Can You Afford to Not Pass the ELD Test?

Any driver or fleet hoping to be able to just avoid getting by without electronic logging devices even after the December 18 ELD Mandate kicks in should think again.

This is a test every fleet and driver has to take. The exemptions for the ELD Mandate are very specific, and there is not much room for interpretation. It’s critical that carriers and drivers understand that complying with the new rule almost certainly will be easier, less risky, and — if they are ever caught skirting the rules — a lot of less expensive.

The FMCSA has already published the Out of Service penalties that will be levied on a driver as of December 19 of this year, should the vehicle not have an AOBRD or ELD in use as of that date. Remember, Out of Service means sitting for 10 hours, so losing a truck that’s under a load becomes very costly and could mean the loss of future revenue, should a delivery appointment be missed. And a second Out of Service penalty is always possible if the same truck is stopped a second time and the situation hasn’t been rectified. How many thousands of dollars of revenue are lost every day a truck is shut down for ELD non-compliance?

Anyone who think Hours of Service fines and penalties really aren’t that big of a deal — and that the risk of getting caught is so low that they really can get away with not abiding by the mandate — is playing with fire. Just take a look at Omnitrac’s live HOS Fines Tracker that constantly updates how much money truck operators have paid in fines since January 1, 2017. By mid-May, the total was over $102 million and rising at the rate of nearly $600 per minute.

Thus, the high cost of non-compliance should, by itself, be enough to convince carriers and operators that it just isn’t worth it. That’s because compliant ELD equipment and software can be installed for very little. Granted, base-level equipment cannot provide the added value information offered by higher-end models. But if front-end installation costs are a major concern, there are ways to keep those very low.

With ELDs, you get what you pay for

However, the selection of an ELD system may well be an instance where the old adage “penny wise, pound foolish” applies. That’s because the more sophisticated systems come with features that can provide operating economies that quickly offset those higher purchase costs and improve a company’s return on investment. For example, more sophisticated ELD systems can:

  • Allow drivers to squeeze more miles into their operating day by eliminating miles lost to the practice of “rounding up” by 15 minutes used when tracking Hours of Service on paper logs. That increases their mileage pay without adding any real time to their service days.
  • Improve safety performance, first by assisting dispatchers and drivers in making route assignment decisions based on the remaining number of hours drivers have in their duty days, which serves as a proxy for gauging a driver’s degree of weariness. The FMCSA, quoting a study by the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, says that drivers using ELD have an 11.7 percent lower total crash rate and 5.1 percent lower preventable crash rate than those trucks without ELDs.
  • Avoid all the math errors that can get a driver violation. Carriers that go from the U.S. to Canada have two regulations to deal with, and staying in compliance requires is not simple math.
  • Decrease driver away-from-home time through more accurate dispatching and route assignment based on a more accurate picture of drivers’ available driving hours. For example, instead of assigning a driver with three hours of time left a five-hour assignment that will require the driver to spend a night off duty at a truck stop, a dispatcher can give that assignment to a different driver with adequate remaining duty time while assigning the first driver a three-hour trip instead.
  • Improve driver behavior and truck performance through monitoring such things as accelerator habits, unnecessary idling, hard braking, and other performance factors.

So not only is it not worth it to try to avoid the new ELD requirement, the right ELD system and the savvy use of the many different sets of data it can provide very well could be the best way to ace this particular test.