8 benefits of ELDs

Electronic logging devices (ELDs) offer several driver and operational advantages, reducing Hours of Service (HoS) violations, making trip planning more efficient, and stopping renegade carriers from manipulating the paper log system.

Here’s a closer look at eight benefits.

1. Warnings before drivers violate Hours of Service rules

Chris Stepto, safety manager for Berry and Smith Trucking of Penticton, B.C., said one of the most noticeable benefits to using ELDs has been the decline in Hours of Service violations, and not just when it comes to form-and-manner issues such as the blank field in a logbook.

“Hours of Service violations have dropped substantially, as most ELD systems will notify a driver when they are heading into violation,” said Stepto, adding how many drivers can be confused about the underlying regulations, particularly when it comes to working with a split sleeper berth provision.

“The system knows and understands the regulations and keeps a driver in check.”

Though most of Berry and Smith’s drivers were initially leery about the move from paper logs to ELDs, they changed their minds after realizing the benefits and time savings.

2. Peace of mind for fleet operators

With his family’s name plastered on the side of his vehicles, Greg Munden says he’s comforted knowing that drivers are using ELDs and complying with the rules.

“Even if a company intends on operating legally, there are drivers who make their own decisions on the road to ‘fudge the books’, putting both themselves and the company in a risky position,” said Munden, president of Kamloops, B.C.-based carrier Munden Ventures.

“While some drivers, as well as companies, seem to get away with this practice for what seems like forever, the liability they face would be huge if ever there was a serious accident with a driver out of compliance with Hours of Service.”

There is a link to highway safety as well. Drivers who continually push their logbooks can become fatigued, and fatigue increases accident risks.

“Reducing the likelihood of fatigue in drivers is one of the main objectives of the transition to ELDs,” said Munden. “At a minimum, we can now be confident that our drivers are being provided the required time off, both daily and weekly, to rest.”

According to Transport Canada’s regulatory impact analysis leading up to the ELD mandate, there is an international consensus that fatigue is associated with 15-20% of crashes in transportation. As well, drivers with daily log violations are 2.3 times more likely to be involved in a collision. The study claims, after consulting with industry, that 5-10% of commercial drivers routinely exceed allowable HoS limits.

3. A level competitive playing field

Drivers and carriers that continually operate beyond legal HoS limits have an unfair competitive advantage over those who follow the rules.

“As these drivers are able to work more hours, they may be paid more than those who are following the rules, thereby making it easier for non-compliant motor carriers to recruit and retain drivers at a time when the industry is dealing with a driver shortage,” Transport Canada’s analysis says.

But that can lead to the increased risk of an incident due to being fatigued.

“When drivers are not violating the HoS limits, there is an increased likelihood of less fatigued driving,” said Mike Ahart, vice-president of regulatory affairs at Omnitracs, citing findings by the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“And while there has been discussion of an increase in truck speeds when paper logs went away, the speeding violations data published by the FMCSA does not support the notion.”

4. Help reduce mental distraction and stress

A compliant driver is a happy driver, and a happy driver is a safer driver.

Dan Columbus, Westcan Bulk Transport’s vice-president of health, safety and environment, told Today’s Trucking that drivers enjoy a better lifestyle when ELDs are used.

“(There is a) reduction in the overall incidents caused by mental distractions and stresses, and of course less physical paperwork with no manipulation,” he said.

5. Realize coaching opportunities

One of Canada’s largest carriers, Bison Transport, takes advantage of real-time drivers logs in a variety of ways to help improve safety and operational efficiencies.

“The ability to view a driver’s logs live offers timely opportunities to provide coaching and/or training when it is needed versus waiting for paper logs to come in to identify a concern,” said Bison safety manager Stephanie Fensom.

6. Improve operational efficiencies

 A robust ELD platform can also help streamline a carrier’s operations, making the life of dispatchers, office personnel and managers that much easier.

Munden underscored several ways ELDs have accomplished this for his company, including what he called “exception reporting”.

“Instead of having operations people reviewing hundreds of logbook pages to ensure compliance, now we only look at days that the system flags for out-of-compliance,” Fensom said.

“Because the system provides real-time information to both the driver in the cab and our office, those instances are extremely rare and are likely due to some kind of unexpected event on the road, and usually addressed immediately at the time.”

Glenn Williams, vice-president of product management at Trimble, said ELDs help safety managers proactively spot available hours across their driver base to pinpoint violations and eliminate safety risks before they occur.

“With additional components, such as customizable rulesets and exceptions, fleet managers can feel confident knowing they have full visibility into their drivers’ behavior to help identify any drivers exhibiting risky or potentially fatal actions.”

7. Answer more questions with additional data

ELDs also help eliminate form and manner errors in logbooks, ensuring no data field is overlooked. And the data can be used as ammunition to support difficult conversations with shippers and receivers about challenges such as excessive dwell times.

Some devices can also collect pre- and post-trip inspection reports, offering insights into the equipment itself.

“I would highly recommend ensuring that any system the company chooses does this, thereby eliminating any paperwork needed for driver and company daily compliance for CVSE (Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement),” Munden said.

8. Reduce the time auditing logs

Stepto said ELDs can even help eliminate the need for additional staff that would need to monitor, review, separate, and store paper logs.

“In most cases, dispatch can quickly review drivers’ available hours in order to plan better without putting the driver on the line,” he said.