The deadline approaches! Will you be ready in December? The fact is, there are still far too many trucking companies who have not yet complied with the upcoming final deadline of the ELD mandate. Even worse, many who have complied may not even know if the ELD they selected complies with all the technical requirements. It is not easy to parse out the regulations. They are filled with technical speak that only technically trained people understand.
It is also important to note that the FMCSA does not vet the ELDs currently on the market. Trucking companies might not even know if their ELD is compliant until a field agent shows up to do a compliance review based on roadside inspection irregularities. If you are found to have a non-compliant device, you may get stuck relying on a vendor who might not be able to quickly alleviate the problem. Might you have to end up replacing every device if that vendor is unavailable?
Think this is fearmongering? Think again. There are examples where FMCSA field agents made decisions based on prior experience with other carriers who were using a technically deficient device. Fleets have been cited for ‘inappropriate method of logging’ because their ELD or AOBRD was missing criteria such as engine use, road speed, and miles driven.
You also don’t want to be a motor carrier caught in a scheme involving AOBRDs. One example of this was when the FMCSA discovered that a particular AOBRD manufacturer was allowing their devices to be transformed into truck driver logging devices. When the ELD mandate arrives and the file transfer requirement comes into play, how are the truck drivers going to properly transfer the files? And if the files look suspect, what then?
Taken at Their Word
The big dilemma motor carriers face is that in many cases they must take the ELD vendor at their word. Will the device actually comply? Once the fleet decides to equip a new device, big investments need to be made. And we aren’t talking about just money. You need to train your truck drivers and staff on how to use the device. Going through that process multiple times is onerous at best and extremely costly at worse.
Here is the crux of the problem: It is up to the company buying the device to determine if the device meets their needs. The seller is under no obligation other than to create the device. And sellers must be smart about what they buy. This isn’t something simple like a toaster oven. ELD devices are more than simply plug-and-play.
Fortunately, there are ways in which motor carriers can assess the technical viability of their devices before they buy them. First, it is important to remember that the FMCSA publishes a list of frequently asked questions on their website. Still, they are a LOT of questions. As an example, there are over 160 specific entries across nearly 30 pages.
But don’t worry, we have compiled a list of questions you will want to ask your potential ELD vendor. Now you don’t have to do the heavy lifting. Are you ready? Here we go.
- How does the ELD process diagnostic events? For example, if the ELD records an overage of unidentified driver time in a 24-hour period, will it detect and classify it as a diagnostic event?
- Is it possible to program the ELD to delete unassigned drive time if that drive time has not been assigned within 8 days? In short, the unassigned drive time must stay in the system. Hours of service data is not to be deleted.
- Is it possible for me to create a dummy account that I can put unassigned drive time into? If your potential vendor partner says yes, then it is time to look for another partner.
- Can a truck driver switch between rule sets? Remember, a truck driver should not be permitted to switch between rule sets at will. The fleet manager should switch between the rule sets based upon their particular operation.
- Can a truck driver switch between personal conveyance and yard moves? The motor carrier must decide if they want the truck driver to have this kind of access. In other words, these should be defaulted as administrative settings within the device.
- How will the drive time be recorded when a truck driver operates in exempt status, such as the 100-air-mile radius? Vendors may use different rule sets. Some systems may measure 12 hours, but not measure if the truck driver stopped and started in the same location.
- Where does unidentified drive time go? In other words, if a truck driver operates the vehicle without logging into the system, what will the device do? A good vendor will help their motor carrier partner address unassigned drive time and help when the fleet needs to make sure that time is assigned to the appropriate operator.
- How are intermediate log events handled? If the ELD records an hour of continuous drive time, will it create an event? Ensure you invest in a device that records log events at least once per hour.
- Are there any ways for drive time to be edited on the ELD? Because if there is, that’s a red flag. Under no circumstances should you or a truck driver ever be able to edit drive time. But, in instances where a fleet manager makes edits, are those edits recorded? Edits should be ongoing. They should alter the original record or records before it.
- When the commercial motor vehicle is in motion and no co-driver is logged into the device, can anyone interact with the ELD? The answer should be no. The ELD should be on lock-down when the vehicle is in motion.
If you bring this list to any meeting with an ELD vendor and hand it to them, you should be good to go. They will know if their devices meet your standards. Don’t settle for less and wind up on the wrong end of a violation.
What About Roadside Inspections?
Right now, roadside inspectors are more understanding with operators who don’t know how to transfer data files from their ELD. But with the ELD mandate final deadline finally looming, you can expect roadside inspectors to begin adopting a stricter stance.
The fact of the matter is this: Whether your fleet is already running mandatory electronic logging devices or not, you need to make sure roadside inspections go as smoothly as possible for your fleet. Truck drivers get stressed out when they are caught in a situation they don’t understand but could have been easily avoided.
Many small fleets are still running with AOBRDs. An AOBRD, or automatic on-board recording device, was the previous standard or electronic monitoring of truck driver hours. The ELD is taking its place. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance recently reported increased leniency from roadside inspectors. Right now, there is still plenty of variance in the reporting. This should not be unexpected. The ELD mandate is a complicated rule, so truck drivers need time to adapt to it. Also, there are many types devices currently on the market.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, enforcement officers do not seem 100% comfortable with digitally transferring logs. Many enforcement officers currently still ask to see the log information on the screen. Some devices have detachable tablets, but they are not required. Still, whatever makes it easier on inspectors isn’t a bad thing.
One of the first questions you can expect you or your truck drivers to be asked when they are questioned by an enforcement officer is whether the truck is running an AOBRD or ELD. But on December 17, that will no longer be the case. Truck drivers should know that they have an ELD and how to use it.
AOBRDs are not built to transfer data electronically. ELDs can utilize a telematics transfer. At a minimum, the information in the ELD should support one of two options for electronic data transfer. The telematics transfer option allows the data on the ELD to be electronically transferred to an authorized safety official via a wireless services hub and an email address.
The second option is a local transfer, which would use either USB 2.0 or Bluetooth to locally transfer the data to an authorized device. The truck driver needs to understand how the technology works to avoid a violation. Inspectors are not going to be in the mood to overlook misunderstandings after December 17.
The most popular and easiest way is through a web transfer. The inspection officer can provide a routing code and then a web transfer can be initiated. Consider that the enforcement playing field is now level. Don’t take chances with your bottom line or overly stress your truck drivers out by not being ready for the coming deadline. Ask the right questions and invest in a device that fits your organization and is 100% compliant.