The two-year grace period allowing automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) in place of electronic logging device (ELD)-compliant devices will expire December 16, 2019. This means that food distribution fleets that have not yet upgraded to ELD-compliant devices, but have been operating under the AOBRD extension, are losing time to make a commitment to an ELD provider. While time is getting short, it is important that companies not make a hasty decision that can be detrimental in terms of data and technology.
The ELD conversation for food distributors is larger than just an hours-of-service (HOS) determination, especially for time- and temperature-sensitive operations—due to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). ELDs are also part of a broader discussion about telematics and on-board computers, and the use of telematics to optimize data that comes from the truck—as well as the use of that data for overall fleet compliance, analytics and operations.
ELD and AOBRD— the Differences
ELDs can be a different technology than an AOBRD. ELD’s are not required to capture all the operating data that your AOBRD may have been capturing. ELD data requirements are focused and governed based on the HOS rules. What this means is that the food distributors now staring down the deadline this year need to be careful in their selection to ensure they do not focus only on ELD compliance. Fleet executives need to also determine what data they need to manage their food distribution fleet efficiently and in compliance with FSMA. For example, they may select a compliant ELD, but may lose important operational data including load data, maintenance and fuel data used to monitor total cost of ownership.
AOBRD’s have been around for several years and can capture an extensive amount of data. Many telematics providers have upgraded their technology to maintain the data collection and monitoring and enhance them with ELD mandate-compliant functionality. These devices will continue to record the same data as the AOBRD. However, newer ELD devices and services may not be collecting the same rich data set.
The ELD mandate opened a vast market opportunity that attracted several new providers claiming to be ELD compliant. Many of these providers are focused on ELD compliancy and not the valuable fuel, diagnostic and fault code data, or the load-specific data that might be needed for food distributors under FSMA.
Cover Your Data Needs
A key question that food distribution fleets need to get answered is: Are they giving up access to critical data they use now, additionally are they possibly giving up the ability to gain access to data that would help with FSMA compliance in the future? This depends on the viability of the technology platform offered by the provider. If fleet managers are not careful, they may lose out on critical truck data they can use, or have been using, for performance optimization via data analytics.
This additional data could be of further use for food distributors with time- and temperature-sensitive loads. These organizations rely on identifying longer idling times and when combined with temp-sensitive orders can greatly impact fuel expenditure and critical routing data that can also impact perishable deliveries. What’s more, FSMA mandates that sanitary transportation of food requires temperature monitoring and control to prevent refrigerated/frozen food from becoming unsafe during transportation. This information can be monitored with the right ELD telematics solution.
Food distributors will also need to have more stringent routing plans in place for deliveries as data extracted from the ELD might make it more difficult for time- and temp-sensitive operations to remain compliant. A real scenario is a load time and temperature-sensitive load being stranded because the driver is out of hours, not only delaying the load but potentially putting the whole load at risk.
Do food distributors view the telematics mandate as a “necessary evil” and spend the least amount to meet compliance, or do they go all-in and realize the value of the data that the entire ecosystem provides to the operational bottom line?
Choosing a Provider
Amid the overload of applications, hardware and services available in the ever-changing telematics world, deciding on the range of system functionality and associated costs can be overwhelming. Pricing for hardware can range from free to several thousand dollars per truck, while functionality can range from basic GPS tracking to a fully integrated mobile asset management system. With options on vendors, applications, features and costs, where do fleets begin?
Fleet managers must think beyond ELD compliance and think strategically about the data they need to manage their food distributor’s compliance, performance, driver behaviors and vehicle life cycles that will ultimately pay off in improved fuel economy, enhanced preventative maintenance, lower operating costs and improved driver retention.
The hardware is just the first decision. Fleets must also choose a provider/partner that is there for the long-haul, and that can support the organization and fleet well into the future. A short-sighted decision to simply meet the ELD mandate without understanding the actionable data potential for greatly reducing operating costs is ill advised. The incremental costs to acquire systems and services that provide additional data and applications to modernize the fleet is minimal and its return on investment is substantial.
By attempting to minimize this step and focusing strictly on ELD compliance, fleets will find they have lost substantial operational savings and actually increased costs by not having access to actionable decision-making data that can assist in optimizing the food distributor’s fleet performance.
What does a good partner/vendor look like?
- How long have they been providing telematics? Fleets need a provider that has a legacy of providing solid telematic technology and services. Telematics and transportation technology are a lifetime of lessons learned. It is beyond the technology, and it is also understanding how the technology impacts the operation of the fleet. No two fleets are the same.
- What does their technology roadmap look like? What is the strategy for the advancement of technology in the future, and how will this impact the collection and interpretation of data? Remember, this is a long-term investment, and it is unwise for fleets to jump between providers frequently. The operational disruptions/costs alone will deplete any realized savings. Fleets also don’t want to lose any competitive edge due to their competitors’ actionable data strategies.
- How good are they at deployment and support services? It is important to find a partner that understands all complexities involved from planning to execution and is there to work with fleet management teams to overcome any unforeseen challenges.
Choosing the right business intelligence partner can help fleets interpret the abundance of data that’s collected by the AOBRD and ELD. Beyond this critical interpretation, the right partner offers its own technology resources that can help fleets make sense of data from many different platforms and sources—a difficult action when fleets try to make sense of data on their own. With the right partner selection, fleets can be compliant and obtain business intelligence and analytics allowing fleets to maximize the value of the data they extract from each truck to create both operational and bottom-line financial efficiencies that provide significant return on the investment into the technology itself, as well as their partnership with the data purveyor.