Roughly, there are three buckets of ELD technology:
- Fixed systems with proprietary hardware. Many of these systems have evolved from existing AOBRD technology. They usually provide an array of back office systems, eg. Dispatch, BOL’s, etc.
- Plug and Play, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) systems.
- Hybrid systems. These are providers who have evolved their AOBRD system to plug/play, BYOD. They offer a back-office suite of software, along with ELD technology.
As our clients are aware, we’re not big fans of proprietary hardware. Many of these systems offer other packaged transportation applications, such as dispatch or electronic bills-of-lading. While some components may work well for a particular company, they usually have to compromise on the other applications. Customization can be very expensive. Most of these systems require a long-term contract (eg. 3-5 years).
A while back, we worked with a carrier with extensive customizations to an onboard system. They were advised that the software and hardware couldn’t be upgraded when new versions came out because of the customizations, (that they spent a LOT of money developing). They were stuck with the old software and hardware, that the provider would no longer service. Technology that can’t be inexpensively and easily upgraded/replaced will soon be like that VCR you still have somewhere in the basement.
Plug/Play, BYOD systems offer many advantages:
- Very quick truck installation – usually a matter of minutes. This is an important feature especially for those carriers that rent or lease power equipment. Some transceivers are the size of a marshmallow, that simply plugs into the engine diagnostic port.
- Easy application install on the drivers’ smartphones, either android or iOS. Monthly data load is usually between 300 and 500mb, so the communication cost is minimal.
- Most of the providers have one year contracts. A new trend now is no contract and no hardware cost for the ECM connection module. Just a monthly fee of around $20/truck.
- All these systems have some sort of backend office, web-based application. This gives dispatchers and administrators access to locations, HOS status, etc. Most have a solid API, which allows system integration with other software, like dispatch, payroll, IFTA, etc.
- A wide variety of HOS data set rules. One provider has gone with a very innovative approach – no set HOS rules. Just as with paper logs, the driver determines and documents which cycle or rule set he’s using. This is very useful for those carriers that operate within a 100 mile/ 160 km exception, but occasionally go beyond that radius and then have to use logbooks, with history.
We expect ELD technology to continue to evolve rapidly till mid-year, then stabilize thru the mandate deadline. By mid-2018 we should see the release of pent up software development. It will be critical to work with an ELD provider that will be flexible enough for you to enjoy new technology enhancements.