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Unanswered Questions on ELD Usage

For some, the need for electronic logging devices (ELDs) comes with a list of unanswered questions. Many believe the devices aren’t completely necessary, although for larger fleets ELDs help make back office duties run much more efficiently.

Others point to the potential fuel savings brought on by ELD use, but are there other, more effective ways to reduce idling, speed, safety gains or unnecessary miles? Perhaps, but that may not be the full story.

The fact is, the hours-of-service rules likely cause accidents not because of anything the ELD can fix, but because truck drivers are forced out of their natural rhythms and sleep patterns.

Another point of contention lies in parking issues. It is likely many HOS violations happen because the operator finds a hard time finding a place to rest during their mandated downtime. As they drive and drive to find a spot, they may be going over hours. The expectation is that an ELD will only make it worse.

Does No Paper Make Up for It?

Of course, having a lot less paperwork with no logbooks to manage is definitely a big draw for both company drivers and owner-operators. But are the benefits on the front end outweighed by the potential costs?

While dispatchers should never ask operators to stretch the numbers, just as operators should not want to fudge them, where is the margin for those who, say, can’t find a place to park in that moment? Is there enough flexibility built into the system?

Beyond questions of what may arise on the fly, other questions come in other forms, one such being what operators do when they have to rent a truck.

What If It’s a Rental?

Trucking experts know quite well that the December ELD implementation rule will not be a simple matter of getting rid of the old to make way for the new. There are hiccups that will arise as companies cope with the new paradigm.

In fact, the Truck Rental and Leasing Association was reportedly “disappointed” when their recommendation for a rental vehicle exemption rule as not accepted by the FMCSA once the final rule was published.

The main concern lies in what trucks rented to different businesses and commercial customer types will do when renters have varying ELD log requirements. Another consideration is in how managed the data that ELDs produce. With different technologies and different platforms working together, the FMCSA has provided no clear guidance on who does what.

Who Does It Effect?

While it must be noted that the majority of rental companies would be exempt, due to their 100- and 150-mile radius, there is a certain percentage who would fall under the regulation’s umbrella.

What this does is require every truck in a rental fleet to be retrofitted with ELD technology, whether or not the customer needs to utilize it. Having to deal with ELD data generated by different platforms makes it crucial for a motor carrier to find the right telematics partner.

The expense required to retrofit vehicles and find the time or partner to analyze the data is not small, and it is likely some smaller rental companies may not survive the change. There are some questions to consider, however, before selecting an ELD solution:

  • Does the ELD mandate limit the technology available under compliance?
  • Will you get reliable and easy access to applications and reports that will be able to offer you actionable data on improving your fleet’s safety parameters and operating performance?
  • Will you be provided with an actionable growth path in order to get the most out of the predictive analytics and diagnostics mechanisms?
  • Will you be provided with the resources and understanding to get through the technological hurdles without leaving your fleet scrambling for other outside help?

Of course the thought of fully integrating with the ELD mandate can seem overwhelming, hopefully some of these hanging questions will be answered. With time left, how will organizations plan for the change?

Details On The New ELD Mandate For Truckers

Have you heard? By 2017, truck operators will be federally mandated to use an electronic logging device (ELD). The rule will officially go into effect on December 16th, 2017. While many fleets are already volunteering to switch, if for nothing else than to utilize the benefits of this technology, the new rule will put a stamp on the total phase out of paper logs.

Once a fleet begins using an ELD, they will no longer be required to record and maintain paper logs. The rule requires truck drivers who may be currently using paper logs to move to ELDs, with a few exceptions, which we will cover below.

The rule also outlines specific safeguards against truck driver harassment, hardware specifications and supporting documentation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says the rule will save an estimated $1 billion in industry costs, mainly on the time and money that goes into maintaining extensive paper logs. Let’s take a look at each of the mandate’s key components.

Required ELD Use

The ELD mandate will apply to all truck drivers who are required to keep records of duty statuses. Exceptions include:

  • Truck drivers operating vehicles built before the year 2000 and before;
  • Truck drivers who keep records of duty status in eight or fewer days out a total of 30 working days at a time;
  • Truck drivers in drive-away and tow-away operations.

Device Specifications

The mandate does not require that ELDs track a vehicle or truck driver in real time. Furthermore, they do not mandate that the device include driver-carrier communication capabilities.

What they must be able to do is automatically record:

  • Date;
  • Time;
  • Location;
  • Engine hours;
  • Vehicle miles;
  • Truck driver ID information.

The rule also requires that compliant devices be able to transfer the data stored on them during roadside inspections, whether it be “on-demand”, wireless, email, USB 2.0 or Bluetooth. The ELD must also be able to create a graph grid of daily status changes, whether on the units themselves or in printouts.

Supporting Documents

While fleets and truck drivers will no longer be required to keep paper logs, they must have supporting documents on hand, whether electronic or on paper, for every 24-hour period of on-duty time. They must also submit these supporting documents to their carrier within 13 days. The carrier must then hold on to the documents for six months.

The supporting documents include:

  • Bills of lading, itineraries or schedules;
  • Dispatch or trip records;
  • Expense receipts;
  • Electronic mobile communication records;
  • Payroll records, settlement sheets or similar documents.

Harassment of Truck Drivers

Back in 2012, a similar ELD mandate was tossed out in court over its lack of protections against truck driver harassment. In accordance with that court ruling, the FMCSA’s new rule makes it expressly illegal for motor carriers to use the devices to harass truck drivers.

In addition to making it illegal to harass their drivers, the rule also puts fines in place for doing so. Additionally, it outlines a system by which truck drivers can report harassment.

But what exactly is truck driver harassment by ELD? The rule defines ELD harassment as any action by a motor carrier toward a truck driver when the carrier “knew or should have known” said action would interrupt a driver’s off-duty time. It goes on to define harassment as “involving information available to the fleet through an ELD or used in combination with, but not separable from the ELD.

There’s Still Time

While all of these changes may seem like a lot, fortunately motor carriers have until the end of 2017 to get them implemented. While it is estimated there will be some increased cost associated with the mandate, perhaps efficiencies in other areas will make up for the up-front cost.

Still, as the winds continue to shift on Capitol Hill, could we see even this rule relegated to infinite legislative flux? Only time will tell.

Truckers – Say Goodbye to Paper Logs

Well folks, it’s official, on December 10 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the long-awaited final rule regarding interstate truck drivers and electronic logging devices (ELD). The rule, which will go into effect in 2017, details specifications and mandates regarding ELD usage. The moral? Get ready to say goodbye to paper logs.

According to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk.”

It’s easy for someone to throw a few soundbites out there, but what does the ELD rule actually mean for truckers? And has the writing already been on the wall for a while now? Let’s dig a little deeper.

A Story of Logs

The fact is, complex logs for on- and off-duty truck drivers have been made with pencil and paper since 1938, and are very hard to verify. Although ELDs originally hit the scene in the 1980s, it’s been a story of trial-and-error regarding their adoption.

Early adoption of ELDs came under a very different Hours-of-Service (HOS) regime. But still, the problem of unexpected occurrences remained.

During the time of paper logs, any delays, whether it be traffic, unloading, or spending too much time in the bathroom, compromised the round trip. If everything went perfectly the trucker would return with a few minutes to spare.

When things went less smoothly, however, truckers could make minor adjustments to their paper logs to account for the irregularities of life. It wasn’t cheating, per se, perhaps only 10 – 20 minutes’ worth of adjustments, but illegal just the same. With ELDs, the paradigm shifts.

A Cautionary Tale

The transition to ELDs will be hardest for smaller fleets that don’t have the capacity to relay or repower loads whose truck drivers have expired the available time on the clock. But even larger fleets have not been without their share of problems.

One well-known 300-truck fleet who does retail store deliveries for big-box retailers implemented ELDs in the late-80s and suffered greatly for it in the beginning. The fleet knew that ELDs would make it impossible to adjust for delays, so they created a video explaining to their customers how the HOS rules and ELDs would impact the operation.

The company also let its customers know it intended to increase its rates 10 percent across the board and pay that 10 percent to its drivers to make up for lost miles or revenue. Furthermore, it announced it was going to add a day to most of its delivery times.

What happened? They immediately lost 40 percent of their business within the first few months, although all of their truck drivers stayed. But within a year, after ELDs became more commonplace, almost all of their customers returned and were happy to pay the higher fee for excellent service.

How to Prepare

The good news is that fleets have between now and 2017 to prepare. They will need to work closely with their customers to ensure a smooth transition without a major loss of business. Small fleets will have to successfully adapt to the new reality and ensure their customers are on board with them.

The fact is little adjustments can add up in a big way. While truck drivers may use a few hours of potential driving time as a result of ELD adoption, the primary question is when those hours will disappear. Quite frankly, it could mean the difference between a quick repositioning or an annoying layover, or perhaps making the delivery one day before you normally would. These kinds of changes can have a net reduction in operating time and make a big impact.

For small fleets who are worried these changes will put their business model at risk, there is one surefire way to make sure the rubber stays on the road. Start logging your paper logs as you are now, while you have a chance to work out the problems associated with no leeway. Don’t wait until the new rule is already here to take the action you should make today.

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