ELD Pumps Up the Data Stream for Trucking Fleets

In December 2017 the first deadline to comply to the FMCSA rule, the Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) Mandate, was reached.

Since then, according to some media reports, the mandate has received a mixed reception. For example, in April 2018, Wired magazine cited one angry trucker who had been interviewed by trade publication Transport Topics in Nick Stockton’s article, Truckers Take on Trump Over Electronic Surveillance Rules: “It’s amazing to me how many experts there are in trucking that have never set their butt in a truck.”

Stockton writes that the ELD Mandate has become a “focal sore for independent truck irritated by a rash of related regulations”. The main complaint is about the US government setting out the rules for when truckers can and can’t be on the road. However, the supporters of the regulations argue that “this kind of rhetoric comes from midnight mavericks hoping to snag lucrative, but illegal, overtime hauling”. The American Truckers Association (ATA) therefore supports the law.

Route to compliance

Joe DeLorenzo, director of the office of enforcement and compliance at Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), also explains that the primary purpose of the ELD Mandate “…is to improve the recording of drivers’ hours of service. Previously this was done on paper, which led to mistakes and deliberate non-compliance such as falsifying the number of driving hours they worked.  The Transportation Reauthorization Bill, known as “MAP-21”, gives us our authority and funding, and it was passed through both houses of congress and signed by President Obama in 2015.”

He adds: “Our data is saying that adoption rates are very high. When we inspect carriers on the roadside, we make sure they have an ELD when required and the violation rate for hours of service record keeping is less than 1%. I do think that some of the smaller carriers have been later to adopt. Many carriers have been using technology before but now we are seeing high levels of compliance from all the carriers.”

ELD background

Tom Cuthbertson, vice-president regulatory compliance at Omnitracs offers some background to the move towards ELD: “Quite a few companies have had automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRD) and that regulation has been out since 1988. So many fleets have put them since 1996-97 and even more in early 2000’s. They gave a two year implementation date for ELD. If you had an AOBRD you weren’t required to convert and they were given more time until the compliance date of December 2019.”

“After that everyone was required to comply with the ELD Mandate’s technical specifications. Those companies, and they were of all sizes, may have had fleet management systems and integrated them with their dispatch systems. So, if you had four loads to dispatch and five trucks available, it would match up what load would go with a driver to match the available hours, and they have continued to do this with ELD.  The ELD Mandate is a technical specification. It did not change the Hours of Service rules.”

Complaints unfounded

It could, therefore, be argued that, because ELD hasn’t changed the hours of service rules, the complaints about the mandate are unfounded. Driver pay is based on several variables, too, and that includes a load revenue basis, delivery time incentives and then there is mileage pay. Much depends on how pay is structured by each carrier.

Moreover, the ELD Mandate only kicks in when a truck reaches a speed of 5mph. It is nevertheless required, as Cuthbertson explains “…to capture all motion segments of the vehicle and, because of that if people move the truck around with the ELD installed without logging in, it will capture unassigned driving segments. This could be mechanics doing road tests, etc. This becomes an unassigned driving segment.  Carriers and drivers must deal with that and assign to the correct driver or correct movement.”

High adoption rate

While some people and fleets may have some misgivings about the ELD Mandate, Fred Fakkema, vice-president of compliance at Zonar, finds that most surveys suggest that there has been a 97% adoption rate of ELDs. “The ongoing trends that I see will be a consolidation of vendors with bigger ELD providers buying out smaller ones”, he says. “Additionally, some fleets are finding that their ELD vendors aren’t up to snuff, or compliant leading them to move on to different vendors.”

More to the point, there is to date been only one company, ONE20, that appears on the ELD revoked list. This was a self-revocation and the FMCSA hasn’t revoked anybody yet. In effect ONE20 removed itself from the market.

Increasing compliance 

Fakkema also believes that the ELD Mandate, “has had a significant impact on the fleet management market including on hours of service (HOS) compliance, which has improved by 50% during roadside inspections since the mandate’s inception. Additionally, there have been several surveys suggesting that that the adoption of ELDs is approximately 97%”.

The mandate offers both opportunities for law enforcement and for trucking fleets to use the data from the devices to become more efficient. Yet, there is also much pressure being placed on truck drivers and, consequently, Fakkema says some media articles suggest that drivers are now having to drive faster to meet their routes. Yet, non-compliance to the ELD Mandate can only add to that pressure as DeLorenzo explains: “If a truck is found without an ELD, they will be required to take a 10-hour rest break and in addition to that there are a variety of monetary penalties that can be assessed. The main way to enforce it is through roadside inspections, but we also investigate fleets at their based for compliance to the ELD Mandate.”

Fakkema adds: “In the past with paper logs, drivers were misrepresenting their times, but with ELDs they can’t do that. So, a 650-mile trip that used to be completed in one day has become a two-day trip.” Subsequently, he says fleets are having to improve their routing to “find ways to help make up the gaps in the time it takes for freight to get where it needs to be because shippers are paying attention to the clock now – they have to.”

ELD misconception

Speaking about load planners’ needs to re-configure journey times owing to the claim that ELD devices ‘cuts short’ route times and, therefore, pushing drivers to speed, DeLorenzo says: “That’s actually a misconception. The allowable hours haven’t changed with the ELD Mandate. They just need to use the electronic device to record their hours, and the advanced planning that companies did before is still important with the ELD.”

Last mile delivery

Cuthbertson also offers his assessment of how the ELD Mandate has led to increases in fleet operators, last mile delivery service and the data that’s needed to help load planners: “Well, a lot of last mile depends on the trucking operation and it’s been said that the average length of haul has reduced to 550 miles on average but the number of loads has increased because of more warehousing that leads to shorter hauls.

“The nature of logistics may have increased the last mile delivery service in my opinion but I don’t think ELD has. The ELD Mandate – if the drivers don’t break the short haul exemption – then they aren’t required to have an ELD.” He concludes that the real value of ELD comes from the data, helping truckers to drive more safely while permitting planners to plan better.”

Long haul impact

Fakkema concludes: “The ELD mandate primarily affects long-haul freight which had and continue to make its deliveries to warehouses which then turn the shipments over to last mile delivery trucks. However, last mile delivery is an open resource and it’s a critical area that I don’t think has been flushed out yet – especially, as you have carriers such as FedEx and UPS, that are starting to use drones. The last mile market is undergoing some fundamental changes and will have to adjust to the new technologies accordingly” – that may include the future introduction of autonomous trucks.


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