Professional Driver's Perspective - A Deeper Dive into the Power of Telematics


For some time now, the conversation of electronic logs and telematics devices has been taking place. Since December 2019 carriers that have commercial vehicles operating in the United States of America have been operating on electronic logbooks, which in some cases, operate on a telematics device installed into the power unit. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in the US has provided a list of registered ELD’s that meet the requirements within the United States of America.


From June 2021, Federal Carriers operating in Canada will also be required to ensure their power units operate with an electronic logbook (when certain conditions are met).


The last couple of years has been rich with conversations in our Industry around ELD's; from self-certification vs third party certified and timelines, to implementation and training. There is one conversation though that is sometimes missed, but is something I encourage all Carriers to consider: the power of Telematics.


The use of telematics is not new - commonly utilized in the personal auto insurance industry to monitor driver behaviour - the technology behind it brings together telecommunications, vehicular technology, electrical engineering and computer science to provide something; that when utilized by a Commercial Carrier provides powerful data that can positively impact all areas of their business.


With ELD systems operating on a telematics device; usage goes beyond only monitoring your driver's hours of service; it also provides opportunities to tap into and learn how the MPG of a power unit differs by the driver, how often each power unit is left idling, GPS tracking, maintenance interval tracking, as well as opportunities to coach drivers with real-time information and not the safety personnel’s opinion, just to name a couple.


As telematics become more and more popular, I believe the opportunities for our industry to improve are endless. As telematic providers work closely with the industry, the data gathered becomes even more readily available and easier to interpret. When this data can be interpreted easier, change management and procedure implementation become smoother, culture improvements occur quicker, and overall safety and operation buy-in improves.


I still recall when a former employer was introducing telematics and onboarding automatic recording devices into the fleet. They were wanting to get away from paper logbooks and understood that electronic was the future. Now, this was quite a few years ago, but I remember how excited I felt when asked if I would participate in the trialing of such devices. After the initial excitement wore off, I also recall a feeling of defensiveness – almost as if I wondered who would be watching me work throughout the day. After I received the basic training, I felt confident that I understood which buttons to press and when; and if the red dot appeared, I needed to contact the IT support right away as that meant there was an issue.


After a couple of days of testing went by, I realized a couple of things: Firstly, it was much easier to complete my log book accurately as certain information was pre-programmed. And secondly - and equally as important - I could tell that I was not being “watched” like I had first thought and felt quite silly that I allowed my mind to wander like that. The day-to-day process continued as it normally had. I received my dispatch, I completed my planned move, I received another dispatch, and so on.


As telematics has become more and more popular, the data pulled from the telematics device can paint an accurate picture of events that occurred. For example; Company A has a no-idling policy for all their commercial vehicles. Professional Driver Jill backs into the loading dock at a customer, applies the air brakes and goes to speak with the receiver. After being offloaded, Jill pulls away and follows her dispatch. But an hour later, Company A receives a phone call from said customer. This customer claims that Jill’s truck was idling the entire time she was at their property. Prior to telematics, the next steps would have been for Company A to call Jill and question about the customer's complaint. When Jill explains she did not idle the commercial vehicle and complied with all Company policies, the Company could have pushed back and questioned again. The domino effect of this could have led to Jill being ticked off at the accusation, and resent Company A questioning her integrity.


Instead, thanks to the telematics device installed in each commercial vehicle, Company A can quickly load up the telematics provider website and check the system to see if Jill’s truck was in fact at idle. After checking, Company A notifies their customer that they are mistaken, and can confidently defend Jill. Afterward, the Company can take this a step further. The Company can call Jill, and thank her for following the company policy, and reward her for being a professional driver.


One of the most common ways professional drivers receive a violation on their daily logbook is form and manner violations, which at times, has to do with penmanship, as well as specific items that legally need to be recorded on each daily logbook page. As professional drivers utilize electronic logbooks to record their hours-of-service performance, they no longer worry about their ability to write legibly, as the system does this automatically. Items such as a principal address, home terminal, driver's name, etc. can also be pre-programmed, so the likelihood of a spelling error drops dramatically.


In addition to the professional driver’s requirement to write neatly, each daily logbook page must-have a record, at the end of the workday, each duty status, and total duty status summary and calculations. When a professional driver finishes their shift, it is possible that a calculation error occurs due to multiple numbers of reasons, or it is possible that a professional driver forgets to record zero for off-duty sleeper berth for that day. As a result, these would-be violations at the time of a roadside inspection and or during an audit. Electronic logbooks eliminates these types of errors, as the system automatically calculates these times and records where necessary.


As you continue your research into which trusted telematics provider you will utilize, I encourage you to think proactively from a driver’s standpoint. What tasks are you doing now, pen to paper, that could be completed with the power of telematics and automation?


If you and your team would like to brainstorm further on the power of telematics, I encourage you to contact us without delay!

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