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Research: ELD Mandate Puts Smaller Truck Fleets in Financial Bind?

May 23, 2016 By: Trucking News Staff Tags: Fleet Management, News, Regulations, Safety, Technology
Research: ELD Mandate Places Smaller Truck Fleets in Financial Bind?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandate that owner-operators, fleets and drivers must transition from paper logging their hours of service (HOS) to using electronic logging devices (ELDs) is beginning to make an impact.

And while analysts at ABI Research claim this will only better position commercial vehicles for the future of smart transportation, ELDs may see some smaller carriers and drivers struggle to adjust.

“ELD is opening the floodgates to the larger process of digitalization, transparency, and scaling needed for advanced mobile strategies and profitable opportunities for owners and operators,” said Susan Beardslee, senior analyst at ABI Research. “Traditional brokers and smaller dispatchers stand to be squeezed out, though, as new relationships emerge.”

The upfront costs to fund ELDs and pay for their continued usage and maintenance place a heavier burden on small carriers. And, for the driver, ELDs pose financial implications for those who are paid per mile by limiting flexibility. There is also no guarantee that these devices will improve their safety record, and, despite anti-harassment additions to the mandate, some drivers remain wary of privacy and trust.

“ELDs will need to operate as a checks and balances system,” continued Beardslee. “ELDs track truck movements in one-minute increments to record the driver’s HOS, and only authorized employees can view the ELD data. When off-duty, however, the driver can set a status that triggers the ELD to only track location data within a 10-mile radius from the truck. This helps to ensure that ELDs are considering privacy concerns. Carriers will need authentication and the driver will need to approve any changes to the HOS, which can be checked against the truck data.”

Long-term, ELDs have a wide range of benefits and ultimately serve to significantly reduce the more than 115,000 yearly crashes and their impact on the industry and society at large. Vendors such as Fleetmatics, Omnitracs, PeopleNet, Telogis, and Zonar supply both ELDs and FMS, which offer benefits that include saving lives, avoiding accidents, preventing injuries, increasing automation of HOS audits, and saving drivers up to 15 minutes per day by removing their need to manually update a logbook.

Self-certified vendor solutions required include hardware that plugs into the cab, links to the engine, and records when a truck is in motion. A different device then, which may be in-cab or BYOD, tracks HOS and duty status, including software apps. Ultimately, ELDs have the potential to begin the transformation of the commercial vehicle industry into intelligent, connected transportation.

Truck platooning, or when drivers control more than one vehicle, is a longer-term technology in pilot now and has the potential to impact the current view of HOS. It affords drivers the opportunity to rest while their vehicle is still in motion. Coupled with advanced driving technology, it would allow drivers to complete long journeys without interruption, as well as increase overall fuel efficiency by 7 percent on average.

“The trucking industry is heading for disruption that extends beyond the ELD mandate,” said Beardslee. “But issues concerning data utilization for predictive analysis, data access rights, sharing and ownership challenges, and privacy constraints need to be addressed. Carriers and FMS suppliers need to agree on how to best secure the data, how long to store it, and how much to gather beyond the mandate.”

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Commercial Vehicle Telematics Service, which includes research reports, market data, insights, and competitive assessments.