3 Ways the Switch from Paper Logs to ELDs Affects Fleets
With a final Department of Transportation (DOT) ruling mandating electronic logging devices (ELDs) in effect as of December 2015, it is important for fleet management companies to understand the impact making the switch to electronic driver logs will have on their business.
Many drivers are accustomed to logging their hours of service (HOS) with paper, so the switch to an electronic logbook will present a significant change in the way they operate. Paper logbooks rely solely on the driver to keep track of his or her own HOS, while ELDs will automatically record certain information such as when a vehicle is on, when the vehicle is in motion, and distance traveled.
Because paper logbooks are kept manually, verifying that information is accurate can be difficult, and it’s also difficult for fleet managers to get a comprehensive view of exactly what their drivers are doing.
Many companies have already begun making the complete switch to electronic driver logs or are utilizing more advanced GPS fleet tracking, so businesses considering making the switch have real-world information available to better gauge the expected effects for their companies. Electronic driver logs have many benefits over paper logs as they yield data that enables managers to make decisions.
However, when implementing ELDs, it’s important that there is trust between management and drivers. One of the most prominent effects will be that management will become more involved in issues with drivers and customers because managers will have access to very specific data about drivers. Let’s take a look at three of the trends that arise among managers and drivers when fleets switch to ELDs.
1. Management may become more likely to compensate drivers for customer delays in pickup or delivery.
A November 2014 study from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) evaluated various driver experiences to determine which ones demonstrated a significant difference for drivers using electronic logging devices as opposed to paper logs. 63% of drivers using ELDs reported that they were more likely “to be paid for customer delays when picking up or delivering freight at least once per month.” This figured dropped to 53% for drivers using paper to log their hours of service.
Receiving payment for customer delays is a major concern for drivers. If a driver is spending time waiting for customers, that means he or she is losing time that could be spent on making the next pickup or delivery. If a driver using paper logs says “I was waiting for a customer for X hours,” he or she will have a difficult time proving it if a customer disagrees with this contention. With electronic driver logs, there is actual proof of how long the truck was turned off and/or not in motion, and if GPS fleet tracking is enabled, fleet managers will be able to pinpoint the exact time the driver arrived at the customer location. Having more information available will allow both carriers and customers to make better decisions in these types of situations.
2. Management can work with customers to create more realistic load schedules.
In a similar vein of increased interaction among drivers, management, and customers, the FMCSA study found that 32% of drivers using electronic logging devices experienced “management asking customers to adjust load schedules so they were more realistic for the driver at least twice per month.” Only 24% of drivers using paper logs reported this experience.
Once again, we see more involvement and communication from management when it comes to driver interaction with customers. Using electronic log books, which provide more detailed accounts of a driver’s day-to-day activities, means that management has more information available to properly gauge the amount of time it takes drivers to complete daily tasks. Armed with this information, management is able to communicate better with customers to provide more realistic timelines of when drivers are available for pickups and deliveries.
3. If communication is managed poorly, drivers may feel that management is harassing them at inappropriate times.
While the first two trends reveal the benefits of increased manager involvement for drivers—managers shouldering some of the burden when it comes to customer communication—there is a more negative trend reported by a portion of drivers. According to the report, 37% of drivers using ELDs were “interrupted when off-duty at an inappropriate time at least once per month.” Just 23% of drivers utilizing paper logs reported the same experience.
Increased driver monitoring through ELDs and GPS tracking has many benefits, but drivers do not want to feel like they are being observed every second of their day including while off duty. Movement monitoring and real-time data logging mean that management has much more information available about their drivers’ minute-by-minute activity. With this information, questions, concerns, and issues often arise that managers believe they need to communicate to their drivers. It is important that this increase in communication is done in a way in which drivers do not feel like they are “on call” at all times.
The line between management and micromanagement is always a difficult one to toe, and fleet managers need to be conscious of this as they become privy to more information about their drivers’ daily routines. As with any profession, there are times when increased involvement from management can benefit the employee, and there are times when the employee sees it as a detriment.
In order to prepare for the change to ELDs, fleet managers need to develop a plan for increased communication while being cognizant that their drivers are adjusting to increased monitoring of hours of service and day-to-day schedules. If managers communicate with drivers and build trust in addition to implementing the new technology, everyone involved with the fleet can reap the benefits of efficiency and accuracy brought by electronic driver logs.