A Personal View Of How ELD Data Should And Shouldn’t Be Used

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The early discussions about the Highway Reauthorization Bill included a provision to allow the use of Electronic Logging Devices, ELD data for deeper analytics, and government research. On one side, the data insights can be extremely beneficial as these may provide a better understanding of the drivers’ preferences. It can also be useful in ensuring driver safety. However, privacy is one major concern that crops up with the ELD data and its usage. Let’s examine both sides of this thorny issue and all the ways in which ELD data is being (and can be) used.

Potential Use and Benefits
Real-Time Tracking and Safety

ELD mandate enables the real-time tracking of the fleets and it can assist the trucking company owners and managers to track the driving behaviors. Drivers may be adopting dangerous practices, such as driving too fast on long trips or spending too much time on breaks. The data from the ELD can help avoid the associated risks and make improvements in the on-road behavior. The managers can interact with the drivers in time and issue advice accordingly.

It is beneficial for driver safety and to avoid potential accidents and liabilities. Trucking company managers can also prepare a list of their best and worst-performing drivers using the ELD data. Rewards, recognition, and training decisions can be made as per the ELD data analytics to achieve improvements in the drivers’ performance continuously.

Driver and fleet safety are other prominent benefits of the ELD data. As per FMCSA, ELDs will have a major role in saving 26 lives and 562 injuries annually. Regulation and arrangement of driver duties and identification of bad driving behaviors can also add to on-road safety.

Better CSA Scores

Compliance, Safety, and Accountability, CSA scores can improve with the adequate use of the ELD data. The fleet managers need to maintain good CSA scores to achieve a better business reputation and brand image. It is also a relevant criterion for numerous business opportunities. The data analytics can make sure that the drivers do not drive more than the acceptable working hours. It also makes it possible to avoid several other Hours of Service (HOS) violations, such as Form & Manner violations, falsification of logs, and likewise.

Effective Route Management

Fleet managers can track the vehicles using GPS tracking. It improves visibility and transparency along with providing opportunities for improvements in the overall productivity levels. This is because the fleet managers can guide the drivers on the optimal route to follow. Also, the driver distraction due to multiple calls from the fleet managers is automatically eliminated.

Effective route management leads to better effort utilization and also results in enhancements in fuel efficiency. Streamlining of operations in this manner promises better profits and returns for the trucking company.

Vehicle Diagnostics

The ELD could be synced with the diagnostic port of the vehicle and enable constant monitoring. Faulty maintenance can cause massive losses to trucking organizations. With ELD data analytics, fleet managers can have constant updates on essential vehicular maintenance. They can receive detailed reports, alerts, and analyses on the vehicle maintenance aspects.

Wider analytics can also provide information on the recurring issues to assist in the determination of the root cause behind the faults. Corrective and preventive measures as per the analysis results can then lead to higher efficiency levels.

Of course, the proposal in the Highway Reauthorization Bill wasn’t about ELD data being used by the fleets themselves. The proposal was to tap the aggregate data from across all the ELDs out there to create more detailed data maps that applied across the sector. Details are sketchy, but potentially this level of data could drive analytics-driven assessments of dangerous routes, spots, or conditions. It could help the FMCSA launch more agile strategies and more dynamic rules about what is and isn’t acceptable as driver behavior. There’s also the possibility that such strategies could feed into the emerging paradigm of autonomous trucks but providing these data-guzzling vehicles with a rich feed of high-octane data.

Possible Issues and Concerns
Privacy Violations

The primary issue with ELD provisions of deeper analytics is the risks to information privacy. Data could get shared with third-party aggregators without the consent of the information owners. These third parties may misuse the data. This is already happening in some cases where ELD providers are sharing data with brokers and freight platforms to tip the balance away from the drivers and towards the customers.

Also, driver privacy and security can be put at massive risk with the absence of effective privacy controls and regulations. As per the FBI’s advisory, many self-certified ELDs had little or no measures to deal with the cybersecurity attacks. The research found that it was not difficult to carry out malware attacks and data breaches on such devices. It may also lead to massive impacts, such as providing vehicle control to the attackers.

To Sum it Up

ELD data and the new provisions in the Highway Reauthorization Bill on data analytics have positive and negative sides to them. There are ample benefits possible with the adequate use of wider analytics on the ELD data. But the threat to information privacy is a serious concern with no adequate solution available as of now. In the balance, until these concerns can be addressed, in our view the ELD data should be utilized only for the originally intended purpose.