Switchboard offers one of the best designed ELDs on the market, at an extremely good price.
|Up Front Cost||Monthly Cost||3-year Total Cost|
- Excellent design, very user friendly
- Inexpensive pricing
- Reliable Bluetooth connection
- Support for US and Canada HOS rules
- Unidentified Driving tools need improvement
- Carrier log edits can be clunky
Switchboard is a smaller company that has created a truly top-shelf ELD app. Very few of the devices we’ve reviewed are so simple and easy to work with. The user interface for both the driver app and the carrier web portal is very intuitive and requires almost no training to understand. But despite the simplicity the Switchboard ELD is also surprisingly full featured with lots of tools to make life easier for drivers and fleet managers. Combined with very competitive pricing, this is an immediately attractive option for fleets that want a solid, simple ELD that doesn’t break the bank.
The Switchboard driver app can be run on most Android smartphones or tablets. You can use your own, or buy a dedicated tablet directly from Switchboard (see pricing info below). Offering both options provides some nice flexibility. Individual drivers can keep costs down by using their own smartphone, while fleets looking for standardized devices to put in all their trucks can go with the official tablet option. Whether you use your own device or the Switchboard tablet it connects to the vehicle engine module via Bluetooth. In many ELDs the Bluetooth connection can be an unreliable weak link, but in our testing we found Switchboard’s Bluetooth connection to be extremely dependable. At no point did we need to fiddle with the tablet to re-establish the Bluetooth connection (which is a pretty common scenario with most other Bluetooth ELDs).
The driver app itself is very nicely designed. It’s easy to understand, even for people who aren’t very comfortable with technology. All the important parts of the app are simple to access and use. This is one of the most all around user-friendly ELDs that we have worked with. Despite being simple to use, the app manages to provide a lot of useful tools and extra information to help drivers with their logs. When changing status drivers can easily add comments, perform a pre-trip inspection, switch into Personal Conveyance mode, and lots more. There is a button that quickly shows the driver’s entire recap for the week, so they can see the time they’ve used, and the time they’ll gain back on their 60/70 hour cycle each day. When making log corrections, the app very helpfully shows an updated grid line in red, so drivers can visually see exactly what changes they are making in real time. Log edits are entered as time ranges, which makes sense but can also be somewhat cumbersome when trying to enter adjustments to existing activity. Getting the start and end times exactly right can be difficult, but the visual grid helps with this. The app also makes it easy to view any proposed edits from the carrier, and any unidentified driving activity that might need to be claimed by the driver. During a roadside inspection, there is a special DOT mode that gives the officer all the information they need while preventing them from accessing other parts of the app. And as a Canadian company, Switchboard seamlessly supports both US and Canadian HOS rules. Beyond logs, the Switchboard app also provides a number of extra features. Drivers can complete pre and post-trip DVIRs on the device. Chat style messaging allows drivers to quickly communicate dispatchers. And, a newly released weigh station bypass system lets drivers skip more scales and keep moving.
On the fleet manager side, the Switchboard web portal is similarly well designed and user friendly. The tools for viewing and correcting driver logs are very visual and easy to work with. Again, any proposed edits to the driver’s log are clearly shown as a red grid line so that you know exactly what changes you are making. As with the driver app, edits are entered as a time range. This makes intuitive sense, but it can sometimes be tricky when trying to enter time ranges that line up exactly with existing log activity. Once again, the visual grid showing the changes helps smooth this process. While we did encounter some minor bugs and areas for improvement with carrier log edits, overall it’s an easier process than most. The web portal also has some really useful tools for keeping track of proposed corrections. Fleet managers can easily see all the log edits they have suggested for drivers, and see which ones have been accepted, rejected, or are still pending. This is a surprisingly rare feature in many ELDs, but a very useful one for safety managers. There is a similar system for monitoring unidentified driving activity. Unidentified driving can be assigned to the correct driver, and the activity will appear as a proposed edit for the driver to accept or reject. While the basic tools here are good, we did encounter some significant bugs and room for improvement in the process. As of this writing, the system is being updated to address some of these issues in a future release. The HOS system for fleet managers is already quite good in most cases, but as some of these niche issues are resolved it will continue to improve.
Beyond hours of service, the web portal has a number of other fleet management capabilities that are worth mentioning. Many of the typical telematics tools found in most ELDs are present here. Vehicle tracking, DVIRs, messaging, and IFTA are all included with the system. The GPS tracking is straightforward, allowing fleet managers to see the current location of vehicles or view a breadcrumb trail of recent activity. Drivers complete DVIRs on their ELD, and fleet managers can view those inspections from the web portal. Right now the DVIR system is fairly limited, but future enhancements may include more tools for handling reported defects and recording repair info. The messaging system offers basic chat communication between drivers and dispatchers. The IFTA features are particularly impressive, with tools and reports that go well beyond the simple miles-by-state report found in most ELD systems. Fleet managers can see a breakdown report for each truck which shows the actual history of jurisdictions the vehicle traveled in, along with the total miles and odometer at each border crossing. The system can drill down even further to show the exact route of travel within the jurisdiction. Fuel purchase transactions can be easily uploaded from the majority of fuel card vendors, allowing a full reporting of IFTA miles and gallons.
So despite a strong focus hours of service logs, Switchboard does have a fairly good range of extra features. A few common ones that are not yet supported include built-in navigation, engine diagnostics (fault codes), speeding / harsh braking alerts, and document capture. However many of these features are already in the works and will be available in future releases. In addition, Switchboard already has a number of less common features that drivers and managers may find useful. The newly released weigh station bypass feature allows drivers with good safety scores to often skip the scale house. Managers can choose to share the GPS location of a certain vehicle (for a limited amount of time) with an outside party. For example, a fleet manager can send a customer a link that allows them to track their load on a map over the next 48 hours until delivery. Between these standard, unique, and “coming soon” features, Switchboard offers a well-rounded toolbox, especially given the price tag.
With its emphasis on being simple and user friendly, it is not surprising that Switchboard is also priced very competitively. There is enough flexibility in the pricing to make the system accessible to fleets of any size. The basic ELD engine module that plugs into your vehicle is $200 up front. Drivers can use their own smartphone or tablet, or they can purchase a dedicated Switchboard tablet for an additional $250. Drivers using their own device will need to make sure it has a data plan. Those using the Switchboard tablet can use its built-in data plan for $15/mo. Additionally, Switchboard charges an optional $10/mo for access to their online web portal. This will be a necessity for fleet managers, but may not be required for individual owner operators. So an owner operator could get the system for as low as $200 up front, with no ongoing fees (assuming they use their own smartphone and don’t need access to the Switchboard web portal). That is one of the cheapest price tags on the market, though that setup is only feasible for very small operations. On the higher end, a large fleet could buy the engine module for $200 and the dedicated tablet for $250, giving a total up front cost of $450. Plus the $15/mo data plan and the $10/mo web software, for a $25/mo total ongoing cost. Whether you’re on the higher or lower end of these options, Switchboard offers an affordable solution for the needs of all fleet sizes.
In summary, Switchboard has built a very smooth, user-friendly ELD with a lot to offer. The product is still somewhat new, so there are some features yet to add and some areas for improvement. But it already boasts solid hardware, helpful software, and a respectable list of features; all at a very enticing price point. For those looking to keep costs down while still getting a driver-friendly, high-quality ELD, Switchboard is going to be tough to beat.
Click to see Specifications
Type: BYOD (Bring your own device)
Price per unit
Up-front cost: 200*
Monthly cost: 10**
3-year Total Cost: 560
Transmits logs to DOT via: Telematics (Email / Web Services)
Top Five: 1