3G Sunset, Data Overload, and Improving Operations


Telematics devices, including GPS and ELDs, help fleet owners in their fleet management programs by providing information, such as engine idling, route planning, maintenance planning, driver behavior, and more. A vehicle’s engine can be monitored with telematics devices to see if it is running and moving, determine how many miles have been driven, and determine the number of hours the engine has been operating. 

In 2016, FMCSA passed the ELD mandate, which required motor carriers and drivers to keep records of duty under the hours-of-service regulations to implement electronic records. All motor carriers and drivers subject to the ELD rule must use an ELD by the compliance date of December 18, 2017. 

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ELDs were introduced to help create a safer work environment for truck drivers. ELDs also make it easier to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status information. Additionally, ELDs synchronize with a truck’s engine to automatically record driving time for more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording. Using ELDs, drivers spend much less time on paperwork and more driving.  


An ELD will provide more than compliance data, and fleet owners can use this information to reduce fuel costs by monitoring engine idling and improving route planning. Tracking how much time a driver spends idling allows managers to focus on improvements in this area, saving thousands of dollars each month by reducing fuel waste.

Digital maintenance planning tools also enable the business to increase vehicle uptime. ELDs connect to the vehicle’s diagnostic port, actively monitoring fault codes. Keep ahead of maintenance issues by monitoring the engine in real time. Historical reports lead to precautionary measures that can be taken when necessary, leading to better-maintained vehicles. 

Additionally, ELD and telematics devices can be incorporated into route optimization tools, enabling route planning to include traffic patterns and the location of stops. These devices let dispatchers send routes directly to drivers and even update them mid-route if and when an emergency or last-second job arises. Route optimization solutions provide dispatchers and office staff with real-time maps and the locations of all vehicles and assets, reducing the need to call or text drivers. 

Most of these tracking devices have a “closest to” feature that allows fleet managers to plug in an address and see which drivers are closest to a certain location. Route optimization software also enables direct messaging to drivers’ smartphones. Alerts notify managers when the driver leaves their jobsite and heads to their next location, allowing managers to send accurate ETAs to customers. 

ELDs track driving behaviors, such as hard braking, accelerating too fast, and turning corners too quickly. Once fleet managers know how drivers are driving, they can debrief them on what happened and help them improve. When drivers become aware of poor habits, they are less likely to continue them, leading to better driving records and fewer accidents. 


Asset management can be tricky when fine-tuning a fleet of trucks. Transportation managers need to be vigilant, continuously analyzing and assessing the business model to stay on top of changes. They also need the right tools to inform their business decisions, fine-tune the mix of truck assets, minimize the overall cost of operations, and drive profitability.

Telematics, ELDs, and GPS devices track trucks and loads and display these on digital maps. Dispatchers can see what drivers can retrieve a return load to avoid traveling with an empty truck. Using telematics devices can improve asset use and bottom-line profitability. 

The industry average drive time in an 11-hour on-duty shift is 6.5 hours. Decreasing idling at stops, loading/unloading times, and required paperwork adds driving hours to the day, making it possible for drivers to increase efficiency. 


Virtually every piece of technology-generated data—from ELDs, telematics devices, cameras, and other safety products—can be collected, analyzed, and used to improve operations, identify trends, discover bottlenecks, and make informed decisions. But many work truck companies are drowning in data overload. When used correctly, the data helps trucking companies begin to see trends they may not have noticed otherwise.  

For those who want to integrate data onto “a single pane of glass,” make sure ELD and TMS data streams are seamlessly integrated—creating a one-stop-shop for data. With the correct integration, key performance indicator (KPI) metrics can even be displayed.

Prioritize what to do with data. Start with small, measurable action items once data is better organized and consolidated. For example, start with revenue per mile/week and safety violations per month. Eventually, the goal will be to reduce data and make it more accessible, such as incorporating accounting, billing, Hours-of-Service, driver settlements, and TMS data all together on one screen. Once data has been gathered, think ahead about how to create a more holistic view of fleet operations. 


Some ELDs use cellular networks to relay information to smartphones and tablets. For vehicles in remote areas, consider whether the locations they travel have good cell coverage. ELDs operate as stand-alone units while others connect to a system that can monitor a large fleet of vehicles. When buying an ELD, it must be certified compliant and listed on FMCSA’s website. 

Approximately 70% of trucking companies in Canada also send trucks in and out of the US. It’s important to know that not all ELDs that work in the US will work in Canada. If transporting loads or sending work trucks cross-border, choose an ELD that operates in both countries. Some businesses have even had to switch to a different provider. 

While conducting due diligence to upgrade telematics and ELDs, make sure any new provider plays well with other technology stack and assets used in the fleet. Can a new device monitor HOS restrictions? Maybe consider another TMS or choose one that plays well with a wide variety of devices. The good news is that systems out there, like the Axele TMS, integrate with both types of ELDs, making it easier to manage a fragmented fleet. The Axele TMS connects to multiple devices.


Most mobile carriers are shutting down their 3G networks that support ELDs and telematics devices soon. The sunset is happening to make room for more advanced network services, such as 4G and 5G. As a result, many ELDs will not be supported. Any ELD that requires 3G cellular connectivity will no longer comply once the sunset dates occur. 

The announced sunset dates will happen per the following: 

  • AT&T 3G: February 22, 2022
  • Sprint 3G (T-Mobile): March 31, 2022
  • Sprint LTE (T-Mobile): June 30, 2022
  • T-Mobile 3G: July 1, 2022
  • Verizon 3G: December 31, 2022

Many of these providers have upgrades and replacement plans in place. Make sure to act as soon as possible to avoid compliance issues. There are plenty more reasons to think now about transitioning. Chip shortages create long lead times for new devices. And there’s obsolescence dead ahead: Those with older phones, or basic “feature” phones, will no longer be able to use them. In addition, millions of vehicles with 3G systems will no longer run alarms, security cameras, and other devices.

Technology ranging from TMS, mobile apps, and telematics can be the right solution for the driver shortage because it improves your operations’ efficiency and productivity.


Find out more about ELD and telematics devices that work on a 5G network and play well with others, visit 

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