ELDs: 8 Benefits for owner operators


Will the ELD mandate cause market consolidation and compel some drivers to hang up their keys? Yes. Although some trucking companies that always operate on the edge might be pushed out, companies that adopt and use this tool wisely should come out of the ELD mandate more competitive, even Owner Operators. Here are 8 benefits of ELDs.

1. ELDs Will (Probably) Make Working Conditions Safer for Drivers

FMCSA believes ELDs can keep regulators abreast of non-compliant drivers and prevent fatigued drivers from breaking HOS guidelines, thereby jeopardizing their personal safety as well as the safety of others sharing the road.

Regardless of FMCSA’s claims that ELDs will prevent crashes and deaths, what is indisputable is that non-compliance with Part 395 will be more difficult to conceal from inspectors and auditors. As a result, compliance with the current hours-of-service (HOS) rules will increase, which hopefully will also lead to less fatigued driving and therefore less crashes.

2. ELDs Can Simplify and Improve Documentation Requirements

Owner operators are responsible for recording and retaining a great deal of information to file for, and prove, their IFTA and IRP liabilities. This includes: state mile reports, trip reports, fuel receipts, bills of lading or work orders, hours of service logs, weight receipts, etc.

While filing your quarterly IFTA report or annually renewing your IRP account may not take up a great deal of time, keeping track of all of these documents and verifying their data can take a significant amount of time. If you’re not auditing these documents on a monthly or quarterly basis, you may be filing with inaccurate information.

ELDs may help to eliminate or greatly reduce the risk of inaccurate filings by automatically recording for you how many miles you’ve driven over a month or a quarter and how many miles you’ve traveled in a given jurisdiction. According to the FMCSA, drivers might save $708.00 per year in time currently spent on administrative tasks rather than on driving.

However, the purchase of an ELD does not mean it will be compliant for IFTA and IRP purposes or vice versa.  IFTA and IRP each allow the use of electronic devices to document vehicle distance by jurisdiction provided the required supporting data are maintained for audit purposes. Beware of vendors stating that their systems are IFTA or IRP certified. Learn more about these differences here.

3. ELDs Can Help with Driver Pay, Per Diem Tracking, and Documenting Detention

For fleet drivers, ELDs should accurately record every mile and report back to fleet managers in real time.  This can mean no more compiling mileage reports and faster payment processing. It also means drivers can have confidence that they are being paid exactly what they should be.

For owner operators claiming per-diem dollars from the IRS, precise GPS data can help make it easier to track and provide proof to the IRS for per diem dollars claimed on their income tax filing for out on the road trips.

4. ELDs Can Help Validate What Actually Occurred on the Road

One of the biggest benefits many ELDs may bring to drivers is critical event reporting. Many ELDs contain accelerometers that will collect G-Force data during a harsh braking, hard turning, hard acceleration, or quick de-acceleration event. This data can be used to demonstrate that a driver in the event of an accident was not at fault or that the crash was unpreventable.

5. ELDs Should Increase Drive Time, Which Means More Miles and More Money

ELDs should increase the amount of drive-time available to drivers. Using paper logs, drivers generally record their duty-status changes in at least 15-minute increments and as a result leave “money on the table” by recording a ten minute bathroom (off-duty) break as a fifteen minute break.

When status changes can be recorded in real-time, the driver will typically gain one to two more hours of drive-time each week.

Additionally, ELD telematics can help maximize drive time by keeping vehicles in optimal working condition. By sharing real-time vehicle health information, such as tire pressure, fault code data, DVIRs, engine diagnostics, etc., drivers can help prevent blowouts and unplanned service calls.

6. ELDs Can Help Prevent and Reduce Maintenance Downtime

Many ELDs, like GeoTab, provide owner-operators with the ability to more accurately monitor vehicle maintenance, going well beyond simply providing an electronic DVIR.

As an ELD unit records the mileage or engine hours for a given vehicle, the administrative end of the ELD solution will correlate this mileage and engine hour data with schedules of service programmed for that truck so that both the driver and their mechanic are automatically alerted when a vehicle requires routine maintenance.

These maintenance functions will help to reduce the incidence of missed repairs and therefore downtime due to your truck being in the shop or being stopped by an inspector. 

7. ELDs Will Provide Almost Perfect HOS Compliance, If You Read and Heed the Prompts

Many ELDs can provide real-time violation notifications that will help drivers prevent HOS violations before their hours run out. As a driver approaches their 8, 11, 14, and 60/70 hour markers, ELD systems will prompt them to stop driving well before they reach their hours limit. Pre-programmed HOS logs will also prevent form-and-manner violations.

8. ELDs Should Help Prevent Financial Penalties Due to HOS Violations

According to the FMCSA, HOS-related offenses are the biggest contributors toward violations and out-of-service (OOS) orders.

  • Nearly 5% of driver inspections in 2013 led to an out-of-service order
  • 7 of the top 20 violations from driver inspections were related to HOS
  • 83% of OOS orders within the top 20 violations were related to HOS
  • 18% of the top 20 violations were general/form and manner log violations

Recordkeeping penalties can be as high as $1,100 per day and known falsification of records can earn an $11,000 fine. Being put out of service due to an HOS issue is yet another hit to an owner operator. Beyond the fines, losing a day (or more) of driving revenue, upset customers, and hits to CSA scores mean HOS issues have serious consequences. ELD(s) can help reduce those the risk of meeting those negative outcomes.

Planning and Research Is Key to Getting the Right ELD for Your Needs

glostone-logoAll of these benefits will more than pay for the ELD device in the long-term. However, this highlights how important planning and research is to finding the right ELD that has the ability to do everything you want it to do for your company.

One option is a customized, “plug and play” and managed ELD solution with GeoTab and Glostone.

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