ELD Myths – Separating Fact From Fiction

With the arrival of any new technology — or any government mandate addressing technology — there will be plenty of questions and rumors circulated to give you pause. That has certainly been the case with electronic logging devices for the trucking industry and the FMCSA’s ELD mandate.

Let’s tackle some of the more common ELD myths we hear today and distinguish fact from fiction.

1) Myth: ELDs will put owner/operators out of business

One of the remarks most frequently shared with the FMCSA during the ELD mandate comment period was a fear that ELDs would push owner/operators out of business.

Those fears arose from:

  • The perceived prohibitive cost of ELDs
  • The potential loss of driving hours
  • Strict Hours of Service regulations compliance

Did those drivers have cause for worry?

Fact: Once most commercial truck drivers have adopted electronic logging devices, they refuse to return to paper logbooks.

Further, many drivers find ELD use actually helps them gain more time on the road, as e-logs can record duty status changes down to the nearest minute. Conversely, paper logbooks require drivers to round up to the nearest 15 minutes, resulting in fewer miles posted.

As for price…

2 ) Myth: ELDs are too expensive

When electronic logging systems were first introduced over 20 years ago, fleets paid up to $2,500 for a single device. Even at those prices, fleets were willing to invest in the trucking technology that helped them reduce paperwork, stay in touch with drivers, and maximize drive time.

But, what about today?

Fact: With today’s technology, ELD prices have dropped considerably, due in part to the introduction of smartphone and tablet compatibility options that reduce up-front costs. A decrease in technology hardware costs overall has also contributed to lower ELD prices.

With the ELD rule, the FMCSA estimates that the average annual cost of an ELD will be $495 per truck, with a total range of $165 to $832 per truck on an annualized basis.

Considering the overall operational costs of a trucking business, ELD investment doesn’t rank when compared to operating expenses, like fuel, liability insurance, tractor-trailer equipment, and permitting costs.

3) Myth: ELDs require truck driver interaction on the road

Some anti-ELD advocates claim that ELDs require commercial drivers to interact with them while on the road.

Fact: That’s not the case.

A driver does need to log into a device. And, it’s true that a status must be selected indicating Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth; there is no system today that can – or should – identify those tasks automatically.

However, once the wheels are rolling, an electronic logging device recognizes the difference between Driving and On-Duty Not Driving, automatically updating the driver’s status.

While driver interaction while the truck’s in motion is never needed, a countdown timer with audible alerts is available, ensuring drivers are never surprised to discover they’re running low on hours. And, alerts ensure drivers have enough time to reach a safe place to park, before reaching their Hours of Service limits.

4) Myth: An ELD will automatically report HOS violations to law enforcement

While an officer will be able to quickly see if there are violations of Hours of Service rules, nothing is transmitted to enforcement unless there is reason to do so, like a roadside inspection, a traffic infraction, or an FMCSA compliance audit.

Fact: An ELD is a replacement for a paper logbook. It does not automatically transmit data to inspectors or law enforcement agencies, and it does not automatically trigger violations.

A big benefit of an ELD?

Roadside inspections go much faster. Truck drivers get back on the road more quickly because inspection officials can see areas of concern or verify compliance with HOS regulations at a glance.

And, when safety managers are confident their paperwork is order, DOT audits take hours, not days or weeks.

5) Myth: It’s big brother watching

The truth is, only employees at the trucking company who are authorized to view ELD data will be able to pinpoint a vehicle location.

Fact: ELD regulation includes privacy provisions that give drivers more peace of mind. For example, if a vehicle is being used for personal conveyance, location data can only be available with the clarity of a 10-mile radius.

Simply put, the DOT will not know your every move. It’s the same process as an audit of your paper logs, except that electronic driver logs save time and are more accurate.

6) Myth: ELDs can shut down your truck

Fact: This is incorrect.

Remote shutdown technology does exist, but it’s not an ELD standard. Decisions about where and when a truck may safely be stopped are best left in the driver’s capable hands.

ELDs were simply designed to record engine data—they don’t take control of your vehicle.

7) Myth: ELDs don’t improve truck and driver safety

An ELD doesn’t control the truck, so it can’t dictate a truck’s speed, following distances, or lane changes. However, ELDs are able to let drivers and dispatchers know how much time they have left behind the wheel each day, and that leads to smarter dispatching decisions, which can keep drivers safer on the road.

Fact: The FMCSA recently released “Evaluating the Potential Safety Benefits of Electronic Hours of Service Recorders Final Report,” a report from the Center for Truck and Bus Safety of Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The report found that commercial drivers using E-Logs had a significantly lower total crash rate (11.7% reduction) and a significantly lower preventable crash rate (5.1% reduction) than trucks not equipped with electronic logs.

8) Myth: ELDs cut into tight profit margins

When the costs of ELDs are debated, the benefits are often left out of the equation.

Fact: An ELD can offer significant return on investment, especially when it comes to improvements in fuel economy. Remember, ELDs are much more than expensive electronic driver logs. Many drivers who utilize ELDs are able to identify driving behaviors that cut into their profits—like idling, speeding, and hard braking. That means they can track improvements in driving performance and new trucking technologies.

Beyond truck and driver performance gains, ELDs, and the ELD mandate, help a fleet understand that driver time is an extremely precious (and limited) resource. When all drivers are bound to the same constraints – like driving 11 hours in a day, or being on-duty 60 or 70 hours in a week – drivers and fleets can focus on selling and making the most of that time instead of sitting idle (and unpaid) at a shipper’s dock.

9) Myth: Only the big fleets will be required to use an ELD

Many large trucking companies have noted dramatic improvements in CSA scores and reduced operating costs following the implementation of electronic logging devices. But each day, small fleets operating 20 trucks or less realize those same improvements in their trucking operations.

Fact: The ELD mandate will not discriminate on fleet size. Regardless of whether you have one truck or 10,000, if you’re currently filing a Record of Duty Status, you will need an ELD.

For small fleets that are worried about the price of devices – there are options that require very small startup costs available today, and the ROI can be immediate.

10) Myth: My smartphone alone will meet the ELD standards

While the FMCSA is encouraging low price entry devices, a smartphone or tablet alone will not meet the ELD requirements. A device must also be “integrally synchronized” with the truck’s engine to comply.

Fact: A GPS-enabled cell phone cannot accurately track miles traveled. Only devices that have been certified and listed with the FMCSA will be considered compliant, making records from a GPS device or cell phone problematic in the case of an audit or inspection.