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On Dec. 18, 2017, a controversial federal rule took effect requiring most commercial trucks to be equipped with electronic logging devices, also known as ELDs.

Many trucking groups spoke out against the ELD mandate after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) authorized it in 2015. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association challenged the rule in federal court. Still, the mandate moved forward, requiring most trucking companies to begin using ELDs to log hours of service.

If your company is new to electronic logging devices, below is some valuable information on how to prepare your trucks for the upcoming rule:

Know How the Law Affects Your Company

It’s important to note that not every carrier will have to install ELDs. The mandate does not apply to any heavy trucks that are older than the model year 2000. Some other exceptions include regional carriers that operate within 100 miles of their terminals and tow-away companies that haul new or used vehicles. If your company currently uses the old automatic onboard recording devices (AORDs), you get an extra two years, until Dec. 16, 2019, before you must start using ELDs.

Before investing time and money on logging devices, study the ELD rule carefully. Your company may not have to comply.

Start Planning

If you do need to start using ELDs, now is the time to begin anticipating how logging drivers’ hours electronically will affect your fleet and your customers. How much should you budget to purchase the technology, and what ELD product should you select? Before doing anything, check out the FMCSA's online registry of certified ELD manufacturers. You do not want to adopt a technology that does not meet the specifications of the new rule.

After familiarizing yourself with a few ELD products, do some research on the electronic logging market. The entrance of several new providers should bring the average price of an ELD system down. Make sure you get a good deal on technology that is compliant and fits well with your operations.

Stay Informed

A few new wrinkles have been added to the ELD rule since announcing that it would go into effect. There may be more changes to come. For example, the FMCSA has issued exemptions and waivers on ELD compliance for livestock haulers and other specialized carriers since the mandate took effect.

There may be other exemptions to the ELD rule. Read up on industry news about ELDs to ensure that your trucking company is prepared.

Keep Customers Updated

Shippers are also concerned about ELDs and how the new regulation will affect their supply chains. Communicate with your customers about how and when your trucks will follow the mandate. Ask for their help in making sure that detention time at pick-up or delivery has minimal impact on your drivers’ hours. Being open and proactive about the rule will reassure your shippers that you have a plan of action and that everything is under control.

Prepare for a Dip

Trucking companies that begin logging hours electronically often report a temporary decline in fleet productivity. Both drivers and dispatchers need to be trained on the new system, and there may be some interruptions to service.

During the learning curve, do what you can to expedite shipping and receiving. Also, make sure your company has enough cash on hand to get through the dip in productivity.

The good news is that business bounces back for many trucking companies that successfully adopt ELDs. You might even see an increase in load rates later this year as capacity tightens and the trucking industry scrambles to meet the requirements of the new law.

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