Most construction contractors pay a lot of attention to managing their heavy equipment fleet because they recognise that a productive fleet is critical to their success. Just as important, however, is managing the fleet of commercial vehicles that are part of any construction operation, such as haul trucks, fuel trucks, maintenance trucks, and trucks used for transportation of equipment. In the US, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) now mandates that most commercial vehicles over 10,000 lbs be installed with electronic logging devices (ELDs).
If you’re a contractor with vehicles that meet this criteria, it’s important that you understand whether you must implement an ELD solution with your vehicle fleet, and what to look for in a solution to maximise the benefits to your business.
Federal Mandate by the DOT
The Department of Transportation recently developed new legislation that mandates that all driving hours be recorded electronically using an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rather than the widespread paper logbooks. This was brought about due to the ever-increasing accident and fatality count that occurs on United States roads. According to the DOT, 15% of drivers blame driver fatigue for the accidents. The FMCSA provides comprehensive information about the mandate for drivers and carriers on their website.
What are ELDs?
Electronic Logging Devices, or ELDs, are devices which record drivers’ hours of service electronically and automatically. Through a connection to the vehicle bus, the ELD is able to automatically detect when a driver begins and ends a trip including time spent taking breaks. The ELD uses this information to record the number of hours a driver has been driving. The ELD also typically includes a mobile device within the vehicle which displays useful information such as available drive time as well as indicating when the driver needs to take a break. Additionally, The ELD transmits hours of service (HOS) data in or near real-time to a cloud-based back office system for accessibility by dispatchers and fleet managers. Thus, an ELD system eliminates the need for drivers and carriers to use paper logs for their HOS needs.
A good ELD system goes far beyond just ticking the legislation compliance box for the now regulated ELD mandate. It also identifies other areas in which fleets can become safer and more efficient. It is no secret that a safer driver is a more efficient driver, and rolling out an ELD system can often pay for itself by reducing fuel usage alone.
The FMCSA has outlined a basic list of functions that all ELDs must provide - primarily the automatic recording of duty status - and since the publication of the recent ELD mandate, fleet operators have been getting themselves prepared. Their main push, understandably, has been compliance; ensuring that their fleet avoids the costly penalties for violations of hours of service (HOS) regulations which, in some instances, can be up to $11,000.
When choosing a solution, however, it’s important not to overlook the additional benefits that a more comprehensive ELD solution will provide and the added value functions that are available today.
Here’s a list of top 5 added-value functions to look for:
- 1. Driver-Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR): The FMCSA mandates that drivers record the roadworthiness of their vehicles before each trip. This requires drivers to go through a check-list of inspection points, such as tires, windscreen etc. An ELD allows drivers to perform this inspection checklist through the in-cab tablet, which ensures nothing gets missed and is then uploaded to the cloud.
- 2. State Mileage: Motor carriers that operate in more than one jurisdiction need to file a quarterly fuel tax report detailing fuel use in each state, according to the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA). Be sure to choose an ELD system which incorporates wider fleet management capabilities. This will capture the ITFA data and create the reports automatically, saving your drivers and back office plenty of time.
- 3. Driver Safety: An ELD that can report on driver behaviour such as speeding, harsh manoeuvres, idling and utilisation of the vehicle will allow for monitoring of driving trends which can encourage good driving habits - increasing the safety of your drivers.
- 4. Vehicle Diagnostics: An ELD solution can offer real-time and retrospective reporting on fuel, carbon, odometer, and fault codes. This allows organisations to be proactive in setting up maintenance plans and helps avoid costly downtimes due to unforeseen vehicle problems.
- 5. Fuel Efficiency: Fuel is often the biggest cost that a fleet incurs. By monitoring driver behaviour and idle time, an ELD solution can identify trends which help organisations to encourage good driving habits in turn leading to better fuel efficiency in their fleets. In short, a safe driver is a fuel efficient driver.
To learn more about the benefits that ELDs can bring to your construction business, download our Quick Guide.
About the Author
Paul Miles is a Segment Manager with the Field Service Management division of Trimble, where he focuses on marketing and product strategy for end-to-end service management solutions that connect field service operations and enable the delivery of service excellence. Prior to joining Trimble, Paul held several technical, marketing, and leadership roles with Caterpillar Inc.More Content by Paul Miles