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truck tractor in motion Photo: 5m3photos

Are ELDs making trucking safer?

Official highway crash data isn't out yet on ELD safety, but some ELD providers say the loss of paper logs have forced drivers to rest more and be safer.

Are ELDs (electronic logging devices) making drivers more rested and the roads safer?

Some trucking and mobile technologies providers who spoke to Fleet Owner say that’s possible. Although official NTSB data on the subject won’t be available for another year. The latest government road data goes through 2017. It was December of 2017 when the soft-launch of the ELD rule took effect before the hard-enforcement period began in April 2018.

While many long-time truckers have groused over having to change course from notating their data in paper logbooks well into their careers, Fleet Owner was told by ELD manufacturers, trucking firm executives, and technology consultants that there are many more gains from the devices than had been expected.

Here, in part 2 of 4, are two ELD benefits, intended and otherwise. See also: Respecting your ELDers: The extra benefitsHow ELDs are making and saving fleets more money and Will drivers eventually reap the rewards of ELDs?

More rest for drivers

“With the flexibility of paper logs being gone, drivers using AOBRDs/ELDs properly (not falsifying) are actually getting more rest than in the past,” said Thomas Bray, a transportation industry consultant with J.J. Keller & Associates Inc., which provides electronic logging and mobile technologies, training materials and tools, consulting, and managed services.

“This is because several of the tricks that were available when using paper logs to shorten the 10-hour break are not ‘transferable’ to electronic logs. When using an electronic log, 10 hours means 10 hours, not six or seven hours plus three or four hours of delay time moved from the workday into the break (a common trick when using paper logs).”

Taylor Howerton, head of SunTrust Bank’s logistics & supply chain industry vertical, had a more cautious opinion.

“We’re hearing anecdotally that the rule has increased safety overall,” he said. “The debate arises when looking at relative sleep patterns within individuals and the limited flexibility for a driver to take rest breaks when and where their body may be telling them they need to on any particular day, which we know can vary greatly between individuals. Future adjustments to HOS rules will likely center on building in more flexibility around rest breaks to account for this variation.”

Drivers should be able to make the decision when to rest with no worries about HOS, according to Ozzie Flores, marketing and product manager, Teletrac Navman, which provides cloud-based GPS fleet-tracking software.

“A professional driver should be able to determine when they need to take a rest break and manage their fatigue, but they’re often forced to make difficult decisions and trade-offs between managing fatigue and dealing with operational challenges like traffic, shipper delays, or difficulties finding safe parking,” he said. “If drivers are given more flexibility, it may allow them to operate more efficiently and with less fatigue, but that remains to be seen.”

Flores is also optimistic ELDs will eventually make a difference.

“Even though we’re a year in, I don’t think we have enough conclusive data to prove ELDs have improved drivers’ sleep patterns,” he admitted. “However, one of the by-products of ELD implementation is the recent discussion about potentially revising the split sleeper berth rule. ELD data can show when drivers are at a shipper or receiver and waiting in line to load or unload, as many times they’re in a staging area. Parking problems alone are a reason to support flexible sleeper berth rules.”

Lower driver turnover

“I believe ELDs will help with driver retention over time,” stated John Wilbur, CEO of Roadmaster Group, a specialized transportation company. “The number one complaint of many drivers is lack of respect. On the road, this lack of respect is often communicated through time. Companies must optimize the productivity of this time to be profitable, and I would argue that most drivers have a higher level of satisfaction when they are performing activities that add value to their companies.”

Introducing ELD data into routing and scheduling automation software also means you can generate transport plans that are based on the true availability of all of your drivers, according to Will Salter, CEO of Paragon Software Systems, which provides routing and scheduling software used by global transportation operations.

“This should appeal to drivers, as you help maximize their earning potential within the HOS limits while avoiding fines,” he said. “You can also be sure the assigning of routes to drivers is done on a completely unbiased basis. The system can even factor in an individual driver’s needs, such as shift schedules or days off. All of these are important factors in retaining them.”

 

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