Deploying ELD: The Challenges of Waiting Until the Eleventh Hour

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) ELD mandate has been a hot topic since it was first introduced.  Questions and concerns have been discussed since day one: delays, petitions, exceptions…all key considerations when it comes to the proposed ELD rule.  A major concern is the burden the mandate may place on smaller carriers and the “large price tag” simply for the sake of compliance with Hours of Service rules.  However, those two concerns are not as straightforward as they may seem.  Let us break it down based on what we’ve seen happening throughout the industry.

We have witnessed a huge increase in the adoption of ELD technology in recent years.  Not just for compliance, but also for the multitude of benefits the complete solution offers to fleets, including safety and efficiency benefits.  The savings associated with those benefits – lower insurance and legal costs, fuel savings from improved load management, and route efficiencies to name a few – serve to yield savings over time.  This is good news for both fleet owners/operators and technology providers.  Why?  Because regardless of the direction the ELD mandate goes, the technology will still be there.  It will continue to evolve, the benefits will continue to grow, and fleets will reap the benefits from operating safer, more efficient vehicles.

The focus on compliance versus the benefit of the technologies to the industry, however, can be very confusing for fleet owners and owner operators.  Those remaining on the fence in hopes of further delays or abolishment will either find themselves scrambling at the last minute to implement the technology in an unrealistic timeframe and/or will miss out on the added benefits the technologies provide.  By scrambling in the eleventh hour to meet, what at that point will be extremely challenging deadlines, poor and improper implementation will erode the benefits and cost savings, and inevitably result in fines for non-compliance should the mandate ultimately pass.

That eleventh-hour decision is what we see as a key issue that could impact fleets should the mandate eventually pass.  Expedited deployments, while possible, have their own set of challenges.  Vehicle availability, which is always a struggle, becomes more challenging when trying to capture them in a shorter timeframe.  Product availability could also become an issue.  If a large number of fleets wait until the last minute to order ELD compliant products, manufacturers could have a hard time keeping up with the demand and that limited availability would impact the timeline for deployment.

Fleets who try to tackle installs with in-house maintenance staff will quickly realize there is a long list of considerations that will impact their ability to accomplish the task quickly and accurately.  Questions they need to ask themselves are how long does each installation take? How long will it take to transition from vehicle to vehicle, or location to location?  Do we have the proper inventory to continue at this pace?  Will the throughput of vehicles support the pace needed to meet the deadline?  Where are the vehicles coming from?  How are they being routed?  Does our internal staff have the bandwidth to process that many installs per day?  What is the activation process?  What is the testing process?  Have we trained the driver?  What do we do if there is a problem with any of the above?

Even simple “plug and play” devices still present logistical challenges that if underestimated could completely derail the project and cause fleets to miss the deadline.  Cutting corners to save time leads to improper implementation, poor device performance, lost ROI and fines for non-compliance.  A proactive approach ensures the implementation is not only done correctly, but maximizes the ROI of the solution while minimizing the impact to fleet operations.

The industry debate over the ELD mandate has been quite a rollercoaster ride and may continue for some time.  Filtering out the noise from what will truly impact the future of trucking is difficult, but here’s how we see it: This country needs truckers.  It needs fleets.  It’s truly staggering how much we depend on this industry to keep us all moving, every single day. Whether the mandate passes or not, which we think it will in one form or another, our fleets need to operate as efficiently as possible.  Our roads need to stay safe for everyone and our drivers need to stay healthy.  Technology is here to stay, folks.  It’s changing the way we do business, and it has been for quite some time now.

Written By: Deryk Powell, President