What ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ can teach you about ELDs

by Sandy Johnson

Come listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed, Poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed…If you grew up in the 1960s, you’ll recognize the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies, the classic TV sitcom where Jed Clampett strikes oil on his land and moves his kin to Beverly Hills.

He sets stakes in a mansion right next door to his highfalutin banker, Mr. Drysdale, who is forever scheming to keep Jed and his money from moving back to the Ozarks.

I’ve seen a few Milburn Drysdales in the ELD market—people who will say anything to sell their systems. I’ve seen my fair share of Jed Clampetts—fleet managers who are a bit stymied by new technology.

But ol’ Jed knew that Mr. Drysdale worked for him, not the other way around, and his straightforward, practical approach to life always worked out for the best.

If you’re trying to understand what data is collected and how ELDs can benefit your business, here’s a heapin’ helpin’ of advice for ya.

The basics

An ELD—electronic logging device—is designed to sync up the truck’s activity with the driver’s in order to help monitor hours-of-service compliance.

There are four basic questions every ELD provider should be able to answer:

1. How do you collect engine and driver data?

2. How do you marry the two?

3. How do you display information in the cab of the truck?

4. How does data get from the truck to a) my dispatcher, and b) law enforcement when requested to send it in?

You should also ask how the data gets from the truck to you because there are different ways to do it. Let’s look at the various combinations so you do not have to come up with your own idea of what something is for and how it should work.

Hardwired connections

These are dedicated fleet management systems with a proprietary display inside the truck where the driver can see and enter his duty status; a physical connection to the engine; a GPS receiver; and a satellite or cellular modem (of Wi-Fi) to transmit data to the ELD vendor’s servers where you can access it anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Wireless connection

If you have a smartphone or tablet, you’re probably familiar with Bluetooth as a wireless network. Suppliers that incorporate on a phone or tablet in their ELD will use Bluetooth to move data from the truck’s engine bus (or OBD II) to the mobile device, which the driver also uses to update his duty status.Typically, the smart device sends the engine and driver data over a cell network to the vendors’ servers, where you can log in and see it with a web browser.

Who supplies the device and plan?

This raises the question as to whether you should supply devices to your drivers or they should bring their own.On one hand, drivers live and die by their cellphones, and they’re more likely to take good care of their own device. But what if they don’t pay their bill or use up their data?If you supply drivers with a “company phone,” you can be sure the bill gets paid and the data plan is sufficient to handle ELD data transmissions—as long as no one is streaming movies or downloading large files.

Who has the data?

ELDs are meant to improve compliance with hours-of-service rules, which have very different record keeping requirements compared to distance-based taxes. What does your ELD supplier know about IFTA and IRP record keeping? Will you be able to access the data when you need it?The bottom line here is that the relationship between you and your ELD provider should be a long-term one. As Jed once said, “They had a happy marriage; it was all that living together afterwards that caused the trouble.” Keep those lines of communication open.


Sandy Johnson has been managing IFTA, IRP, and other fleet taxes for more than 25 years. She is the author of the free book 7 Things You Need to Know About Fleet Taxes and operates North Star Fleet Solutions, which provides vehicle tax and license compliance services for trucking operations. She can be reached at 1-877-860-8025 or www.northstarfleet.com.

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  • So some of the stake holders who don’t run a trucking company are on the ELD band wagon. My truck is in Northern Ontario where we all know cell reception is great??? How do we transmit data from the truck to the ELD provider and have it sent to the enforcement officer who is demanding my log with no cell signal for the last 2.5 hrs?

    • You will either have to have a satellite connection, or the ability to print the log(s) in the truck. Don’t worry FMCSA and Transport Canada have thought of everything.