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complete guide on electronic logging devices

The Complete Guide to Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)

For truckers, it is all about staying compliant and conforming to the recurring mandates released by the FMCSA. However, despite the willingness to adhere to most directives, the one concerning ELDs has been a tough nut to crack for most, courtesy of the monitoring rigidities and higher implementation costs.

Regardless of the apprehensions, the ELD mandate, launched way back in 2019 is here to stay and it would be better for the fleet managers and independent truckers to adapt to this new-fangled development at the earliest. 

Also, an electronic logging device, strictly from a technical perspective, is feature-laden and capable of generating a safer working environment for commercial truckers. Therefore, despite the hesitations regarding setting one up, it is recommended to learn more about ELDS, the mandate, and how beneficial they can be in minimizing drive fatigue and the number of road accidents.

What are Electronic Logging Devices?

Simply put, an ELD is a standard device with the capability of recording the driving time for compatible commercial vehicles. As far as the functioning is concerned, the piece of hardware readily plugs into the OBD port of the vehicle whilst continually capturing data relevant to location, miles driven, speed, engine status, and more.

Check out: 11 Best ELD Devices for Owner-Operators in 2021

Why ELD is such an impactful resource to have?

Believe it or not, an Electronic Logging Device can actually make driving safer. Plus, commercial fleet managers can keep a close eye on the trucker’s whereabouts if an ELD is connected to the concerned dashboard. 

But then, ELD as a concept or rather an enforceable mandate was primarily introduced to recording the HOS i.e. the Hours of Service offered by commercial drivers, across days, weeks, or any stipulated timeframe. With an ELD connected to the commercial vehicle, it becomes easier for the fleet managers to determine the number of service hours put in by the driver, which eventually decides the remuneration, perks, and incentives.

But there is a catch that ELDs can help bypass and get rid of!

Did you know that commercial drivers are only allowed to drive for 11 hours in a 14-hour stretch? As this restriction was brought upon by the federal authorities, it even advocated a bigger role for ELDs, courtesy of their ability to monitor the HOS and record insights in the ELD logbook to help drivers and managers with compliance.

However, an ELD is a lot more than what meets the eye. Although its primary task is to keep a tab on the regulated HOS as a part of the fleet management setup, it can readily capture other data sets by being a part of a vehicle’s telematics setup— with a focus on long-distance signal transmission and continued data projections.

How does a Comprehensive ELD Look Like?

ELDs come in different form factors and can have dedicated GPS tracking setups, accelerometers, and gyroscopes, integrated within. An electronic logging device with the mentioned enhancements is capable of monitoring vehicle data comprehensively, with a focus on the following insights:

  • Engineer speed
  • Commercial load
  • Real-time location
  • Duty status
  • Driving time
  • Idling time
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Mileage
  • Fault code
  • System diagnostics
  • Harsh braking, if any
  • Collisions and other safety-related concerns

With a fully functional ELD capable of monitoring such a diverse range of vehicle-specific functionalities, it would be erroneous to only consider it as a compliance-driving resource. 

How to make the most of an ELD?

Almost every commercial carrier or fleet manager uses an ELD to specifically record the driving time and feed in the HOS in the ELD logbook. However, it is in everybody’s best interest to explore the distinct capabilities of an electronic logging device that extend beyond fulfilling or helping driving comply with the FMCSA mandate.

Needless to say, a beefed-up ELD is certainly a vital cog in the fleet management wheel and its efficient implementation is instrumental when fleet efficiency, sustainability, and safety are concerned.

  • Managed Compliance

Probably the most important role of any electronic logging vehicle is to manage compliance. When connected to the dashboard, the ELD records duty status and HOS, whilst logging the insights in the ELD logbook or the e-log. As the ELD mandate requires commercial vehicles to have this feature, the inclusion of an electronic logging device simply for the sake of compliance, isn’t such a bad option.

  • Efficient Routing 

Should you end up investing in a holistic ELD, it is better to explore the same, in regards to improved routing. ELDs that come integrated with GPS monitoring hardware can track the vehicle route in real-time, thereby allowing the fleet managers to keep a close eye on the drivers.

  • Vehicle Maintenance, Simplified

As the ELD is plugged into the OBD port of the concerned vehicle, it can readily pull out fault codes, average mileage, and other critical data sets pertaining to the engine. The insights can be extrapolated to arrange for preventative vehicle maintenance. Plus, an all-inclusive ELD comes with a dedicated application, which allows drivers to fill in the DVIRs as they travel, thereby minimizing the back-office workload and downtime issues.

  • Improved Safety

Certain ELDs come equipped with integrated accelerometers and gyroscopes, which are capable of identifying harsh turns, sudden braking, collisions, and other untoward movements. The data, if and when logged, is immediately transmitted to the fleet manager, which can be used to handle DOT compliance and improve driving training methods.

  • Loss Prevention

Avant-garde ELDs come with specialized abilities and features, including Geofencing support. This attribute allows truckers to generate a virtual frontier, simply for the sake of security and loss prevention. Once the Geofence is set up, it becomes easier to proactively detect problems related to theft. 

  • All-Inclusive Reporting

With an ELD by your side, pursuing robust reporting is hardly an issue. As a fleet manager, you can continuously procure insights related to harsh events, idling time, fuel usage, risky driving, and more, which can then be deployed to specifically identify an area that needs improvement.

How to deploy an ELD for procuring actionable data and establishing compliance?

Using an electronic logging device doesn’t require a lot of technical prowess. While the vehicle needs to have an OBD port for seamless installation, once onboard, the ELD can start pulling data directly from the vehicle’s engine. ELD ensures that feeds are generated even when the engine is turned off and with GPS navigation; it becomes possible to transmit the data to the concerned authorities. 

As a fleet manager, if you have the best ELD installed on the vehicles, it becomes possible to procure real-time information, pertaining to the vehicle condition and routers. Plus, certain ELDs keep transmitting data whilst feeding off the vehicle’s battery, either to keep back-office records or to provide details to the DOT inspector, in case of a casual roadside check-up. 

ELD Transmission- What and How?

ELDs can work across a wide range of technologies, especially when it comes to transmitting actionable data. While cellular transmission is the most common form of conveying information, some devices also rely on Bluetooth connectivity to send data across to the mobile application of the driver.

However, a few top-shelf ELDs also boats integrated Wi-Fi hotspots, which in turn establish a dedicated connection between the mobile app and the ELD device. This functionality also allows truckers to accept work orders and identify route changes, even in real-time. 

Can ELDs directly transfer data to the Department of Transportation?

Yes, ELDs can assist the drivers whenever a road inspection is round the corner. As the DOT mandates truckers to abide by the HOS regulations, they can always ask the driver to pull the details for cross-referencing. Therefore, it is advisable to invest in an ELD that is capable of supporting the localized transfer of data, either via wireless web or emails. 

The FMCSA, however, finds the Wireless Web service as a more credible method of data transfer. 

Is it mandatory for every driver to get an ELD?

Firstly, every long-haul commercial vehicle needs to have an ELD connected to the dashboard. While this seems like a norm, we should consider it with a grain of salt, as the initial cost of setting it up, uniformly across the fleet, can be a time and cost-intensive job.

Also, as per the ELD mandate, something that we would be discussing in our next discussion, an electronic logging device is of paramount importance to commercial independent drivers or even truckers who are on a company’s payroll. But then, one aspect of the ELD mandate i.e. the one where RODs or ‘Record of Duty Status’ need to be provided, can be exempted from the set of directives, for short-haul companies.

However, if you require a more simplistic explanation of the imminence of ELDs, you must take note of the following factors:

  • ELD is mandatory for long-haul drivers who also need to maintain and provide RODs
  • ELDs and RODs can be done away with under the short-haul commercial exemption plan
  • Tow away drivers, older vehicles without dedicated OBD ports, and contractual drivers need not require an ELD but the ROD maintenance is still mandatory for them

 Are ELDs worth it?

While certain drivers feel that having an ELD integrated with the dashboard makes them less flexible in terms of working hours, the benefits clearly outweigh the problems surrounding the implementation of the same. Although the hardware, installation, training, and subscription fee can look gargantuan at the start, ELDs can significantly minimize fuel wastage, lower commercial insurance premiums, assist with vehicle diagnostics, improve road safety, and improve route management. 

Overall, ELD installation is a win-win for the company, administration, and even the drivers, albeit in the mid to long term.  

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