Claims of high costs could spur legislative intervention
There is growing talk of a possible bill in Congress that would kill the upcoming electronic logging device (ELD) rule that goes into effect on Dec. 18 of this year due to claims that the devices represent too high a cost for individual truckers to implement, sources have told FreightWaves.
While no physical bill exists at this point, the mere conversation is enough to cause another disruption to a process that has been anything but smooth to this point. ELD manufacturers are ready with devices, but there is concern among them that issues will appear due to the large numbers of carriers and owner-operators that are waiting until the last minute, if at all, to purchase. Continued talk that the rule may be delayed or cancelled only adds to the concern that many will wait until the deadline nears to purchase.
A recent Morgan Stanley report found that nearly 30% of carriers are not yet in full compliance with the rule and 8% have equipped less than 33% of their fleets. It also said that 15% of carriers do not expect to be fully compliant when Dec. 18 rolls around. That lack of compliance undoubtedly played a role in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) announcing that it will not issue out-of-service orders for not having a compliant ELD as of Dec. 18. Instead, violations will be issued and out-of-service orders will commence on April 1, 2018.
Carriers using a grandfathered automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD) have until Dec. 16, 2019, to comply with the ELD provision providing the AOBRD meets the requirements of 49 C.F.R. 395.15.
“Setting an April 1, 2018, effective date for applying the ELD OOSC will provide the motor carrier industry, shippers and the roadside enforcement community with time to adjust to the new requirement before vehicles are placed out of service for ELD violations,” CVSA said.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) had asked the Supreme Court to intervene and rule that FMCSA’s ELD rule violated the 4th Amendment rights of truck drivers against warrantless search and seizure. It also argued that the rule did not meet Congressional requirements before FMCSA finalized it. A Chicago 7th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel heard the case last September, but rejected OOIDA’s arguments in October. An appeal to the entire 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was also rejected and in June the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
That was expected to be the end of it, but since then there have been two separate bills introduced seeking to delay the rule. One instructs FMCSA to study whether delay or changes to the rule are appropriate; the other simply delays implementation two years. A separate amendment attached to a must-pass spending bill by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) that would have denied funding for enforcement of the rule was removed by the representative yesterday.
OOIDA has been the lead in pushing for a delay of the rule, and Spokesperson Norita Taylor told FreightWaves the organization would be happy with any delay.
“We are very concerned about FMCSA refusing to certify devices that they are mandating and which cost the industry $2 billion. The agency has also failed to answer important questions from Congress and industry stakeholders about issues related to enforcement, connectivity, data transfers and cybersecurity vulnerabilities. We support efforts to delay the mandate,” she says.
But while the high cost to implement the devices is the latest argument for stopping the rule, there are plenty of options available for those who still need devices at prices that will meet most budgets. Each provider must self-certify that their devices meet FMCSA standards. As of Aug. 30, there were 99 different devices registered as complying, all offering various degrees of functionality and price points.
For instance, One20 is marketing its F-ELD device. That device costs $169.99 as a one-time fee and includes no monthly service fees, says Amanda Ford, vice president of marketing and corporate operations. Some drivers who work for One20 partners, such as certain carriers affiliated with C.H. Robinson, can get the device at a discounted rate of $117.99, again with no monthly service fees. The device also comes with free Gold Level roadside assistance which includes a 25-mile tow among other benefits, and additional services such as truck-safe navigation, access to discounted tires, and more.
Love’s Travel Stops is offering the Transflo HOS device for $140 and Diamond, Platinum or Gold status members will instantly receive $140 in My Love Rewards points when the device is paid for in full with cash or credit. My Love Rewards members who download the Transflo HOS mobile app and register for e-log service will pay a $20 monthly fee for the service, but receive $20 in My Love Rewards points for each month of paid service through June 2018. Essentially, the device and service is free for My Love Rewards members through June 2018.
There are other low-cost ELDs as well that offer basic hours-of-service compliance. Prices for the devices start to rise as they add more functionality. For most providers, monthly fees range from about $20 to $70. Some have upfront costs to purchase the devices, others do not. Some of the more expensive devices go far beyond basic hours reporting to include engine data and other telematics functions that can provide larger fleets with more back-office capabilities to improve overall operations.
Some providers, such as Keep Truckin, offer different levels of ELD options. A Keep Truckin ELD capable of log auditing, GPS tracking, electronic DVIR, messaging, reports and hours-of-service tracking costs $20 per month per vehicle. If you want added functionality such as IFTA fuel tax reporting, idle time tracking, vehicle diagnostics, driver scorecards and soon-to-be released geofencing, then the $30 per month device is for you. Both options come with no upfront hardware or implementation costs.
Keep Truckin also provides a list of benefits that can be derived from ELD devices. These include reduced fuel use, improved communication between drivers and fleet managers, fewer hours-of-service violations, avoidance of roadside penalties, reduced paperwork and administrative burden, generation of IFTA fuel tax reports in minutes, improved vehicle maintenance, and avoiding breakdowns due to maintenance issues.
TMW Systems released a white paper recently that touted the benefits of a more robust ELD solution.
“Some commercial fleets and drivers view the mandate solely as another expensive regulation, one that not only requires investment in onboard technology, but also – at least in the near-term – will reduce driver and equipment productivity,” the paper stated. “Others have taken a longer view by coordinating their investment in ELD compliance with strategies aimed at reducing vehicle operating costs, improving service levels, implementing new driver retention initiatives and enhancing overall business competitiveness.”
For those fleets and drivers that pick a more comprehensive solution, they are choosing to go down the road of a more “connected enterprise.”
“Every compliant ELD – whether a “dedicated” unit or a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) tethered to a smartphone or tablet – performs the same baseline functions, recording key data such as driver information, engine hours, vehicle miles and more,” TMW noted. “A key difference between ELDs and earlier electronic logging solutions such as automatic on-board recording devices (AORB), is that ELDs record a wider range of important vehicle operating data from driving segments.”
This data can include vehicle location; vehicle motion status; engine power status; total engine hours; total miles driven; and vehicle speed.
“The primary purpose of this data stream, of course, is to accurately document a driver’s record of duty status (RODS), including hours of service (HOS), and to make this information available on-demand via an electronic interface during a roadside inspection,” it added. “But ELD technology also represents an invaluable business intelligence resource in the form of real-time visibility into vehicle, load and driver status.”
Fleets choosing this path to compliance will pay more for their solution, but the wealth of data and potential to generate savings in other areas of the business may offset much of that cost. FMCSA estimates the average cost of ELD technology to be $495 per vehicle per year, or $41.25 per month. The low-end cost, representing baseline ELD functionality, is approximately $165 per truck per year, while more robust solutions can rise to $800 or more per vehicle, TMW said.
“Every vehicle owner, whether an owner operator or a commercial fleet, makes equipment investments based on probable ROI, and the ELD decision is no different,” said Brian Larwig, vice president and general manager, analytics and decision support systems. “Given the differences in functionality in available ELD solutions, going for a low-end choice could actually cost more over time.”