When cellular service adds monthly fees to ELDs

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Previously in this series: ELDs at the ‘right price’: No-monthly-fee e-logs explored

Most any BYOD-type ELD with dedicated tablets will come with monthly costs for a data plan. In the case of Wade Spencer’s four-truck fleet, running the BIT ELD from Blue Ink Technology, the ECM plug-in devices are paired with dedicated $10 LG tablets. These come with their own fees for cellular service, necessary for the ELD to work properly.

In Spencer’s case, that amounts to about $20 a month per tablet on his unlimited data plan. If he tried, he says, he could negotiate that cost down, given the BIT ELD uses only about 200 megabytes per month.

The web-based administration back end of Blue Ink Technology’s ELD system is four-truck-fleet owner-operator Wade Spencer’s portal into his company’s hours of service records. Blue Ink provides the portal free for all buyers of its BIT ELD and offers IFTA recording and other features for a price.The web-based administration back end of Blue Ink Technology’s ELD system is four-truck-fleet owner-operator Wade Spencer’s portal into his company’s hours of service records. Blue Ink provides the portal free for all buyers of its BIT ELD and offers IFTA recording and other features for a price.

If you’re pairing BIT or another BYOD ELD with a smartphone or tablet you already have with a service plan, such cost wouldn’t necessarily figure into your back-of-the-envelope return-on-investment calculation. Also keep that 200-MB data figure in mind when considering lumping ELD service into a pre-existing data plan. It’s probably a good estimate, unless perhaps the device is collecting/communicating position data more frequently for IFTA or other purposes.

Spencer says BIT estimates a 700-MB monthly figure-per-ELD with its add-on IFTA featured enabled, but Mike Riegel with BIT says “that data plus the hours data” may actually come out to little more than 100 MB. “We compress the files to make them even smaller during uploads” after sitting on the recording device. Other companies have estimated similar figures.

Cellular services can be limited to particular functions with most cellular providers. As other fleets have done, Spencer locks down the LG tablets to just a few functions (BIT, the company website and email, CoPilot truck navigation). For functions such as Netflix viewing during downtime, drivers can use a WiFi connection.

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