Still Need to Buy ELDs? 6 Key Steps to the Best Choice
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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Meeting the December 18 deadline for the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate is the heaviest burden weighing on many carriers’ minds today, but unless you already use an ELD, you’re behind schedule. That’s because choosing, installing, and learning how to use the best ELD system for your needs can take four months or more, especially when considering the learning curve, and that’s just to get the system up and rolling. When you factor in the complexities of your back-office and other internal processes, training and scaling across fleets, and the all-important “buy-in” that any organizational change requires, the lead time lengthens. That said, no matter where you are in the decision process, it’s time to stop worrying and start acting (Truckinginfo.com).
Choosing the Right Provider
If you haven’t adopted an ELD, you’ll need to move quickly while being thorough. A hasty choice could easily backfire because ELD manufacturers self-certify their products, including doing their own testing. Even when included on the FMCSA registered list, a device could actually fall short of requirements because the agency does not yet verify or scrutinize registrations. They share this disclaimer, but it’s easy to overlook when rushed. Be careful. What looks compliant today may not be tomorrow, leaving you—and only you—responsible for your non-compliant device (Truckinginfo.com).
To make a solid ELD choice, following these key steps can help you focus:
- Understand FMCSA System Requirements. For example, the ELD must provide separate accounts for all users, internally synchronize with the engine, automatically record drive-time and on-duty time with specific details, retain data for certain periods of time, display real-time data for users and law enforcement, prompt drivers to verify and edit data, and more. Knowing the FMCSA rule and how it applies to you is a logical first step. (For full technical specs, download and review the FMCSA’s Choosing an Electronic Logging Device Checklist.)
- Research ELD Manufacturer Reputations. Is the manufacturer a reputable company with good customer service? Are they financially stable, or have they sprung up on the internet to sell ELDs at a peak time only to vanish when the market cools? Can they demonstrate their ability to stay compliant with regulatory updates over time? Conducting due diligence of prospective vendors will ensure the service levels you need while protecting the long-term investment you’re about to make. Be sure to check out various ELD rating sites like www.eldratings.com for reviews and rankings of current ELD products.
- Consider Adjacent Capabilities. Owner-operators may need a device with only electronic log functionality, but large fleets and tech savvy users might get more value from a system that also offers dispatching, messaging, routing, geofencing, tire pressure monitoring, or even management functions such as PTO tracking. Check out this handy ELD Buying Guide to compare specs from several vendors, and get a feel for the variety of options available (Equipment World).
- Examine Integration Issues. How an ELD integrates with existing back-office systems matters at least as much as the hardware itself. Before you choose an ELD, be sure to understand the limitations and advantages that your current systems and processes bring to the situation. Doing so will help you whittle down your list by revealing integration challenges that add unacceptable costs to “affordable” ELD options.
- Choose Either Fixed or BYOD. A fixed system is mounted in and hardwired to the truck, making it stable and virtually impossible to lose, but also more expensive to install and maintain. Conversely, a BYOD or “Bring Your Own Device” system allows a driver to use a cell phone or tablet, communicating data to the truck through an app over a wireless connection. While less expensive on the surface, mobility has a price in that drivers can lose devices and become instantly non-compliant when they do. That aside, experts say BYOD often makes sense when you have multiple drivers who all need their own records of service.
- Pay Up-Front or Monthly. Finally, think about how you want to structure payment. You might buy the hardware outright and pay monthly SaaS (Software as a Service) subscriptions, or finance the hardware and service together through monthly payments on a long-term contract. Your choice depends on both your cash-flow needs and your comfort with the vendor’s offerings at the time of purchase
Seeing Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Choosing the right ELD is a time-consuming process, but well worth the investment. While time is short, committing to making an informed decision now will help you avoid costly mistakes and rework, lead to better outcomes, and give you the confidence to stop worrying and get back to the business of truck driving.
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