What does an ELD solution do?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has had rules regarding hours of service (HOS) for decades. When it came to enforcing the rules, one of the main problems was that most of the records were kept on paper logs which could be lost or difficult to read.

In the past, some drivers may have driven more hours than legally allowed in order to complete more trips or get deliveries to destinations sooner. In the worst cases, this caused excess fatigue that resulted in a collision, sometimes fatal.

Studies show that excess driving increases the risk of collision, and the rate of critical events increases with the duration of time behind the wheel. HOS rules have resulted in more driver sleep, more driver breaks, and a lower overall risk of having a safety-critical event.

ELD systems (and the accompanying ELD Mandate) eliminated the paperwork problem mainly by automatically tracking driving time, including duration and distance.

What does the ELD mandate require ELD solutions to do?

As of December 2017, ELDs are required for interstate carriers that don’t qualify for a narrow set of exemptions. The FMCSA’s ELD mandate requires ELDs to do the following:

  • Connect to the vehicle’s engine to record if it is in motion
  • Give the driver the option to log on and select one of the following non-driving duty statuses: On-duty, Off-duty, or On-Duty, Not Driving.
  • Supply data in a standardized format that can be transmitted to law enforcement in a number of prescribed ways, including wireless web services, USB, or Bluetooth
  • Graphically show a Record of Duty Status (RODS), so the driver can quickly see the hours in a day
  • Be provider-certified ensuring that the ELD meets the required technical specifications

This article explains the ELD mandate requirements in detail.

What is the difference between an ELD solution and AOBRD?

This is a point of significant confusion in the industry. For quite some time, carriers have been able to record their Record of Duty Status (RODS) with an automatic onboarding recording device (AOBRD).

While AOBRDs were internally synchronized with the vehicle, they typically had much of the same flexibility as using paper logs. An AOBRD was essentially a digital paper logbook.

In 2017, the FMCSA’s ELD mandate assigned a set of technical specifications to this technology. Most of the AOBRDs that were used in the past required updates to meet these specifications. So put simply: an ELD is a logging device that complies with the ELD mandate.

This article explains the difference between an ELD and AOBRD in more detail.

What are the benefits of the ELD system?

While ELDs are required for hours-of-service tracking purposes, the benefits of ELDs go far beyond compliance.

More road time = more money

For starters, the FMCSA had estimated that drivers spent an average of 20 hours per year filling out driver logs on paper, along with additional required paperwork.

The utilization of ELDs and electronic logging systems can reduce paperwork time by approximately 15 minutes per day, according to FMCSA. In addition, another five or more hours per week can be added to the drive time due to the precise nature of ELDs, as opposed to rounding up to the nearest 15 minutes, as was the case with paper logs.

The bottom line: more road time means more money for drivers and more profitability for operators.

Audible warnings when it’s time to rest

The old method of relying on your watch to let you know when you were getting close to reaching your HOS limit is now a thing of the past. Many ELDs audibly warn drivers when their HOS limit is near. They may also give an audible alarm when it’s time for a required 30-minute break.

Motive’s ELD solutions have alerts in the mobile app that can notify drivers when they are close to their limit. They can set whether it’s 60 minutes, 45 minutes, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, or never. There are also text-to-speech alerts, which if enabled, will read out the notification as well.

Liability reduction or exoneration

Let’s face it, collisions happen. In many cases, collisions end up in lawsuits, whether or not the commercial vehicle driver was at fault.

Data from an ELD, such as truck speed, road time, and other information can often prove that the fault lies somewhere other than on the commercial vehicle driver. This data can be used in court as evidence.

An ELD and dash cam combination can provide more evidence to support or even exonerate a driver involved in a collision. In some cases, an electronic logging system can be the difference between winning or losing a lawsuit, and that can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars saved.

Reduced insurance costs

Trucking fleets that use ELD solutions may qualify for lower insurance premiums and may help fleets with safety. According to Transport Topics, “ELD data can show which vehicles urgently require preventative maintenance to avoid catastrophic component failures and allows fleets to keep safer, better performing vehicles on the road.”

In addition, all ELDs have GPS tracking features, increasing the chance of recovery in the case of theft. Many insurers offer standard discounts to all vehicles with GPS tracking devices installed.

Expedited inspections

In the past, many truckers waited several hours to get through freeway truck inspection stations. That’s because the driver and inspector had to dig through handwritten logs looking for HOS data and any potential violations.

The process took a long time and kept drivers from getting back on the road. The elog system can instantly show inspection officers exactly what they need to know, allowing drivers to zip through the stations and get back on the road in a significantly shorter amount of time. Driver training and documentation can also simplify inspections.

HOS upcoming changes

While not yet implemented, the FMCSA has proposed amendments to its HOS requirements to provide greater flexibility for drivers subject to the HOS rules without adversely affecting safety.

This would be accomplished by:

  • Altering the short-haul exception to the record of duty status (RODS) requirement available to certain commercial motor vehicle drivers
  • Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception
  • Increasing flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after eight hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time)
  • Allowing on-duty/not driving periods as qualifying breaks from driving

They are also considering modifying the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to spend a minimum of seven hours in the berth combined with a minimum two-hour off-duty period, provided the combined periods total 10 hours (rather than the current 8/2 split), and allowing one off-duty break that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window.

The FMCSA has estimated that the proposed changes in the HOS rules would save $274 million for consumers and the economy.

How electronic logs systems can save time and money for commercial fleets

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when complying with the ELD Mandate is that ELD solutions can help commercial fleets save both time and money while increasing safety on the road.

In the trucking industry, time is money, so here’s a recap of a few ways the correct ELD solution can help save both:

  • Reduced HOS violations
  • Time saved managing logs
  • Lower insurance rates
  • More on-road efficiency
  • Lower crash rates
  • Fuel cost savings by monitoring bad driving behaviors
  • Faster roadside inspections

What you should expect in an ELD solution

When looking for an ELD compliance solution, you should look for the following features:

  • Bluetooth and USB capabilities, which can help ensure compliance even when cellular reception isn’t there
  • Automated IFTA Reporting, so the ELD can automatically calculate the distance traveled and fuel purchased by jurisdiction
  • HOS alerts, giving the driver advances notification when upcoming breaks are required
  • Automatically generate Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs) to alert the driver and operator of any potential defects before they become dangerous
  • Instant messaging lets your back office know of any problems, where the driver is headed, and any other communication needs
  • Storage of the accumulated data
  • GPS tracking
  • Reliability. The ELD solution you pick should be reliable to ensure compliance. Learn what to do when your ELD goes down.

Request a free demo of the Motive ELD solution today to learn how it can help optimize and streamline your fleet operations.