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ELDs: Harnessing the power of data

Feb. 16, 2018
There are many “flavors” of ELDs on the market. Which type can create savings for your trucking operation?

By Jerry Robertson, BOLT System

Following what he called a “mad rush” to install and start using electronic logging devices (ELDs) in December and January, Jerry Robertson, chief technology officer for BOLT System, believes the next challenge facing truckers is how to make the data captured by those devices provide new ways to generate profits. In this guest column, Robertson explains that only specific types of ELDs are truly positioned to do that.

With the mad rush now over to install ELDs to comply with the federal mandate, many in trucking are breathing a sigh of relief.

But when truckers with new to ELDs do come up for air, there is a world of possibilities when it comes to data capture and fleet efficiency gains. It’s the “now-what” moment that many encounter once the dust has settled on installations as there is so much more than hours-of-service (HOS) tracking ELDs can provide.

But first, it all depends upon the type of ELDs that were purchased.

There are many different “flavors” of ELDs out there – some that provide the minimum with GPS and HOS, while others offer an API – an “application programmable interface.” Those with APIs offer the “golden goose” for data collection as you can set up an ELD to capture and relay information through a fleet management program. Typically, though you need to run about 10 trucks to start seeing measurable benefits.

The low-hanging fruit in utilizing a fleet management program is in pedal and line-haul deliveries, where there is a normal flow with set deliveries. Companies like ours can work with a fleet to set up a workflow system, which includes geo-fencing at known delivery sites. When the truck breaks the “fence” and stops, that triggers the system to document and time-stamp the duration of the delivery. When the driver resumes, that’s noted as well. This way a fleet knows exactly the amount of time the delivery took – and if it’s longer than it should be, the fleet now has documentation on detention.

Detention is an absolutely huge issue. A recent Department of Transportation study showed that detention costs motor carriers up to $302 million annually. So now, with documentation provides via the ELD, you can show your customer the problem and go about working on a mutually beneficial solution – putting the onus on the shipper to speed the unloading process or agreeing on adding detention time charges.

Another money-making capability ELDs offer when connected to a fleet management system is in load documentation, breakage, and billing. This is something that is easy to set up as many ELDs also function as portable tablets, with a small camera lens embedded. If there is a freight shortage or breakage, a picture can document the problem. Everything can be documented on the spot, along with signature and bill of lading capture. Once inputted into the ELD, it can be sent to the fleet management program and an invoice can be sent to the customer’s accounts payable department, all before the taillights leave the shipping dock. That’s a far cry from paper processing when billing delays can take a week or more.

Yet tracking and billing represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what ELDs in conjunction with a fleet management system can provide. You can also add dispatch, based on logging in distribution points, or even viewing the entire fleet in real time and automatically alert customers to an upcoming delivery time based on GPS coordinates. You can handle driver pay, in addition to customer billing. And, you can even assign activity-based pay – something that many of our customers are increasingly asking for.

Down the road, a lot more is happening. Before long, many fleet management programs will be able to incorporate real-time weather, to help truckers with route planning as their trucks are in motion. That will be something.

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