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May 2018
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Drivers and fleets discover that not everything is better on a smart phone app

Continental, a global supplier of systems, components and tires to automobile and truck manufacturers, and the manufacturer of VDO RoadLog ELD, is advising professional truck drivers to be aware of issues being reported by users of Electronic Logging Device (ELD) apps.

Apps designed to comply with the federal ELD mandate have gained wide use since the mandate went into effect. Because ELD apps for smart phones and tablets are available at low or even no cost, they are appealing to drivers and fleets who are faced with the alternative of spending hundreds of dollars per vehicle for hardware-based ELDs. However, as professional drivers are reporting, Electronic Logging Device apps on smart phones and tablets have some serious performance issues out on the road.

ELD phone apps tax cell phone batteries
As with any location-based app, ELD apps rely on the phone or tablet’s built-in GPS to track a driver’s location. Constant GPS activity puts a strain on the device’s batteries, causing them to heat up. When the phone or tablet is sitting on the vehicle’s dash, the heat from the sun can make the batteries even hotter. If the batteries get too hot, the mobile device will shut itself down, ending its ability to maintain logs. This exposes the driver to substantial fines for failing to maintain ELD mandate compliance.

Hardwired vs Bluetooth data connection
Most phone app ELDs rely on a Bluetooth connection to get the vehicle data input required to meet the FMCSA ELD regulations. But, as most consumers know from Bluetooth headsets, smart speakers, and other consumer electronics, Bluetooth connections often have drop outs. If the ELD app’s Bluetooth connection drops, drivers may end up with gaps in their log data, creating another exposure to costly fines.

ELD device inspection hand-off issues
Phone app ELDs can transfer log data to an inspection officer by Bluetooth or email, but in many cases the officer will ask the driver to hand over the device in order to read log information directly from the screen. The device can be dropped in the hand-off, and an accidental drop can mean the end of the device and the ability to record log data. In addition, handing off the device can compromise privacy because it exposes all the driver’s personal information, photos, and contacts, including a complete GPS record of where, when, and how fast the vehicle traveled.

HOS errors
Under certain circumstances, phone app ELDs can record off-duty movements as if the driver was still in Driving status. This can happen with no warning and put drivers over their limit without their knowledge.

Consider all the pros and cons
Jay McCarthy, marketing manager for Continental, advises drivers and fleets, “Consider all the factors before investing in an ELD solution. Our VDO RoadLog ELD is a dedicated device that’s hardwired to the vehicle’s data port. That means there’s no chance for Bluetooth data drops and no worries about gaps in the driver’s logs. VDO RoadLog ELD’s power is drawn from the vehicle, so battery overheating is simply not an issue. VDO RoadLog features an HOS display that’s always visible when underway, and drivers can see their duty status at all times. There’s no potential to have On-Duty or Driving hours recorded without the driver’s knowledge. VDO RoadLog ELD is also available with no monthly fees, so when you buy it, it’s yours. Plus, Continental provides free software updates, so you know you’ll be in mandate compliance now and in the future.”

Many fleets and owner operators are finding that relying on a cell phone for a very specific business need is not always the best solution. Buyers need to consider all factors before deciding on which device to choose for ELD compliance. This is especially true when deciding between a dedicated Electronic Logging Device and an ELD app on a smart phone or tablet. 

 
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