Welcome back to Part two of our ultimate ELD guide. As this mandate has become real, it is incumbent on our industry to ensure we are fully compliant, whether we like or not. Let this guide, both Parts I and II, be your final resource for making your way through the new ELD landscape
In our previous post, we talked about the mandate and the ELD itself, how it works and what it is supposed to do. Today we will dig deeper into how a fleet or owner-operator should go about choosing the ELD that is right for their trucking application.
ELD Compliance and Third-Party Verification
While most motor carriers have already picked their ideal ELD candidate, some still have not. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t cut corners or use a non-compliant device in the hopes that it will make do. In the eyes of law enforcement, an ELD is either compliant or it is not.
The FMCSA specifically states on their website that “prior to purchasing an ELD, carriers and drivers should confirm that the device is certified and registered with FMCSA.” To find out if a device is compliant, follow this link.
It is important to note that ELDs not vendor-certified through the process laid out by the FMCSA may still be compliant. Of course, self-certified ELDs come with no guarantee, so motor carriers must make sure they do all the proper research before making a final decision.
The FMCSA clearly states that it is the motor carrier’s responsibility to ensure the ELD they are using fully complies with the law. The FMCSA will make attempts to let the public know if a device is removed from the list, but motor carriers are still advised to check the list or sign up for ELD updates. For more information on what the FMCSA specifically requires, you can view their checklist here.
Fleets may use a third-party to verify their ELD meets all the compliance rules, but it is not specifically required within the outlines of the mandate. For many fleets, third-party verification is not necessary, simply because the requirements are not to complex that a fleet can’t easily ascertain compliance validity themselves.
A critical aspect of ensuring ELD compliance is utilizing a device that can communicate with law enforcement. Inspection officials should be able to quickly and easily read the ELD’s data transfer. One way to ensure your device is compatible with this requirement is to check the ELD File Validator on the FMCSA’s website. This is not a mandatory requirement, but it will help vendors properly verify whether their ELD has a data transfer read option. Motor carriers can request that their ELD supplier provides them with a data file. If the data file transfer works, then the ELD can be verified as in compliance.
ELD Usage and Truck Driver Harassment
If there is one rule that relates to the ELD rule where truck driver harassment and coercion are concerned, it is the January 2016 “Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers” rule.
This rule was specifically designed to prevent motor carriers, shippers, receivers, and anyone else working within the transportation or trucking industries from coercing truck drivers to violate any of the FMCSA’s trucking safety regulations.
The interesting thing is the truck driver harassment and coercion provisions – as important as they are – might be one of the least understood parts of the mandate. The definition of harassment is clearly defined by the FMCSA as any action that would result in a truck driver violating FMCSRs 49 CFR 395 or 49 CFR 392.3. Those sections of the FMCSRs specifically forbid motor carriers from requiring a truck driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle if they are impaired due to fatigue, illness or anything else that could adversely affect their ability to operate the vehicle safely.
If an action is to be considered harassment, the offending action needs to include information generated or available through an ELD. If a motor carrier instructs a truck driver to falsify a change of duty status or any other aspect of ELD data recording, it is considered harassment and carries severe penalties. If a truck driver feels they have been a victim of harassment under the FMCSA’s definition, they may file a written complaint under 49 CFR 386.12(b).
Fortunately, ELDs were specifically mandated so that it would be much harder for a motor carrier or truck driver to falsify log information. ELDs are designed to allow only a limited number of edits and even then, within certain circumstances. If a motor carrier tries to force a truck driver to falsify information, a digital paper trail would easily lead right back to them, thus incentivizing any form of cheating or coercion.
While the requirements an ELD must make to comply with truck driver harassment and coercion provisions may seem insignificant, their impact is quite important. When evaluating your ELD provider, make sure you ensure it is compliant with them.
Enforcement and the ELD Mandate
One major change to a recent rule is in how truck drivers or fleets are dinged if they do not have an ELD. The FMCSA and CVSA recently announced that truck drivers will not incur points on their CSA score if they are not utilizing a compliant ELD, provided they are still in compliance with the overall hours of service rule.
Expect fines for violations of hours of service rules to be pretty much what they are today. One thing to note is that ELDs are not designed to automatically report violations to law enforcement, however law enforcement should be able to quickly view a truck driver’s logs, whether it be at a roadside inspection or FMCSA audit.
The benefit here is that inspections will start to flow a lot smother once the ELD mandate goes into full effect, relieving fleets and truck drivers of a cumbersome task that often took up far more time than will be needed with the ELD mandate in place.
Federal ELD specifications allow for a USB transfer of information, but many local jurisdictions will not allow sensitive data to be stored on an external device. For this reason, many states will likely go back to what they are doing now, which is to analyze the necessary data using email, wireless web transfer, the device display, or a printout of the HOS graph.
Truck drivers will also be required to have documentation in the vehicle describing the ELD and a manual regarding its use. Data transfer instructions, a blank copy of the truck drivers record of duty status, and a written method for reporting ELD malfunctions also must be on hand. If an ELD stops working, the truck driver must immediately not the malfunction, date, and time and then provide a written notice to their motor carrier within 24 hours.
Other ELD Features
If you look at the FMCSA’s list of approved ELDs, the first thing you will notice is that there are a lot of them. There certainly is no absence of choice where ELD selection is concerned. And as we mentioned in Part I, they have many different features, so we will look closer at those today.
Choosing additional features for your ELD should be based on the job your fleet does. Do you require an ELD with sensors that can monitor temperature, vibration, fluid levels or more? Some fleets may use systems that can only talk to a Windows or Android-based interface. If required, a fleet can option an ELD with a feature to mark a signature for proof of delivery. Other ELDs can be spec’d for situations where interstate rules apply and, as we mentioned in Part I, manage cross-country rule changes.
One major consideration when choosing an ELD is evaluating how it will interact with other software platforms your fleet uses. Modern motor carriers generally utilize advanced transportation management systems. Will your ELD solution integrate and communicate with the transportation management software you are using?
Some ELD providers also specialize in fleet management software. Going down this road ensures compatibility, but may also come with higher costs. Motor carriers must make careful evaluations of the systems they have in place, the systems they plan to use, and any potential interoperability problems.
How big you plan to grow your fleet is another consideration. Will your ELD be scalable from a few trucks to a much larger fleet? If you can’t accommodate future growth, look to another provider. What kind of customer service and technical support can you expect to receive from your ELD provider?
For those who decide that they don’t need an ELD with all the features, it is most important that the ELD automatically log hours of service information for truck drivers. It also must accommodate displaying those records upon request.
With so required for trucking companies to be in compliance with the ELD mandate, many are wondering if they will be ready in time. If you need assistance figuring out your avenue of approach, refer back to our handy guide!