Unscheduled stops. CSA violations. Unexpected, on-road service. Extended idle times. Excessive speeding. Habitual hard braking. Out there on the road, it’s a world of uncertainty. It’s enough to keep fleet managers who work hard spec’ing and maintaining their trucks awake at night wondering: “Where are my trucks and what are they doing?”
Electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs), also known as electronic logging devices (ELD), are devices that are commonly used to automate hours-of-service (HOS) record keeping and help fleets maintain equipment to meet the CSA compliance model, reduce violations and improve driver efficiency and safety.
Many service providers, including Pedigree Technologies, XRS, PeopleNet, Omnitracs, Rand McNally, Continental Corp., and J.J.Keller & Associates offer these systems.
PeopleNet’s eDriver Logs, for example, calculates driving hours of service through a combination of GPS location and engine diagnostic information. Drivers indicate on-duty/off-duty/sleeper berth/driving status through the PeopleNet display, which immediately is available to the driver or compliance officer on the in-cab device or to the dispatcher through the PeopleNet Fleet Manager Web-based interface.
This functionality has fueled the ELD mandate contained within the Highway Reauthorization Bill (MAP-21). The industry is currently waiting for a final ruling, expected to come at the end of 2014 or early 2015, according to Ryan Barnett, director of marketing and development for XRS. The final rule would apply to trucks two years after the initial ruling.
“The FMCSA, per public record, is targeting to have its final approval complete before Jan. 29,” reports Elise Chianelli, PeopleNet product manager, safety and compliance. “It is estimated that the public comment period will end by April 1 and the ELD mandate will be enforced by the FMCSA two years after issuance of the final rule. The market is currently projecting late 2016 or early 2017.”
With so many data points being recorded, the evolution of EOBRs now allows for a host of additional equipment analytics and business-defining software features that go beyond simply generating an electronic driver log.
“The great thing about ELD/EOBR is that if you get the right system, you’re also going to get a lot more functionality included that will give you a much greater visibility of what’s going on in your business and a big opportunity to improve efficiencies,” says Josh DeCock, Pedigree Technology’s director of product management. “GPS tracking, fuel efficiency, idle time, utilization, engine diagnostics, geofences, hard braking, state miles/IFTA, maintenance tracking, driver scorecards, eDVIR, electronic forms, temperature monitoring, PTO monitoring, inventory monitoring, trailer tracking, equipment monitoring … I could go on and on.”
Ahead of the game
Smart fleet managers aren’t waiting for the future mandate to take advantage of the latest ELD technology, electronic log workflow and analytics integration opportunities. Using the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) definition, an ELD/EOBR refers only to the functionality of HOS recording. In the marketplace, some ELD HOS reporting solutions are part of more complex fleet management systems, while others are specifically to meet the requirements for HOS reporting, simply and affordably. Having the ability to generate electronic logs goes a long way in streamlining fleet operations. Fleets have reported that transitioning to E-Logs has freed up as much as 15 minutes of a driver’s day—resulting in more time on the road, according to Jim Rodi, senior vice president of mobile communications for Rand McNally.
“E-Logs also ensure that both driver and operations are compliant with regulations because there is no discrepancy; both see the same information,” Rodi says. “ELDs are one example of the many technologies currently being deployed that can make the task of driving less stressful, while allowing fleets to operate more efficiently.”
Additionally, ELDs can help increase a fleet’s profitability by enabling more robust driver management.
“Considering that drivers’ wages are the second highest cost for carriers after fuel, an EOBR/ELD such as the VDO RoadLog can help increase productivity significantly by optimizing the driver availability,” says Alex Capelle, program manager, EOBR and Telematics for Continental Corp. “In addition, compliance with hours of service will help carriers avoid fines and reduce insurance costs, as well as reduce accident risks. Automating the reporting of mileage per state saves a huge amount of man-hours and avoids inaccuracies that can lead to fines.”
Maintaining a high CSA score by being in compliance is the No. 1 reason to use an EOBR/ELD solution. Pedigree Technology’s Josh DeCock says, “Real-time feedback of any HOS violations allows a fleet manager to deal with any compliance issues immediately, but knowing current driving hours creates a new opportunity to plan ahead based on driver availability before it becomes a problem.”
Using an EOBR/ELD system, fleet managers can immediately identify drivers who are not in compliance with fleet of FMSCA regulations and take steps to correct this condition. However, in order to be able to do this, the EOBR/ELD system must provide the ability to generate exception reports that show at a glance when drivers do not follow the rules set by the fleet manager or if vehicles have issues.
“In order for the fleet manager to use the data provided, it is critical that the EOBR/ELD system allows an appropriate filtering and presentation of the data,” Capelle explains. “Data that is not presented adequately will be impossible to use for the fleet manager.”
Making the move toward electronic log capturing and reporting requires a shift in a fleet’s culture, as well as operation. Aric Thoreson, implementation manager for J.J. Keller & Associates, explains, “At the core implementing ELDs within an organization is about change and change management. Customers must think through and identify how they will drive this change throughout their organization prior to implementing. Developing communication plans that bring awareness to key stakeholders—drivers, supervisors, dispatchers, trainers, management etc.—is critical to the success of the project.”
Down the road
While HOS is the big focus of ELD systems, the next wave of ELD operation is breaking in the form of analytics integration into management platforms that allow fleet managers to leverage the systems for compliance and equipment operation efficiency.
“EOBRs provide information that is essential to successful compliance management initiatives, achieving revenue performance improvements and better cost management,” says Tim McCrady, senior director of customer service, Omnitracs. “Outside of HOS offerings, which are becoming especially crucial in the current regulatory environment, onboard telematic systems, including EOBRs, also enable more efficient fleet operations through the use of complementary applications.
These offerings can include:
- Vehicle tracking and driver messaging for improved workflow, customer service and asset utilization;
- Electronic vehicle inspection reporting for timely notification of vehicle defects to reduce vehicle downtime;
- Fuel management and fuel use monitoring to improve controls and reduce costs;
- In-cab navigation to reduce unnecessary miles and costs;
- Critical event reporting to help monitor driver behavior, improve fleet operations and prevent accidents;
- Fault monitoring to proactively diagnose and take action to reduce fleet maintenance and repair costs;
- In-cab scanning to reduce operating expenses and improve billing and payment cycles;
- Media manager to deliver video, audio and PDF content that allows drivers to stay connected with the company while on the road; and
- Web browsing to access fleet-approved websites and increase the productivity and satisfaction of drivers.
It probably comes as no surprise that one of the most popular aspects of ELD analytics integration is the ability to monitor fuel usage. Actual fuel usage monitoring requires tying into the engine computer, which is naturally part of ELD/EOBR. Fleet managers should have access to total fuel usage and miles per gallon in the ELD solution, according to Pedigree Technology’s DeCock. This is done by tracking the truck’s speed and other aspects such as exceeding internal speed thresholds, hard braking, idle time and additional critical operation metrics. If any of the metrics exceed acceptable parameters set by the fleet manager, an alert is sent. It’s a system that’s already saving some fleets money.
“I got a report in front of me today where the truck idled 93% of the time,” Barnett of XRS says. “Granted, they were in Duluth, Minn., so you’d expect high idle. At the same time, I was looking at a truck in Louisville, Ky., that also idled 93% of the time. The truck burned 50 gal. idling‚—that’s $400 that was spent just idling. You start looking at these metrics and think about how you put those on a driver’s scorecard and put it up on a corkboard.”
Alert! Alert! Alert!
Let’s slow down here for a minute. As with many new technologies, the amount of data generated by the systems is staggering, and it can quickly overwhelm a fleet manager looking to dive into the digital deep end. It all comes back to the question: “What does this data mean to me and my equipment?”
When it comes to data and analytics points reporting from in-cab devices it is important to understand: 1. What information you want and need coming back from the truck; 2. How often you want and need it; and 3. Into what systems you want the information populated, whether for immediate operational use or future reporting and analytics.
Creating functional and easy-to-understand reports is a key component to realizing ROI on an ELD system that integrates into analytic systems. For example, if you want to reduce your fleet’s overall idle time, set up a report that tracks your trucks’ weekly idle times. Some systems even generate driver scorecards where metrics, such as idle time, can be reported and then communicated to the driver pool. At the end of the day, you’ll have drivers who are more aware of their equipment usage and trucks on the road that are saving you money.
Taking reporting one-step further—setting proper alerts can make you instantly aware of any equipment issues that crop up on the road.
“Instead of having to sit there and monitor a software dashboard all day, fleet managers can set up alerts for important equipment issues like a critical fault code—engine oil levels are low. Those alerts can be sent to whoever needs them in the organization,” Ryan Barnett of XRS explains. “From that, you can have proactive maintenance. We’ve got 22 different alerts. For example, a DVIR inspection failure that can be an alert, as well as low drive time, low duty time, over speed event or a gap in miles, the driver didn’t log in, but the truck moved, for example. You want to get to the point where you’re managing through those exceptions.”
While EOBR/ELDs are just now coming into their own, upcoming legislation is going to keep them in trucks for the long term. Fleet managers need to choose a supplier that will be committed to maintaining EOBR/ELD systems for the long term and support the demands of the fleet.
This column appeared in the February 2014 edition of Fleet Equipment. You can read the entire issue on your phone or tablet by downloading the Fleet Equipment app.