Three ELD tips for small fleets

Done right, fleets will be able to turn the necessary challenge of ELD compliance into a profitable opportunity.

As we all know, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is requiring all U.S. trucks and buses to be equipped with electronic logging devices (ELDs) or automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) by December 18 this year. Yet switching to electronic logging may seem daunting to smaller-sized motor carriers. In this guest column, Justin Green – truck consultant with the commercial truck solutions team at Element Fleet Management – highlights three things small fleets should keep in mind as they make this transition.

The concerns that come with such a rapid change as the upcoming ELD mandate are understandable, but smaller trucking operations shouldn’t be nervous about ELD compliance.

The cost of installing ELD devices on each vehicle may seem like a daunting task, especially for small fleets with already-thin profit margins; but profit, performance and productivity don’t have to suffer at the hands of compliance – it’s quite the opposite.

The telematics solutions offered by many ELDs can improve all three, and reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) along the way.

In fact, with thorough education and preparedness, fleets will be able to turn the necessary challenge of ELD compliance into a profitable opportunity.

Here are three ways to help drivers and fleet managers prepare to switch over to ELDs:

  1. Know What Makes a Compliant ELD
Justin Green

Tracking driver hours electronically in commercial vehicles isn’t a new concept. For the upcoming ELD rule, however, a smart phone app – or even an ABORD – won’t cut it.

A compliant ELD must be self-certified, registered with the FMCSA and meet a few minimum technical standards:

  • Performs consistently while maximizing end-user interface flexibility and minimizing carrier costs.
  • Generates standard outputs to facilitate consistent enforcement.
  • Includes minimum output requirements for electronically transferred, displayed and printed information.
  • Meets the requirements of Appendix A to Subpart B of Part 395 of the FMCSA Regulations.

Approved ELDs also allow for manual inputs in case carriers and drivers need to annotate or explain any unusual circumstances – and knowing those circumstances to begin with will be an important part of driver education.

However, fleet managers don’t need to figure all of this out on their own: fortunately, the FMCSA has listed available registered devices and their manufacturers on their website.

  1. Learn the Rules and Exemptions

The ELD Rule is expected to impact three million commercial drivers currently using paper log books to maintain hours-of-service (HOS) records. It’s important that fleet managers and drivers alike enforce proper operation and follow the rules regarding total driving time and rest periods. The complete, final ELD rule can be found here.

There are a few exemptions, which include:

  • CDL commercial drivers with routes within a 100-air-mile radius of their starting point.
  • Non-CDL commercial drivers on routes within a 150-air-mile radius of their starting point.
  • Drivers conducting “drive away-tow away” operations, such as delivering and dropping off vehicles.
  • Drivers operating vehicles manufactured before model year 2000.
  • Drivers required to log less than eight days within a 30-day time period.

It’s also important not to be confused about when enforcements begin. While the ELD Rule will go into effect December 18, roadside inspectors won’t be putting any vehicles out of service until April 2018.

However, failure to comply with the ELD mandate will still lead to citations and tickets.

The main thing to remember is that, despite some ELD-specific exemptions, the rules on exemptions and logging will stay the same.

  1. Help Drivers Learn the Rules, Too; And How to Talk About Them

Driver training is going to be critical as the ELD rule goes into effect. Not only do drivers need to know the rules and requirements – and abide by them – but they also need to know how to work with enforcement officers during an inspection.

If drivers are exempt, they should be aware of the exact exemptions, know how to speak about them and provide the right information.

While the FMCSA has defined the standard outputs of an approved ELD, as mentioned above, they also require the ability to clearly display and/or electronically transfer data to enforcement officers during an inspection.

Each state may have its own laws on how to transfer this data to the officer. Working with an ELD partner to enforce a proper driver training program specific to a fleet’s routes will help drivers avoid citations.

There are additional rules – and now waivers – regarding rental vehicles, which must still abide under the ELD mandate, unassigned drivers and driver hours.

In addition to working with a knowledgeable ELD partner, the FMCSA website has a section for drivers and carriers with helpful checklists and other resources.

The right ELD partner will take an end-to-end approach to thoroughly understand your business, educate your fleet team and identify meaningful improvement metrics before recommending an optimal, integrated product solution.

While there is still much to learn about the upcoming ELD mandate, taking a balanced look at the opportunities that come with compliance will help fleets feel comfortable about the changes – reducing bumps in the road and, hopefully, running a more productive and profitable fleet at the end of the day.

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