As the ELD mandate continues to make its headlong march to full implementation on December 17, it’s important to not be fooled into thinking that the term “FMCSA Certified” means that the FMCSA has done some type of testing to ensure that the ELD complies with specific regulations surrounding their build and use. Be forewarned against making that assumption, however.
The fact is, per the FMCSA, some device manufacturers are improperly placing a sticker or marking on their devices claiming that they are certified by the FMCSA, when, in fact, this is not true. Remember, the FMCSA keeps a registry of devices that are certified. Always make sure to check the registry before assuming that a particular device fits the bill.
Know the Difference
One thing to keep in mind is that there’s a difference between registration and verification. Although manufacturers conduct tests to certify the product, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product was manufactured and performs per FMCSA specifications.
It doesn’t take much for a system to be compliant today, but removed from the list tomorrow. An even more important consideration is that there isn’t even a set-in-stone guarantee that the ones on the list will be compliant.
Why? Because the bar to get on the list is pretty low. It pretty much includes the manufacturer reporting that the device is a compliant ELD… and that’s it. Getting on the list is more of a registration process than a certification process. The FMCSA is not vetting documentation or conducting any of their own tests.
But is it as easy as throwing some terms into a document and then getting certified? Perhaps not.
There is a pretty comprehensive list of documents that a manufacturer must upload to the website to get registered. Currently that list includes:
- Driver user card
- Law enforcement data transfer instructions
- Malfunction and diagnostics data
- Equipment photos
- Serial numbers
Still, there is some wiggle room for less scrupulous device manufacturers. Why? Mainly because there is an assumption of compliance, rather than a mandate. As with any rule issuance, there is an expectation of compliance, with consequences on the back end, rather than an enforcement aspect on the front end.
That fact is this: It will be up to the carrier to ensure that the device’s specs conform to what the FMCSA expects.
Some argue that the FMCSA has not fully considered that vendors may self-certify even if their products are not compliant. There is a major self-interest component at stake here.
Consider that some ELD manufacturers appeared on the list within a week or two of the list being made available. Is it possible that these manufacturers went through a rigorous vetting process within such a short period?
Doing Your Own Verification
So, what’s the answer? In many cases, it will be to conduct your own, independent verification of the device you plan on outfitting onto your vehicles. Fortunately, there are groups out there that now offer independent device testing.
Whether it be a large accounting auditing firm like KPMG, or smaller outfits, like Canada’s PIT Group, companies and organizations are stepping up to the plate to ensure there no discrepancies between what an ELD manufacturer says their device conforms to and what it conforms to.
Does this mean that there are no challenges with utilizing a third-party certification process? Certainly not. If a third-party tester is using one version of a software, yet the device ships with a different version, or an update occurs, it could entirely be possible that the results become skewed.
Therefore, it is important to not just verify, but double-check. As with anyone getting a medical diagnosis, a second opinion never hurts.