Makers of electronic logs are frustrated with the uncertainty surrounding the mandate created by recent congressional actions, and are cautioning truckers against waiting until last moment to select a device.
They said costs for electronic logging devices (ELDs) have fallen sharply in recent years, and warned of a supply crunch for electronic components later this year.
The ELD mandate, scheduled for to take effect Dec. 18, requires most commercial drivers to use an electronic device to monitor hours of service. In June, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge from the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).
Last month, a House committee attached a measure to a 2018 appropriations bill calling for additional review of “one of the most expensive of all transportation rulemakings.”
The companion bill in the Senate does not contain any language on ELDs. Also in July, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) introduced a bill (H.R. 3282) that would delay the mandate two years.
With the House and Senate both in recess until Sept. 5, “we are not sure it is even possible by the time the mandate is supposed to take effect that they could get something done,” said Eric Witty, PeopleNet’s vice president of product management.
“It is business as usual for us,” said Tom Neppl, vice president of hardware solutions at Omnitracs. “We are proceeding as the Dec. 18 date will occur. Right now we don’t anticipate any change.”
Norm Ellis, president of ERoad, said fleets with between 10-50 trucks are the most likely to hesitate on ELD implementation.
“They can’t wait too much longer,” said Ellis, who recommends a four-to-six week transition period to allow the back office staff to undergo the “cultural change” that comes with ELD.
In an e-mail to Fleet Owner, OOIDA spokeswoman Norita Taylor noted Babin’s bill has 38 co-sponsors. She also shared a letter of support sent to Babin signed by OOIDA and 13 other associations.
“This is a massive unfunded mandate that provides no safety, economic, or productivity benefits,” the letter stated.
Ellis said he has successfully tried to open a dialogue with ELD opponents including OOIDA. “They will stick to their guns until the last day I’m sure,” he suggested.
Ellis hopes that attitude will change next year, and OOIDA would consider endorsing devices to secure discounts and other assistance for its membership.
With no delay imminent, the ELD executives expect a surge in demand, a situation Omnitracs’ Neppl warned could be complicated by a shortage of electronic components.
Neppl stressed it is not a “scare tactic” – pointing to recent coverage in Electronics Weekly. A shortage of memory and other components for smart phones and other electronics are creating wait times as long as 36 weeks.
“These aren’t parts that sit on the shelf somewhere,” he said of the components needed for electronic logging devices. “I think it behooves the industry … to take into consideration the macroeconomics going on that could potentially drive some constraints on ELD solutions.”
The result, PeopleNet’s Witty said, is that “fleets could end up being forced to adopt anything to be compliant. It could be whoever has something available, versus the preferred vendors they want to work with.”
Truckers should consider it “too risky to wait and see if something changes,” said Bernie Kavanagh, general manager for North American Large Fleet at WEX Inc., which offers fuel cards, payment processing, and partners with telematics firms on ELDs.
ERoad’s Ellis was forceful in his belief that overall costs have been inflated. The former Qualcomm and Omnitracs executive noted a steep price decline for technology and air time, allowing many low-cost options to enter the market.
As further evidence, Ellis pointed to the 60 percent of ERoad customers who are purchasing “value-added services” beyond just e-logs.
PeopleNet’s Witty agreed cost estimates are based on data from years ago “and isn’t looking at the market today.” There are options with no upfront fees, and could be run with few additional costs beyond a trucker’s existing data plan, he said.
ELD costs are more than recouped when factoring in safety benefits and efficiencies gained from less paperwork, WEX’s Kavanagh argued.
ELD smartphone apps are cheaper options than products offered by the companies interviewed for this story. In ERoad’s case, an ELD-only option starts in the range of about 35 dollars a month. It is one of the few tethered options on the market, and the only one that has been publicly certified by the non-profit PIT Group.
Yves Provencher, PIT’s director of business and market development, said the company is working with other manufacturers that have asked not to be named.
The certification process, similar to an accounting firm verifying financial statements, generally takes eight weeks and costs $32,000. It offers fleet owners confidence the device is working as intended, and will not become a liability in an accident, Provencher said.
He added while there are costs associated with the mandate, “if you are against it, it is probably because you are cheating.”
There was agreement that compliance and enforcement challenges will remain after Dec. 18, and the executives said tweaks to the mandate are likely during 2018 and beyond.
But PeopleNet’s Witty summed up their mood this way: “If there is a delay, we will get to the next point and there will be a new set of issues to be concerned about. Let’s rip the band aid off, get going and we’ll all work out the details.”