By Joseph Evangelist
Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange
For those fleets still operating with AOBRDs that have not even begun the process of investigating your ELD options, time is running out. By now everyone should know that the final deadline for compliance with the ELD mandate is this December 18. On that day every motor carrier and driver that is required to keep records of duty status (RODS) must be have their trucks equipped with ELDs.
One of the issues with choosing the right ELD is the number of manufacturers that have registered as having compliant ELDs. There are hundreds of firms listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website. That’s a lot of options to sort through and is complicated by the fact that some of the firms are just resellers of the device and are simply overlaying their own software.
During the selection process, you need to determine which type of hardware you want. Do you want something that is an all-in-one device? If you go that route you may find out later that it doesn’t give you the flexibility that you want. Here at Transervice we are transitioning to a tablet-based device for the flexibility it will give us. ELDs have been installed on our trucks for 10 years and we are making the switch to allow us to be able to do more with a single device and also because tablets are easy to use. However, for some fleets a simple device that just records hours of service will work fine.
You need to ask yourself if there are other things you want your ELD to do. Do you want it to allow you to get a better understanding of fleet maintenance and fuel usage? There are ancillary benefits that can put on the device that go far beyond data logging. You need to determine what is right for your operation. If you just want to log drivers’ Hours of Service then a compliant ELD will do the job. However, if you want more visibility into your operation, then you want a device with more functionality.
When you are investigating ELD supplier options make sure to ask about support. What happens if the device fails? How do you replace it? And how quickly can it be replaced?
As much as possible, try to future proof the device. In other words, try to find a device that is going to last the next three to five years based on current standards and upcoming changes, like the move to 5G.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, start the process by talking to other fleets that have already made the switch to ELDs. Ask them about the pros and cons of the devices they are using. You also need to set a budget for the project that includes not only the cost per unit and installation costs, but also any costs associated with any data plans you may have to purchase.
In a perfect world, once you have narrowed down your list of possible devices you should demo your options in several of your vehicles to see how they perform. At this point, though, fleets are losing the luxury of time to do this. I still recommend this step if you can do it. Trying the device out lets you see how your drivers interact with it and if it gives you the information you want.
With or without a demo, you need to begin to investigate your ELD options today. Remember you are not the only ones who still needs to make the switch. There are hundreds of companies that have yet to purchase their devices. While device manufacturers are ramping up production and trying to get devices out as quickly as possible, there is the potential for shortages of hardware and you may have to settle for a device that is not exactly right for you in order to meet the compliance deadline.