The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) passed its requirement for trucking fleets to implement electronic logging devices (ELDs) back in December 2015. The second phase of this gradual rollout came (and went) at the end of last year, and the final stage — full compliance and mandatory use of self-certified ELDs that are registered with the FMCSA — still awaits at the end of 2019.
While this rather dramatic push to force trucking companies and fleet management techniques into a more modernized, paperless system is a promising idea, in theory, transition on such a scale is inevitably going to face setbacks. Perhaps the biggest is the matter of cost. The money required upfront to purchase and install the devices in every truck and the subsequent subscriptions necessary to maintain their service features can be a daunting investment, particularly if you own a smaller company with a modest budget or if you’re an independent owner-operator.
With limited funds and deadlines looming (alongside the threat of expensive fines if found noncompliant with the new rules), the temptation to cut corners and go cheap with the upgrade is very much present, but one that needs to be considered with caution. While there are cost-effective options that work well available, being too stingy can lead to a number of issues down the road — ones that may cost you a lot more than the initial investment would have.
What sort of issues, you ask? Let’s take a look at the top 3.
1. Wasteful Repairs
The FMCSA’s rules on ELDs allow manufacturers to self-certify that their devices work. As one can imagine, this isn’t exactly an air-tight method for quality assurance. While these companies had up to two years to meet the technical specifications outlined by the mandate prior to its implementation, some waited until the last minute to certify themselves, which means that many of the over 300 devices available on the market aren’t necessarily going to stand the test of time, or even meet the standards in the first place.
Cheaply made electronics are going to break easily, especially if they are in constant use, as ELDs are. And the time spent getting them fixed is likely to cost your company more money than simply getting a more pricey model at the start would have. Furthermore, many of these sellers aren’t the most prompt (or thorough) about customer service, charging high fees for shipping, repairs, and replacements. They also often outsource customer support that can’t efficiently and thoroughly diagnose and address your problems. This is particularly true if hardware becomes an issue, as it’s outsourced to third parties, which only extends the time needed for repairs that aren’t likely to last you very long anyway.
And speaking of hardware…
2. Technical Malfunctions
Many truckers are already reporting glitches with their devices, which are causing their vehicles to register incorrect driving times, speed limits, and routes. These discrepancies, which force regulators to choose between the technology’s output and the word of the drivers, are usually going to favor the former, leading to workers being heavily fined for what can amount to multiple infractions.
Paying these fines, contesting them in court, keeping trucks off the road until they have an up-to-par device: all of these consequences get pricey very quickly. And some companies have already reported losing employees who don’t want to deal with the added burden of the technology, ruining formerly spotless records for not being “in line” with regulations while the providers suffer no such consequences for a less-than-stellar product.
3. The Penalties of Upgrading
Lastly, because ELDs function with a continuing service that requires a monthly subscription, most companies will lock fleets into a contract for several years after installation. These agreements can usually be ended sooner, but come attached with high costs for early terminations, which prevents businesses from jumping to something more reliable unless they’re willing to dump a lot of money into a switch. And because cheaper ELD models are barebones with their software, this can keep fleets from having access to useful features like geofencing and automatic IFTA reporting.
Make the Investment Now, Save Later
While the ELD mandate has had its share of hiccups, it is the new standard that the transportation industry has no choice but to adapt to. The trick to transitioning smoothly comes in weeding out the bad apples with a minimum of money lost or time wasted: something that requires a lot of information that can be hard to find since these new regulations have created a burgeoning industry around Elogs and ELDs. The good news is that companies like GPS Technologies who have decades of experience in the fleet tracking industry have quickly developed new products and services to help trucking companies of all sizes comply with the ELD mandate. For small fleets and independent owner-operators with less money to waste than the large trucking corporations, the adage that “you get what you pay for” is still a good rule of thumb to follow.
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This post was written by Writer