Much has been written about ELD’s since the beginning of the ELD Rule Awareness and Transition Phase in February 2016. Discussion however, has occurred mostly from the perspective of transport industry authorities, and carrier and shipper organizations–covering the primary benefits of rigorously enforcing hours-of-service regulations, improving road safety, and reducing accident-related costs, as well as the longer-term effect of levelling the playing field and transforming carrier-shipper relations.

But what about drivers? Those at the heart of this transformation and affected by it every hour of their every work day? Their experience is key and must not be overlooked in the current context of driver shortage and challenges of driver retention.

From the Driver’s Seat

When speaking to drivers, a major concern lies in seeing their income decrease with the now precise tracking of hours leaving no flexibility to exceed the allowable driving hours to complete a trip when only a few hours away from the finish line. Also very real, is the uneasiness of moving from a paper log to an electronic one, exposing many drivers to a technology they don’t relate to, and the fear of having technology complicate their work day.

These concerns are understandable and can be a reality for some, in the short term that is. The truth is, making any kind of significant change in how we get work done often causes things to get worse before they get better.

Change Curve Aches and Pains

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) study on driver detention impacts released in September 2019 and based on polls from 2014 and 2018 shows that detention times have increased, and relate in part to issues with processes and staffing at customer locations that have yet to be addressed.

It also reveals that despite ELDs that can now record wait times, only 17 percent of drivers reported sharing their ELD data with the customer on how long they had been detained.

As industry players learn to leverage the data made available through ELDs, carriers and shippers will have every reason to act in reducing inefficiencies, for their own benefit and everyone’s in the process.

Looking a Few Miles Ahead

With the foreseen positive effects on carrier/shipper relations by leveraging data, reducing inefficiencies and hopefully diminish detention times, drivers could not only recover their income, but potentially increase it, not to mention with a better experience at customer locations.   

As for the perceived complexity of electronic logging devices versus the simplicity of paper logs, this too shall pass. A slowdown in efficiency is part of learning any new system and usually short-lived.

The experience will vary from one driver to another, and depend on the ELD itself. For not all ELD’s are the same, and the one you choose will make a difference in how your drivers experience these changes.

Choose an ELD with Your Drivers in Mind

Start with Compliance

Compliance is the priority when looking for an ELD solution. The self-certification process of the U.S. ELD mandate has required carriers to exercise caution to avoid fines due to system inadequacies. Thankfully, the Canadian ELD mandate’s third-party certification process will set the minds of carriers at ease. Compliance however, is only the beginning when choosing a solution that drivers will enjoy using.

Ease of Use

Will the ELD in your driver’s cab be easy to use? Are the options on the screen easy to find and clearly labelled? If not, your driver’s initial encounter with the tool at the center of their day and your operations will generate resistance. Drivers must accomplish tasks in just a few clicks, and not have to browse through too many screens, getting lost in the process.  

Saving Time

Drivers want minimal wait times, not only in shipper yards, but also when using electronic systems. Does your ELD show results instantaneously when using an option or does every click take too long to show results? Fast system response lets drivers feel the system is there to serve them, and not the other way around.

How about the time it takes to key in data? Is the ELD asking drivers for information already available in your central files or that they’ve already entered on a previous screen? Choose a system that keeps data entry to a minimum, so your drivers can focus on driving.

Breezing Through Roadside Inspections

Roadside inspections can cause unnecessary aggravation for your drivers if producing the information required by authorities is tedious. Is this feature easy to use, and are your drivers well trained on using it? Having an instruction sheet for authorities on hand in the cab is mandatory, but a system with a feature so straightforward they won’t need it is a plus. Make sure trucks travelling outside cellular coverage areas have the required communications on board to present up-to-date logs to authorities. Make sure drivers can annotate questionable driving records. These measures will alleviate driver stress during roadside inspections and avoid citations for failing to transfer or present HOS data.

Beyond Hours of Service

Although the ELD mandate centers on hours-of-service logging, why not go beyond the required basics and consider extra features that could improve your operations? This could include pre-trip inspections your drivers could capture electronically and make readily available to dispatchers and mechanics. It could also include powerful messaging capabilities that keep drivers connected to dispatchers in real time to get notified of trip changes without delay or get assistance when they need it. Implementing additional features some ELD providers are offering could turn the system “you had to implement” to one you are glad you did.

For the Long Haul

ELDs are generating positive impacts on the trucking industry and can expectedly continue to do so as we navigate this important change curve.  As industry players come together to improve on the inefficiencies ELDs help reveal, we must remember that drivers are at the heart of this important turn. Choosing an ELD with them in mind makes sense and can steer them your way.

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