Trucking Tech

ELD Mandate – Implementation Tips from a Safety Director

If you have waited until the last minute to install electronic logging devices as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Dec. 18, 2017, implementation deadline looms near, know that you are not alone.

Telematics industry analyst Clem Driscoll recently told Transport Topics that while he believes most large fleets will be ELD-compliant by the pending deadline, for many smaller trucking companies that might not be the case. Driscoll’s research and consulting firm C.J. Driscoll & Associates recently conducted its annual survey of 255 U.S. fleet operators required to monitor HOS. The survey revealed that 60 percent of respondents were still using paper logbooks to record drivers’ hours at the time. Only 33 percent were using e-logs and 8 percent were using both or some of each. Driscoll said while the number of fleets without ELDs is going down, there are still a great many small trucking fleets that still must make the switch from paper to electronic logs.

While knowing there are many others in same boat might make you feel less exposed, the fact that there are so many fleets that will be looking for ELD solutions will likely work against you. Since competition for the supply of ELDs will be high, trucking industry analysts and large trucking company execs say for those who haven’t started their negotiations with ELD suppliers, the time is now.

For procrastinators, you may welcome the following facts as you start and complete the process:

  • While the ELD mandate deadline remains firmly in place, several months ago the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance announced that for the first few months, commercial vehicles will not be placed out of service for missing ELDs (or devices conforming to older automatic on-board, AOBRD, standards installed);
  • Earlier this month, federal officials also provided carriers a bit of a breather when they announced that citations issued after the ELD mandate goes into effect will not impact the safety ratings of carriers through April 1, 2018;
  • For those hauling agricultural commodities such as live animals, the FMCSA announced on Nov. 20 that it will be issuing 90-day temporary waivers. The waiver will give the agency more opportunity to address ag haulers’ concerns about operating under the ELD mandate. Formal publication of that guidance in the Federal Register is expected within the next two weeks, after which there will be a period for public comments.

Even with those enforcement delays, experts, including BarOle Trucking’s director of safety and compliance, Karol Smith, who went through a four-year process when her company implemented ELDs on its fleet of 74 intermodal trucks, strongly advise against any further delay in implementation. You should also review and familiarize yourself with the entire process before you begin.

Woman Standing in Front of Bar Ole Trucking Truck in Trucking Yard
Karol Smith, BarOle Trucking

Even if your company already adopted AOBRDs under the old rule, and has two more years to become compliant with the ELD mandate, Smith said the message for you remains the same – start now. Also remember that anytime you add additional capacity to your fleet after Dec. 18, you must equip those new trucks with ELDs even though the remainder of your fleet is equipped with AOBRDs.

“Adopting an ELD system can take a lot longer to complete than you might imagine,” Smith noted. “The most important part is providing everyone the proper training and having people available who can answer questions and get any issues resolved.”

After examining several different systems, BarOle Trucking decided to go with an ELD system that allows fleets to use existing tablets and other compatible smart devices otherwise known as a ‘bring-your-own-device’ ELD system. The system BarOle chose is backed by a company that offers Drivewyze weigh station bypass, Smith said. While several ELD providers offer Drivewyze, not all of them do. BarOle chose the Omnitracs XRS platform.

Based on the experiences of her company and others, Smith offers these recommendations when adopting ELDs:

Establish your company’s needs.

Does your accountant or your accounting, HR and/or payroll department need to get regular timesheets or reports from the ELD system? If so, how often and will that information be provided in a useful format? Do you need your ELD system to also handle driver inspection reports? If so, how will that be done and how will the results be communicated to your company’s shop or fleet maintenance provider?

Do your homework.

Understand your options and what each system brings to the table. Know the pros and cons of each option. Besides offering Drivewyze, BarOle wanted its ELD system to have the flexibility to integrate with its dispatch software, allow the company to communicate directly in real-time with drivers and offer vehicle locations in real-time. Smith also placed emphasis on the quality and quantity of tech support, how user-friendly each system was since not all of the company’s truck drivers are tech savvy and how the different HOS logging functions for each option compared. “We chose Omnitracs XRS because we didn’t have to purchase new equipment in order to use it and because whenever I called tech support, I quickly spoke with a live person.

Be more proactive.

Once you get past the point of no return with HOS issues, being backed into the reactive corner can be quite frustrating for all parties involved. Training both before and after implementation is absolutely essential. Dispatchers need to be trained on how to be pro-active and not reactive to potential issues. For example, company dispatchers should always assign loads to drivers based on the time they take to complete and the distances involved. A good ELD system will help dispatchers keep track of those crucial stats and may even forecast delivery issues based on traffic patterns and current weather conditions and future forecasts. “When training drivers, be prepared for different learning styles, technological knowledge and comfort level. You will have drivers who can catch on in 10 minutes and others whom you will need to mentor for weeks.” The biggest adjustment for drivers is the change from recording on- and off-duty time in 15-minute increments to actual time. Tell them to log as they go and be prepared for issues. They will come up frequently at first.

Show patience.

Know the ELD system software in detail. When drivers call in with concerns, ask them methodical questions to get to the heart of the issue. “Always remain calm and don’t personalize the drivers’ frustrations or it will make your phone calls very difficult. Having the knowledge to walk them through issues over the phone is the key to keeping them moving and calm. Train your drivers to understand the system’s navigation so they can communicate efficiently whenever they run into delays or issues.

DO pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

Get to know your company’s back office and reporting systems well and how they will interact with the ELD system. If you set up the ELD system and find it doesn’t communicate with those systems as anticipated, what sort of tech support can you expect to help iron out those issues? If the communication issues stem from the age of the systems, for example, will you have to upgrade them?

When your drivers need to phone a friend.

When onboarding, ensure you have enough trained staff to accommodate all the questions and problems. The drivers will need 24/7 access to contacts. They will make mistakes and they will need help.

Know before you go.

Check with other truckers and fleets currently using the systems you’re considering—ask questions, how were they implemented? What were their implementation issues, does the hardware (electronic logging device or BYOD) and software work as advertised, particularly with back-office systems? Examine the contracts carefully before you sign.

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