ELD mandate spurs innovation in US truck tech

ELD mandate spurs innovation in US truck tech

A truck travels on a US road.

A truck travels on a US road. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

In a few short months, the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate for truck drivers has unveiled a host of inefficiencies in US supply chains. Transit times for shipments have grown longer, especially in lanes ranging from 450 to 550 miles, as drivers keep a tighter rein on their hours. That is spurring innovation aimed at improving time management within supply chains.

With out-of-service enforcement of ELD violations set to begin April 1, companies are racing the clock to comply with the mandate, provide drivers with the means to cope with more precise enforcement of hours-of-service (HOS) rules, and reset the timing on their supply chains. These are only early ripples in a wave of ELD-inspired changes to transportation technology.

Trucker Path and Convoy introduced new products Tuesday aimed at helping drivers better manage their time and loads in the ELD era. The products directly or indirectly help shippers struggling to match their freight and lanes with the networks and needs of for-hire trucking companies and drivers. They also aim to deliver more time to time-strapped truckers.

Trucker Path launched an ELD of its own, a device with an app that tracks HOS and miles driven within a state. (This information is needed to calculate fuel tax payments.) The company plans to integrate the ELD app with its Trucker Path app, a marketplace of driver services with 600,000 active monthly users, as well as a its Truckloads load-matching app.

For Trucker Path, founded in 2013, the ELD is a natural extension of its existing portfolio of services. “We’re a navigation app that’s used by about 30 percent of over-the-road drivers to find destinations, services, [and] parking,” said Sam Bokher, director of business operations. Its Truckloads marketplace, built on the same technology platform, was launched in 2016.

“We’re launching the ELD as a separate app, but we’ll be integrating into the Trucker Path app,” Bokher said. “We’ll be able to show drivers how much time they have left and where there’s truck parking in the area. That’s going to help a lot of drivers.” Integrating the ELD and the Truckloads app will give Trucker Path “even more visibility into the market,” he said.

Speeding freight by matching drivers, hours, and parking

Truck parking was scarce back when the US economy was growing more slowly. With US GDP expansion heading toward 3 percent or higher in 2018, locating a place to park a truck and take the required 10-hour, off-duty period each day is an even tougher task for drivers. Truckstops fill up quickly, and drivers may have no choice but to park illegally.

With the ELD mandate heralding stricter enforcement of the 11-hour daily driving limit, more truck drivers reportedly are stopping earlier, ending their day well short of the 11-hour limit in order to ensure they have a space for the night. Integrating the ELD and parking information in the Trucker Path system could save drivers significant time now spent searching for parking.

As the mandate, which took effect Dec. 18, begins to be fully enforced in April, truckers without ELDs will be issued out-of-service orders that will put them off the road for 10 hours. They will then be allowed to proceed to their next scheduled stop but will not be able to go beyond that point without installing an ELD. The effect could be stranded freight and drivers across the United States.

“It’s going to be a little bit of a painful transition,” Bokher said. “This is showing us the HOS regulations are far from perfect. Maybe it’s a sign for the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration] to review some of their rules and make changes. The short-term impact will be painful, but the long-term positive is that it’s a step to digitize trucking and more visibility.”

Truck driving in ELD era “like living in an episode of ‘24’”

Convoy, founded in 2015, is one of several technology “platforms” focused on connecting shippers with small carriers and drivers, including Trucker Path, Uber Freight, and NEXT Trucking. Convoy is not rolling out an ELD, but it is launching services designed with the ELD era in mind, Kristen Forecki, vice president of carrier engagement and expansion, said Monday.

On Tuesday, Convoy introduced services called Suggested Reloads, Request a Load, and Automated Detention, all aimed to help drivers find freight and move it faster. “These features came about from talking to carriers and drivers about the pressure they feel from ELDs,” Forecki said. “One driver told me it’s like living in an episode of ‘24,’ there’s that much pressure.”

The Request a Load feature lets drivers or dispatchers enter when and where their trucks will be empty into the Convoy app ahead of time, along with where they want to go next. The app then alerts them to matching loads as they become available. Drivers and dispatchers can accept and confirm a job instantly, Forecki said, reducing the time their trucks driver empty.

Suggested Reloads is a complement to that feature. Through it, Convoy suggests loads near drop-off locations that they can book. “We will automatically show you shipments that are possible backhauls for that load or take you on another tour,” Forecki said. “That minimizes the amount of time it takes to find a load, reduce the amount of time driving empty.”

The feature with perhaps the biggest potential to help drivers and shippers is Automated Detention, which automatically calculates the time a truck has been at a facility, and if it has been detained for more than two hours, it allows the driver to request detention pay directly in the Convoy app. The app instantly confirms eligibility and processes payment, she said.

“Drivers historically have had to fight with shippers or brokers to get that detention payment,” Forecki said. “We’ll pay the driver even if the shipper doesn’t even pay us.” The information on detention time also will help Convoy work with its 400 shippers to determine the cause of dockside delays and move drivers through unloading or loading more quickly, she said.

“This will really make a difference in our partnerships with shippers,” said Forecki. “Using our data, we can help them learn how to improve performance at their facilities and reduce detention overall. We can get ahead of spikes at a facility that may increase driver wait times. We can rank them against their other facilities and other facilities in their area.”

The location data obtained through the ELD are the key to cracking the detention problem, she believes. If that is so, it will be a boon to drivers, carriers, and shippers alike.

Contact William B. Cassidy at bill.cassidy@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @wbcassidy_joc.