When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in late 2015 that electronic logging devices (ELDs) would be required on all commercial trucks within two years, some truck drivers loudly voiced their disapproval.
Drivers have long been accustomed to using paper logs to document their hours on the road, and understandably, some did not like the idea of being electronically monitored. However, ELDs improve safety on our national highways and roads by ensuring that all drivers are staying within their hourly limits.
Here, we will explore what ELDs are, the controversy surrounding their implementation, how Arpin Van Lines successfully made the transition and the changes they will bring to the moving industry.
A Brief History of ELDs
ELDs are intended to make our roads safer by enforcing hours of service (HOS) limits on commercial drivers. They may drive a maximum of 11 hours, at which time they must take 10 hours off duty. Drivers must not exceed 60/70 hours in 7/8 consecutive days. These rules have not changed, but drivers have always self-reported their HOS using paper logs.
The concept of using computers to track driver hours is not new. Some companies have been using Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) to log driving hours since the 1980s. In 2000, FMCSA attempted to reform its regulations to require the use of these electronic devices; however, a court defeated the move a few years later.
In the past decade, the debut of newer smartphones and tablets reduced the need for complex and expensive ELD hardware, thus making the technology easier to implement and use.
In 2014, a mandate for ELDs was included in a transportation reauthorization bill called “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.” After a public comment period, the mandate was announced in December 2015, giving operators and their companies two years to reach 100 percent ELD compliance.
The ELD Technology
The ELD technology itself is simple. All trucks, except for models before year 2000, have built-in diagnostic ports for the attachment of electronic devices. The ELD unit is connected to this diagnostic port where data from the truck, such as engine time, speed and location, is logged. The driver may then connect to the ELD unit wirelessly using a smartphone or tablet equipped with an app. The app gives the driver tools to plan his route and provides alerts when he is approaching his hourly limit, so that he can find a safe rest stop. For those who do not wish to use a personal device, all-in-one dash-mounted ELD boxes with screens are also an available option. With the device connected to the internet, the dispatcher and employer may also monitor this data wirelessly in real time. The government does not have access to driver data, which is retained by the employer only.
The controversy surrounding the use of ELDs heated up after FMCSA’s announcement in 2015. With the supposed crackdown on hours, many drivers across the industry were concerned they would experience pay cuts. Some considered it a punitive device, while others pointed to the logistical challenges it would create.
One concern in the moving industry was that the ELD mandate was designed with freight truck drivers as the model—those who pick up their goods at one loading dock and deliver them to another. However, in the moving business, the driver’s pickup and delivery locations are never the same. The time for packing and loading a family’s household goods can vary widely, making it a challenge for the driver to predict how much time he has left for driving, navigation and avoiding peak traffic periods, particularly in residential areas. This has the potential to create problems with drivers who run out of time just miles from their destination, potentially adding costs to the move.
Movers were understandably cautious about how the ELDs might complicate their business.
Arpin Implementation and Early Results
Arpin Van Lines was faced with the challenge of introducing ELDs to its drivers, some of whom were skeptical at first. The majority of Arpin’s drivers are from independent agencies and owner-operators across the United States. To drive for Arpin Van Lines, the agent or operator must pass a rigorous approval process and maintain high standards of customer service and operations, as well as comply with strict safety standards to keep their status. All of Arpin’s agents were required to have their drivers comply with the ELD mandate by the December 2017 deadline.
Between 2016 and 2017, Arpin Van Lines and its agents gradually introduced and tested ELDs, educating drivers in their use and listening to their feedback. After using the ELDs for a few weeks and getting adjusted to them, most drivers discovered that they offered several benefits.
Having to fill out and turn in paper logs was a time-consuming process. ELDs have ended the need for this tedious task, saving many hours in the process, and Arpin drivers began to appreciate the convenience.
Drivers also started using the ELD software proactively to plan more efficient trips. They plotted rest stops along their routes so that they could comfortably remain within their HOS limits. This planning contributed to shorter travel and enhanced safety, as well as reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
Dispatchers discovered the power of ELD data to make improvements to the company’s logistics. Now dispatchers have the ability track their entire fleet in real time and assign drivers to new customer moves based on their proximity. This reduces the amount of time that trucks drive empty and potentially shortens wait times for customers.
On a larger scale, Arpin plans to analyze the ELD data collected over entire seasons and use it to improve services, particularly at times when demand outpaces capacity during the summer months. The data can suggest optimal dispatch routes, strategy and schedules. Furthermore, this knowledge may provide signals to Arpin about where customer demand is expected to grow so that the company can plan its future expansions.
Impact on the Moving Industry and the Future of ELDs
ELDs will change the moving industry forever. As their use continues and software updates make the technology smarter, these devices will offer a new window into a company’s entire operation and enable them to be more strategic, particularly during seasons of high demand. Over the long term, we expect that the data’s utility will continue to improve. It will help companies become smarter and plan their expansions into growing markets. Finally, it will continue to improve the safety of drivers and everyone who shares the roads.
Change can be scary, but as drivers and dispatchers have become acquainted with the technology, most have come to appreciate its convenience and are using it as a planning tool. As a result, ELDs will contribute more useful data to companies and usher in a whole new era of relocations, helping moving companies serve their customers better.