Satellite or Cellular ELD’s

My goodness, March already! Time is flying by.

Soon, if you cross the border, you will have to have an ELD (Electronic Logging Device) installed in every truck. It looks like the new and mandatory ELD law will be going ahead. Some people had hoped that President Trump would step in and change the situation but that currently doesn’t look likely. Others had hoped that OOIDA (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association) and their court challenges would save the day. OOIDA are now taking this to the USA Supreme Court and they are hopeful – but I see it differently. If they have not won in any of the lower courts, why would they suddenly win in the Supreme Court? So in my opinion, December 2017 is the likely start date for the USA ELD program.

Have you started to prepare yet? If you haven’t then I believe that you had better begin. Here is my ELD shopping guide:

First question? Are you going to go with Satellite or Cellular technology? There is a difference as they both have features that the other doesn’t. They operate differently and each has some bells and whistles. You must start your investigation soon or you may be left scrambling at the last minute which could cost you.

What options do you want or need? Just like buying a car or truck, you have options to pick from. Some of the ELD providers have IFTA reporting email solutions for the drivers, speed tracking of the power unit and of course the ever popular “hard braking” information. What information does your company need? Just the essential Hours of Service or more enhanced fleet management software? You may be surprised at how little some of the add-on features cost. I have been both shocked at how expensive some of the features are and of course on the other side of the coin, at how little some are. I can’t believe that some of the features are not priced higher.

My point is that there are many options so you need to start investigating. You should first decide on Satellite or Cellular and then start testing some of the units. You will need at least two to three months for testing.

I recommend that you obtain your top two or three picks and start real world testing. Most of the suppliers have a desktop user interface. This desktop version is used by Dispatch, Safety and Management. So they all need time to use the software which will help in the ultimate decision. Each will have their favorites as to which one suits their needs
the best.

Of course, you may want to also consider your shippers. What information will they be asking? Your competitors will be using ELD’s and giving your customers valuable data. If this information helps the client and you don’t have it, you will be at a competitive disadvantage. After all, everyone will be using ELD’s by December, 2017.

You need to start testing ELD’s now. When I speak to small fleet owners, they often tell me that a small group of their drivers are already using Hours of Service cell phone apps and the drivers are using the apps for a reason; to make sure that they are following Hours of Service regulations. If they are using the electronic version of Hours of Service already, they are the perfect candidate to test the ELDs.

I should explain what the difference is between a cell phone app and an ELD. ELD’s are wired to the truck engine computer and the mobile phone app is not. Can the mobile app become wired to the vehicle? Many of the app providers offer a wired version. You may ask, what do I mean by a wired version as it sounds like it will be expensive to install? Well, not for the cell phone apps. If you can pair a Bluetooth headset to your mobile phone, you are likely able to establish what is needed for the mobile phone app. The cost of installation for the cell phone app and hardware is likely just a little of your time. Regardless if you use a mobile phone or an inexpensive tablet, you will need some sort of holder installed.

So I urge you to start investigating and testing your preferred type of ELD. It is already getting late and you need time to make this decision. If you start now you will have the opportunity to test and then make a rational decision. If you wait any longer, you may decide on a provider that you will regret.

Good luck and stay safe!

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.