The ELD Topic
Most of us get excited when a new phone is released or about cool updates in the tech world. But how do you feel when new technology can impact your wages? The technology on many of our minds is the electronic logging devices. While some think they will help productivity, others feel as though they will cut into wages. We look at both sides of the battle, and you can choose your own victor.
All Eyes On You
For many truckers, they got started in the business because of the “be your own boss” feeling that comes with the job. You can set your own schedule and even have some say with load scheduling decisions. Either way you have more independence than a 9 to 5 inside a cubicle.
With all the news of the ELD mandate, that attraction of independence is fading. Soon drivers will be constantly monitored and under the subjection of the ELD forcing them to stop and rest, regardless if they’re only 30 min away from the final destination. This may result in less money to be made as it will be impossible to run as hard or as long as you can with paper log books. From a health standpoint, if the ELD forces you to park when you’re not tired, you may not sleep and will be still be tired when it tells you to start again. Many drivers definitely have missed feelings about this new way of tracking their time.
On the positive side, it means no more arguments with dispatch over driving time. When the ELD says to stop, you stop. Some companies have the tendency to push as much as they can in a week. With the electronic method drivers can’t be pushed to drive for too long. Some have even found they have spent less time at DOT stations, as the officers seem to be more concerned with how many hours you have left.
Time can also be saved when the driver no longer has to worry about keeping the log book organized. ELDs make it easy to find specific entries via searching by keyword.
So while it’s obvious to see the impact on the driver, what does this mean for a trucking company like T&P?
All Eyes On Us
With paper log books currently in place, it requires roughly 80 – 100 hours per month of work to process these paper records into a digital format. From getting drivers to drop off their log books, to entering each one into the JJ Keller software. It then requires a visual check to ensure everything is accurate. Once that is complete, our safety manager then checks these records against the recorded miles, time stamps and rest stops. It doesn’t take long to see how this process has lots of room for error and consumes a lot of man hours.
With a paperless system the records are consistently accurate and actually legible. As the system will log all hours, procedure summaries, and any service violations, this has the potential to save our administration, operations and safety departments plenty of time. This all adds up to less money and time being spent on log books.
Small companies and owner operators have a second issue to face: the cost.
There are about 8 – 10 leaders in the ELD battle field. Some offer full installations of integrated hardware, others offer unobtrusive solutions that work off of a smart phone or tablet that communicate with a simple device plugged into a trucks diagnostic port.
Some of these options don’t sound too burdensome, and can range as low as $400 a month with a first year cost of $4800. Others you may need to sit down for, as they can hit $37,000 with a $800 monthly fee. (Prices based on a 20 vehicle fleet)
Just like when you buy anything these days, the cheapest doesn’t always mean the best. As a trucking company, we need to do our research to determine a multitude of aspects such as:
- How will the product hold up over time?
- What kind of software/hardware support is available?
- Does the hardware allow for easy upgrades or features?
- Is the interface adaptable and intuitive to use?
- Will the vendor keep their systems up to date with FMSCA rules?
When To Act
Some companies were quick to implement certified ELDs soon after the mandate was enacted in 2012. They may believe that the sooner a company implements them, the sooner they can start saving money and time. Others want to put it off until the end, and ride out the paper log books as long as they can.
So when really is the best time to get on it?
The ELD mandate comes into full effect in December 2017. It is believed that there still may be up to 75% of fleets that don’t have any type of recorder in their trucks. So there is a strong possibility of a ‘log-jam’ effect when December 2017 gets here. With so many companies rushing to get equipment installed, chances are they may end up having to wait longer for shipping or any technical support.
If they have to wait too long, it could start to affect their profits. The FMCSA will also fine companies that take too long in the adaption process.
T&P Takes Action
At T&P, we have decided to wait until the start of the 2017 year. As with most new technology and products, the first few years are when the BETA testing is done and the companies are working to get rid of all the bugs. They also work off feedback to deliver a product that is truly user friendly. With so much competition out there, some smaller ELD companies may not make it very long.
We are looking to find a product that is not only financially viable, but one that can also deliver with strong technical support and a solid foundation that can serve us well into the future. As drivers, dispatchers, and managers, we all have our own hopes and anxieties for what this new system will bring.
T&P tries to do whatever we can to keep our drivers and employees happy. It is our goal to find a strong product that we will keep money in our drivers pockets, help them to drive safe, and hopefully find themselves with more time for their families.