Leverage ELDs for Further Safety Benefits

(Previously published in Transport Topics on Dec.1 , 2014)
By Ward Warkentin
CEO, Fleetmetrica

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced that is does not expect its final rule mandating logging devices for carriers until September 30, 2015.

While carriers will have two years to be in compliance once the new rule is released, and an additional two years in the case of fleets currently using a 395.15 compliant automatic onboard recording device, many carriers have already been looking at ELD solutions and continue to do so to allow themselves time to test various options and to work out any bugs well in advance of the deadline.

They also see this as an opportunity to use automated reporting on hours of service to strengthen their BASICs score — the rating system of FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program that focuses on Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories.

However, some carriers considering various ELD options may not be aware of the potential benefits the devices could offer in helping improve CSA scores beyond the HOS function. Those benefits can have a positive impact on other BASICs scores — including unsafe driving, vehicle maintenance and crash indications.

Since the new rule requires ELD devices be tethered to the engine to validate the status of the driver’s HOS reporting, it gives fleet owners access to a wealth of other data that, if leveraged properly, can provide valuable insight into driver behavior and the condition of the equipment. For example, some of the metrics that can be drawn from ELDs include over-speeding, harsh braking, and sudden acceleration events — all of which indicate unsafe driving.

Accessing data captured by the engine, along with the hours of service data, gives fleet owners more information on how their drivers and trucks are performing — which can increase the speed of their return on investment in this technology. So aside from tracking HOS compliance, trucking managers can see if their drivers and trucks are safer and if their operations are more efficient.

A case in point is what happened in the United Kingdom, where an electronic-logging mandate has been in place for some time now and most fleet owners opted for a low-cost HOS solution that didn’t include telematics data. This resulted in only a 7% penetration of ELD-based devices that include telematics data compared to more than 35% penetration of electronic on-board recording devices that collect telematics data in the United States in advance of the electronic-logging mandate.

However, U.K. operators have recognized this lost opportunity and many are now choosing to upgrade their technology to include telematics data as they renew their equipment.

While there are benefits from accessing telematics data with ELDs, there are a number of challenges carriers will face in collecting and using this data effectively.

The main challenges include device-related issues with extracting and transmitting data, data quality issues due to abnormalities in the data, and having sufficient IT resources to organize and store the data. Another challenge, especially for larger fleets, is organizing data correctly when drivers shift home terminals or when driver managers are reassigned so that performance metrics are properly accounted for at all levels.

Once data is available, the next hurdle is turning this data into actionable information. This involves making sense of the data and determining how and when to communicate this information to people in the organization who can take action on it.

Here are some tips on using ELD data beyond HOS monitoring and reporting as you invest in this technology:

* Ask ELD suppliers what types of telematics data are accessible through their devices beyond the minimum hours-of-service reporting. Also ask what, if any, services are offered to access this data.

* Whatever method you use for collecting data from your ELD, make sure it’s simple and easy to use and/or follow so that it is readily adopted as a new behavior within the fleet. A good rule of thumb here is that it should be easier than what you are currently doing.

* Look for solutions that engage the driver, since a change in behavior implies involvement from drivers. This can range from in-cab alerts and post-delivery analysis reports to driver training.

* Consider sharing this information with other people in the organization who have a responsibility for safety and who would benefit from the data in their decision making.

* Automate the feedback to drivers and managers as much as possible. The more you can do this, the greater the chance of sustaining this as a new behavior in the company.

* Look for ways to combine the data from ELDs with other safety-related information and practices within your safety program — including safety technologies such as devices that offer in-cab alerts to help prevent forward crashes, lane departure, and maintain rollover stability.

* Also look into using ELD data in combination with other safety documentation efforts within your company for with driver training solutions. For example, BR Williams Trucking, a truckload carrier based in Oxford, Alabama, found that by combining their ELD data monitoring and reporting technology with online driver training, an incentive program for drivers, and well-documented safety policies led to a significant improvement in CSA scores, a 60% drop in net accident costs per mile and a 3.4% improvement in mpg over the past 12 months.

Fleetmetrica is a safety management software company that offers predictive analytics solutions for monitoring fleet safety based in the Toronto area.

Fleet Telematics System (FTS) Defined

A Fleet Telematics System (FTS) allows the information exchange between a commercial vehicle fleet and their central authority, i.e., the dispatching office. A FTS typically consists of mobile Vehicle Systems (VS) and a stationary Fleet Communication System (FCS). The FCS may be a stand alone application maintained by the motor carrier or an internet service running by the supplier of the system. The FCS usually includes a database in which all vehicle positions and messages are stored.

Digital maps are often included which allow visualization of vehicle positions and traces. Communication with the FCS is realized by trunked radio, cellular, or satellite communication. Positioning of vehicles is usually realized by global satellite positioning systems and/or dead reckoning using a gyroscope and odometer.

Usually, the VS is equipped with a simple input device allowing drivers to send predefined status messages. Drivers may add simple content, e.g., numeric values, but usually cannot enter arbitrary text. Besides the messages sent by drivers, some VS can also automatically submit messages, e.g., the vehicle’s position, data from sensors in the cargo body, or vehicle data from the CAN-bus.

In 2002, major European commercial vehicle manufacturers, namely Daimler Chrysler, Scania, DAF, Volvo, and Renault, agreed to give third parties access to vehicle data using the CAN-bus as a connection. The Fleet Management Standard (FMS) is an open standard which is dependent on the vehicle’s equipment, with access to such vehicle data as fuel consumption, engine data, or vehicle weight.