The Future of Electronic Logging Devices for Fleets

Of the many tasks technology simplifies for fleet drivers, tracking Hours of Service (HOS) is one of the most impactful to the industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandate to switch completely to electronic logging devices (ELDs) was initiated in 2017, fully implemented in 2019, and is now a part of nearly every fleet’s operational guidelines. As ELDs become more commonly used by fleets, their data is laying the groundwork for major improvements in driver safety and efficiency. 

What are ELDs?

Sometimes referred to as electronic log books, ELDs are devices internally connected to commercial motor vehicles (CMV) to record key data points and ensure compliance with government regulations. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), ELDs must be “integrally synchronized” with the engine of the CMV to automatically capture information regarding engine power status, vehicle motion status, miles driven, and more.

By design, ELDs cannot control a CMV’s functionality and are not required by law to track vehicle performance data like speed, braking, and steering. Some future-looking ELDs do offer these features, however, which trucking companies can use to improve driver safety and coaching. ELDs also lift a substantial burden of work off drivers – who would otherwise have to complete lengthy records of duty status (RODS) at the end of every shift – while offering a significantly more accurate display of each load.

Early research has shown ELD mandate efforts’ success in reducing HOS violations, but the jury is still out on whether these efforts actually create safer roads. The good news is the technologies used to create high-quality ELDs can also be leveraged to track and use real-world data for increasing driver safety and retention while improving fleet health and maintenance. 

Beyond HOS: The Powerful Potential of ELD Data

While ELDs are now required by law for HOS compliance, fleets have a variety of options as long as their devices are FMCSA-compliant. Technology varies across vendors, but smart buyers are considering solutions that provide greater visibility into a wide range of load data they can use to boost fleet performance and safety.

More fleets are taking the full plunge into telematics, a technology that pairs ELDs with fleet management software to improve efficiencies from the back office to the driver’s cab. Telematics can deliver benefits such as:

  • Better Route Planning: Real-world, historic data on specific routes makes it easier to set appropriate expectations for drivers. In addition to taking pressure off drivers, this helps ensure timelines are appropriately set and consistently met.
  • More Coaching Opportunities: From hard braking to speeding, drive performance information helps trainers identify and address potential areas for improvement. Consistent performance standards and metrics also level the playing field for driver reviews, improving their job satisfaction.
  • Greater Incident Insight: If an incident review must be conducted, telematics offer precise data involving all events leading up to an accident, assisting with insurance claims and driver safety guidelines.
  • Simpler International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) Mileage Reporting and Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs): Inspection reports with digital DVIRs can be tailored to your operations and are easily accessible on in-cab tablets, reducing driver workloads and delivering better records more often.
  • Improved Driver Retention: Less paperwork and easier communication enable drivers to focus on driving while being fully aware of their load statuses. Automated DVIRs and smoother inspections also alleviate stress and make the job more enjoyable.
  • Easier Intrastate Travel: The right ELD and supporting software automatically update requirements when drivers cross state lines, with some solutions even certified for compliance in Canada.
  • Increased Data Accuracy: Automated data recording from ELDs greatly reduces data entry errors, especially when integrated with an intuitive fleet management software tool accessible from the Cloud.

The Future of ELDs

Now that the trucking industry is fully on board with ELD regulations and requirements, the time is right for fleets looking to upgrade their systems by investing in ELDs. And since ELDs are an emerging technology, keeping an eye on the horizon is key to maintaining your fleet’s compliance and competitive edge in the future.

Here’s how:

  • 4G Technology and Beyond: ELDs transmit real-time data via mobile networks. While many people are familiar with 4G, 5G, and 6G technologies on their personal devices, ELDs using 3G have been limited since all major mobile networks in the U.S. phased out 3G service in 2022. Fleets accordingly need to ensure their ELD providers are equipped to develop with the newest communication standards to avoid disruption of records. The choice to “wait until you go dark” could result in expensive fines and retrofitting your entire fleet’s outdated devices when they’re no longer supported by mobile network providers.
  • Cross-country Travel: With COVID restrictions finally loosening, North America’s hustle to recover from backlogs and shipping delays will likely mean an increase in travel between countries. While Mexico still operates on RODS, Canada, like the U.S., has fully embraced mandating ELDs. Fleets running between the U.S. and Canada (or planning to in the future) must ensure their ELDs meet requirements on both sides of the border. Leading telematic tools that incorporate ELDs certified in both countries automatically switch to the rules and regulations of the new country as soon as the vehicle crosses the border, taking a huge load off the shoulders of drivers and ensuring compliance regardless of location.
  • Factory-installed Telematics: Smart trucks are undoubtedly the wave of the future, as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are now integrating factory-installed telematics with Cloud, edge, and in-dash technology on a single platform. This simplifies the onboarding process and makes it easy for fleets to roll out their vehicles’ technology with no downtime required for aftermarket hardware installations. In May 2020, Platform Science introduced Virtual Vehicle, the first native OEM platform for fleet management, enabling enterprise fleets, telematics service providers (TSPs), third-party developers, and partners to access real-time data directly from connected vehicles, even when they’re offline. First deployed with Daimler Trucks North America – and since with several more truck lines including Navistar, Kenworth, and Peterbilt – Virtual Vehicle makes a smarter future a reality for fleets everywhere.

What started with a simple directive of increasing adherence to HOS standards has set the stage for a new way of viewing load data. With efficiency increases possible for almost every role in a fleet, telematics tools are using ELD data to deliver major positive shifts across the industry, and all who depend on it, for the road ahead.

Learn more about how Platform Science’s connected vehicle technology can help your fleet take control of your data and improve your operations.