Transportation

Automation Prompts Trip Logging Compliance from Truckers

New tools are helping truckers to meet trip logging requirements that have been a stumbling block in the past.

by Patrick Kennedy, Star Tribune / September 6, 2017
Kevin Abbott of C.H. Robinson, left, and Christian Schenk of One20 are educating small carriers and owner-operators on electronic logging device mandates. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS) TNS

(TNS) -- MINNEAPOLIS — About 1.7 million commercial truck drivers in the United States are mandated to install electronic logging devices, or ELDs, by Dec. 18.

The problem is that many truckers aren’t even close to complying.

C.H. Robinson has a vested interest in helping the truckers make the deadline.

The Fortune 500 company, based in suburban Minneapolis, is one of the top logistics providers in the country and needs those truckers to get products to customers on time.

So the company has teamed with One20, a free membership community for professional drivers, to provide discounted equipment and training.

The ELDs, mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, will automatically record driving time and monitor engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven and location information.

The devices will make recording hours of service data easier — and hopefully more accurate — greatly reducing the need to manually record them in paper logbooks.

Duane DeBruyne, an FMCSA spokesman, said the agency estimates the ELD mandate annually “will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles.”

The thought is that the electronic devices will make it harder to drive more than the mandated hours or miles, increasing commercial motor vehicle safety. The agency also thinks that reducing paperwork will help truckers comply with the hours-of-service rules.

Even the best solutions come with a learning curve for drivers and carriers, but the FMCSA estimates conversion to an ELD can save drivers 20 hours a year by eliminating the recording of hours in paper log books.

Yet the mandate adds expenses in an industry with tight profit margins. Most drivers either own their own rigs or work for small carriers with 10 or fewer trucks. Plus, these truckers have less access to information technology professionals or data logging centers that could make adoption easier.

To ease the resistance to change, Christian Schenk, the president and CEO of Minneapolis-based One20, made the connection with C.H. Robinson to offer One20’s F-ELD device at a discount to small carriers.

The FMCSA has approved more than 90 ELD devices from scores of companies, including versions of One20’s F-ELD for Android and iOS. But pricing can be confusing, and many of the devices come with expensive monthly subscription fees.

The device from One20 starts at $169 retail, before the C.H. Robinson discount. Schenk said the One20 device installs easily and pairs to a driver’s smartphone or tablet through Bluetooth. He said drivers can get the device working within five minutes.

The C.H. Robinson partnership also eliminates the subscription fees.

The company has worked to accommodate ELDs from other providers as well.

But Kevin Abbott, vice president of North American Truckload Services at C.H. Robinson, said company officials see additional benefits for drivers to become members of One20.

“We choose to go with One20 from a small carrier perspective because of their lowest overall cost,” Abbott said. “But there are also all these ancillary services that also come with membership in One20.”

Besides product offerings, One20 has built social media networks to connect truckers and help the collective solve problems that crop up on the road.

“Our focus goes beyond ELD costs,” Schenk said. “Our focus is to reduce operating (costs) on everything in the value chain. Insurance, food, pharmaceuticals, movie tickets … everything.”

C.H. Robinson does not benefit financially from the One20 partnership. The trucking company is just a go-between for the group and the carriers that it does business with.

The biggest benefit of the ELD mandate, Abbott said, is through increased track-and-trace capability. It will be an additional tool that C.H. Robinson can use to pinpoint when loads get picked up and where the trucks are on the road.

In the one year since Schenk launched the One20 community, membership has grown to 387,900 members. Those members get access to exclusive benefits and discounts through One20’s mobile applications.

Through the app, drivers can get route information and reviews from other drivers but also discounts on food and restaurants, trucking services, lodging, entertainment, electronics, roadside assistance, trucking parts and more.

As the community grows, Schenk said the collective will be able to offer more benefits, with truckers making recommendations on future discounts and services.

©2017 Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.