Can ELDs help companies stay in business?

Oct 3, 2019 4:33:32 PM / by Mike Riegel

The ELD mandate has caused a huge shift in how carriers and drivers must operate. Without the use of editing paper logbooks the trucking industry has identified many of the interruptions that prevent trucks from moving. Trucks that don't move don't make money and trucks that don't make money put carriers out of business.

In the first half of 2019, around 640 trucking companies went bankrupt, according to industry data from Broughton Capital LLC. That's more than triple the amount of bankruptcies from the same period last year of 175. Some of the reasons for going bankrupt have been due to increased regulation, rising insurance rate, and toll increases to name a few.

For an industry that works mostly on a pay-per-mile basis anything that does not involve driving is essentially free labor that both carriers and drivers don't get paid from. Some of these task include: scaling loads, making sure the truck is operational with DVIRs, waiting for loading/unloading, securing loads, fixing blowouts, DOT inspections, fixing overloaded trucks, and the list continues.

Scaling and adjusting loads

One of the biggest time wasters in trucking is based around scaling. Trucks are overloaded so frequently that most carriers pay to scale every load that is picked up. Many times a certified scale is over 30 miles away from the point of loading. A driver that is accidentally over loaded on an axle group will have to lose 60+ miles of paid driving, hours of limited drive time, scaling fees and wasted fuel just to deal with this accident. 3 hours of lost drive time can cost carriers over $300 on the low end.

A majority of carriers have trucks that scale over 9 times a month. Many of these scale tickets are just to verify that the loads are legal. For a driver to be confident the load is legal can cost over $100/month. If drivers are able to know that loads are below the legal limits this can allow the driver to pass scales and use the time to drive more miles. The time spent waiting in line, getting scale tickets, and continuing down the road could be eliminated saving the scale cost and vehicle down time.

Trucks using air suspensions can be used to calculate an axles weight. It takes a certain amount of pressure to support a load and this pressure can be used to calculate the weight of the load. This concept can help save thousands of dollars a year in unnecessary scale tickets.

Checking tires for proper inflation

Checking tires should take about 15 minutes. The best way to make sure tires are properly inflated is by checking them individually with a gauge. Getting down to check 18 tires a day is rough on the knees as well as time consuming. Many drivers have developed techniques to cut down the time it takes to check tires. The most popular method is by hitting the tire with something to listen for the sound it produces. This "good enough" technique has its own long term side effects.

Tires that are inflated at different pressures end up working differently to handle loads. Higher inflated tires bear more of the load and lower inflated tires "drag". This cuts into the tires life, increases heat from friction, affects the trucks fuel consumption, and can result in a blowout with time.

Sensors on tires can provide insights into how a tire was operating before a blowout occurred. A tire that has been under-inflated for weeks has the highest chance of blowing out from increased heat, friction and drag. With tires costing $500 a piece carriers should get as much life out of them as possible. A blowout on the side of the road cost a tire and a big service charge that cuts deep into a carriers revenue. If a driver is aware of a low tire and ignored the warning then they can be held accountable for not addressing a critical issue.

Vehicle maintenance

Vehicle maintenance is usually overlooked because it's easier to fix a known problem than trying to prevent potential problems. The issue is no one can tell when or where a break down will take place. If a truck breaks down on an interstate it cost substantially more to get it moving again than performing some preventative maintenance tasks.

Today's trucks contain computers that are very good at letting drivers know something is wrong. It is hard to tell why a check engine light is on by the display but the trucks computer can tell a driver "Engine Oil Pressure is Below Normal Operating Value". This can help with preventative maintenance and changing an oil filter is cheaper than fixing or replacing an engine.

How can ELDs address any issues other than driver logs?

Today's cell phones have 100,000 times more processing power than the computers that put Americans on the moon. This means that the phones that run apps can do more amazing things than just maintaining a logbook. Mandating that drivers use ELDs has opened up opportunity for carriers to collect data on their vehicles in real time to help run their business more effectively. Drivers who are engaged with an app for 11 hours a day to keep their logbook can also monitor tire inflation, gross and axle weights, fault codes and maintenance issues, and more.

Drivers will undoubtedly use their ELD applications because their logbooks are required and fines are stiff. Drivers are significantly less likely to use a different app for tire pressure monitoring because there is no easy way to make sure they keep up on it. Drivers don't want to use additional tools and carriers don't want to hire and fire new drivers. Using an ELD that manages as many task as possible automatically is key to getting important fleet data to carriers to avoid the situations they can no longer erase from a paper logbook.

The ELD mandate introduced a lot of providers who provide the bare minimum requirements to meet the regulations. As ELDs evolve the providers who are just providing a service to maintain logbooks will be overshadowed by providers dedicated to providing more value for the carriers company. ELDs have highlighted the bottlenecks in the trucking industry and providers who are not moving to address these issues for customers will be replaced by providers who will help solve these problems. The trucking industry has become more restrictive but working smarter will keep carriers in business for the long term.

Topics: Air Scale, Gross vehicle weight, truck scale, ELD, BIT TPMS

Mike Riegel

Written by Mike Riegel