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How To Operate Trucking Effectively Under The Umbrella Of The Coercion Rule

It’s likely you’ve already heard of the rule prohibiting acts of coercion designed to get truck drivers to somehow violate or bend safety regulations. It went into effect in January, and operators have been driving under it ever since.

The rule is officially called “Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Rule,” this regulatory measure – in very specific terms – prohibits fleets, shippers, receivers or other transportation operators from actively forcing truck drivers to break the rules.

There are three key areas that the final rule governs:

  • What a commercial truck driver should do if there is an incident of coercion
  • What the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must do in response to allegations of coercion
  • What sort of penalties will be imposed if a particular entity, whether fleet or individual, has coerced a truck driver

Where it comes to penalties, we are talking up to $16,000, which is no small number. The history of this rule dates to as far back as 2014, when the federal government was fielding concerns from truck drivers that carriers and others acted as though truck drivers weren’t governed by specific operational restrictions and regulations.

Specifically, the FMCSA pointed out that truck drivers routinely reported having been coerced to violate regulations with threats implied, whether implicit or explicit, up to and/or including termination, reduced pay or forfeiture of benefits or good working hours.

What You Need to Know

Since the rule has gone into effect, it has essentially forced the FMCSA to move truck driver coercion complaints to the top of their priority list. In many cases, when the FMCSA follows up on complaints, whether the operator was coerced or not, the agency oftentimes uncovers other things.

What’s the moral of the story here? You may have great CSA scores, but that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. If you aren’t focused on the specific processes and procedures involved in ensuring compliance, you might wind up with more than just a small fine for a minor violation.

There are specific areas of focus that the FMCSA seems to put more emphasis on, the first of which being hours of service violations. Hours of service complaints also seem to be the most often cited. The best way to do this is by ensuring you have the proper documentation trail outlining time and date. Are you utilizing technology to your advantage?

Another area to keep an eye on is your fuel reports when compared to your fuel receipts. Always remember that you must record the time of the transaction. Whatever third-party supplier you use, whether the receipts are paper or electronic, must record the date and time when the transaction took place.

Generally, inspectors will use information from your GPS system to cross reference your driver log information. Fleets still using older e-logs will have to square their system’s proprietary settings with what the inspectors will be looking for.

Watch for These Things

First, set your automatic onboard recording devices or AOBRDs to a synchronous setting as the federal standard for such devices. An area where fleets are seeing violations are often reported when the truck is marked as moving by the GPS unit when the AOBRD doesn’t concur.

The reason for this lies in that some AOBRDs account for speed and distance movement before the time on the GPS begins tracking. If an ELD is set at 5 miles per hour with no distance setting, then you may end up thinking you have “yard time” where there is none, thus generating a discrepancy.

In the end, whether you are an independent operator or a fleet manager, you need to ensure a policy is place to hold to a minimum standard where the potential for coercion is concerned. After all, the last thing you want to do is run afoul of new FMCSA regulations.

Trucking’s Regulatory Handbook For 2017 And Beyond – The ELD Mandate

It’s no secret: the trucking industry is experiencing some pretty big changes in regulations. Whether you are talking about electronic logging devices (ELD) or speed limiters, there is plenty to remember when it comes to staying in regulatory compliance.

Yet, when the rules change or are complex or confusing, keeping up can be difficult. So the best way to stay ahead of the game is to always have the right information. You have to know what it all means and how it affects your business.

In this new ongoing series, we are going to take a deeper look at all of the regulations that will impact our industry, from 2017 on. Today, we are going to take a look at the ELD Mandate.

The ELD Mandate

Let’s get right into the details. First, if you are operating vehicles using Automatic Onboard Recording Devices – which are essentially early versions of ELDs – you have an extra two years to upgrade your equipment to meet the new regulatory standards.

You can also be exempted if you are a short haul or time card driver. This includes vehicles operating within a 100 air-mile radius or non-CDL drivers who are operating within a 10 air-mile radius. One exemption to this rule includes any truck driver exceeding service limits on a time card for more than eight days in a rolling 30-day period.

Trucks manufactured before 2000 will also be exempt from ELD requirements for the simple reason that their onboard computers will not be able to interface with today’s advanced electronic logging devices.

Larger fleets welcome the new regulation mainly because of the number of benefits they get from using the devices. In a world of paperless logs, a fleet manager will be better able to discern and verify drivers’ records. If an accident occurs, the information will all be cataloged.

Things like acceleration and breaking data become easily accessible. Time presenting information back to inspectors can be cut in half.

What You Need to Know

When it comes to the type of ELD they use, fleets do have some leeway in meeting government requirements. ELDs can either be a dedicated device or can connect up to a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Motor carriers can also have data wirelessly transmitted to their facilities or downloaded by wire into a company computer every 13 days. There are specific requirements that, though complex, outline how the ELD should be used.

They include:

  • The ELD must automatically records at certain intervals.
  • The ELD must record date, time, location, engine hours, vehicle miles, and driver identification information.
  • The ELD must be available to be read outside the cab by a law enforcement officer or another authorized individual. Whether it is wired or wireless, it must be able to be handed to someone outside the vehicle.
  • When the vehicle is in motion the ELD must be mounted.
  • The ELD must capture locations down to within one mile. There is an exception here: When the truck driver is operating under ‘personal conveyance,’ such as driving an unloaded truck from a terminal or to their place of residence.
  • THE ELD must be tamper resistant and from an approved manufacturer. The data within the ELD must be encrypted to prevent hacking.
  • Anyone who drives the vehicle must have their own unique identification code entered into the ELD. Whether it be a mechanic testing the vehicle or a shop worker moving it from one place to another, they must have an identification number put into the ELD.
  • The ELD must have a mute button.
  • ELD logs must be kept on file for at least six months. Any log changes must be certified by the operator.

While this is just a base summarization of these complex rules, it represents the meat and bones of what you need to know. Join us in our next installment of this series when we take a look at the latest on the Safety Fitness Determination Rule.

What’s Going On With ELDs In Canada?

With all the talk of ELDs on this side of the border, we sometimes forget that the trucking industry is a North American operation, not just an American one. Our brothers and sisters in Canada are as much a part of the equation as we are.

And yet, despite getting ahead of the game where the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) standard is concerned, regulators north of the border are now struggling to catch up with the United States and have something in place by December of 2017.

Oh, Canada

Even though Canada has been considering the ELD devices since as far back as 2007, work didn’t begin in on a new standard until 2010. With a first draft completed in 2013, the Canadian rule was intended to follow the first ELD rule published by the FMCSA, but it was vacated by a Canadian court on the grounds that there was some ambiguity in the driver coercion clause.

Now, after deciding to wait, they are catching up to the U.S, who is now putting out the final rule. According to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators’ Compliance and Regulatory Affairs Committee, they believed their initial decision was “justified.”

And even though the final rule was published at the tail end of 2015, Canada was a little burned because the U.S. didn’t involve them in the consultation process. According to a Canadian official, they were flummoxed as to why the U.S. didn’t include them, but reports that the FMCSA is now doing everything they can to resolve some of the differences between both policies.

By the time the final rule was laid out, Canadian officials met to determine what the differences were between the U.S. rule and the Canadian rule from 2013. They also set out to make whatever changes were required to align the two documents. This job was made all the more difficult by there being a significant number of differences between the policies.

Waiting for a Resolution

The final cut of the standard has now been completed and was revealed back in July. Industry partners and others involved in the process were allowed to comment and a final draft will be delivered to government ministers no later than April of 2017.

Although some say the timetable will be very tight, September of 2017 has been mentioned as the absolute final deadline before the Canadian rule must be delivered to the ministers. The extension is born mainly out of the fact that there are quite significant regulatory issues that must be worked through. Such examples include:

  • How to certify the devices.
  • Should current devices remain in service?
  • How should future ELD devices be certified?

Currently, Canada’s HOS rule call for ELDs, but only in a limited scope. Rule makers in Canada will likely need to put a grandfathering provision in place – much like the one we use here in the United States.

At the same time, the FMCSA is requiring that vendors self-certify. Still, they haven’t laid out specific policies or provided tools or test cases for companies to emulate. Individual jurisdictions in both countries are hesitant to set their own certification process, lest they run afoul of the final federal rule.

Yet because of the way the government is set up in Canada, the central government cannot force individual provinces to utilize a mandate applied to carriers operating within a province. The federal government can require ELDs for between provinces, but the provinces themselves must finalize the rules through specific legislation.

So what does this mean for the provinces themselves? While some have come out in full support of mandatory ELDs, others still haven’t bought into the idea and have clearly stated so. There are a number of positions being held, including the federal government’s. It looks like only time will tell how the ELD mandate debate will play out north of the border.

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.

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