If you didn’t already equip your fleet with electronic logging devices (ELDs), you probably should. The final rule is due to take effect December 17 this year.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released the mandate back in December 2015. It requires commercial vehicles manufactured in 2000 or later and engaged in interstate commerce to replace old-fashioned log books with ELDs.
The rule also includes technical indications that ELD manufacturers must meet to certify their products and register them with FMCSA, as well as provisions that protect drivers against harassment via the devices.
Current e-log systems, known as automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRD), don’t comply with the final rule. If you use a current e-log or ELD system, the compliance date is pushed to December 17, 2019. Fortunately, if you use new versions, you may be able to make the transition through software updates, thus minimizing costs.
Here are five tips to making the switch.
1. The Sooner You Transition, the Better
The rule of thumb is it usually takes longer than you think! Finding the system that works for your business, waiting for the equipment to arrive, installing and configuring it on your vehicles can take up to four months. There will be a huge push by other companies at the last minute. We recommend starting early.
Training drivers, dispatchers, and back office staff can easily take another two months. ELDs require discipline, so you need to ensure that your employees know how to operate the system before you launch it. There are restrictions on making corrections and it requires management intervention.
2. Find the Right Provider
The effectiveness of your ELD depends on the provider you choose. You want a provider that is financially stable and will be around 5+ years down the road. Understand what manufacturer they work with, how long the manufacturer has been making ELDs, and how many they have in service.
The right provider should answer your calls without delay and make updates if there are regulatory changes. They should take the time to understand your operations and work with you to resolve any unusual situations. How will this solution integrate with your back office systems?
Most importantly, remember that you need a compliant device to validate the product certification and registration with the FMCSA before signing with a provider.
3. Set up New Policies and Procedures
Before installing the ELD, you need to set up policies and procedures regarding its use and be sure all your employees are trained on the policies and procedures.
These policies should include topics like:
- Driver expectations and expectations of what a “new” roadside DOT audit looks like
- Your plan to audit false entries, missing information, or edits
- Repercussions to drivers who are caught falsifying or tampering data
- Who is going to train, supervise, and discipline drivers
It’s best to choose a few experienced employees you trust and have a good understanding of the job to drive change. Establish an “emergency contact” at the company in case issues arise and ensure that this person has quick access to the ELD system.
4. Create driver buy-in
Change makes people uncomfortable and may resist it. This is why it is important to start communicating the change early to create awareness. Reiterate that this is federally mandated. Once awareness of the change is created, you can move to understanding and eventually acceptance. Driver training should be planned close to the actual launch date as you don’t want a lag time between the drivers’ training and system implementation. Some industry professionals choose to train all drivers at the same time, while others start with just a few and move on gradually. Ensure that your team gets hands-on experience working with the devices.
At the end of the training, your drivers should know:
- How to operate the device in normal as well as unusual conditions
- How to request/make edits
- How to detect and solve problems
- What to do if the system fails
- How to set up the device for roadside inspection
- How to provide an officer with ELD data for a roadside inspection
5. Improve Communication Between Shippers and Carriers
ELDs provide accurate data about a driver’s performance. Once they’ve reached their work load limit, you can’t push them into working more. This may cause some problems with shippers who are used to pushing drivers beyond their hours of service.
In the eve of the ELD mandate, shippers and carriers need to learn how to cooperate so they can eliminate delays. If the loading/unloading is done effectively, carriers won’t be forced to speed things up and can focus on doing their job well.
Choosing the right electronic logging devices, implementing them into your fleet management system, and training your employees requires a lot of attention and some finesse. Rushing through these steps cause cost more damage than good.