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A Year In, How Is the ELD Mandate Benefitting Businesses?

by Wendy Buxton | Feb 21, 2019

As more supply chains undergo digital transformation, actual drivers and fleets are still catching up to the digital revolution. While some were already using devices in an effort to reduce paperwork, the government gave the industry an extra push with the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate for commercial drivers in 2015. It has now been a little over a year since the first ELD deadline passed in December 2017, and the final compliance deadline for “grandfathered” ELDs is December 16, 2019.

 

What’s the big deal with the ELD rule?

The ELD mandate was a big win for safety advocates, since ELDs make it easier to ensure that commercial drivers are not driving too long, too fast, or recklessly. Parts of the transportation industry, however, have struggled to come to terms with the new rule. Fleets that were already grappling with how to meet speedier consumer expectations are now concerned with their drivers’ ability to meet strenuous ELD requirements. Other companies are worried about the financial burden of re-equipping their entire fleet.

 

Electronic devices in commercial vehicles weren’t a new idea when the ELD mandate passed, but the use of ELDs to track hours of service (HOS) for records of duty status (RODS) caused a stir. For long-haul truckers making cross-country trips, the new rules often mean stopping for a long break well before they get home. Nearly half of all truck owner-operators have reported a decrease in the length of their hauls since the mandate took effect. Two-thirds of independent drivers reported losing income in 2018, the first full year the rule was in place.

 

There was a window to apply for an exemption, but it seems most commercial drivers are still on the hook. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has denied at least 10 requests for deadline extensions, although it did suspend the requirements for livestock haulers until further notice.

 

More than just safety benefits

Although there seems to have been some negative impact on independent driver income, other benefits have softened the industry’s response to the ELD mandate. Since ELDs track by the minute rather than in 15-minute increments, some drivers are finding they have more hours available than they had with paper logs. Fleet dispatchers and operations staff now have real-time access to data on every driver and can intervene in cases where a violation might occur — from speeding to finding a safe parking spot to rest.

 

And since drivers’ information is automatically shared with dispatchers, drivers no longer need to spend time making check-calls or doing RODS paperwork. They don’t have to worry about reviewing their HOS logs for errors, and inspections go more smoothly because everything is digital. The use of ELDs documents a trucker’s driving safety, which can lead to higher pay rates and incentive bonuses. For business operators, ELDs also monitor idle time tracking, which encourages employees to reduce fuel waste. The data collected by ELDs has the potential to help companies identify better routes and reduce liability and even insurance premiums.

 

ELD data is key to helping transporters and the supply chains they serve maintain a competitive edge. Someday — potentially soon — we may see the integration of driving data into automated systems. This integration could lead to customized alerts for potential early or delayed shipments. Beyond road safety, the data collection potential of the ELD mandate is massive.