Examining The Relationship Between Motor Carrier And Breakdown Service Provider

If there is one fact of like for any truck driver, it is that at some point you will likely find yourself in a situation where your vehicle has broken down or is otherwise disabled. But not every professional truck driver is an experienced truck driver. For someone unfamiliar with handling those situations, it can be a nerve-wracking experience.

Of course, motor carriers can do many things to try and prevent or mitigate unplanned roadside events, but even on the best of days, things can fail or go wrong in some way, shape, or form. Preventative maintenance programs are critical, but as comprehensive as your technicians are, as a wise man once said, “Life happens.”

Whether it is a tire blowout, nagging electrical issue, or an aftertreatment failure – at some point something is going to happen. Will you be prepared to deal with it? A vehicle breakdown is about a lot more than just how the situation is handled. When a vital piece of equipment is taken out of operation, it can impact everything from customer relations to the bottom line.

A loss in productivity, a potential impact to safety, and even a hit in your reputation: These result from an improperly handled or otherwise avoidable roadside incident or breakdown. If a fleet is proactive about their approach to everything from truck driver training to vehicle maintenance, keeping all their fleet’s wheels on the road – being as responsive as possible – shouldn’t be a problem.

Yet, not every fleet is fully equipped to quickly respond to and fix a breakdown. In fact, most fleets must rely on trusted relationships with breakdown service providers to get critical roadside issues addressed safely and expeditiously. Yet, before you even get there, there are steps you can take to minimalize the amount of times you must call on your provider for assistance.

The Importance of Maintenance

This isn’t the first time we have talked about commercial vehicle maintenance. Yes, breakdowns may be inevitable to a certain degree, but there are things you can do to decrease the frequency or severity of them. The first of these is proper preventative maintenance.

Are your pre-trip inspections properly outlined in company policy? Furthermore, are you ensuring your shop technicians are staying on top of the fleet’s preventative maintenance needs?

There are far too many instances where unexpected, and unsafe, roadside events could have been prevented if a proper pre-trip inspection or preventative maintenance routine had been acted on. Vehicles must be addressed before they are driven out of the yard.

Yet, beyond how you manage maintenance, there is another critical aspect of unwanted events that is too often overlooked – that of the breakdown itself. You could be completely on top of your pre-trip and preventative maintenance routine but, as we mentioned before, at some point a breakdown will happen despite your best efforts.

Addressing Breakdown Challenges Before the Breakdown

Another bind that a fleet that hasn’t paid proper care to their procedure overview is that of attempting to find the right provider when the breakdown has already happened. Responsible motor carriers know how important relationships are in business. Whether it be with the truck drivers, shippers, brokers, or vendors – you get a lot out of having a productive relationship with someone.

The same holds true for third-party breakdown service providers. To get the most out of the relationship, it is important that you do your due diligence in assessing the various capabilities of whatever breakdown service providers you are currently evaluating. Has your back office fully vetted their overall cost, response times, and other capabilities critical to ensuring when your vehicle breaks down, they can be counted on?

Information sharing should be another necessary evaluation point when assessing different breakdown service providers. If a motor carrier can share information with the provider, notifications, alerts, and response times are all dramatically improved. When working with your provider, it is important that they can clearly outline their process when addressing everything from a flat tire to an obscure fault code.

Are they using new systems with interoperability capabilities that won’t hamstring your ability to quickly get information and notifications from one place to another, no matter where in the country you are? Reliable partners will have a proven network already built out and ready to handle whatever you throw at them. Call center professionals also need to be adept at relaying complex repair information; at being an effective conduit between the truck driver and response unit.

In many cases, truck and hardware OEMs can even offer suggestions on reliable partners. In the end, the most important thing is that your truck drivers and dispatch professionals can quickly get an efficient, competent voice assisting them on the other side of the line. No matter the day of the week or time of day, a breakdown service provider worth what they want you to pay will have no problem addressing these matters.

What Makes Information Sharing So Critical

If there is one thing fleets operating in the “old way” of thinking misconceive, it is the necessity of information sharing; of providing a workable template that the breakdown service provider can use to have a complete and accurate picture of all the specs and details of the vehicles operating within your fleet.

When you are establishing a relationship built on trust, you must take the time to ensure intra- and inter-party communication protocols are established and known by all affected parties. Breakdown service providers aren’t in business to be nosy or change the way your fleet does business. On the contrary, they fill a necessary and vital role in being able to act on a breakdown – immediately.

A reliable breakdown service provider should be more focused on getting your vehicle back to working order quickly than they are on making sure you are billed first. Conversely, they should be able to count on you to provide them with the information they need to properly get the job done.

By having a template already drawn up, and information sharing protocols already in place, whether a belt breaks or a hose bursts, your service provider can respond nearly instantaneously, stay in constant contact, and get your disabled vehicle back on the road as quickly as possible. As they say, time is money, so the less time your money-making equipment is disabled on the side of the road, the more your bottom line will thank you.

Why Relationships Matter

It may seem like an obvious statement, but relationships matter. Not only does the motor carrier need to have a good working relationship established with the breakdown service provider, but their truck drivers need to have a good working relationship with their response units; their back office needs to have a good working relationship with their billing department, and on and on.

When a breakdown occurs, a properly maintained relationship provides both peace of mind and actionable results tied directly to profit and loss. When you have a deep relationship with a provider, they can rest assured that your business will be consistent. They won’t want to take that for granted. By showing commitment on your side, you establish your value as their client.

When making a careful decision on the beginning of a partnership, it is essential that you also weigh cost versus value. It is rarely advisable to focus entirely on price when choosing a breakdown service provider. Quality before quantity is more advisable in almost any situation, and critical vendor partnerships are no exception to the rule.

What you are getting for your money is more important than how much money you are spending. But are you building a breakdown service provider relationship with that in mind?

In the Age of Information

It is no secret that we live in the golden age of technology. Information comes lightning fast and is available at our fingertips any time of day, any day of the week. Yet you cannot remove the human element from any problem.

What if your truck driver fails to provide the proper information or exact location? Conversely, what if your breakdown service provider has a hard time discerning codes that should have been ironed out and explained before the first service call was ever required? Without proper informational due diligence, problems will arise before the first response has been put in the books.

Even something as seemingly simple as requiring a tow can be an issue if the truck driver is unable to provide information regarding what the reason for the breakdown is. Without the right vehicle information, the wrong tow truck might be dispatched. Or perhaps a tow truck isn’t needed a all.

The point is, when these policies, plans, and procedures are all outlined ahead of time, service calls go smooth and by-the-numbers. When your business’ bottom line is at stake – not to mention the health and safety of your truck drivers – establishing a provider relationship built on a solid foundation yields immediate dividends.

Taking A Closer Look At Video-Based Safety Systems For Trucking Companies

Increasing safety in trucking is the hot topic right now, both in Washington and within the trucking industry itself. As a result, fleets are increasingly turning to technological methods to increase their overall safety profile. Yet, with so much to choose from, how does a motor carrier land on the right technology at the right time?

Here at the QuickTSI Blog, we want to start an ongoing series that digs deep into the various safety technology systems that motor carriers can take advantage of in today’s marketplace. With first-hand knowledge and in-depth analysis at your disposal, you will be able to make educated decisions that are right for your fleet.

In this first of many in the series, we will take a closer look at video-based safety systems and how your fleet can utilize them in a game-changing fashion. Stand at the forefront of safety innovation with this handy video-based safety system buyer’s guide.

Learning Video Safety System Basics

Just about every motor carrier has gotten the call at least once: an experienced driver was in an accident. What do you do? What can the on-board computer tell you? Hopefully everyone is safe, but beyond that serious forensics will need to be done to get to the bottom of what happened. This is where a video safety system can play a big part.

Accidents generate a huge amount of questions. The best way to answer them is to have a set of eyes and ears in, on, and around the vehicle. Yet even then too many data points can weave a tangled web of information, making it hard to sort out what is what. Without any quick clear answers, it can be difficult to ascertain what caused the accident in the first place.

Fleets need effective solutions that can provide the insights required to not just understand why an accident occurred, but to proactively prevent them from happening in the future. This is where a video-based safety system plays a part. Yet there is still more to it than that.

It is one thing to have a video system installed on your vehicles, but it is another to be able to use that data in real-time. Data is one thing, but actionable data is another. You want to be able to tie the video system together with a fleet management system, driver performance, analytics, training and so much more.

If there is one problem fleets struggle with as they attempt to pull together these disparate technologies, it is interoperability. The only way to get to the truth of a collision and get immediate, actionable data out of the situation is to be able to effectively process the data.

There are several aspects to a video-based safety system that can be a game-changer for your fleet. Let’s look at each one individually.

Video Systems Are Like Virtual Cab Seats

There are any number of investments a motor carrier can make to improve not just individual performance but overall fleet safety. Whether you turn to in-classroom training or advanced systems such as collision avoidance or lane-departure warnings, video systems play a part.

Still, are your fleet managers getting the big picture from the various data inputs coming in from around the fleet? To identify potential risks and increase overall safety outcomes, fleets need to know what critical situations may be happening on the road.

Video systems can be used in many ways – ways that don’t invade truck driver privacy. Whether it be to improve individual truck driver performance or to find out what sites may be safer than others, a comprehensive, integrated video-based safety system can provide the answers.

Of course, the system itself must be paired with a fair and consistent program governing its use. It is one thing to simply add a bunch of cameras to your fleet and then analyze the data, but it is another to prioritize your coaching to have a tangible impact on reducing risk.

Common Video Safety System Misconceptions               

There are certainly misconceptions surrounding the use of video-based safety systems. Fleets must ensure they use them properly to gain truck driver buy-in on their use. In fact, truck drivers have a lot to gain from video system use.

Let’s say one of your truck drivers is in a collision. They tell you it wasn’t their fault, but in many cases of accident involving a heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle the blame almost automatically is put on the truck driver. Having a video-based safety system in place to validate your truck driver’s claim would go a long way to proving their innocence and preventing an expensive lawsuit.

Fleets need truck drivers more than ever, and being able to demonstrate how systems like these can work in their favor provides a useful recruiting tool. When a motor carrier is obviously investing in the safety of their people, their people appreciate it. These systems can also be used to facilitate useful dialog between fleet managers and operators.

Another common misconception surrounding video-based safety systems is that they will generate far too much data for any one person or department to deal with. In fact, when you have a way to manage the data, you can find some clarity regarding what’s happening with your fleet?

Consider how sophisticated commercial motor vehicles and their attendant systems have become over the years. When a truck is equipped with many different technologies, each one can provide specific data about critical events.

Utilizing a video-based safety system delivers on both data and insight. When you can incorporate different elements to cause a video event trigger, alerts – whether in the cab or back at dispatch – can be delivered instantaneously. Whether it be brake pressure or a lane-departure, connected systems provide unique insight into events. Insight you need to make actionable decisions regarding your fleet.

By utilizing a system with an open-platform approach, you can tap into graphs, charts, statistics and trends regarding the overall performance of your fleet from a micro and macro perspective. Even better, you can prioritize specific events, such as separating those that may be serious risks from those that may incur a minor infarction.

Utilizing Video-Based Data to Drive Performance

Fleets require metrics to drive performance. Without operational information and key performance indicators, a fleet manager will have a harder time making sense – and use – of the data at his or her disposal.

By using an integrated system, a motor carrier can utilize reports, dashboards, interactive visualizations and much more. Analyzing fleet performance in such a manner provides critical leverage, the ability to make quick decisions in real-time in response to what’s happening with the fleet.

When all your technological investments are consolidated into one place, a fleet manager becomes a ringmaster of sorts. As you export data and utilize instant information to help guide truck driver behavior, training, recruitment and so much more, fleet operations become much more efficient.

One of the most important aspects of any video system lies in the safety component. It is a video-based safety system, after all. What is one of the most important aspects of safety management in trucking today? CSA scores.

Consider that some brokers will not use a motor carrier’s services if their CSA scores are “marginal” in certain BASIC categories and you can see why it is so important to get the most out of the safety systems at your disposal. Video-based systems, when paired with other technologies, can help fleets gain insight through a systematic approach.

By utilizing safety technologies to provide consistent and actionable coaching, fleet managers take back the initiative where managing their CSA scores is concerned. To win the big contracts, a fleet needs to find every way possible to stand apart, and high CSA scores – serving a measure of safety excellent – can do just that.

Making the Business Case for Video-Safety Systems

When fleets can proactively identify and eliminate unnecessary risks, risks that put their business on the line, the business case for video-based safety systems becomes clearer. Motor carriers that consistently demonstrate to those they do business with that they take safety seriously, business is better, and everyone wins.

Successfully managing a trucking or transportation company, no matter the size, is no small task. Fleets of all sizes are looking for programs that can help them both improve safety and increase operational efficiency. Video-based safety systems offer an interconnected and – in the long term – cost effective way to protect your truck drivers and your business.

As you go about looking for a video-safety system provider make sure you choose one that provides you with a comprehensive solution that provides performance insight, analysis, fuel savings, and expense management. To get a significant return on your investment you want to invest in a system that touches on all aspects of your business and integrates with your current fleet management system. Don’t leave your fleet safety initiatives to chance, put your money in a system which will give you a return over the long run.

Taking A Closer Look At Liability Through The Lens Of MVRs

Is your fleet monitoring program up to the task when it comes to monitoring for risky behavior? If you aren’t identifying unsafe situations, you could be unnecessarily exposed. Have you considered continuous motor vehicle record (MVR) monitoring as a solution to approaching truck driver management and real-time behavior management?

For many years both state and federal governments have let MVRs fall by the wayside as tools to assess and modify fleet policies and operator behaviors. Perhaps a hiring manager would pull the record prior to hiring or during an annual review, but otherwise, MVR pulls were generally infrequent and unused. Today, many are recognizing that liability can be managed through increase truck driver MVR reviews.

Looking at Liability

Ask just about any fleet owner or motor carrier and they will tell you liability costs continue to rise, pretty much across the board. In fact, according to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), accident costs in 2015 averages around $38,000 per incident. When you add health benefits and other accident-related cost, that number could climb to up to half-a-million dollars or more.

When you consider those kinds of costs, doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of every possible method of reducing risk? Continuous MVR monitoring provides motor carriers with meaningful data points of monitoring risk profiles associated with their truck drivers. When combined with other fleet safety systems, a fleet manager can take a holistic and scalable approach to monitoring and training their truck drivers.

When the numbers are crunched, NETS study compared off-the-job crashes to those that occur on-the-job and the numbers are pretty staggering. When a truck driver gets into a crash off-the-job where a person is injured, employer costs can range around $5,000. On-the-job and that number rises to around $73,000. Liability claims shoot that number into the six figures.

Liability and crash litigation liability expenses directly hit a motor carrier’s bottom line, but more than that there is a human toll to consider. Yes, incidents like these can send revenues tanking, but they can also have long-lasting impacts on families.

While continuous MVR monitoring isn’t the cure-all for accidents, as they will still happen, when combined with other safety and monitoring systems, it can have a big impact on a motor carrier’s overall safety measures. Receiving ongoing reports regarding your operator’s MVR can lower a fleet’s liability exposure.

Types of Liability

There are different types of fleet liability that a motor carrier must consider. When it comes to an accident, fleets can face two different liability types: direct and vicarious. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

  • Direct Liability: A fleet can be held directly liable if a person within the company becomes liable to another based on their own action or omission.
  • Vicarious Liability: This legal principle states that a party can be held liable for the negligent actions of another party. If two parties have a special relationship, such as owner-operator to fleet, the fleet can be held responsible for the actions of the employed party. Vicarious liability could be imposed in a situation where an employee commits a wrongful act within the scope of their employment.

There are situations where a company might be better off claiming vicarious liability rather than being directly liable. In many states, punitive damages can be avoided if the driving history of the offending party doesn’t come into evidence. The only drawback to this situation is if the truck driver in question is held liable, the fleet can be held to quite a large summary judgement.

There are also two types of negligence, both of which directly relate to liability. The potential liability risks will vary depending on the local jurisdiction, but the two types of negligence include:

  • Negligent Entrustment: When a company or individual is held liable for negligently entrusting someone with “dangerous instrumentality,” which includes a vehicle, in a situation where said instrumentality causes death or injury to a third party.
  • Negligent Retention: If an employment-related claim involving a plaintiff saying an employer failed to release an employee they knew was behaving in an irresponsible manner. One example of this would be a motor carrier retaining a truck driver despite several known DUI violations.

Claims of negligence relating to a fleet generally comes down to fleet leadership not exercising their due diligence with reasonable caution or care where appropriate.

Move Beyond Good Enough

While the “good enough” approach worked well in the past – pulling once a year or less – it is a risky proposition nowadays. Not only does a fleet increase their overall risk exposure, but if major infarction is revealed about one of their truck drivers, they could face public backlash.

For example, what if a fleet pulls a truck driver’s MVR once a year, but they end up with a violation the day after their annual pull. You have essentially given them a one-year grace period in which just about anything can happen.

Another example would be a truck driver not maintaining a valid license. This represents an unacceptable safety risk for fleets. If you have a continuous MVR monitoring program in place, you will be immediately notified of any changes in eligibility. This way the risk can be mitigated immediately.

When a truck driver’s risk profile is heightened, he or she may be more likely to be involved in an accident. This scenario results in unnecessary and increased liability. Motor carriers must ensure they are proactively addressing issues related to truck driver eligibility. In this way, continuous MVR monitoring provides an effective hedge against expensive liability lawsuit.

Making the Most out of MVR Monitoring in the Court of Law

Not only does continuous MVR monitoring offer fleets an effective early detection, efficiency, and money-saving solution, but it also greatly improves your fleet’s reputation in case a liability case does arise.

The fact is this, a plaintiff’s attorney is very good at finding issues with a truck driver’s license should the case end up in court. If your fleet is employing a risky truck driver, claiming ignorance of a violation will not absolve it from responsibility in the event of a lawsuit.

Another avenue of approach a motor carrier can expect from a plaintiff’s attorney in court will be the fleet’s perceived inability to spend money on a low-cost safety solution. Why would a motor carrier not spend such a small amount of money on a fleet safety endeavor that can yield big dividends?

Furthermore, a jury will be more inclined to question other safety practices and policies if the fleet is inconsistently pulling MVRs or only pulling them for annual reviews. Trucking companies have an obligation to keep close track of the driving status of truck drivers on their payroll. And this goes for everyone from senior executives to sales managers and service technicians.

Starting the Process at Hiring

Considering driver safety initiatives should start as soon as the employee walks through the front door, the same should be said for continuous MVR monitoring. While there will be an initial review to discover any problems, it should be ongoing to prevent unnecessary risk and liability exposure.

Most fleets follow a standard model of annual review, with a 15-minute evaluation of driver records for an example fleet of 500 – 1,0000 vehicles. This simply does not provide enough time to complete the due diligence necessary to ensure a comprehensive level of fleetwide safety.

Instead, continuous MVR monitoring programs provides alerts and updates when violations, suspensions, and convictions occur. No longer will fleet managers have to spend tons of hours manually reviewing records to find problems. Instead, notifications will be spread out through the year. Identifying risky truck drivers becomes easier and allows fleets to offer the individualized attention their employees require.

Even better, continuous MVR monitoring is a low-cost solution. The average cost per truck driver for continuous MVR monitoring programs averages around $15 per year, per truck driver. The fact is, the administrative requirements are low, so having these alerts set up should be a simple matter for fleets both big and small.

Imagine if you prevent just one major safety event from occurring because of continuous MVR monitoring, the service pays for itself many times over. If your fleet works across state lines, some continuous MVR monitoring programs provide an interconnected network that can be advantageous when working on an interstate basis.

The fact is, in today’s day and age, motor carriers need to be utilizing every safety and monitoring measure they can. To compete with other motor carriers who are demonstrating a commitment to safety through every means possible, fleets should be investing in low-cost, high-safety programs like continuous MVR monitoring. Having it as part of your comprehensive safety management portfolio could be just what your business needs to reach new heights.

Your Ultimate ELD Mandate Guide – Part II

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!

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.