From managing logistics to dispatching and delivery, the focus for trucking in the past decade has been to attain higher accuracy, efficiency and safety in moving of goods across North America. More and more commercial motor carriers have been deploying telematics and other software systems to drive their logistics and administration online and use these technologies for more granular fleet visibility and business analytics.
As the result of improving operational efficiencies, driver safety has become yet another cornerstone of digitization priorities for fleet managers and vendors alike. And the launch of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate in 2018 in the U.S. – with the Canadian one looming on the horizon – is a testament to that.
The purpose of the ELDs is, essentially, to eliminate the use of daily paper logs and their inaccuracies in recording drivers’ hours of service (HOS). HOS limits were put in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to ensure commercial drivers get a sufficient amount of rest before continuing with their on-duty time, which is the cornerstone to reducing road fatigue that accounts for one-third of traffic collisions.
While this is all sound and logical, there is a caveat – fleets and their drivers rely on the volume of goods they haul to stay profitable. When the wheels are not turning, they are not making money. As a result, driver paper logs were easily falsified, incomplete, duplicated or missing all together in order to evade HOS regulations and keep their own schedules. This made it very difficult for safety personnel to detect instances of non-compliance at roadside inspections and during safety audits.
With the introduction of ELDs, however, the recording of hours of service is fully computerized and automated, thus creating more accuracy and accountability. Even though there is flexibility and greater control by drivers over their hours, backlash from fleets and their drivers was expected.
Nonetheless, there are ELD supporters, too, as the administration and logging process has become much easier and less time-consuming, inspection times at weigh stations are much faster, and dispatching has improved significantly. There is a greater appreciation of supply chain inefficiencies currently taking place, because everyone is now playing by the same rules.
Canada has long recognized the benefits of electronic logging in regard to driver safety and accountability, and that ELDs will transform the future of transportation in a very substantive way. In June 2021, the Canadian ELD mandate will go into effect, reflecting many of the U.S. mandate provisions, but with made in Canada-specific requirements.
As it often happens, the launch of the ELD mandate in the U.S. came with numerous operational challenges that spurred a learning curve and improvements to the rulemaking are made to this day. There are two main ones, however. The first one revolved around occasional incorrect citations from DOT inspectors due to confusion over ELD and automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) rules. Some safety personnel were not familiar with the differences, especially pertaining to log data transfers that varied from one device to another. This has become a source of much debate for roadside inspection protocol, and Canada has elected to not include a grandfathering process for AOBRDs (as the U.S. did) to avoid the confusion.
Another issue stemmed from the ELD vendor self-certification and poor customer support. While vendors interested in servicing ELDs were provided with the FMCSA checklist rulebook, they were not officially certified by the FMCSA with rigorous auditing. This created a fertile ground for quick-and-dirty ELD products that did not comply with the functional requirements or the necessary customer support, leaving drivers on the road to their fates. Some vendors have folded, lacking the necessary infrastructure and the needed financial investment, and completely abandoned their customers. As a result, the Canadian ELD mandate will include a third-party certification process for vendors to ensure compliance in the rulemaking, including the U.S. ELD models to protect drivers who operate in both the U.S. and Canada.
There are vendors that also provide additional value-added benefits beyond HOS compliance, such as digital load-matching platforms, like BigRoad Freight, to create more revenue-generating opportunities for drivers who are looking for loads that fit within their remaining HOS limits. With a load-matching application on their mobile device, drivers can look for loads themselves or post their truck with specifications to confirm availability for shippers. This type of software is becoming available to fleets as well, helping the industry tackle logistics issues and optimize load distribution per miles driven – and ELD is a key component, as it creates immediate online visibility to the necessary data for drivers, fleet managers and shippers.
With help from: Marc Moncion, Vice President of Safety, Compliance & Regulatory Affairs at Fleet Complete