The ELD mandate and the changing fleet technology landscape

July 26, 2016
With the recent federal mandates for electronic logging devices (ELD), set to go into effect by December 2017, fleets will require a combination of software and electronic devices to monitor vehicle operation along with driver performance

New transportation regulations will soon have an impact across multiple business sectors, not just the transportation industry. With the recent federal mandates for Electronic logging devices (ELD), set to go into effect by December 2017, fleets will require a combination of software and electronic devices to monitor vehicle operation along with driver performance, and compiling that data for compliance reporting, in an effort to further increase the level of safety on the nation’s highways.

Overall, ELD solutions should provide a range of functions and important information. This includes:

  • Monitoring vehicle operation and engine performance
  • Tracking drivers’ hours on the road and breaks
  • Keeping dispatch up to date on worker status
  • Accessing real-time vehicle data
  • Eliminating paperwork with direct e-form data entry
  • Reporting and verification for hours of service compliance

Traditionally, the standard fleet management service (FMS) solution is fixed and mounted as a stationary device inside the vehicle. An FMS on-board computer, connected to the engine, monitors the time driven, the on-duty hours of the driver, and the remaining available drive hours. Data can be transmitted wirelessly to the back office to enable near real-time monitoring.

By contrast, advanced rugged mobile tablets can perform the same functions and more while mounted on the dashboard for easy access. Drivers ideally would be able to easily remove their device for increased flexibility to perform walk-around vehicle inspections, complete Proof of Delivery forms, interact with clients, or stay in contact with the back office and with dispatch while away from the vehicle.

For our customers, software consolidation has helped simplify the adoption process so that multiple solutions, such as electronic proof of delivery (ePoD), GPS, and ELD, are combined onto one software application platform which should be a priority for any fleet manager. Beyond providing the hardware to run this critical software, mobile devices need to be designed for mobility, portability and durability to absorb vibrations, withstand accidental drops, and endure extreme high and low temperatures.

In addition to generating an electronic report quickly for display or print-out, drivers need to be able to provide verifications against the telematics to create a secure and trustworthy record. Drivers need to rely on these electronic logs during weigh station stops and at regulatory spot checks. With a reliable purpose-built mobile device, companies have the assurance drivers will be able to produce the necessary information when it’s required.

As for specific features, the need for durable, environmentally resilient, and multi-function mobility solutions with long battery life has heralded the advance of new standards. The workforce operating in today’s demanding physical environments expect the higher levels of mobile functionality, access, and response characteristics of their own personal devices. This form factor familiarity paired with enterprise-grade engineering design helps ensure the next stage in business process evolution.

Here are the key features fleet managers should be looking for in a tablet solution for next generation mobile fleet management:

A form-factor that works the way your workers do and where they work

Screens or displays that are daylight viewable and devices that can function in rain, snow and other extreme weather conditions, including the ability to use with gloves.

Enterprise-grade hardware and software to meet the needs of IT managers

The evolution to an open OS and an enterprise tablet form factor translates to increased IT agility and responsiveness for handling IT tasks. This can include application updates, patches, remote security and robust Mobile Device Management (MDM) to improve overall efficiency for both fleet managers and drivers.

Reliable/durable enterprise-grade hardware to withstand drops, bumps and near-constant on-the-road vibration

Compliance devices must continuously operate, monitor and collect data and can’t easily fail from drops or vibrations experienced while on the road.

High or low extreme temperature operation

Most mobile devices run well at room temperature. But when they are exposed to extreme hot or cold, they can experience failures.  Similarly, frequent exposure to rain, snow or dirty environments can result in failures with devices not engineered to withstand these situations.

Superior battery life for long operation

A huge challenge for on-the-road or field-based workers that may be using devices for long periods of time without the ability to charge batteries.  A solution is to look for devices that support battery life well beyond the traditional 8-hour usage pattern of a driver or field worker.

Connectivity and access

Mobile devices for ELD solutions should employ the fastest 4G LTE broadband connectivity and should reliably connect in all types of environments.  The solution must provide vendor-neutral data service and/or multicarrier modem to do the regular tasks of capturing and sending job and customer status, digital images to improve service and business productivity.

Fleets have until December 2017 to implement certified ELDs to record Hours of Service (HOS). Any tablets that assist managers to ease the transition will be ideal as workers adjust to the new system which will drive the efficiency of their operations. Managers who don’t implement these mobility solutions are running the risk of falling behind or worse, incurring penalties from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) overseeing the mandate.

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