Executives of two fleets that have implemented electronic logging devices (ELDs) are finding that adopting the technology voluntarily is benefitting their operations by boosting the productivity of drivers and back-office personnel; reducing Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) roadside violations; and enhancing driver recruitment and retention.

Just last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPR) that would mandate ELDs for drivers currently required to prepare Hours-of-Service (HOS) records of duty status.

The SNPR for ELDs also addresses minimum performance and design standards for the devices and concerns about any harassment of drivers by carriers over the mandatory use of ELDs.

FMCSA’s proposal calls for mandatory use of ELDs within two years of a final rule being used. But carriers already deploying devices that meet the current automatic onboard recording device standard would be allowed to keep using that equipment for another two years.

“For us, electronic logs are a game-changer [in terms of] safety compliance and productivity,” said Clay Merches, safety director for J&R Schugel Trucking, during a webinar on costs and profitability hosted yesterday by Tim McCrady, senior director of Customer Service for Omnitracs, LLC.

New Ulm, MN-based J&R Schugel provides longhaul truckload service with some 600 power units. Merches related that the adoption of ELDs by the fleet had done away with “problems that result from having to review for compliance paper logs two weeks after the fact. They certainly make a safety guy’s life less stressful—now I can easily and quickly check every morning and evening if all our drivers are in compliance.”

He said that since implementing ELDs, the fleet has seen a measurable increase in office productivity and that driver productivity has also gone up “from not having to deal with keeping paper logs.”

What’s more, Merches reported that J&R Schugel has “seen a huge reduction in CSA violations as well.” He explained that logs not being current had been one of the biggest generators of violations scored at roadside inspections.

“Since going with electronic logs,” he explained, “we’ve gone from a 72.6 percentile rate in CSA down to 44.2. And we’ve seen our violations drop in just two years from 500 to 40— they are virtually gone now.”

According to Merches, drivers are clearly sold on EDLs. “Drivers insist on getting to a shop right away if the system ever goes down because they just do not want to deal with paper logs.

“And,” he continues, “we’re finding that drivers are seeking us out because they now we’re on electronic logs here.”

Merches noted that the fleet’s ELD data feeds into its “smart dispatch” system “so our [load] planners are aware if drivers are being delayed anywhere, which gives us the ability to consider options ahead of time. So, electronic logs are also helping us with our on-time pickup and delivery performance.”

John Elliott, CEO of Load One, LLC, advised that the Taylor, MI–based carrier, which specializes in expedited freight, has been rolling out ELDs on a voluntary basis “as having “a driver force whose average age is in the 50s makes acceptance[of new technology] harder for them.”

On the other hand, he said the fleet is also using ELDs as a sort of retention tool.

“In cases where drivers are not [intentionally] illegal but are just not good at keeping paper logs,” Elliott explained, “we give them the option of switching to electronic logs” to stay with the fleet.  

The SNPR for ELDs also addresses minimum performance and design standards for the devices as well as concerns about any harassment of drivers by carriers over the mandatory use of ELDs.

Once in effect, per FMCSA, its ELD rulemaking would:

  • Generate nearly $400 million in annualized safety benefits from preventing about 20 fatalities and 434 injuries yearly
  • Save trucking nearly $1.64 billion a year in paperwork
  • Result in annualized costs of about $1.58 billion, but yield more than $450 million in annualized net benefits