ELD ‘panic buying’ as time runs out

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The Monday, December 18, initial enforcement date for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic logging device mandate is nearly here. Still, almost a third of owner-operators in Overdrive‘s audience indicate they remain uncertain about how to proceed or just what they will do as a result.

From the device provider’s perspective, “there is a lot of panic buying” going on, says Josh DeCock, product management director for Pedigree Technologies. “We have partners who say their customers are going to wait to see how seriously the FMCSA is about enforcing it and if there are big fines. If there are not big fines they may wait until April or May.”

Captain Brandon Douglas of Tennessee’s state police suggests that in his state, citations will most likely not be issued before the April 1 beginning of enforcement of the out of service criteria. While he speaks only for the state of Tennessee, speaking more generally Douglas feels like it “seems to me that you shouldn’t write a ticket for it” if it’s not being counted in a carrier’s CSA Safety Measurement System scoring profiles or being enforced as an out of service violation, both of which have been announced as official policies of, respectively, FMCSA and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance of enforcement and industry.

A significant chunk of Overdrive readers are banking on that being the rule, not the exception. In most recent polling, being conducted this week, results as of the morning of December 13 showed 13 percent of respondents would gamble on potential citations and associated fines and deploy an ELD closer to the April 1 out of service enforcement deadline. If you haven’t as yet, vote in the poll or select “view results” below see a more current count among respondents.

Know that it is something of a gamble, indeed. The official federal line is that it’s up to the enforcement personnel/state departments on whether to issue citations with ELD-related violations.

Last-minute panic buyers of devices via direct order from the device maker are probably at this point beyond any possibility of a comfortable ELD implementation (in time for the 18th, anyway). With some ELD providers, you could encounter shipping delays, for one.

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The KeepTruckin logbook app and associated ELD, popular among small fleets and owner-operators, is currently at a 1-2-week shipping turnaround time given the large number of orders it’s been getting over the last month. Shoaib Makani, speaking on a day in mid-November, said the company was then delivering a daily volume of devices roughly equivalent to its entire sales number for the 2016 year.

Nonetheless, the company is stocked with devices, Makani said this week, just having trouble keeping up with the fast pace of order fulfillment. He said the company was contemplating providing customers with an express notification of the delays, something that could be provided to law enforcement on Monday and thereafter to at least prove that a device was on its way and perhaps encourage officer leniency. In the absence of that, you can always fall back on your purchase receipt.

Other device makers had instituted next-day delivery heading into the final period prior to the mandate. Mike Riegel of Blue Ink Technology said that online orders were moving through his company sales and fulfillment system faster than those placed over the phone, noting that a delay due to any hardware back-order was not likely at all.

“We have been preparing for this point and have been building up inventory for months,” Riegel said. “We don’t expect to have any delays in shipping and have no backlogs on orders. We actually added overnight delivery as an option for carriers and drivers to get their ELDs the next day for those who may be struggling to find a solution before the mandate hits.”

Blue Ink’s system is operable with a onetime charge and free software. “If they order our devices,” Riegel said, “they will go out the same day or the next day, depending on when they place their order.”

Continental’s VDO RoadLog, too, though experiencing a high demand for both its non-cellular connected base version and its ELD Plus connected edition, the company said, believed it would not experience significant delays. According to Alexis Capelle, VDO RoadLog ELD program manager, “Continental is well prepared logistically and has ample stock in place able to service customers directly through its distributor network,” which includes truck dealers and other service locations, “and via e-commerce with next day shipping.”

Simple Truck ELD issued a press release this week that also stresses device availability with express shipping, with ELDs and regulatory predecessor devices available right up to the mandate’s enforcement date Monday “to ensure everyone is ready to go by December 18,” said CEO Neal Katz. “Our 24/7 tech support hotline is standing by to assist drivers at any time.

The One20 F-ELD has been moving to owner-operators and small fleets primarily through companies offering partner promotions, such as that from broker C.H. Robinson, said One20’s Christian Schenk. Most sales have occurred online, though the onetime-fee unit is also stocked at truck stops around the nation. “We don’t have any big issues” with delays in delivery, he says.

Delays in getting set up, however, as drivers get used to the new system, are to be expected, another hurdle at this late stage. One particular aspect of implementation on a compressed schedule Schenk emphasized any last-minute adopters keep in mind: the optimal time to move to an ELD is after a restart of available hours, not in the middle of a week. If you move mid-week, to allow the device to record your available cumulative hours accurately you’ll need to manually enter your previous week’s days — not exactly always a simple thing to do in a device programmed to record in a partially automated fashion. –Tom Jackson contributed to this report.

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