The Best ELD – Part 3 – Technology

Blue Ink BIT ELD

✅Choosing the Best ELD – Technology

Welcome to Part 3 of our series on some of the considerations involved in finding the Best ELD for your business. In this section, we’ll look at factors that ensure that you get the technology configuration that you need.

For the full list of ELD guidelines: The Best ELD Guidelines

As always, we offer a free ELD needs evaluation and recommendations: ELD Questionnaire

✅In-Truck ELD Hardware – Driver Interface

ELDs and VCRs

We recently got a call from a small carrier. They had done a bit of research and had acquired a test unit from a well-known ELD provider. They had been charged $1,200 for the single in-cab hardware unit, had high monthly payments, and were locked into a one year contract for that test unit. Yikes!

Their questions for us were around whether or not this was a good deal, and if we thought that this company would meet the Canadian requirements down the road.

We have major recommendation problems with proprietary in-cab hardware. Most are locked in a technological snapshot. Essentially you may be buying a $1,200 VCR, in 2018 – it works, but is way behind current technology.

We connected the carrier with one of our recommended providers, who is setting up the whole fleet with a free trial. If they do go with this provider, their overall cost will be about 12% of the cost of the VCR system.

The ELD technological landscape is changing rapidly. Much faster than the transition from Beta VCR, VHS VCR, giant movie disks, DVDs, Blue Ray, and finally streaming. The advances in ELDs just aren’t/won’t be available on the old hardware platforms. Try streaming Netflix with that old VCR in your basement. Please don’t buy an ELD ‘VCR’!

Proprietary vs BYOD ELDs

As with the VCR ELD problem, (above), proprietary or custom built hardware is simply not adaptive enough to deal with new technologies. We recommend BYOD or Bring-Your-Own-Device driver interface units. Smart phones or tablets offer a greater range of functionality, and are usually much cheaper than proprietary hardware.

The other key consideration is many of the proprietary units are wired into the cab. Most roadside inspectors won’t enter the cab to review the HOS history on the device. That means the records have to be transmitted to the officer or printed in the cab. That’s a pain. Mobile devices can be taken out of the cab, and the history reviewed with the officer onscreen.

ELD Platforms

Currently, we are recommending Android hardware vs iOS. While most of the ELD apps work on both systems, changes and updates are usually much easier to implement on Android devices. An iOS app used to take up to 6 months to get an update launched. While that time has reduced significantly, Android is faster.

We had a client who had a very specific requirement for their android ELD system. The Provider was able to rewrite the code and update their app across all their customers in 6 hours.

Current Drivers’ Technology ELD or Other

A key consideration of driver hardware is a review of what the drivers are using now. Some may just have their own smartphones. Others might be using an older AOBRD system. Training time is dependant on how much variance there is between what the drivers are used to, and what the new system is like. There is huge benefit to having the drivers use something similar to what they’re comfortable working with.

Bluetooth and ELDs

Many of our clients don’t supply their drivers with any in-truck technology – they just let them use their own smartphones. This led to significant problems when they implemented ELDs.

The main problem is that some drivers are using old technology – a flip phone probably won’t handle the ELD app. The phone or tablet needs to have up-to-date bluetooth capabilities, in order to talk to the ECM module.

Most in-truck failures, and frustrations, occur because the bluetooth function is weak, either in the device or in the ECM module itself. Drivers can’t log in, the system keeps disconnecting, they lose connection when they take the device out of the cab during the DVIR, etc.

ELDs and WIFI

One area that is still very much open for discussion is the need for the ELD to automatically shift to data transfer via wifi. If you have terminals or customers with good wifi towers, you’ll save a bit on the monthly data costs.

Some systems communicate with the ECM truck module via wifi, but we can’t see a discernible advantage.

✅In-Truck ELD Hardware – ECM Interface

A critical component of any ELD system is the connection to the Engine Control Module. As noted above, many systems need to be hardwired into the various sensors and diagnostics of the truck.

By far the most convenient systems are Plug and Play modules. In their simplest form, you simply plug the module, (often the size of a large mushroom), in the diagnostic port under the dash. The truck is then set up in the backoffice software that comes with the ELD. Most systems can be set up in 10 minutes per truck.

Other systems supply you with a splitter. You remove the kickplate around the diagnostic port and plug in a splitter. One lead goes to the ELD module. The other goes to the existing plug. This allows mechanics to access the ECM without removing the ELD module. It’s a nice feature.

ELD Telematics and Telemetry

For bigger or more specialized operations, there are a variety of add-ons that can be set up with some ELDs:

Diagnostics

One of the most requested is live engine diagnostics. A driver calls or messages to the shop that he’s got a problem, even if it’s a warning light. The shop foreman can log into the trucks diagnostic port via the ELD and see exactly what the problem is.

Dash Cams

Integrated dash cams have become very affordable and provide critical accident documentation. There are now several ‘smart’ dash cams that can read a variety of road signs, even identifying construction zone speed signs.

PTO engagement

Some businesses are paid separately for actual product pump time. PTO monitoring and reporting provides an accurate, documented invoice detail.

Tire pressure

Some ELD Providers integrate tire pressure sensor technology with their app. We’re a little hesitant recommending these systems, having previous mixed results from the sensor accuracy and breakdowns.

Offline ELD Functionality

There are two interesting functionality tests that should be performed live on a perspective ELD system:

  • What can the driver do in the app when he is logged in, but not connected to any truck? This is important for drivers who have their own devices. They can track their off-duty time properly, was well as on-duty time when they’re not logged into a truck, (eg. helping in the shop).
  • How does the ELD function when the truck and driver are out of cell range? This is a common problem in the oil patch and remote areas. Some ELDs have limited info retention when offline, leaving a big gap in HOS history when the driver returns to cell access.

ELD Data Load

  • Some of the early ELD systems had a very high data load.  Most of the systems today function at around 500 mb per month per driver. If the driver uses his own device, this amount of data should fit most plans. Larger fleets usually negotiate pooled data rates with their cell providers.

Check out our list of 227 ELD Providers, including Big Road, Garmin, Omnitracs, Gorilla Safety, Blue Ink Bit, Stoneridge, Keep Truckin, Rand McNally, Eroad, Switchboard, & Geotab: ELD Providers List

ELD Advice – Global Logistics Canada Ltd.

We offer free ELD needs evaluations and recommendations to small trucking operations. Why? Because:

  • The trucking industry has been very, very good to us.
  • We’ve already built a digital catalogue of 424 ELDs to use with our consulting clients. An evaluation for a small company takes just a few minutes.
  • We’ve identified ELD systems that we can’t recommend, and tested ones that we can recommend.
  • No one should have to deal with a crappy ELD, and there are lots out there.

Free ELD needs evaluation and recommendations: ELD Questionnaire 

Disclaimer: The guidance and information provided in the ELD Canada site is offered for convenience only. For accurate reference, please consult with the Federal Ministry of Transportation or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Information is provided on a ‘best efforts’ basis.