A piece of equipment that attaches to a vehicle engine, the ELD has long been an essential tool for fleet managers to electronically record a driver’s time on the road for more accurate, easier record keeping.
Today, ELDs are able to capture information including whether an engine is running or not, how long it was running, whether a vehicle is in transit or stationary, miles driven and more.
In the U.S., regulations continue to press for ELD adoption in an effort to wipe out paper sheet logs that run the risk of errors and fraud. Most recently, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration introduced new requirements last year for fleet drivers to electronically record their Hours of Service, and for ELDs to have a direct connection with truck engines and support electronic data submission.
In recent years, it’s this need for regulatory compliance — and not necessarily a desire to digitize and embrace technology — that has encouraged fleets to adopt ELDs, telematics, IoT and other innovations that vow to transform the industry.
However, according to David Lady, president of GeoSpace Labs, data captured and locked within the ELD can have open doors for fleet managers and their organizations to strengthen a wide array of business processes, not least of all financial ones.
“The thing with an ELD is that most drivers have to have one, but they don’t believe it offers any competitive advantage other than minimal compliance,” he told PYMNTS in a recent interview. “Financing ways to make using the ELD valuable as a business asset is important.”
Traditionally, fleet managers have wielded ELD data to ensure accuracy in driver hours, which is key for scheduling and payroll. Beyond that, said Lady, organizations use ELD information to focus on safety metrics, although this use of the data may not be the most efficient as the majority of fleets in the U.S. are single-truck owners, or owner-operators, he explained. This means the drivers themselves are already well-versed with what’s happening with their vehicles.
Instead, what these small businesses need is a way to boot revenues and strengthen cash flow, he said, and ELD data is an unexpected, but powerful, way to do so.
GeoSpace Labs recently announced a new solution as part of its effort to wield ELD data to support financial processes. Last month, the firm said its GeoWiz Agriculture ELD, an ELD designed for transporters in the agricultural commodities industry, will integrate artificial intelligence that allows invoicing and invoice factoring initiated from the ELD itself.
Current regulations require agriculture carriers to track loading and unloading of what they’re transporting at their source, explained Lady, and this information is already tracked via ELD.
“This meant that we already had 90 percent of the data and rigger points needed for invoicing and invoice factoring as drivers were already telling the ELD everything it needed to know about where they were going and what they were hauling,” he said.
Adding that “getting paid in this industry can be complicated,” Lady noted that the addition of order entry information into the existing commodity data stored by an ELD naturally led to an invoicing and factoring solution that truckers can deploy.
It’s not the only use-case for ELD information, however. Lady said that as GeoSpace Labs continues to augment its ELD services, the company will be looking at how to add new services beyond “safety metrics and maintenance details” for fleet clients, instead focusing on cash flow management.
This will be particularly important amid the rise of autonomous vehicles and more sophisticated automated delivery services emerging in the market today. Logistics giants including Amazon and Uber continue to explore the opportunities of self-driving trucks in the delivery space, while FinTechs have also started to discover how to wield connected vehicles and self-driving trucks to not only automate delivery, but initiate payments for fueling, maintenance and more from the vehicle itself.
For trucking companies — especially one-person-operators — this represents a significant competitive threat. Wielding sophisticated technology, and taking advantage of valuable data locked within ELDs, does not only promote compliance, said Lady, it also expand businesses’ opportunities in other areas of the enterprise to improve cash flows.
“We’re looking more at artificial intelligence products that we can offer to drivers, remembering that they are now not only competing with each other, but with automated driving systems as well,” Lady said.