Some say it’s a step forward; some say it’s an unfair burden on independent truck owner-operators but, like it or not, the ELD Mandate is a reality. While there is legitimate concern over the impact of mandated electronic logging devices (ELDs) on driver productivity and truck capacity, the data that you collect as a result of being compliant could prove a powerful tool in your search for a more efficient transportation operation, as well as increased profitability, in 2018.
After much toing and froing, it does finally look as if 2018 will herald the advent of the ELD era. Those in opposition to the rule continue to argue the up-front costs of installing ELDs will cut into already thin profit margins, while the FMCSA insists that ELDs will save trucking companies a collective $1.6 billion per year by limiting paperwork costs and enhancing fuel efficiency. The results remain to be seen, but now you have your electronic logging devices in place – or close to it – it’s time to act, turning this investment in regulatory compliance to your advantage.
While enforcement has been postponed until April 2018, this delay is almost certainly a good thing, because the industry is far from ready. A September DC Velocity article on the impact of ELDs on truckers, revealed “about half of the commercial motor vehicles in operation are not yet equipped with ELDs.”
The good news is that this lack of adoption offers logistics providers the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage from prompt compliance. Already, it is clear that some major retailers will make it a condition of doing business that their transportation providers can prove they have complied with the ELD rule. That’s not the only good news about the ELD Mandate, though.
We argued in a prior blog on the benefits of ELDs that there are strong reasons to embrace the advent of the ELD era because the mandatory devices will provide more, and richer, data. Since every fleet operator must now invest in an ELD system, if they haven’t already, now is the time to consider how to harness that data to reap the rewards in terms of better visibility and control of truck operations — most importantly in truck route optimization.
The Hours of Service (HoS) data you will be collecting daily from across your operation will give you actual hours worked and driven for each of your drivers. When fed directly into a route optimization systems, this data will ensure you create transport plans that are based on true availability for all of your driver. This removes the need to manually manipulate the data to ensure HoS restrictions are adhered to.
For example, where a driver might typically be using less than the maximum HoS on a particular route, the routing plan will automatically add a delivery leg, or move the driver to another route that maximizes use of the allowance. This is a powerful way to utilize all of your assets to the full. Driver hours are limited; trucks can operate 24 hours a day.
Clearly every ELD device is different, but companies that have invested in systems that collect HoS data as well as information such as loading time and fuel usage will benefit enormously from the ability to record actual route execution and compare that with the routing plan, to look for anomalies.
For example, you might have planned for a 20-minute stop at a delivery location, but the stop is consistently taking 90 minutes. Feeding that data back into future plans improves the process.
Ideally, to continually maximize route planning efficiency, you establish a constant feedback loop on any given route, taking real data – whether it’s simply hours driven or tracking information — and adjusting the next route plan accordingly, over and over. In other words, integrating vehicle tracking systems with routing and scheduling software is a good way to achieve visibility and future efficiency.
All in all, the ELD mandate, and the data it will make available means that routing can become smarter, because it allows you to create more accurate plans based on true availability. It also offers you a clearer picture of driving and working hours during any given period. All of this makes it easier to develop ever-better plans going forward. Whether you have a simple ELD solution, or have invested in a wider telematics solution that gathers more detailed information, the data you are gathering should empower you to make your distribution operations better and more efficient.
There is also a strong argument that ELDs will also improve the job of driving. With the better route planning the ELD mandate makes possible, drivers will no longer be under pressure to meet impossible delivery targets, because routes and schedules can be created that are achievable and appropriate, reducing driver stress.
ELD data offers the exciting opportunity to do a great deal more than ensure rule compliance. It can and should be used to improve asset utilization, increase efficiency, lower transport costs and boost customer service. Now is the time to ask how you can turn ELD Mandate compliance into an operational and competitive advantage.
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