The E-Log Mandate Comes Out In September… Is Your Fleet Ready?


How Can Small Fleets Prepare for the E-Log Mandate?

On September 30th your federal government will enact a mandate on all businesses, large and small, requiring CDL drivers to record their logbook hours electronically.
This law will impact private fleets, as well as for-hire carriers. 
Almost everyone who has commercial drivers in their fleet will need an E-Log system in place (there will be a grace period to come into compliance).
The ELD (electronic logging device) mandate has been in the works for years.  A quick Google Search will yield you thousands of outdated results and alarmist rhetoric about how many drivers are going to quit and how much capacity will be lost.
One website is ELD Facts dot com, which seems helpful at first… until you figure out it’s a marketing site for Omnitracs, who puts a lot more money into customer acquisition than it does customer service (if someone from Omnitracs reads this, please respond to my repeated requests for support on your XRS system for an existing customer and I’ll remove this paragraph… thanks).
For the most part, it’s a hollow dialogue filled with the kind of assumptions and anxieties that can only exist prior to receiving the actual mandate.  The actual E-Log mandate won’t be scary, and is more or less a good thing. 

What Will the E-Log Mandate Require?

The reality is the law is mainly pointed at reducing accidents by making it difficult to ignore the rules on hours of service without getting caught.
The ELD mandate will reduce the number of accidents that take place, and save lives by requiring all fleets to have electronic records of their driver logbooks, adding a layer or transparency to hours of service compliance that did not exist before.
Most people have seen some form of the graph above showing the relationship between hours driven since an 8-hour break and accidents.  Fatigue plays a major role in collisions.   This is what the government is considering in rolling out an ELD mandate.
Minimally compliant systems are not very expensive, nor complex, and can be installed with just a little bit of guidance.  

 How Will We Get Everything Done?

The most common concern I’ve heard related to E-Log’s is that “if we run legal, we won’t be competitive” because not everyone runs legal.
The nice thing about a mandate is everyone will need to comply.  The other really nice thing about E-Logs is that most of them (and the kind you should buy) come with satellite tracking. 
My experience has been the majority of the logbook issues come about not because there aren’t enough hours in the day to drive the miles that were dispatched, but because the driver got stuck waiting to be loaded or unloaded somewhere.
Now you’ll have the ability to notify your customer, complete with time stamps and satellite tracking breadcrumb trails, when they are going to have to start paying wait-time. 
Your new E-Log system is now providing a financial incentive to your customers to expedite their loading/unloading time.  So you’ll actually get more done in the same amount of time.

What About the Costs?

Basic systems aren’t that expensive and will pay for themselves (and then some). 
In addition to being able to bill customers who waste your drivers’ time, you’ll also reduce the time it takes to complete a lot of administrative tasks.  Most E-Log Systems come with the following:
  • IFTA Reporting
  • Satellite Tracking
  • Messaging Systems (for load info)
  • Safety Reporting
All of this is going to reduce the amount of time your dispatchers and administrators spend on the phone or tracking down information.  It will also simplify customer communication because you’ll be able to tell them EXACTLY where your truck is.
If you estimate driver/dispatcher phone calls cost you about $0.75/minute, and you eliminate two short calls per driver per day (whether it was an ETA call, needing to call a customer back after talking to a driver, sending load information, etc.) then you’ll save over $1,000 per driver per year on time alone.
This doesn’t take into account the hours you’ll save on IFTA every quarter, nor the new revenue you can find through efficiency or charging customers for wait time. 

The Drivers are All Going to Quit if They Have to Use E-Logs…

The drivers will quit just like you’ll leave the country if candidate ______ wins the presidential election.  It’s a cute thing to say, but we should all know it’s not reality.
E-Log systems are very simple to use (much simpler than filling out a logbook by hand) and take only a few days of getting used to for most drivers.
My grandmother swore she’d never use a microwave.  Then her kids got her one in her 80’s and she realized all she had to do was press a couple of buttons and she was done. 
One important thing to remember with your drivers: nobody told my grandma “use a microwave or you’re fired” when trying to get her to adopt the new technology. 

Is It Fair To Small Businesses and Private Fleets?

It’s going to be harder for small businesses or private fleets that deliver their own products to comply, because they don’t have a full logistics staff to implement this type of system.
However, I agree with just about everything Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx says in his letters regarding the impact to small business (I do disagree with his use of the word “Honorable” before certain senators’ and representatives’ names).
Small businesses will have some implementation headaches, but see huge gains once the ELD/EOBR systems are in place.

Need Some Help With Your E-Log System?

Do you know who has two thumbs and the knowledge to help you implement an ELD system for your fleet?  This guy.
Mike Norton is the President of Railbox Consulting, a logistics consulting firm specializing in small to mid-size fleets and portable storage operations.  Learn more at www.RailboxConsulting.com