Going Digital

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Identifying the right electronic logging device (ELD) for your supply chain operation.

By Jim Dempsey

Beginning last December, a new federal government mandate went into effect requiring fleets to adopt electronic logging devices (ELD) to record time spent on the road. As fleet managers move to replace traditional paper and pencil logging systems, it offers a unique opportunity to look at the role mobile technology can play within the supply chain and logistics industry, not only keeping drivers safe and complying with regulations, but building a more efficient industry for the 21st century.

Choosing a device to outfit your fleet should be a carefully considered decision – a device is only as good as it is reliable, and with harsh environmental conditions like dirt, dust, extreme temperatures and strong vibrations, not just any device is going to be up to the task. With the new federal requirement dictating the use of ELDs, downtime doesn’t just mean lost time or efficiency; it can also mean violations that can lead to expensive fines.

Let’s begin with the devices that can serve as ELDs. According to the mandate, an ELD must meet a few technical specifications and must be able to log certain statistics like the date and time, location, engine hours, vehicle miles and authenticated identification information for the driver, vehicle and carrier. The information must be easily displayed to inspectors or law enforcement officials in a way comparable with the traditional handwritten method. This means that a connected mobile device with features like GPS, Bluetooth, telematics connectivity and a touchscreen like a tablet, smartphone or convertible, mountable laptop is going to be the preferred solution for most fleets.

While the scope of devices that could comply with the ELD mandate is relatively broad – in practice, not just any smartphone or tablet will be able to offer the reliability expected by fleet managers to tackle the job at hand. For the most reliable performance, rugged handheld devices offer standout features that make them the ideal candidate for use as an ELD. For instance, a rugged device is able to withstand the constant vibrations that come with being in a truck, a common concern for any fleet, and can easily be handed to the inspecting officer or moved from vehicle-to-vehicle without fear that it might break if dropped on a hard surface. Rugged devices offer the ability to operate the touchscreen while wearing gloves – a feature that offers both safety and convenience. They are also built with harsh environments in mind with screens that are readable in the brightest, most glaring sun and hardware that works when exposed to the wide range of in cab temperatures experienced from mid-summer to mid-winter conditions.

For fleet managers, there should always be a bias towards maximum uptime and compliance, and a rugged device is likely to be the most efficient way to achieve those goals. With the new ELD mandate, if a device malfunctions or stops working, fleets have only eight days to repair or replace them before being considered in violation. That means it’s imperative to choose an ELD device that’s reliable and – if the worst does happen – can be easily repaired by a partner that offers robust servicing with quick turn-arounds and a comprehensive warranty.

For fleet managers making the jump to ELD devices with this new mandate, adopting a rugged handheld device or tablet has other benefits that go beyond simply complying with new regulations. Equipping a fleet with powerful, rugged handheld devices makes it easier than ever to adopt new methods for tracking inventory and supporting Direct Store Delivery (DSD) and route accounting applications that require DEX, barcode scanning and signature capture capabilities. Drivers who are already required to track their hours on the road can also help better manage shipments, inventory and distribution systems by using handheld devices to capture data and find new efficiencies. 

With the mandatory adoption of ELD devices, there has never been a better time for companies to equip their fleets with a robust connected solution. By adopting the right hardware for the job, organizations of any size can find new ways to work smarter, safer and more efficiently.

Jim Dempsey is a national sales manager at Panasonic where he focuses on identifying new business opportunities for Panasonic’s line of mobility products across verticals in the retail, warehousing, distribution, logistics, manufacturing and public safety sectors. Dempsey works closely with Panasonic’s field sales organization to facilitate joint demand generation, sales activities and account management.

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