Getting into an ELD just got a little less expensive

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A couple of items I know about 9 out of 10 of you probably don’t want to hear about, but nonetheless, provided nothing changes between now and December, the ELD final rule goes in force, in which case you’re going to need something. The only ELD I was aware of that didn’t come with a monthly service fee to date had been the Continental VDO RoadLog, which I’ve written about before. While that dedicated logging unit still sets itself apart in that it’s the only device I know of that doesn’t open up some kind of a connection between the truck ECM and the Internet, it’s no longer alone in the no-monthly-fee category.

Via some colleagues in attendance at the big annual meeting/conference of the ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council last week, I received word of an ELD that, rather than taking the software-as-a-service model of most BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) ELD providers, who essentially give away or lease the ECM-plug-in hardware and charge a monthly fee to use the software, flipped the BYOD pricing model on its head. And it’s not the only one at that. Provided you’re already carrying a smartphone with a data plan (I’ve heard estimates of about 2 megabytes’ worth of monthly data with these BYOD solutions, though there’s probably a good bit of variance among them, and how you use them), you can now go full ELD for as little as $200, full stop.

The Zed Connect company is offering the Zed ELD, available now for iPhone/iOS tablets (Android coming soon), for $200 as a onetime charge for their ECM-connection hardware. Says company sales director Jill Nowlin, “This is an application of an innovative company that believes there are a lot of truckers out there who actually don’t want to have that monthly fee and the charges for a lot of things that aren’t applicable to their business.'” She likens such over-equipped services to cable TV packages. “You get 800 channels and you only want two or three. We’re targeting that group to be able to give them an ability to meet this mandate” and not keep that monthly fee subtracting from the bottom line in perpetuity.

Zed’s web-based administration platform, smartphone app and ECM plug-in.Zed’s web-based administration platform, smartphone app and ECM plug-in.

The plug-in device to your truck’s ECM communicates the relevant data to software on your smartphone — the software enables the log to work, likewise electronic pretrip/postrip inspection reports. A web-based login then allows owner-operators to managed stored log and other data. Zed ELD not only provides driver logs and DVIR, but also commercial routing and other fleet management tools.

The company will be adding additional functionality and customer solutions to their open platform in the future, Nowlin says. Read more about the company via its website.

The second outfit’s offering their BIT ELD for a $295 hardware purchase, and on the whole it functions similarly to Zed and other BYOD ELDs. Blue Ink Technology’s Mike Riegel says his company’s been “tracking trailers and vehicles for years” with fleet customers. One of those fleets happened to inquire about potential e-log solutions after the mandate was proposed in 2014 and he and his brother, company CTO Chris Riegel, developed their offering today. “We decided to manufacture and design our own hardware,” Mike says, “and offer an inexpensive solution for the market.”

BIT’s ECM plug-in, which relays ECM data to operators’ smartphones, which serve as the driver interface.BIT’s ECM plug-in, which relays ECM data to operators’ smartphones, which serve as the driver interface.

Everything about the device is “very lean” and simple, he adds, to “keep the cost low.” The ECM plug-in communicates with your smartphone, as with many others, over Bluetooth, and guiding smartphone apps are currently available on both iOS and Android platforms. Administration of the data is done through a web-based software program users create a unique account in and log into, as with Zed.

“We’ve got a couple users testing it and making sure everything works” today, and are planning to officially debut to the trucking public at the Mid-America Trucking Show, where they’re exhibiting. “As we’re moving along we’re incorporating new features,” such as the ability to monitor engine fault codes for maintenance problems and the like.

A view of the BIT web-based administrator platform on a laptop.A view of the BIT web-based administrator platform on a laptop.

“Our whole approach — we knew this mandate was going to keep the owner-operator bound, and we wanted to give them a solution, something to take care of this without a lot of bells and whistles. We wanted to take as much hassle off of them as we could. As we move along, we can say, ‘have you thought about using this for IFTA?’ and other things.” IFTA functionality is currently in development.

As for support and rollout, “We have units and we’re ready,” Riegel says. “They can get it online, and we’re offering a 30-day money-back guarantee.” Find more about Blue Ink Tech via this link.

All companies mentioned here are planning to self-certify on the FMCSA’s ELD registry in the near future.

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