If you’re a trucker or dispatcher for a fleet that routinely enters the U.S., you know your trucks are subject to U.S. trucking laws. As of December 2017, this means an electronic logging device is mandatory as soon as you cross the border. ELDs are the law in the States, and with Canada planning to require ELDs by 2020, you need to know how they work — and how they could change trucking.
What Is an ELD?
In December 2015, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passed a bill to make ELDs mandatory for all truckers within two years. As of 2017, every truck that drives on U.S. roads needs to have one. An ELD is a small electronic monitoring device that’s connected to a truck’s engine system. It keeps track of the truck’s speed and performance in real time. The ELD records time spent driving, idling, and parked. It also records how the engine is functioning, so it can let drivers and dispatchers know if there’s a safety issue or if the truck needs maintenance.
Truckers used to be responsible for tracking their own driving hours in pen-and-paper log books, but the ELD automates that process. It keeps time accurately down to the second. Most ELDs also have a satellite connection to a central computer (probably in the dispatcher’s office) so the dispatcher can see what’s happening with all their trucks in real time.
Every trucker has to follow hours of service regulations. While a trucker might not spend the same amount of time actually driving every day, regulations say a trucker can be on duty for a maximum of 14 consecutive hours and must spend 10 hours resting between shifts.
How Do ELDs Change Trucking?
On the surface, the change sounds pretty simple. Instead of reporting their own driving hours, truckers have their hours automatically recorded. An ELD uses feedback from the truck’s engine to tell when the truck is in motion. If you’re a trucker, this can be an inconvenience, as you’re used to short mandatory breaks during a long day of driving. Your break might be half an hour, but maybe all you need is a quick stretch and a snack, and you’re ready to get back on the road. Before ELDs, it wouldn’t make a difference if you got back on the road after 25 minutes. Now, if you’re on the road before that 30 minutes is up, you’re in violation of your hours of service regulations.
Maybe you’ve parked in the back of a truck stop lot and wake up to heavy rain. You might be tempted to drive your truck closer to the front of the pack so you can avoid getting soaked while walking to grab breakfast. Not so fast. If you start your engine, the ELD tells your dispatcher you’ve started your 14 hours. Now you’re in violation, because you cut your mandatory 10 hours of rest short.
Without ELDs, dispatchers sometimes have to rely on the honor system to make sure their truckers are following regulations. Trucking is a competitive business, and the company that can get products delivered the fastest is often the one that wins the most clients. This competition can lead to drivers spending too much time on the road or driving faster than they should. Mandating ELDs prevents companies from overworking their truckers while attempting to gain an unfair speed advantage.
What Do You Need to Be Aware Of?
While ELDs make tracking time easier, they take away autonomy from truckers themselves. An ELD doesn’t take into account the trucker’s physical or mental well-being, and this could lead to truckers being forced to drive when they should rest or being forced to rest at an inconvenient time when it would make sense for them to drive a little further.
For example, a trucker coming home after a rotation might be just half an hour away and feeling alert. However, if his ELD runs up to 14 hours, he’s legally obligated to stop and rest, forcing him to wait another 10 hours before being relieved.
For fleets and owner-operators, the change could be more significant. There’s less paperwork, but many people, especially in small fleets, have concerns about the cost of installing ELDs into every truck. In Canadian ELD trials, some dispatchers noticed that truckers had to leave earlier in the morning to make sure they reached their destination while sticking to speed regulations. This meant that manufacturers and warehouses also had to have their products packed and ready to go sooner.
How Can ELDs Benefit Truckers?
Many truckers love ELDs purely because they take away the need to fill out log books. With ELDs, dispatchers can tell for certain whether truckers are following the rules and holding to their on-duty and rest hours, which means fewer truckers driving while exhausted and less danger for drivers overall. Having real-time access to a truck’s location, speed, and driving time can also help dispatchers plan a trucker’s day better and schedule longer journeys according to distance, weather, and traffic.
It’s up to dispatchers to determine which ELDs to purchase and how to implement them in their fleets. Once everyone’s on board, ELDs may keep Canadian roads safer for everyone. For truckers, QuickBooks has a range of budget tracking tools so you can keep tabs on your on-the-job costs and report them accurately to your dispatcher.