You asked for it and we listened. In this column, we ask operators of all sizes and from all walks of the industry a question about their business and report their answers so you can assess how your own company compares to your peers. If you would like to participate, please email Rob Smentek at firstname.lastname@example.org for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: Describe your experience with electronic logging devices (ELDs). What challenges have you faced when adopting this technology in your fleet?
After finding the best ELD technology company and equipment, the biggest challenge was introducing the product and process expectations to our driving team. Integrating the technology took time and effort to ensure the transition was seamless and quick for all employees, especially for those who were not tech savvy. Overall, fusion of the technology to our operation has been successful. Electronic access to our logs allows management to ensure drivers, dispatchers, and sales personnel are complying with all DOT regulations.
Liz Arnold, VP of Midwest Operations
Infinity Transportation in Des Plaines, Ill.
The greatest challenge in introducing ELDs has been less on the technology side and more about educating staff and chauffeurs to understand what it is, what it does, and its benefit. Chauffeurs who fall into the regulated category now must take a more vested interest in accurately logging their hours and double-checking that the technology has not failed and thrown them “into the red.” In a way, ELDs force our chauffeur staff to look more closely at and correct their logs during the workday.
Educating the chauffeur staff, especially those who are resistant to technology, can be especially challenging. We spend many hours reteaching staff or directing them to instructional videos on how to operate the iPad that syncs with the ELD in the vehicle. We tell them they need to be certain the location services is on, the ELD is plugged securely in the vehicle, making sure they fill out the DVIR (or Driver Vehicle Inspection Report) completely, and that they understand that the system will automatically change their status. It’s a matter of teaching staff to trust the technology.
On the tech side, the challenge is simply finding the ELD solution that is the best for your operation. We’ve tried a few and also listened to others’ horror stories to help guide us to our best one. Do your research and ask questions pertinent to your business model. If you service overnight trips, make sure that the system can tolerate the hours worked and drivers needed during that time. Most importantly, make sure that the system works in your area. Remember, most of the devices have a SIM card in them, just like your cellphone. If a certain cell provider does not have a strong signal in your area, you do not want the ELD provider to use that service in your device. Lastly, learn the system so well that you can easily explain it when the questions arise from your staff.
Jay Bowers, General Manager
AJL International in Dallas, Texas
We experienced some expected difficulties when implementing new technology and procedures to our operation.
We took advantage of the grace period and installed the ELDs immediately into our whole fleet (six Van Terras, 20 minibuses, 27 activity buses, and 28 motorcoaches). We provide our chauffeurs with ongoing ELD training and ensure they have the user’s manual while on the road, along with an instruction sheet on reporting ELD malfunctions and recordkeeping procedures. They are required to have paper logbooks for at least eight days of use, and we also have a logging app available that can be used if the ELD does not work properly.
We did experience technical difficulties with some of our coaches as well, but our vendors have been able to resolve them. When looking for an ELD vendor, be aware that you are responsible for ensuring that you are using a registered vendor for your ELD equipment. Using equipment from a vendor who is not registered is a violation.
However, I would say the biggest challenge has been getting our chauffeurs adjusted to the technological changes. Some are not as tech savvy, so they tend to struggle with the new routine. Our ELD technology requires you to connect to the internet. Sometimes this process takes a few minutes, but the chauffeurs are so used to arriving, doing the pre-check, and moving along that they struggle with the waiting and connecting.
Johan DeLeeuw, President
Cooper Global Chauffeured Transportation in Atlanta, Ga.
Several factors went into deciding to shift a large fleet from one ELD solution to another. The most important for us were ease of use and available local tech/implementation support: We value having an entire team ready to assist us nearby. Also, we have a dedicated implementation manager who helped kit and label the devices for installation, along with a team working together to help us reach a solution or pinpoint what is causing any issues. Devices can be replaced within 24 hours, and a member of the support team can deliver any other equipment right to our door; this alone is an invaluable resource. Our drivers have found it easy to use the new system via their company-issued iPads, especially reviewing logs and submitting the corrections.
We mainly faced challenges during the transitional period. Since our vehicles spend more time on the road than in our garage, it was a logistical hurdle to find the time to install the new ELDs. Our solution involved coordinating with our dispatch team to trade the vehicles’ downtime to correlate with installation. Another challenge that occurred during the transition was managing the hours of service as they are being reported in the systems, while maintaining DOT compliance. Since our chauffeurs are not always in the same vehicle and not all vehicles were equipped with the same ELD system, it took some diligence to make sure both systems reflected the same hours of service.
Adrian Esparza, DOT Compliance & Safety Manager
Premier Transportation Services in Dallas, Texas
Our largest challenge with ELD technology has been the frustration that comes with the CDL drivers learning and implementing the new processes and using new products. Initially, it was difficult to find an ELD that functioned properly and was user friendly. Then, it was challenging to create a process that let employees utilize the equipment in the best, most compliant way possible. Finally, getting everyone on board with the buy-in of using ELDs, particularly with more seasoned CDL drivers who are accustomed to using logbooks, required work. There are many great technological advances out there to help streamline the process; however, it is especially challenging getting everyone to buy in and complete their logs correctly.
Ashley Richey Goldston, General Manager Affiliate Relations
Going Costal Transportation in Charleston, S.C.
The biggest challenge that I’ve seen is operators not knowing if they’re exempt. Overzealous sales people have locked many operators into long-term contracts for equipment they don’t need or want. For an exempt operator, ELDs provide an additional administrative burden due to the prevalence of unassigned driving records. For example, anytime the vehicle exceeds 5 mph, it must be assigned to a person in the ELD even if it’s just being moved by the wash crew. The second most common issue is lack of support. Many operators are using ELDs that are not properly configured, aren’t compliant with regulations, or frequently stop functioning.
Chris Przybylski, Co-owner
Limo & Bus Compliance in San Antonio, Texas
We’ve had two big struggles regarding ELDs. First, choosing the right one has been a challenge: We are currently on our second ELD company. The first one didn’t work to our satisfaction and didn’t fit our platform of using chauffeurs in buses as well as cars.
The second challenge was getting chauffeurs up to speed on the use of the device. Ultimately, there is a lot more to an ELD than just logging in and out at the end of your job.
Steve Rhoads, President
New Rhoads Transportation in Douglassville, Pa.
As we have operated motorcoaches for years, the switch to ELDs was fairly easy. I serve as the vice chairman for the American Bus Association’s Bus Industry Safety Council, and we have been actively training all our staff on the nuances of the ELDs prior to the implementation date. As an industry colleague once stated, the true meaning of ELD is “easier life for drivers”—and this has proven to be true. The chauffeurs see exactly what is going on: They know the true hours they are actually driving and by implementing the electronic vehicle inspection report, our management team gets immediate notification of issues. This assists our fleet maintenance with the “3 Ps” of maintenance: preventative, proactive, and predictive. We are ecstatic with our provider, and the experience has been great.
Jeff Shanker, Chief Strategy Officer
Black Tie Transportation in Winston Salem, N.C.
Before you adopt ELD technology, first determine whether or not you actually need it. Only a small sector of chauffeured ground transportation falls within the hour and distance parameters that deem the technology necessary, though that will change as more operators add motorcoaches to their fleets.
The first challenge we experienced after adopting the tech related to unassigned hours of service. Every time a vehicle moves—even if it’s just to the car wash or within the lot—it requires the time to be assigned. While we have a general ELD log-in for our detailers or maintenance staff, sometimes they straight-up forget to log in. It’s important to determine whether the system offers notifications for unassigned hours and has a plan in place to report them. In our case, the technology we use has cameras, so we’re able to see who was behind the wheel at that time and assign the hours appropriately.
A huge challenge for operators is that ELDs cannot differentiate between driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and non-CMV. The FMSCA dictates that time behind the wheel of a CMV goes against driving hours, while driving a sedan or non-CMV counts only as on duty hours. Because the ELD cannot differentiate, it essentially will create a false log by logging drive time in a non-CMV vehicle. This can come back and bite you during an audit if you have a particularly strict examiner.
Lastly, before you adopt technology, you need to determine the vendor’s method for replacing an ELD. Find out if the vendor/manufacturer will replace the broken or malfunctioning item, how quickly, and if the collected data will transfer to another ELD.
Scott Woodruff, President/CEO
Majestic Limousine & Coach in Des Moines, Iowa
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
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