The FMCSA’s final ELD rule was published December 2015. Considering the mandate applies to over three million drivers on the road today, it’s important that the trucking industry as a whole is up-to-speed on its ELD facts — so, here we go.
What’s an electronic logging device, or ELD?
Put simply, an ELD is an electronic solution that enables professional truck drivers and commercial motor carriers to easily track Hours of Service (HOS) compliance.
By December 2017, all CDL drivers required to keep a Record of Duty Status (RODS) must use an ELD to document their compliance with HOS rules.
The new ELD rule adds certain technical and performance specifications that define exactly what the device must feature.
For example, an ELD must:
- Connect to the truck’s engine to record if the truck is in motion
- Allow the driver to log in and select On-duty, Off-duty, or On-Duty Not Driving; drive segments must be automatically selected based on vehicle movement
- Graphically display a Record of Duty Status, so a driver can quickly see hours in a day
- Provide data in a format that’s standardized and can be transmitted to law enforcement in a number of prescribed ways, such as wireless web services, USB, or Bluetooth 2.0
- Be provider-certified that the device meets the proper specifications
ELDs will be available in a number of shapes and sizes – once a final rule is published.
But until the new rule is published, there is no such thing as a compliant ELD.
While trucking companies, drivers, and manufacturers may refer to currently available products as ELDs, they are most likely devices that meet the standards currently in place for automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRD).
How much does an ELD cost?
In preparation for the ELD mandate’s passing, the FMCSA examined a number of similar HOS logging devices on the market and set a benchmark for what fleets can expect to pay on an annual basis.
What did they find?
Electronic logging devices ranged from an annualized price of $165 to $832, with the most popular device used today priced at $495/truck.
The FMCSA notes that while ELD prices haven’t come down drastically in the past few years, many providers are introducing less expensive fleet management system models that have features designed specifically for the ELD mandate.
Based on this trend, and paired with the economic benefits that come from paperwork reductions, the FMCSA found the long-term savings ELDs deliver to be greater than the costs to motor carriers and drivers.
And, with the introduction of ELDs that run on smartphones or tablets as opposed to fixed hardware, start-up costs can be reduced further. No matter the size of the business – from independent owner/operator to large national carrier – return on investment is realized almost immediately. These types of ELD solutions also offer the added benefit of untethering the device from the cab, allowing truck drivers to take advantage of powerful data analytics and other mobile apps anytime, anywhere.
The FMCSA believes the total annual cost of ELD adoption will be $975 million, which includes all equipment for carriers and commercial truck inspectors, as well as inspector and driver training.
To be fair to the business changes ELDs can impact, another $604 million was budgeted for “extra drivers and CMVs needed to ensure that no driver exceeds HOS limits.”
All in, the net benefits of ELDs outweigh the costs with expected paperwork savings of over $1.6 billion annually, plus crash reduction costs of $395 million.
It should be noted that the ELD rule allows for the “grandfathering” of current E-log devices to meet the proposed rule. If you had already invested in E-logs before December 2015, you may continue to use those devices until December 2019. (Once you talk to a fleet that has voluntarily adopted E-logs, you will find it’s nearly impossible for their drivers to give them up.)
How can an ELD save truck drivers time and money?
Based on assumptions stated by the FMCSA in its Regulatory Impact Analysis for ELDs, paperwork savings per driver per year are estimated to include:
- Driver Filling RODS: $487
- Driver Submitting RODS: $56
- Clerk Filing RODS: $120
- Elimination of paper driver log books: $42
That’s a total of $705 per year in just paperwork savings alone – and that’s a conservative estimate.
How did the FMCSA come up with that number?
The agency estimates that each truck driver fills out an average of 240 RODS per year, and an ELD is estimated to reduce the amount of time drivers spend logging their HOS by 4.5 minutes per RODS – or, 19 hours each year.
They also note the time commercial drivers spend filing or forwarding their RODS to carriers, which the agency estimates takes five minutes and occurs 25 times per year – eliminating two more hours a year.
In short, that’s a potential 20+ hours of drive time wasted by filing and sending paper driver logs.
If you are an owner/operator able to charge today’s rate of $1.92/mile for a dry van operation and driving 50 MPH, that’s $1,920 in lost revenue each year.
For drivers who use E-logs, ELD manufacturers report an increase of 15 minutes of drive time per driver per day. And, because E-logs support rounding up to the nearest minute, as opposed to the 15-minute intervals required by paper driver log books, it’s common for most drivers who make a few stops in a day to gain even more drive time due to exact recording of on-duty time.
And, illustrating ELD benefits using a more aggressive model tells an even stronger story.
Consider an owner/operator running a flatbed operation at $2.47/mile, averaging 50 MPH, and running approximately 1900 miles a week. That driver would realize:
- 1.5 hours/week from reduced paperwork = $185.25/week in potential new driving (billable) time
- 1.5 hours/week of rounding to the nearest minute = $185.25/week in potential new driving (billable) time
- Commanding a higher rate based on proven HOS compliance ($2.60 compared to $2.47) = $247/week
- Potential reduction of one OOS violation a year, resulting in one more day on the road = $20.58/week
- Saving on potential fines from form and manner violations = $6.25/week
And, while the math on accident reduction savings is trickier, the FMCSA did calculate an average safety benefit of $187 per long-haul ELD user and $126 per short-haul ELD user.
Fleet management system benefits extend beyond paperwork savings…
Keep in mind that the savings noted above result from the ELD component of the typical fleet management system only.
These fleet management systems (FMS) offer more comprehensive features (which deliver more significant benefits), allowing fleets to further slash costs and make life easier for drivers, including:
- Decreased Fuel Costs: By monitoring excessive truck idle times or speeding events, fleets can build incentive programs for truck drivers that help increase fuel efficiency.
- Reduced Truck Downtime: Fleet management system users can see reduced vehicle downtimes of 15% and improved vehicle utilization of 13%, according to studies by the Aberdeen Group.
- Lowered Total Crash Rates: Based on data from the Center for Truck and Bus Safety of Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers using E-Logs had a significantly lower total crash rate (a 11.7% reduction) and a significantly lower preventable crash rate (a 5.1% reduction) than trucks not equipped with electronic driver logs.
- Simplified Regulatory Compliance: While complying with the ELD mandate, other regulations can also be easily satisfied, including Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports and IFTA.