There isn't much worse than not getting value out of something you've paid for and are required by law to have. When the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate was implemented it left truck drivers with few options and even fewer ways to deal with it. Selecting the wrong ELD provider is one of the main problems with ELD.
An ELD provider should keep the driver's best interest a priority. Those priorities include making sure their ELD is easy-to-use, there's a knowledgeable support team ready for any questions they have, and there are no hidden or extra costs to any services provided.
There are a number of reasons carriers and drivers are ready to switch ELD providers. Some of those top stresses include:
1. Equipment malfunctions and failures
2. Poor customer service
3. Costly and lengthy contracts
So what should you do when you’re ready to drop your provider and get a better one?
First things first, plan ahead at least 60-90 days. You want to make sure that you have plenty of time to vet new ELDs before you existing contact is going to end so you can easily make the transition.
Make sure the ELDs are registered
Before you decide which provider you want to go with, be sure they are registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Seems simple enough, but providers have certain obligations to be sure the ELD is compliant. The following checklist is from the FMCSA and gives a nice summary of the minimum qualifications your ELD must have.
Make sure the ELD is in stock
With chip shortages and other supply chain issues you want to make sure that your ELD supplier has inventory in stock and ready to ship. You do not want to sign a contract with a supplier who will not be able to send you product for weeks. If you are stopped by a DOT officer without a required ELD you are at their mercy on wether or not a proof-of-purchase is enough get out of a violation.
In trucking every mile counts and if the wheels are not moving you are not making money. You do not want to be in a position where you are waiting weeks to get equipment do your work or running the risk of large fines for not having required documents. Always ask if the supplier has inventory in stock and how soon it will ship once an order is placed.
Have a testing plan for the ELD
While most ELD providers offer a 30-day money-back guarantee (or more), others offer as few as seven days to return their product and end service. Be knowledgeable about your window of opportunity and this will help you minimize your financial risk.
How long do you have to test the new ELD to see that it's the right one for you? Is the trial and/or return window long enough to figure this out?
When does the new ELD providers trial date start:
a) When you order the product?
b) When the product is delivered?
c) When the product is plugged in?
d) When do you have to have the device postmarked for return?
Once you know the answer to these questions it will be easier to start your "plan b."
You could potentially incur additional cost through restocking, re-servicing, and return postage and handling fees. You can find this written in the fine print of most Terms of Service agreements and you can also ask the sales representative.
Pick a tech-savvy driver
The average age of a truck driver is approximately 47 years old. Some of those drivers are tech-friendly and others are just getting by. If you are a carrier or fleet manager, you want to introduce the idea of going with a new providers to your most tech-savvy driver first. This person is your greatest tool when making the switch. Don't forget to be flexible with your team and to also consider their concerns.
Running simultaneous ELDs
It is not illegal to use a splitter cable to have two ELDs running at the same time. The reason to use a splitter cable to run two ELDs is to do a side-by-side comparison of how the new ELD works compared to the one you are unhappy with. Spending $40 on a splitter is still less than losing hundreds of dollars per year on a potential service plan you don't like.
It's important to test your new ELD for ease-of-use and to make sure it's an improvement from the one you're currently using.
a) Look for malfunctions. Does one ELD give one and the other doesn't?
b) Does it change your driving events and/or duty status when it is supposed to?
c) Does it solve the pain points you are trying to get away from?
d) Do all of the required data item come in such as: odometer, rpm, engine hours, wheel speed and vin#?
e) Is it easy enough that other drivers will be able to catch on quickly?
Drivers should not run simultaneous ELDs thinking they can falsify their logs because in the event of a roadside inspection, an officer with the DOT will know immediately if there are gaps in a log. However, If an officer wrongly writes you a citation for a violation, you can use DataQ to petition a change.
Leave a paper trail
Use email to be sure your current provider knows you are canceling or intend to cancel your service. Once you are ready to cancel, do it before your next payment is due and use email for that, as well.
Separately, you should also have emails with the other provider(s) you are interested in trying. Those emails should include what guarantees they offer, what the window is for the use and return of the device, and any other services or specials they offer with specified dates.
Keeping a paper trail saves you time, money, and additional stress when it comes to your final decision.
Backup your logs
If you are replacing your ELD the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states data or documents for the driver's record duty of status for the last seven days must be available or “loaded into the new ELD or in paper format (Q12/A12)” in case of a roadside inspection.
The FMCSA also states if you are using more than one compatible ELD (e.g. using a splitter cable) you have to have a complete report when it's demanded for the current drive cycle and the last seven days.
Changing to a new and better ELD can seem difficult, but proper planning to ensure a smooth transition can make it easier. You and/or your fleet deserve the ELD that is best for you. Be sure you're choosing an ELD that is simple, easy-to-use, and has a great support team behind it.