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Buyer beware


“If you let a guy sell you a diamond ring for only 10 cents, chances are you own a diamond ring not worth a dime.”

That line from a Goldie Hawn movie has always stuck with me. It’s amazing how Goldie could go from dumb blonde to wise owl in a matter of two hours.

Whether you’re buying a diamond ring or an ELD solution, the sentiment about getting what you pay for is the same.

How do I know?

Well, soft enforcement of the U.S. ELD mandate started Dec. 18. By Dec. 20, I started getting calls from Canadian truckers wondering whether their ELD supplier had sold them a bill of goods.

Here’s one example:

“Our ELD is from a U.S. company and the system won’t take a Canadian licence plate number. We phoned the ELD supplier and they told us to just make up a U.S. plate number. Can we do that?”

Yikes! No.

You’d think the ELD vendor would know better than to tell a customer to make up a U.S. plate number – especially this company, one of the best-known names in the trucking industry.

When I suggested the caller try “Brand X” instead, he quickly replied that one of his trucker friends said Brand X ELDs didn’t work very well.

Strike two.

Every day my inbox is full of offers from ELD vendors I’ve never heard of that promise me that their solution will take away any worry I might have in meeting the requirements.It’s like when GPS systems were new. Often these products were cobbled together for a single customer and then when the vendor discovered what it has they brought it to market as a full-blown “fleet management solution.”

The best question you could ask a GPS vendor was “Who’s your second customer?”

If you haven’t adopted an ELD or are unsatisfied with the system you chose, take heart. There are decent systems out there at reasonable prices.

Here are some suggestions to help you find one that fits you and your operation:

• This is one time when it’s OK to listen to truck-stop talk. Ask every driver you meet what they like and, more importantly, what they don’t like about their ELD.• Start making a list of vendors with pros and cons about their products and customer service.

• Search the Internet for reviews. You’ll see patterns of what is good and what is bad.

• Don’t make your decision based strictly on price.

• Ask the “Canada” question. Canadian and U.S. hours-of-service rules are different. Always, always, always ask if the system will work on both.

• Don’t be fooled by ELD vendors who say you can use their IFTA reports. Record keeping requirements for HOS and IFTA are not the same. You absolutely must have a way to store the original, unedited GPS data your ELD collects in a way that will comply with IFTA and IRP rules. If you don’t have the wherewithal to download and store all that raw data, find someone who can do it for you. You’ll be relieved when the IFTA auditors ask for it and you can provide it. And it shouldn’t cost you more.

In December, the Canadian government formally published a draft version of its own ELD mandate, so you need to be prepared for electronic logs even if you never venture into the U.S. These systems require a big investment in time and energy and you could be married to one for a long time. Make sure you are getting the right partner.And do not be blinded by flashy advertising, web pages, and other shiny objects. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with the equivalent of a 10-cent stone on your finger as a constant reminder that you didn’t do your research.

***

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


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1 Comment » for Buyer beware
  1. Mark FitzPatrick says:

    We all hear about fleets and ELDS,what about 1-Truck operations operating mostly (90-95%) of the time within a160km radius of there home base, will they need an ELD. The other 5-10% is within 500-600 km of home base. This I believe would apply to local businesses doing local deliveries and some longer distance.

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