For many fleets, large and small, the ELD mandate of Dec.2017 is enabling the discovery of the multiple benefits of a fleet telematics solution. There are several important business ramifications, and it’s not only about limiting the service hours in a driver’s work-day.
While the primary objective of enforcing Hours-of-Service (HoS) regulations is to make sure that fatigued drivers are not at the wheel, the mandate is likely to reduce operational costs in the trucking industry by doing away with about as much as a billion dollar’s worth annually of paperwork expenses. Operationally, the mandate is likely to have its effect on scheduling as well as pricing.
The ELD mandate, importantly, would prevent around 26 fatalities and avert around 550 injuries each year as per FMCSA’s figures. Prima facie, the first level of change is that automatic data tracking and tamper-resistant ELD devices would make HOS compliance much stricter. Drivers would be more compliant with wayside inspection requirements and be in a better position to pass them without any penalty.
Don’t forget, carriers would, post the deadline, need to pay up $100 at the least for every violation cited.
ELD helps optimize freight operation
The ELD mandate brings fresh challenges to planners and dispatch staff to avail of available HOS and at the same time avoid any violations. The mandate is going to ensure compliance with a driver’s permitted service hours, and the fleet’s customers will have to accept the impact this will have on freight deliveries. Carriers will have to do messaging to change customers’ expectations.
Some fleets have defined the market segment they will cater to. They look at the hours actually available and have their sales team talking to customers to inform them that freight will not be able to cover more than 500 miles in a single day. Parking availability near customer sites is another issue that can affect delivery time.
A round of reorganization is going to improve efficiency in routing, dispatch and utilization of driving hours.
Put compliance policies in place at the earliest
Many carriers have created documents for their safety and compliance policies, yet there’s merit in updating these after moving to ELDs.
- Higher accuracy – Drivers have been recording time in 15-min intervals while using paper logs. A few minutes here or there were simply rounded off. Everyone will now have to get more precise about the full quota of off-duty hours between shifts, and about maximum driving time. This is because ELDs are up-to-the-minute, so a driver cannot be even five minutes past his driving time or a violation gets recorded.
- Dispatchers account for all driving time – When no driver is logged in to the ELD, and there are movements of the truck, all such movements must be accepted or rejected by its driver in their next login. If the driver doesn’t accept those events, then the dispatcher must review and assign all such unassigned events to the concerned drivers or annotate the record for why it remains unassigned. A fleet will need to depute someone to oversee the occurrence of such events and manage this responsibility of assigning them.
- Use of trucks as PC by drivers – Personal conveyance (PC) is a common use among truck drivers, and the ELD has an indication for such off-duty vehicle use. Companies should take cognizance of the FMCSA’s guideline about it and frame a policy on such PC usage.
- ELD device issues – In the event of a device malfunction, the driver must notify the carrier in writing within 24 hours. The driver should keep the HOS record on a paper log while the device is down, and the device should be repaired or substituted within 8 days. A fleet will need to liaise with its ELD provider for attending to a Malfunctioning device, and even with the FMCSA if necessary.
- Yard Moves – Within the yard, drivers should push the “Yard Moves” button so that it is not shown as driving time, but as on-duty not driving time. In case your fleet has mechanics or other personnel maneuvering the vehicle in the yard, then the device will show it as unassigned driving time, and the dispatcher must annotate the record and keep an account of such time. It may be convenient to give such mechanics an ELD user account so that they can be identified and assigned the driving time.
- Correcting an ELD record – Errors can be corrected, both by drivers as well as other personnel, but within a timeframe. Fleets will need to be sure about who can carry out such corrections in an ELD record. Any edit has to have an annotation giving the reason for the edit and the driver has to certify it as being correct. If the driver does not do so, it goes on record as being uncertified. The device retains the original record along with the edits.
The exercise in reviewing policy and operations will improve visibility for management to increase daily productivity. In the next instalment which is coming soon, we look at the training required, DVIR and wayside inspections, and how to avert penalties.