ELD Implementation: Lessons Learned From a Carrier Perspective

As December 18 draws closer, many carriers are currently facing important decisions about electronic logging devices (ELDs) in order to comply with the federal mandate. My company, Transport America, was at the same point four years ago.

With over 1,000 trucks in our fleet and even more drivers to get up to speed, it was a slow process initially and certainly a learning experience. But the electronic logs have become an integral part of our business, and we have found the technology comes with many advantages as well.

Lessons learned after ELD implementation

Lessons learned after ELD implementation | The Road

Initial concerns were soon dissolved.
It’s human nature to be wary of the unknown. Initially, our team had a fair amount of anxiety about switching to electronic logs: How will it impact productivity? Will drivers still be able to make a living? What if I’m five miles from home and I reach my hours of service maximum? But as it turned out, a lot of those fears were unfounded. We did see a slight dip in productivity when we first implemented the devices, but have since regained most of it through some operational adjustments.

Drivers quickly saw the upside.
We implemented ELDs slowly at Transport America. Once a few drivers agreed to try them, they quickly realized how easy the technology was to use and, in some cases, they actually got more time back. For instance, with paper logs, there is a 15-minute minimum for stops. But maybe you’re only stopped for five or six minutes—the electronic logs record that time accurately, and it can add up.

Once we had the devices available and the team started to understand how it all worked and what the ELDs could do for them, more and more of them were eager to implement in their trucks. In fact, when we went out to talk with drivers a month later, we asked what they would say if we told them we are going back to paper logs. The overwhelming sentiment was that they could never go back to paper—our drivers say the ELDs are easier, save them a lot of time and headaches trying to maintain accurate log info, and take the potential for human error out of the equation completely.

Overall business can benefit, too.
Our day-to-day operations continue to evolve since we implemented electronic logging devices. We have found it useful for both our fleet managers and planners to have access to data that allows them to see the complete picture for each truckload and each truck’s activity.

In some cases, the data has actually helped us understand where we can improve productivity. For example, we identified transit times and delivery expectations that were unrealistic given regulatory limitations. We were able to use the electronic logs to have productive conversations with customers, because the data shows that in order to move freight legally, changes needed to be made.

As an industry, we have some work to do to find ways to make freight pickups and deliveries more efficient. ELD data is just one tool to help identify opportunities to improve and create those efficiencies to make us better.

Don’t wait until December to implement

Don’t wait until December to implement | The Road

The best advice I can offer is if you haven’t implemented electronic logging devices yet, start exploring your options now. There are a lot of choices out there, and it could take some time to determine which is the best one for your business.

Some products might not be available at the last minute, especially if you have a large fleet to equip. Perhaps most importantly, don’t underestimate the amount of training required to get drivers and employees comfortable with the technology. It could take three months or more to install the hardware, educate drivers and staff, and ensure they know how to use the ELDs properly.

I would also recommend involving your drivers in developing the training—they understand the different situations and circumstances they may encounter and will need to address on the road better than anyone. You can’t over train when it comes to electronic logs. Bottom line: If you wait until December to start, you’re going to be too late.

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