May 15, 2020
Six things to look for when switching your ELD solution
There are various reasons you might decide to change your ELD solution. Perhaps your current solution lacks features or is running on obsolete technology. Maybe it is too expensive or the support is lacking. The hardware might be unreliable or the software too complicated either at the back end or with drivers. Whatever the cause, shifting from one ELD solution to another can be a complicated process and not one you’ll undertake lightly.
If you’re switching because of a specific shortcoming in your existing solution or the provider, it can be tempting to focus on solutions that seem to address those particular issues. But it's important to remember you’re changing out your entire solution so you’ll need to assess the possible replacement across the full range of requirements. To help you make the right decision here are six key things to look for when switching ELD solutions.
1. How long has the provider been around?
A good ELD solution relies on the provider having expertise across more than just software development. Multi-driver, multi-jurisdiction ELD requires expert knowledge of the regulatory requirements and industry practice before you’ve even got to the software and hardware platforms you’ll be operating on. So experience counts. Be sure to check the provider’s history. Are they established and if so, do they have experience in ELD specifically? You want a provider who’s learned a few lessons, rather than being a guinea pig for one who hasn’t.
Have they developed in-house expertise on ELD or are they actually licensing a third-party solution to fill out their broader fleet management features? While a third-party add-on might not seem like a bad idea, you want your ELD provider to be an expert and not just another barrier between you and the real expert.
2. What support and training do they provide?
Salespeople will sell you on the benefits of a solution but supporting that solution isn’t their problem. Conversely, once you’ve chosen a solution, getting training and support sits on your shoulders. So firstly you need to evaluate what training and support the provider offers on paper; 24/7 phone and email support, training videos, or how-to documentation for example. Is real support an extra cost? When you’ve got a problem, you need it fixed now, not five days down the track because 24/7 support is a hidden extra.
Secondly, you need to test that support. When using a free trial or pilot program make sure you call support with problems and challenge them. Don’t call the sales team trying to on-board you – they’ll always answer your calls – you need to know what support is actually like once the company has your recurring revenue. Do you have contacts with other companies that use the same provider or customer references provided by the provider? Quiz them on their support experience.
3. Their reliability and warranty
Related to support are warranty and reliability. A hardware issue or software glitch can take your ELD offline, either in a single-vehicle or across the fleet. The best support in the world is worth very little if poor product reliability is the reason the support is punching above its weight.
What are the SLAs on hardware replacements? How quickly are they able to get replacement hardware to you and how difficult is it to replace? How frequently does their solution suffer hardware or software outages? Is the service level you require for repairs or replacements standard in the warranty or part of an extra-cost add-on? If you are required to do software updates to either the core hardware or end-user device app can it be pushed out over the air without physical contact or the need to log in to devices? How often are updates done and how much vehicle downtime do they cause? Are over the air updates an additional cost?
Ask for previous release notes to check what kind of issues they've had and how often they've had to address them and, as with support, don’t take their word for it. Ask around your contacts to see what reliability issues they've had.
4. How do they ensure that they are compliant?
It might seem obvious but ELD is all about compliance and you’d be forgiven for assuming your ELD provider would be on top of that issue. Your ELD solution needs to be compliant, likely with differing regulatory requirements across varying jurisdictions. So the solution not only needs to be compliant but it needs to stay compliant – updated to deal with changes in regulations and reporting requirements. So how does the provider ensure they do this?
Do they check responses they’ve received from local FMCSA ELD provider sites? Have they received errors from data transfers and how often? What have they done to address these errors? What processes do they follow to self-certify and what is their process for ensuring continued compliance?
If your provider can’t answer questions around this, then it’s likely their ELD expertise isn’t as deep as they want you to believe.
5. Ask for references
Ask for customer references and not just one. If you can, you want references you can visit on-site rather than just a phone call. Many fleet managers are more than willing to share their experiences. If you’ve got independent contacts not supplied by the provider tap those too.
6. Do a trial
Many ELD vendors offer trials or if you’re a large fleet operator, pilot programs. Time invested here – not just in trying a solution but really kicking its tires hard – could save you a lot of pain later on. If possible run the trial on more than one vehicle. Carefully evaluate the ease of install and ask questions of the provider’s support staff. Make sure your staff is using the solution to the fullest extent the trial provides, including the drivers and any office staff who’ll be managing them. Get feedback from everyone as you go through the trial so you can have questions to ask of the provider while the trial is ongoing. This will allow you to evaluate the provider’s responses and uncover any problems with the package while you’re still using it – and then see whether the provider has a fix for them – rather than in analysis after it has ended.
When to start looking for a new ELD solution
A final note on when to start the process of evaluating a new ELD solution. The technology involved continues to change rapidly. The last few years have seen a shift from the prior generation of telematics hardware to cheaper, more flexible IoT-based products while the software platforms processing the data have also grown in sophistication and the value they can offer your business. So even if you're happy with your current provider and your contract is not yet up for renewal you should be looking around every couple of years to see whether your provider is still offering you the best solution for your needs.
If contract renewal is the major prompt to start the process then don’t leave it too late. You don’t want to find yourself unready to make a decision when the contract expires, forcing you into either a hasty decision or getting stuck with obsolete technology. Give yourself 12 months to complete the process. It might seem like a lot but it won’t when you’re a month out from having to make a decision.