With the apparent impending passing of regulation mandating the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELD’s) late next year in Canada, many Canadian trucking companies are only just now beginning to search out solutions to comply. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, the market place is full of solution providers.Starting down the road to ELD (or ELOG) implementation can be fraught with challenges and pitfalls. While there is certainly getting to be more and more information available online and from other sources, often times this information and advice is being provided by ELD providers and is, ultimately, slanted to selling their product.
This blog is intended to the relay our experience of implementing ELD’s in a small Canadian trucking company. It is an unbiased set of suggestions and lessons learned (sometimes the hard way) about what you might want to consider when going through the process of ELOG implementation.
Included in this Blog will be access to our suggestions for:
Part 1 - ELOGs versus EOBRs - what's the difference?
Part 2 - Operational realities (and opportunities) of moving to ELOGs.
Part 3 - Finding a software and hardware supplier;
Part 4 - Implementation and Driver buy-in;
Part 5 - Harnessing the Power of an ELOG/Telematics System
Part 6 - Telematics Features and Capabilities
Part 3 - Find a software and hardware supplier you are comfortable with.
Okay, so you're ready to move ahead into the world of ELD's. There are literally hundreds, maybe thousands of choices when you start down the road of ELD’s – and the choices are growing every day. From large, multi-national companies who have successfully developed ELOG solutions for the US market, to the kid down the street developing the next smart phone app to track your hours of service. Some things to consider:
Solution Provider Size
The largest companies can provide a turn-key solution that can be implemented with proven software, training aids and resources, however, this option may come at a hefty cost and with very limited flexibility in terms of customization. These companies are more likely to have the resources at work to ensure they comply with all pending legislation, including such important details as ECM connectivity and third-party accreditation (the latest Canadian requirement holding up regulation). But don’t expect a tailored solution here, this is often times a one-size fits all approach.
On the opposite end of the provider spectrum, are the very small, independent firms or even individuals who are burning the candle at both ends to develop solutions that, often times, might be simpler, easier to use and inexpensive to implement, but are almost solely dependent on a small company or individual who may not have the resources to fully develop the product, nor comply with the complex regulations coming down the pike. Of course, these providers are often ready to promise-the-world in terms of customizing a solution to meet your every need.
You may find the sweet spot somewhere in between. There are a number of mid-size companies emerging in Canada who balance the technical depth with deep enough pockets to provide a robust, “local” solution, while not being so rigid in their development that they aren’t willing to provide reasonable custom solutions to meet your needs – and maybe at a cost that doesn’t break the bank.
Hardware and Software Considerations
One of the fundamental questions that you need to determine early on in this process, is whether cellular connectivity is enough, or if you require a satellite link with your ELOG/telematics system. Some solution providers do not offer satellite connectivity for this system, and if this is important to your operation, may narrow your choices for vendors. Satellite communication can be a very expensive option, so really think about how imperative constant communication really is. Cellular-based systems have real-time communication and updates while the vehicle is in a cellular service area, but store information when out of service, uploading it as soon as it returns to cellular service. In many cases, and as cellular coverage becomes more and more reliable and wide-spread, many companies find that cellular connectivity is more than adequate. Keep in mind, that even when out of cellular coverage, the system in the vehicle still remains up-to-date for driver ELD purposes.
Many ELD providers are quick to offer their software solutions, but distance themselves from also providing the hardware to operate it. While they offer hardware compatibility suggestions, they just aren’t prepared to offer the complete package.
Some, of course, do offer turn-key solutions…particularly the big players who often have custom-matched hardware. These can be extremely well-developed and comprehensive solutions that are both stable and continue to have progressive development. Just watch your wallet – these solutions, and their recurring fees, can creep.
In my experience, do your research here. Find an ELD provider who can also provide cost-effective hardware matched to their solution and meeting all pending regulations. Compatibility of components and software are key to a good ELD experience. Effective solutions can be relatively simple (and inexpensive) from a hardware standpoint – many use common android or Apple tablets connected to a “dongle” which ties the tablet and ELD to your truck ECM through your J1939 connection (the same connection your local dealer uses to read your engine fault codes). ECM connectivity will be an absolute requirement to meet pending regulation, but this needn't cost thousands per truck to acquire.
Installation and Support
Installation costs are an often-over-looked expense that trucking companies should consider and negotiate into any agreement for an ELD solution. Of course, this will only be possible if the solution you choose is from a provider that can offer both the software and hardware – a turn-key solution. Solutions that include a tablet, mount and ECM dongle will often be able to be completed in under 2 hours. Complex systems using proprietary hardware and satellite systems could be much more involved…and costly.
As with any purchase that you will have daily reliance on for your business, after sales support is crucial to a successful ELD experience. Problems with something that will become as mission-critical as your driver’s daily log book, could be more than just a headache. As we all know, CVSE officers don’t have a lot of patience for drivers and companies who are not in compliance…at all times. ELD suppliers need to have a strong culture of customer support and the availability to provide quick responses to customer issues. Support costs can range widely…but should not be a significant additional cost from regular monthly costs.
Product and Development
If there was one suggestion that was more important than any other, it would be to ensure that any system you choose is easy to use for your drivers. Driver acceptance in the early days of implementation will be crucial to having an enjoyable (okay acceptable) ELD experience. These systems need not be complicated to use. Modern ELD systems are intuitive and require minimal driver interaction. For instance, any system you choose should not require a driver to put him or herself in the “Driving” duty-status…the system should automatically do that once the gps embedded in the hardware recognizes that the truck is moving at a minimum speed for a minimum length of time.
Continuing development is important in terms of telematics capabilities, but over-complicating the driver's daily log (ELOG) component is probably not going to be a big requirement if they got it right the first time. In this case, the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle definitely applies...no need to make your professional driver's job more difficult by complicating the log book use.
Now enhancing telematics capabilities on an ongoing basis is a different matter. This will be discussed more in a later section.
If you found what you’ve just read to be valuable, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading the other five parts of this blog series. You can fill out the simple form below and I’ll be happy to email you a PDF of all 6 parts of this series.
Our journey to implement electronic logbooks in all our trucks was not without its ups and downs. Certainly, the most challenging part was getting all our drivers to embrace and use the new technology. If you want to have a chat sometime about how we went about getting buy in from all our drivers feel free to give me a call at 250.828.2821 or drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best, Greg Munden.