Debunking Commonly Held Untruths
There are a ton of myths out there about ELDs, and separating the truth from everything else can be tough. Learn more about the reality of ELDS here and now!
The mandate for electronic logging devices (ELDs) from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration went into effect at the end of 2017. At the time, rumors and misinformation were running wild, and some of the ELD myths have continued even today. Having the wrong idea about this crucial devices can lead owner-operators, fleet managers, and drivers to believe that ELDs are frustrating and make it impossible to make money in the trucking industry.
That’s why we want to look at all the most common myths and find out the actual reality behind it. This will give you authentic information about every myth, so you know whether it’s true or not. But before we delve into the actual myths, we want to first go over what ELDs are and who the mandate is associated with.
- Understanding What ELDs Are All About
- Who Has to Comply with the ELD Mandate
- Myth #1: Using ELDs is Going to Put Owner/Operators Out of Business
- Myth #2: ELDs are All Prohibitively Expensive
- Myth #3: ELDs are Dangerous Since Drivers Interact with Them on the Road
- Myth #4: ELDs are Only an Attempt to Invade the Privacy of Drivers
- Myth #5: The Sole Benefit of an ELD is for Hours of Service Compliance
- Myth #6: An ELD Will Prevent Driver’s Cheating on Logs
- Myth #7: A Smartphone is Just as Useful as an ELD
Understanding What ELDs Are All About
An electronic logging device is a tool that monitors various truck drivers’ stats, including everything from mileage to speed, hours driven, location, and driving habits. The ELD itself will connect to the engine of a truck to determine how and when the truck is moving. It can also specify a truck’s location within a mile of its actual location, or about 10 miles when the truck isn’t on duty.
In addition to those things, it also keeps information about the status of the driver, such as whether they are sleeping, off duty, or currently driving. All of that information is formatted in a specific way and provided to the trucking company. ELDs offer a way to make audits, inspections, and data analysis much easier to get through.
Who Has to Comply with the ELD Mandate
To get one ELD myth out of the way quickly, all trucking companies of any size have to comply with the mandate as long as they meet these requirements:
• Trucks driven were made after the year 2000
• Trucks are driven more than 150 miles from the initial origin point
• The company is keeping more than eight logbook records each month
Any trucking company that meets all of these things should already be complying with the mandate, especially since there are significant penalties if they are not. Also, the ELDs that are required can help you save money on labor, paperwork, and even fuel.
Myth #1: Using ELDs is Going to Put Owner/Operators Out of Business
This first myth is a huge one as many people believed that the requirement for using ELDs would put owner/operators out of business, leaving their employees at risk of losing their jobs. There were a few reasons that people believed this would happen, including the worry about the expense of ELDs, the potential of a loss of driving hours, and the need for strict compliance to hours of service regulations.
Now that these devices are in effect all over the country, we can take on this ELD myth. Drivers don’t need to worry that the requirement of ELDs will lead to owner/operators going out of business. The reality is that once truck drivers have learned to use an ELD and are used to how it works, they may refuse to go back to the hassle of paper logbooks. An ELD like the My20 ELD is simple to use and requires minimal training to put in place.
Also, some truck drivers have found that ELDs can help them spend more time on the road, since the electronic logs record changes in duty status to the minute. When using a paper logbook, most drivers would round up to 15 minutes, which means fewer miles would be logged altogether. As for the price, we’ll get into that in a moment.
Myth #2: ELDs are All Prohibitively Expensive
Yet another ELD myth that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is the one that says all ELDs are majorly expensive, so requiring them is unfair, especially for smaller trucking businesses. While it’s true that the initial ELDs were rather expensive, they made up for that by helping with costs on fuel and insurance premiums. Now that ELDs are commonplace, the price has gone down, and the technology has gone up.
For an example of how affordable an ELD can be, you can look at the simplistic Garmin eLog ELD, which is under $180 and has no subscription fees. While many of the ELDs used by companies do have subscription fees and may be more expensive, the price has gone way down and shouldn’t be a challenge for trucking companies to manage.
The reality behind this ELD myth is that ELDs can save money. The FMCSA estimates a savings of over $700 a year, a swell as 15% less downtown for vehicles, and 20 labor hours per truck each year. Also, vehicle utilization can be improved by 13% using an ELD.
A list of things that ELDs can save you money on include:
- Crash Rate Risks
- Fuel Costs
- Insurance Premiums
- Labor Hours
- Penalties & Violations
Myth #3: ELDs are Dangerous Since Drivers Interact with Them on the Road
Some people who argue that ELDs are ruining the trucking industry believe that these devices can be dangerous since a driver will need to interact with them while driving on the road with other people. However, this is yet another ELD myth that we are happy to debunk for you.
Sure, a driver has to log into an ELD, while moving from on-duty to off-duty of sleeping has to be done manually since the systems today aren’t entirely sure when a driver is doing those things. However, after a driver is on the road, an electronic logging device can recognize when someone is driving or not driving and will update the status on an automatic basis. That means the driver isn’t fiddling with a device or app while driving and is not making the roads more dangerous for anyone.
Since driver interaction isn’t required when using an ELD like the ThinAir ELD, there are instead countdown timers with alerts to the driver, so they never find it a surprise when they are running out of hours. Also, these alerts are implemented in a way where drivers will have plenty of time to find a space to park before they hit their hours of service limits.
Myth #4: ELDs are Only an Attempt to Invade the Privacy of Drivers
This is a common concern among drivers who are worried that their privacy is going to be invaded by their location being monitored continuously. However, this is also an ELD myth, and we want to give drivers some peace of mind as far as this goes. Only the manager of your fleet is going to be able to see where your vehicle is at any time, and that can only occur when the engine is on and running.
This ELD mandate has several provisions for privacy that are intended to create a more peaceful existence for truck drivers. As an example, a driver who uses the truck for their personal needs will only send out location data to their fleet manager if they are within about 10 miles of their last movement while on-duty. This keeps driver privacy intact and only sends the manger information that matters to the company.
Myth #5: The Sole Benefit of an ELD is for Hours of Service Compliance
This is another common ELD myth, although drivers who have used an electronic logging device can tell you that it’s merely not true. ELD technology is robust and continually changing to offer a selection of benefits beyond simply ensuring a driver doesn’t go over their hours of service for a day or week. Most ELDs can capture and then report a selection of driver behavior and vehicle metric data, as well as offering navigation support, vehicle inspection assistance, and job management tools.
As an example, the AES RGT90 offers real-time tracking, live reporting, and even a history log. Drivers can send GPS coordinated by text or view information on a smartphone or tablet. Some ELDs have unique features that help fleet managers support their drivers on a day to day basis. This lets drivers have better control over their time so they can edit, create, and manage their hours on their own.
On top of that, the most modern electronic logging devices integrate with other telematics technology to offer new ways to ensure drivers remain compliant. Besides the hours of service tools, a manager also gets driver feedback, mileage reporting, vehicle inspection reporting, and much more.
Myth #6: An ELD Will Prevent Driver’s Cheating on Logs
While adding an ELD to a truck can help prevent cheating in some ways, there are always ways to get around the barriers for those who are determined. For instance, drivers can still choose to avoid logging in when they are supposed to or can log out early to drive longer. It’s also possible to drive too slowly to prevent the system from switching into drive mode. Other ways to “cheat” the system include changing from on-duty to off-duty in editing mode, using other driver’s info, or logging on-duty time as off-duty.
However, since there is someone who should be monitoring these systems, these things can be discovered more quickly than they would be with a paper log. With TrackEnsure eLog, managers will get damage, pre-trip, and post-trip reports. Miles are recorded, as are fuel purchases, and all IFTA reports can be tracked. Someone who is watching over the information can see when a driver is taking shortcuts or doing something sneaky.
As such, installing electronic logs isn’t the end-all and be-all of watching over drivers. You’ll still need a safety department or other workers who are watching over things to be sure drivers are making the decisions they should be making. It isn’t something you can set and forget; you do need to have an awareness of what is going on with your vehicles and drivers as someone who owns a company.
Myth #7: A Smartphone is Just as Useful as an ELD
Our last ELD myth that we want to debunk is that having a smartphone or a tablet can offer the same functionality. This is not true. While a smartphone can pair with an ELD to provide better functionality, that doesn’t mean that a simple smartphone is going to offer the same benefits as an electronic logging device.
Also, per the ELD mandate, the device must be connected to the truck through the diagnostic port. The only way to connect a smartphone to this port is through using some kind of hardware plug-in. Even in that case, they cannot offer the same benefits and features as an ELD and will not count for being compliant with the current driving regulations.
The ELD mandate wasn’t put into place without a lot of research on the part of the FMCSA, so all the myths above are entirely untrue. If you’ve been holding onto any of these ideas, we hope this article gave you some insight into the realities of these devices and what they can offer to drivers, owner/operators, and fleet managers. These devices are designed to improve safety, increase efficiency, and save money – not the opposite.
Most drivers have come to find that ELDs are a breath of fresh air compared to writing everything down manually in a physical logbook. While learning the system might be overwhelming at first, once that phase is over, you’d be surprised how useful ELDs can be. Just give it a shot and try not to spread any of these rumors any farther than they’ve already gone!