ELDs: friend or foe of the trucking industry?

On April 1, inspectors will start placing commercial motor vehicle drivers out of service if their vehicle is not equipped with an Electronic Logging Device (ELD), according to a statement by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

This is another phase of ELD compliance set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).  The CVSA began enforcing ELD mandate requirements recently on December 18, 2017.

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According to FMCSA, the electronic logging device (ELD) rule – congressionally mandated as a part of MAP-21 – is meant to help create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status (RODS) data.

“An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording,” the FMCSA website says.

Drivers of vehicles manufactured before year 2000 are exempt, among a few other carriers. However, the vast majority of carriers are on the hook for implementing ELDs.

The long-term goal of this mandate is to reach a full compliance phase with the mandatory use of ELDs for all carriers by December 2019.

Currently, trucks will be considered in violation of the ELD mandate under the following circumstances:

  • If the truck doesn’t have an ELD
  • If the ELD in the truck does not meet FMCSA specifications and isn’t found on their certification list
  • If the driver can’t produce data for – or transfer data to – law enforcement officials
  • If a malfunctioning ELD is not repaired within 8 days
  • If the driver fails to properly logged in to the device

As of right now, the consequences for not being ELD compliant amount to a slap on the hand, more or less.

According to Jon Dierberger, FMCSA field supervisor, “A driver found after the mandate’s implementation, Dec. 18, but before April 1, with no ELD or compliant AOBRD (automatic onboard recording device) will be cited for having no log, but it will have no impact on the associated motor carrier’s Safety Measurement System ranking.”

However, inspectors do have discretion when it comes to writing citations. Beginning April 1, the 10-hour out of service order associated with non-compliance with the mandate will kick in.

When it comes to ELDs, there are pros and cons.

According to the FMCSA website,

  • ELDs make it easier, simpler, and quicker to keep driver logs.
  • ELDs limit mistakes and reduce form and manner errors.
  • ELDs provide information to drivers and motor carriers so that drivers can better manage fatigue and schedule issues.
  • ELDs correctly record location and accurate information to easily track duty status.
  • ELDs are a good management tool and back office asset to improve productivity and enhance compliance.
  • With ELDs, there is less paperwork, and driver logs are orderly, clear, and accurate.

However, many trucking companies have concerns ranging from the cost of implementing ELDS in their fleet, to the conflict of ELDs and traffic congestion.

The cost of implementing ELDs could be a financial burden on many trucking companies or owner/operators, especially smaller companies. That cost has to be made up somewhere, so the question is: how will this affect freight prices?

Also, with the implementation of ELDs, every hour counts, and traffic congestion becomes even more of a problem.  Considering that Americans spent an estimated 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic in 2014, or 42 hours per driver, this is a very real concern.

There’s also the learning curve for some drivers accustomed to the ELD’s paper counterpart. Many drivers who have worked with paper logs for years must now adapt to the changing technology.

Furthermore, while technology can be a wonderful thing, malfunctions can make it frustrating. If an ELD goes on the fritz, a driver must react quickly, following the proper steps. According to the FMCSA website, if an ELD malfunctions, a driver must:

  1. Note the malfunction of the ELD and provide written notice of the malfunction to the motor carrier within 24 hours;
  2. Reconstruct the record of duty status (RODS) for the current 24-hour period and the previous 7 consecutive days, and record the records of duty status on graph-grid paper logs that comply with 49 CFR 395.8, unless the driver already has the records or retrieves them from the ELD; and
  3. Continue to manually prepare RODS in accordance with 49 CFR 395.8 until the ELD is serviced and back in compliance. The recording of the driver’s hours of service on a paper log cannot continue for more than 8 days after the malfunction; a driver that continues to record his or her hours of service on a paper log beyond 8 days risk being placed out of service.

However, there are some exemptions to the ELD mandate.

According to the FMCSA website, drivers using the timecard exception are not required to keep records of duty status (RODS) or use ELDs. Furthermore, while the following drivers aren’t required to use ELDs, they still must keep logs on paper using an Automatic On-Board Recording Device (ABORD) or with a logging software program when required:

  • Drivers who use paper RODS for not more than 8 days out of every 30-day period.
  • Drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000.
  • Drivers who are required to keep RODS not more than 8 days within any 30-day period.
  • Drivers who conduct drive-away-tow-away operations, where the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered, or the vehicle being transported is a motor home or a recreation vehicle trailer with one or more sets of wheels on the surface of the roadway.
  • Drivers of vehicles manufactured before the model year 2000. (As reflected on the vehicle registration)

If you’re not one of the exempt drivers, with the April deadline fast approaching, how prepared are your trucks to meet the demands of the ELD mandate?

As for diesel prices, average diesel prices are down 0.020 from last week to $3.007.

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