David vs. Goliath: The ELD Mandate’s Impact On Small Businesses

David vs. Goliath: The ELD Mandate’s Impact On Small Businesses

On December 18th, the FMCSA ELD mandate compliance deadline will come to pass.

That date will also mark the beginning of fundamental changes in the U.S. transportation industry, with wide-reaching effects hitting small fleets, owner-operators, and temp drivers the hardest.

We discuss the impact of the mandate on each of the 3 entities and propose possible solutions at the end of the article.

Small Fleets

With a large amount of small fleets still yet to comply with the ELD mandate, it seems that smaller fleets are either reluctant or unable to comply with the ELD mandate.

Two reasons are brought to mind.  One being that these fleets may be holding out, hoping for a delay to the compliance deadline; the other reason is a lack of either resources, information, or funds.

After discussions with many small fleet owners, the most often cited reason for being against ELDs and the FMCSA mandate, in general, was one of price.

Although everyone has had 2 years to comply with the FMCSA’s deadline, most small fleet owners have not, as evidenced in the linked article above.

This has lead to small fleet owners scrambling to comply by the deadline, and more importantly, attempting to scrounge up the funds to afford ELDs.

With the lack of time and financial resources now being a grave reality for small fleets, they do not have the luxury of time.

Time to properly research which ELD providers are fit for them, time to transition to using ELDs in their fleet operations, and time to effectively train drivers on how to use ELDs.

However, there is a cheaper alternative to purchasing ELDs, which we discuss below at the end of the article.


Those operating under a contract to a carrier usually are required to use the same ELD as the rest of the carrier’s fleet.

Whether that ELD is paid for by the owner-operator or the carrier is up to debate.

Independent owner-operators will have to find their own ELD solution.

It’s important to note here that for independent owner-operators, they are required by the FMCSA mandate to have both a fleet manager and a driver account for the ELD that they use.

Most ELD providers include features for both fleet managers (such as a custom dashboard, alerting, and reporting) and drivers (DVIR forms and real-time HOS alerts).

This can help owner-operators gain valuable insights into their daily operations; they can also use these features to reduce costs and increase profit margins.

Another challenge owner-operators face is testing and validating ELDs.

Since ELD providers are only required to self-certify, and the FMCSA isn’t enforcing device regulations on them, it has resulted in a steady rise of shady ELD providers that lure in people with the temptation of cheap prices.

Owner-operators don’t have time to test and validate every single ELD they come across, so they should instead require written guarantees that their ELD provider is the real deal.

Owner-operators should also do their due diligence and look into the backgrounds of these companies.

First, make sure that the ELD provider has been doing business in the U.S. transportation industry for a while now.

Second, to make sure that the company will still be in business down the line a few years from now.

Lastly, it’s important for owner-operators to consider whether they want a temporary bare-bones solution, or a scalable, future-proof fleet management solution.

We cover some of these features and ELD buying options at the end of the article.

Temp Drivers

A key fault of the FMCSA ELD mandate is the fact that, for whatever reason, it does not address the problem of “interoperability”.

In other words, this means the fact that temp drivers cannot transfer HOS records between carriers.

Drivers who operate by using a driver service, or temporary driver pool are clearly at a disadvantage when it comes to this scenario.

In fact, this problem may even extend to the entire owner-operator community.

For example, in California, where many owner-operators usually work under contract for more than one carrier.

So far, there are not any solutions on the horizon for temp drivers who are affected by this problem.

The only possibility is for an ELD provider to find a fix for this otherwise unsolvable problem.

Possible Solutions

Whether you’re a small business, owner-operator, or temp driver, the key pain point for you is almost always cost.

But first, you must ask yourself this question: “Which ELD is right for me?”.

Do you simply want to be HOS compliant, or do you want to make an investment in the future of your business by purchasing a full-featured fleet management solution with ELD support?

Most ELD providers feature flexible pricing plans that allow you to choose whether or not you want all of the bells and whistles their solutions can provide.

Examples include scenarios where you purchase the actual ELD only and use your smartphone or your tablet for elogs (most ELD providers also have elogs apps).

Or, some ELD providers (such as us) even offer an ELD & tablet bundle for drivers who do not already have a smart device in their cab.  (We recommend using tablets, as they are a million times easier to read from on the dashboard of a truck cab, as opposed to a phone).

One final option, although it is a rare one to find, is to simply rent your ELD.

In conclusion, small fleets, owner-operators, and temp drivers need to stay smart and perform proper research into ELD options.

They need to do it quickly, too, since there’s only a month now before the official FMCSA compliance deadline.

Recognize that you have choices when it comes to picking an ELD solution; all it requires is a bit of searching.



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