoring a range of vehicle-specific performance parameters. So, by incorporating the electronic logging device in your fleet management system, you can make your operations more efficient and sustainable with better resource utilization.
One of the best things about ELDs is that they allow the development of a systematic process where minimum human intervention is required, resulting in better productivity and efficiency. Have a look at the following benefits an electronic logging device can offer truckers like you.
- The GPS-enabled ELD systems can map unpredictable traffic and road conditions and allow optimizing routes that save time and fuel.
- The advanced features of electronic logging devices can diagnose and generate predictive indications about faults to help in necessary maintenance activities.
- The ELD system ensures safe driving conditions and reduces the chances of violations by managing the duty status and performance.
- The ELD technology allows managers to avoid paperwork and generate accurate reports without manual intervention.
How Significant is ELD for Fleet Business?
You may be concerned about the installation complexities of electronic logging devices but be sure it is worth the investment. You can utilize the features and capabilities of ELD to make your fleet businesses more resourceful, efficient, and safe. The most crucial benefit is staying compliant and maintaining ELD regulations with reliability. But, in addition to these, there are other significant advantages to implementing an ELD solution. Here are a few benefits of ELDs explained that can make your fleet business more efficient, reliable, and cost-effective.
Efficient Route Planning
If you are thinking of optimizing vehicle routes to maintain the delivery schedule, ELD with GPS monitoring can help you plan the most suitable routes considering road and traffic conditions. You can set the ELDs to track predefined routes for trucks and alert you in the case of any deviation. It helps to increase reliability in business by maintaining delivery within the scheduled time and gaining customer satisfaction.
Certain ELDs have integrated sensors, which can identify unsafe movements by drivers, such as harsh turns, sudden braking, or getting into collisions. The ELD can help you keep watch on driver performance and take immediate actions to minimize the chances of accidents. If you pair the ELD with a dashcam, the footage gives you better visibility of the actual scenario, which is a crucial insight for decreasing accidents.
The ELD is plugged into the OBD port of the concerned vehicle and can readily collect data about engine performance. There is a dedicated application that drivers can use to prepare the Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR), indicating the technical issues observed. What does this data signify? They collectively give you information about vehicle health and potential faults that might occur so that you can address the maintenance needs and resolve issues at the earliest.
ELD can handle all kinds of complex data and give you detailed reports through an automated system. As a fleet manager, the real-time insights about HoS, engine diagnostics, driving performance, idling time, and fuel usage enable you to analyze performance, make informed decisions, and avoid non-compliant activities. Every process is automated, and you can be confident about the authenticity and accuracy of the data.
Better Resource Utilization
The ELD works with combined hardware and software support, making relevant information easily accessible. You can track delays, idling hours, travel time, etc., which allows you to manage your resources effectively and improve vehicle performance. One of the best features is the automated system that reduces the time for report preparation, review, and audit. So if you want to focus more on planning and execution while improving back-office efficiency, switch to ELD technology to streamline your operations.
ELD systems give you real-time updates on fuel usage that makes you assess any inefficient driving practices or maintenance issues. You focus on reducing idling and finding better routes to improve fuel efficiency and, in the end, make your business operations more cost-efficient by saving on fuel costs. Moreover, with the ELD system, you can ensure compliance and avoid expenses concerning accidents, repairs, and violations.
Improved Customer Experience
One of the best things about ELD is that it allows better visibility into the real-time location and movements of all your vehicles. It means you can update drivers’ routes and dispatch status anytime, making you work faster and more efficiently. The ELD helps you identify discrepancies and facilitates corrective actions, thus ensuring a smooth workflow. You can confidently give customers the latest updates and improve your reliability with better customer satisfaction.
You may be concerned about protecting your fleet vehicles from theft and unauthorized use. ELDs can help you in this regard by providing real-time location updates of your trucks at any given time. A specialized feature of ELD is Geofencing which allows you to set up a virtual boundary and get an alert whenever your vehicle moves out of the defined geofence area. Therefore, it becomes easier to detect any unexpected movements and take proactive actions to track and recover the automobile.
Things to Consider While Choosing an ELD Solution
By now, you have gathered sufficient knowledge on the benefits and usage of electronic logging devices to make your fleet operations more productive and profitable. Electronic logging devices can be a vital support for ensuring compliance, reliability, and better customer service. But, when choosing a suitable electronic logging device, you must consider the factors that help you identify the right ELD that matches your needs. Please take some time to go through the crucial factors mentioned below.
The Device Type
Two types of devices are available in the market- vehicle-installed ELDs and bringing your device (BYOD). The details are as follows:
Vehicle-installed ELDs: Vehicle-installed ELD is a hardware device that you need to install in the truck. This device can display data including HoS, idle hours, running hours, remaining hours, etc. It has safety implications as drivers can conveniently view the records without taking their hands off the wheel. It also makes roadside inspections easier, with necessary data available for display and transfer. Another advantage is the built-in GPS tracking capabilities of the device to help you identify and share location details.
Bring Your Device (BYOD): As the name suggests, BYOD implies that drivers use their devices for downloading and using mobile applications. Drivers will log their working hours through the mobile device and check updates. The system is user-friendly, but there are other limitations. Checking the mobile phone while driving can distract drivers and increase the risks of accidents and penalties. Again, you may face connectivity issues with the mobile device, and there are chances of loss or physical damage while handling the device.
You should also consider the installation process of the ELD and assess how conveniently you can use it for your vehicles. Some devices require a complex installation process, and you need to engage a technician for professional assistance during installation. An important aspect is to train drivers to familiarize them with new technology and help them utilize it without inhibitions. A straightforward installation process of ELD with adequate training makes drivers confident and comfortable to comply with the regulations.
You can find different ELD vendors with varying pricing structures. Some providers offer free installation with monthly subscription charges, while others charge an upfront fee without subscription costs. The main difference is that, in the first case, you incur regular costs with minimal upfront investment. In the other option, you need to pay a high amount initially and then start enjoying the services. However, even with devices with no monthly subscription fees, you may have to pay some charges to continue using the device in the long run.
You also must be careful about any hidden costs that some ELD vendors might charge for additional features beyond basic GPS tracking. It may include software updates, diagnostics, and data plans. So please clarify with vendors about these hidden costs to avoid any surprises later on. You should clearly understand the services you are paying for and avoid unexpected costs. The best way to decide is to make a cost-benefit analysis to get all the required features that provide the most value to your business.
Needless to say, the electronic logging device is a vital tool in making your transport operations safe, reliable, and compliant with federal regulations. The real-time data insights help you to make strategic and timely decisions and achieve productivity and cost savings.
The hardware, installation, training, and subscription fee may seem to be an expensive proposition, but the benefits you achieve outweigh the problems surrounding the implementation of the same. You will find that beyond complying with the FMCSA mandate, the ELD can help you make informed decisions and proactive actions, impacting business efficiency and profitability.
James Johnson is a former truck driver who now works as a writer, specializing in the trucking industry. With over 15 years of experience on the road, James has a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities faced by truck drivers and the trucking industry as a whole. His writing focuses on issues such as safety, regulation, and the latest industry trends. His work has been featured in several trucking publications and he has received recognition for his contributions to the industry. In his free time, James still enjoys being around trucks and often attends truck shows and other industry events.