Your Ultimate ELD Mandate Guide – Part I

We’ve written about it a lot, but with the ELD mandate now upon us, we wanted to take a moment to put together what we hope is one of the most comprehensive guides to navigating the ELD mandate in existence. There is a lot to consider as one of the largest new regulations governing the trucking industry in a generation goes into effect and it is important to be prepared. Are you fully aware of every aspect of the ELD mandate? Get ready to bookmark these blogs!

Whether you are a fleet manager, owner-operator, or shop technician, the ELD mandate touches some aspect of what you do. What are some of your top ELD mandate questions? In Part I of our two-part series on the topic, we will go line-by-line to address what we hope are all the questions you could possibly have. Let’s dive in.

What is the ELD Mandate?

We get it, you likely don’t have this question because if you work in the trucking industry, you probably know exactly what it is. A trucker would have to be spending most of his or her time in a cave to have not yet heard of the ELD mandate. Passed by the Obama Administration – and one of the remaining regulations under the Trump Administration – the electronic logging device mandate, as it is called in long-form, will have gone into effect on December 18, 2017.

The mandate itself requires most fleets to cease using paper logs and begin using electronic logging devices. In cases where a fleet is using an AOBRD – or automatic on-board recording device – they will be able to continue using the devices for up to two more years. The final date by which AOBRDs will need to be switched out for an ELD is December 16, 2019.

The ELD mandate was born out of a need to replace the legacy process of tracking time and movements by paper. While there have been many sides taken in the debate over the ELD, from both within the trucking industry and without, if the ELD mandate was intended for a benign reason, it was to streamline a process that had become quite cumbersome.

While many do not agree with the ELD mandate, it certainly is here. With the industry required to comply with it, let’s take a closer look at the device itself.

Examining the ELD

An electronic logging device is a technical piece of equipment designed to record specific vehicle parameters and information. It is generally synchronized with the vehicle’s engine and may or may not also be in communication with other sensors around the truck – or with dispatch.

ELDs come from many different manufacturers, and finding one compatible with your fleet- and use-type is extremely important. ELDs should also allow truck drivers to add entries where their record of duty status (RODS) is concerned.

A primary function of an ELD should also be to communicate with law enforcement where required. It should be able to adequately show compliance with existing hours of service regulations.

ELDs are also quite different from the previously mentioned AOBRDs. It is important for fleets to remember that not all AOBRDs meet the specifications laid out by the FMCSA. ELDs are held to a higher standard. ELDs must be able to handle log edits, annotations, and communication with other systems, those used by both manufacturers, fleets and law enforcement.

Yet, where ELDs must provide a new set of information, some fleets can still convert their AOBRDs into ELDs. There are cases where they look different, but they can still produce much the same information, depending on the application.

Another question many have asked is whether an ELD must be its own specific device or not, or if can be a piece of software on a smartphone or other device, and the answer is yes. If the device being used meets the reporting and editing requirements set forth by the FMCSA, it is clear for use as an ELD device in a commercial motor vehicle.

It is important to note that if you are using a smartphone or other wireless device, it must be mounted in an upright position during vehicle operation. Although smartphones and other devices can be used, in many cases they cannot meet some of the core mandate requirements. For example, without proper software, a smartphone by itself cannot record distance. Always ensure you are staying compliant by using the proper device. Specifically, the device must meet the requirements of 49 CFR 395.15.

Yet, an even more important thing is to ensure fleets know what the key components of the regulation are that their ELD must follow. It is one thing to have the device, but it is another to follow the rules.

Examining the Regulation

While installing an ELD device that conforms to FMCSA-guided specifications sits at the core of the ELD mandate, there is a regulatory sub-surface driving the enforcement component. The regulatory component includes the following:

  1. Commercial truck drivers must use an ELD to prepare HOS records.
  2. ELD manufacturers and the ELDs themselves must be certified and registered by the FMCSA.
  3. Commercial truck drivers and motor carriers must have a specific set of supporting documents to cross-reference information contained within the ELD or requested by law enforcement.
  4. Commercial truck drivers cannot be harassed based on ELD data.
  5. A recourse for truck drivers who feel that they have been a party to harassment.

Expect both state and federal law enforcement to immediately begin applying specific regulatory guidelines regarding the rule come December 18.

How Does the ELD Do Its Job?

An ELD designed to the correct specifications should do several different things. There are many different data sets that it tracks, and they include:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Engine hours
  • Vehicle miles
  • Truck driver identification/fleet information
  • User
  • Vehicle and type

While ELDs are not required by the mandate to gather information on things like speed, braking, steering and other operational functions, many ELD manufacturers are recognizing the multi-faceted potential of their devices and are making ELDs much more versatile. As part of a comprehensive in-cab safety system, ELDs carry great benefit.

ELDs are also designed to determine and track driving and non-driving statuses. The threshold for when an ELD starts recording in “drive mode” is any time the vehicle goes over 5 mph. If it is stopped at zero miles per hour for at least three consecutive seconds, it should be recorded as “at a stop” by the device.

If a commercial vehicle is in “drive mode” for at least five consecutive minutes, the ELD will prompt the truck driver to confirm the status, and if it is wrong, to enter the correct status. The truck driver will have one minute to respond to the prompt before the ELD switches the status to on-duty/not driving.

When recording location information, the ELD will take a new record at 60-minute intervals if the vehicle is in drive mode. It will also make a digital location note whenever the operator turns the vehicle on or off or changes the duty status.

ELDs should be designed to record location to within an approximate one-mile radius, although there is a provision in the mandate stating when a commercial motor vehicle is marked for personal use, the ELD reporting accuracy should expand out to a 10-mile radius. This change was written in to protect truck driver privacy.

One thing the location function of the ELD does not do is identify specific street addresses. Instead, the ELD converts change of duty status location information as latitudinal/longitudinal coordinates. The software will then use a GPS component to identify where the vehicle is. While ELDs are not required to be designed for real-time vehicle tracking, motor carriers can opt for the option provided it does not violate the anti-harassment guideline set out within the mandate.

There are situations where American truck drivers will need to cross a border, say into Canada. Happens all the time, so what do they do? The FMCSA ruled that the ELD manufacturer or provider can make the ELD able to meet the requirements of the country where monitoring hours of service is concerned, but they don’t have to, and few do.

The difference here is that Canada does not have a rule in place governing ELDs, although it is expected to in the future. Since U.S. regulations don’t require ELDs to conform to another state’s rules, it is important for fleets and truck drivers to make sure they are always in compliance wherever they are operating.

Wow! That was a lot of ELD information, but guess what? There’s more. The fact is, the ELD mandate is a big deal, and there are a lot of new things truck drivers and motor carriers must learn to make sure they are following it. Not complying can result in expensive fines or worse. So, why not join us in Part II of this series, where we continue our deep dive into the ELD mandate, what you need to know about it, and how it will impact fleet operations.

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