Logistics Technology Getting a Boost with ELD Adoption
By Kevin Abbott, Vice President, North American Surface Transportation, C.H. Robinson
If you don't work directly in transportation or logistics, you may not have heard about an upcoming technology regulation that could have a big impact on the overall market. Back in 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a new regulation for trucking companies.
Informally referred to as the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, the regulation stipulates that truck fleets have until December 2017 (yes just a few months from now) to transition to ELDs.
ELD mandate: The pros
First and foremost, the mandate is meant to create safer road conditions-for truck drivers and everyone else too. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), compliance with the ELD mandate will prevent around 1,500 crashes, 475 injuries, and 22 deaths each year. (1) Beyond this, there are several additional benefits and opportunities of the regulation:
- Carrier savings. Because tracking hours of service (HOS) on paper logs is so manual compared to the automated nature of ELDs, the FMCSA predicts the ELD mandate will save $1.6 billion per year in time and money spent on paperwork alone. (2)
- Added efficiency. For those carriers that choose a more robust ELD, access to on-demand ELD data will provide better visibility to available hours, and predictability for more efficient strategies when securing freight.
- Reduced driver workload. According to the FMCSA, a part of the $1.6 billion in savings comes from drivers saving an average of 20+ hours per year completing paper logbooks. (3) Instead, drivers can simply push "check in" and "check out" buttons on their ELD device.
- Reduced violations. Because law enforcement can receive data wirelessly with ELDs, it's faster and easier for them to verify a driver's HOS than with paper logs and there's less room for error.
ELD mandate: The cons
Despite all the good ELDs can bring to the industry, the mandate poses several challenges for carriers that are required to adopt them:
- Initial capital investment. The initial cost of equipping a single truck with an ELD can be concerning-especially for small carriers and owner/operators. And those who can't afford a more robust ELD will not gain as much benefits from the barebones versions available.
- Driver training. All drivers transitioning from traditional paper logs to an ELD will require education and training to use the ELD and meet the requirements of the mandate.
- Difficulty choosing an ELD solution. There are more than 40 ELD solutions currently available, each with their own unique features, pricing, and capabilities. Carriers need to find the right solution for their business without waiting until the last minute to become compliant. Once carriers make a decision, they need to ensure their smartphones support the device. To make things more complex, all devices will require a cable that connects to the truck. Cables differ based on ELD, type of truck, and year produced.
The tech behind ELDs
At a bare minimum, ELDs can accurately record and efficiently track the HOS of professional truck drivers and commercial motor carriers. But the regulation has inspired many companies to develop ELDs that have much more to offer. ELDs that are more robust provide helpful data that trucking companies can use to better understand their commitments and loads.
According to the mandate, the ELD rule is not intended to require location monitoring of any sort. While ELDs are not required to provide time or location stamps beyond certain events (such as transitions into or out of driving time and every hour of driving time), carriers and truck drivers looking for these capabilities can choose a product with these options.
The mandate is for truckers, will it affect me?
The biggest discussion topic is if the ELD mandate will affect the availability of trucks on the road. If it does, there's the potential that products won't be delivered on time, or prices will rise to meet increased demand.
While the new law most directly affects carriers that will need to implement ELDs, if you work for a company that has products to move, your truckload strategy may experience some changes. And as an individual, there's the possibility that the products you purchase every day are impacted. No one can predict the future, and it's difficult to know to what degree these changes will occur, if at all.
ELD technology drives change
ELDs have the potential to change the way carriers and shippers work together to deliver goods to keep our world moving. But just like other new technology, how ELDs are implemented matters a great deal.
Shippers need to be supportive of the carriers they work with while they implement the new technology. And carriers that are able to choose an ELD based on long-term goals-perhaps one with more robust capabilities-will be more prepared for what the future holds. Like with any big change, preparation and planning will be key, no matter what role you play.
1 Federal Register, "Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents: A Proposed Rule by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,"