With a final rule and compliance coming very shortly concerning electronic logging devices (ELDs) for commercial vehicles, fleets that are still on the fence about moving to ELDs will have to take the plunge, at least on the basic requirements. But they might want to consider a deeper dive.

Two fleets run by family-owned companies with different business models say going farther with ELDs saved money, cut out various kinds of waste and inefficiency and created other, less tangible benefits that are difficult to measure but can have a significant impact on operations and bottom line. The discussion took place via a Fleet Owner webinar Oct. 1 sponsored by fleet management and telematics technology provider Omnitracs.

 

Watch the free archived version of the Oct. 1  webinar

 

"I don't see a downside risk for going with ELDs, but I do see a risk for not doing it," said Todd Davis, president of Davis Transfer Company Inc., a regional truckload carrier with terminals in Carnesville and Valdosta, GA, and Lakeland, FL. Davis explained that the company has some 800 trailers and 250 tractors driven mainly by employee drivers and a few contracted owner-operators, with an average of 250-300-mi. hauls.

"The benefits in revenues, even, outweigh the costs," Davis contended, speaking about ELD systems with a range of additional functionality. "If you're not already on ELDs," he added, "you should be." Beyond basic regulatory compliance, Davis noted his belief that going forward, trucking companies that don't take advantage of some key ELD-linked capabilities could be driven out of the market because the odds will be stacked against them on risk management and accident liability.

Luke Olin, director of transportation at Minnesota-based Upper Lakes Foods Inc., said his company is the largest independent food and related supplies distributor in the state, with two distribution facilities and annual sales exceeding $170 million. The company has 48 trucks and 56 trailers of different sizes, he noted, and its drivers — who spend varying proportions of their days unloading and delivering product — typically run less than 450 miles and return to the yard each day.

"So the nature of our driver is a little bit different. It's a lot of delivery and it's a physical job," Olin said, adding, "we kind of tailor each route to our customers." He pointed out that the company's drivers "will take some of our 28-foot trailers into wooded paths you didn't think you could take a Suburban down — school camps and things of that nature."

Both companies have tapped additional ELD functionality beyond the basic requirements for charting drivers' record of duty status. Upper Lakes Foods adopted GPS routing and has been using ELDs since 2003, Olin said, and also uses in-cab cameras and video recording technology. The company's drivers now use tablet computers, smart phones or other consumer devices that relay information to trucks' ELD systems.

For its part, Davis Transfer has used electronic driver communication devices "since the mid-1990s" and became a test partner with Omnitracs in 2008-09, at that time installing 100 of the technology provider's MCP100 fleet management products, which include an hours of service (HOS) application. The company experienced several accidents around that time, he noted, and did some self-auditing of driver logs.

"We looked at our logbooks and everything looked great, but the disconnect came when we started comparing our logbooks with our feeds from our GPS units from the trucks," Davis told listeners. "There, we found gaps. We knew if we didn't find a way to map where the truck was with what the driver was putting in the logbook, then we had problems."

"That was the main driver to go to an ELD-type product," Davis said.