The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

All About the ELD Mandate

March 2017, by Lauren Fletcher - Also by this author

Photo: iStockphoto.com
Photo: iStockphoto.com

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created an abundance of confusion within the vocational truck fleet industry.

Work Truck magazine has created this comprehensive, go-to resource for information on the mandate, which goes into effect in December 2017.

Not sure if your fleet needs to comply with the upcoming ELD mandate? Have questions regarding compliance requirements, grandfathered devices, costs, and potential benefits?

The ELD Basics

The overall reduction and elimination of crashes is a top goal for most fleet operators and eLogs aim to reduce accident rates. According to a report from the Center for Truck and Bus Safety of Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, commercial vehicle drivers who used eLogs experienced an 11.7% reduction in total crashes and a 5.1% reduction in preventable crashes compared to drivers who did not.

Prior to the mandate, the National Transportation Safety Board advised fleets adopt eLogs to reduce driver fatigue. To help address concerns related to drowsy and fatigued driving, the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations were put into place.

To help ensure HOS compliance, the FMCSA announced a final rule in December 2015 mandating, with a few exceptions, the use of ELDs by drivers required to complete records of duty status (RODS), or daily logs. Exceptions include commercial vehicles older than model-year 2000 and drivers who must complete RODS for no more than eight days in any 30-day period.

An ELD is an electronic device that is used to track HOS compliance. HOS rules and regulations were put in place to help drivers stay safe and get the rest needed.

“In general, the goal is to hold commercial drivers who must complete RODS strictly accountable to the HOS regulations, which govern the length of a driver’s workday, how long a driver can drive during that day, and how long drivers must rest before resuming work,” explained Avery Vise, president at TransComply, a firm that provides compliance assistance to truck owners and operators.

An ELD must be able to record date, time, location, engine hours, vehicle miles, as well as the carrier, vehicle, authenticated user, and driver ID number at specific set time intervals. The intervals range from every 60 minutes while the vehicle is in motion as well as when the vehicle is powered up or shut down, a duty status is changed, and when the vehicle is being used for possible personal use, where allowed.

Impacted Fleets

The FMCSA estimates this will impact about 3.4 million drivers. Not every fleet with trucks will be required to comply. The No. 1 question from vocational truck fleets regarding the ELD rule is: does this apply to my fleet?
To determine if you will be required to comply with the new rule answer one main question: Do you currently have drivers who are required to keep and prepare HOS or RODS per Part 395, 49 CFR 395.8(a)? Note, the rule applies to buses as well as trucks, in addition to drivers who are domiciled in Mexico or Canada and rented vehicles if the driver is required to keep RODS.

Drivers of Class 1 and 2 trucks will be mostly exempt from ELDs unless they transport placarded hazardous materials or operate a light-duty vehicle/trailer with a GCWR of more than 10,001 pounds.

“Also, barring an unlikely state law or regulation more stringent than the FMCSA rule, a driver who does not have to complete a RODS for more than eight days in any 30-day period will not have to use an ELD,” Vise said.

For fleets that operate Class 3 trucks and larger, the weight or weight rating of the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) no longer determines ELD obligations.

“Exemptions aside, the only issue is whether a driver must complete RODS, which he or she generally must do unless he operates within a 100 air-mile radius of his base,” Vise said.

Beyond that, things can get a little more confusing. The ELD rule applies directly only to interstate operations, but 49 CFR 355 requires that states that accept grants under the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program adopt compatible regulations for intrastate operations.

“In theory, if a driver must complete RODS and is not otherwise exempt from ELDs, he eventually would be required to use ELDs. Based on some early intelligence, we anticipate that some states could fail to adopt ELDs for intrastate operations. Managers of intrastate fleet operations in which drivers must complete RODS should contact the motor carrier enforcement authorities in their states to determine their ELD obligations,” Vise recommended.

Getting in Compliance

Carriers and drivers must transition to ELDs by Dec. 18, 2017. But, carriers and drivers that were using automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) prior to Dec. 18, 2017, may continue using AOBRDs through Dec. 16, 2019.

According to the FMCSA, section 32301(b) of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act, which was enacted as part of MAP-21, is what actually mandates the ELD rule. This section calls for the Secretary of Transportation to adopt regulations requiring ELD use in commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) involved in interstate commerce when operated by drivers required to keep RODS.

In addition to drivers, the rule sets performance and design standards for ELDs, requiring them to be registered and certified with the FMCSA. The rule also covers all supporting documents that drivers and fleets must keep on file. Finally, it covers driver harassment and their recourse options related to ELD data or connected technology, which includes fleet management systems.

What Does the ELD Mandate Mean to My Fleet?

If you do not have drivers who must keep paper RODS, you are unlikely required to comply with the upcoming rule. However, if you do, it’s likely you will need to comply by year-end.

Currently, drivers and motor carriers can use:

  • AOBRDs.
  • ELDs.
  • Paper logs.
  • Devices with logging software programs.

There are a limited number of exceptions made to the rule, although these drivers must still adhere to RODS requirements in 49 CFR 395 and keep logs on paper using an AOBRD or logging software program whenever required. These exceptions include:

  • Drivers who operate under the short-haul exception can continue to use time cards. As they are not required to keep RODS, ELDs are not required.
  • Drivers who only use paper RODS for no more than eight days in each 30-day period (not month-based, but date-based e.g., March 15-April 15). 
  • Drivers who conduct drive-away-tow-away operations. 
  • Drivers of vehicles manufactured before the 2000-MY. 

Regarding trucks manufactured before the 2000-MY, “FMCSA determined that the engines of such trucks may not communicate easily with ELDs. If a driver otherwise would have to use ELDs, keeping a truck older than model-year 2000 could avoid that cost. Conversely, older trucks theoretically could bring a higher premium in the resale market for the same reason. In practice, however, because most work trucks are not ideal for over-the-road freight hauling, it’s unlikely that trucks older than model-year 2000 will bring much of a premium,” Vise said.

In addition, fleet managers and drivers alike should rest assured that the ELD device will not impact the vehicle’s operation.

“One fairly common misconception is that ELDs will disable a truck that has exceeded limits prescribed by the federal HOS regulations. Not so. ELDs have no control over the truck’s performance or the driver’s ability to drive it. They simply record certain violations automatically. In rare instances, a driver or fleet manager might determine that for reasons of safety or security it might be necessary to operate a truck in violation of the hours-of-service rules. The fleet and driver still would incur a violation, although the ELD rule would allow them to at least explain the reason for the violation by annotating the ELD record,” Vise said.

Also, rental vehicles are not exempt from the ruling. If your drivers are required to comply with the ELD mandate and need to rent a truck, they must ensure the truck is equipped with proper equipment.

In-Cab or Mobile Device Usage

Devices that can be used include full in-cab solutions as well as mobile apps. Smartphones, tablets, or other wireless devices can be used as ELDs, as long as the devices meet the FMCSA’s technical specifications. Portable ELDs must remain in a fixed position during all operation of a CMV and visible by the driver from a normal seated position.

Drivers can use their own devices, which does provide some advantages over an in-cab unit such as flexibility and mobility, but some caveats are required when considering the use of smartphone devices.

“First, the device must be ‘integrally synchronized’ with the truck engine’s electronics, which means that there will need to be some type of hardware involved that will allow the engine to ‘speak’ to the ELD through a direct link or wirelessly through Bluetooth, etc.,” according to Vise.

However, an in-cab unit may provide some advantages over the “bring your device (BYOD)” solution. An in-cab unit can be used by multiple drivers, training can be simplified due to the use of one system, and fleet managers can be sure that all ELD devices are in compliance with FMCSA rules.

When it comes to selecting an ELD solution, don’t panic and don’t rush.

“The biggest mistake a fleet manager could make is to panic and rush into selecting a system that is registered as an ELD,” Vise said. “The ELD mandate will not apply to many fleets, and it does not kick in until Dec. 18, 2017. Even then, drivers can comply for up to two more years by using automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) if they are already using them by December 18. AOBRDs are devices that meet the current standard for electronic logs.”

As of mid-February, fewer than 30 ELDs have been registered and none of the current major suppliers of AOBRD-compliant electronic logs have registered an ELD, according to Vise.

In addition, the FMCSA does not test ELDs before they are registered. ELD suppliers self-certify compliance to ELD standards. The agency does not plan any routine verification but will test a registered ELD only if it suspects non-compliance.

Ensuring Device Compliance

One major concern fleet managers have about the upcoming mandate relates to ELD device compliance. Currently, the FMCSA does not test devices for compliance.

“In February, FMCSA clarified how a finding that a registered ELD is non-compliant affects motor carriers. Previously, the agency had not directly addressed what specifically would happen in that case and instead had merely emphasized that it had adopted procedures giving ELD suppliers opportunities to correct any deficiencies and to appeal a decision that their devices were not compliant,” Vise commented. “In the new guidance, FMCSA says that carriers will have eight days from notification to replace non-compliant devices — the same time allowed to take action on ELDs that need to be repaired, replaced, or serviced.”

In the event of a widespread issue, FMCSA will work with affected motor carriers to establish a reasonable time frame for replacing non-compliant devices with ELDs that meet the requirements.

“However, given that it is unclear what FMCSA will consider a ‘widespread issue,’ fleet managers should be wary of devices supplied by companies they are not familiar with,” Vise noted.

Also, fleet managers should be aware of the potential for significant costs and disruptions if FMCSA ultimately delists a registered ELD.

Grandfathered Exceptions

Some devices may be “grandfathered” into the rule with an extended date for changing over to an ELD.
“An AOBRD is grandfathered for two years on a truck if it is in use by December 18, but until mid-February, it was not clear how FMCSA intended to enforce that provision,” Vise noted. “In its latest guidance, FMCSA adopted something of a compromise. Fleets can continue to use AOBRDs that were installed in the fleet’s trucks as of December 18 if the fleet replaces those trucks. But, the fleet cannot buy new AOBRDs after that date. So, if fleet adds trucks on a net basis after December 18 it must use an ELD-compliant device on those trucks, assuming the driver must use electronic logs at all.”

If your company installed an AOBRD and required your drivers to use it before Dec. 18, 2017, the compliance date for switching to an ELD is extended two years to Dec. 16, 2019. The AOBRD must meet the requirements of 49 CFR 395.15.

Benefits to Compliance

The most important reason to pursue ELDs for your fleet is for regulatory compliance and to follow regulations set forth for the industry. But, aside from legal compliance, there are additional benefits to adopting an ELD solution.

“The benefits to fleet managers stem primarily from simplifying compliance somewhat and potentially having real-time visibility into drivers’ available time. Managers will find it easier to audit and store electronic logs than paper logs. Also, by monitoring drivers automatically, ELDs can alert fleet managers to potential and impending non-compliance if the ELDs are integrated with some type of fleet management system, which is not mandatory,” Vise said.

According to FMCSA’s “Regulatory Impact Analysis for ELDs,” the devices will save fleet managers and drivers time and money.

The FMCSA believes that the total annual cost of ELD adoption will be $975 million (including costs for equipment for carriers and inspectors and driver and inspector training), but will have an annual net savings of $1.6 billion, plus crash-reduction costs of $395 million.

Fleet managers can benefit from:

  • Decreased fuel costs from increased vehicle monitoring capabilities. 
  • Reduced crash rates due to properly rested drivers. 
  • Decreased vehicle downtime due to the ability to monitor basic maintenance and utilization.

Changes to Day-to-Day Operations

For fleets with drivers who are currently subject to utilizing RODS and the fleet isn’t using some form of an electronic log, they will see a reduction in paperwork, as well as higher accountability of compliance with HOS regulation.

For drivers, the changes are mostly the same as for fleet managers, including learning the new system.

“If a fleet’s drivers already follow the hours-of-service regulations precisely, ELDs won’t matter except in the reduction of paperwork. But ELDs will automatically log violations of the 11-hour and 14-hour rules,” Vise said.
In most work truck operations, the 11-hour driving limitation is not often an issue as drivers rarely drive continuously throughout their work day.

“But, the 14-hour rule can be a significant challenge, because it means that 14 hours after the driver first began working that day he or she can no longer drive. Also, driving a truck less than 10 hours after the truck was last driven generally logs a violation, although there is a provision for personal use of the vehicle,” Vise said.

In the end, ELDs should only create an issue in time management if a driver isn’t already logging his time with absolute precision.

Possible Roll Back?

For anyone that wonders if the current administration may result in changes to the ELD rule, there is very little chance.

The ELD rule was mandated under a GOP House majority in 2012, so it is highly improbable this Congress will move to roll it back. Subsequently, it’s similarly unlikely a legal challenge to the rule brought by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) will succeed.

OOIDA’s only hope in court now is for the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to hear the case and strike down the mandate.

“There is no sign that ELDs are a partisan issue on Capitol Hill,” Vise said. He added that, even though the rule won’t kick in until late 2017, it would not be subject to a regulatory moratorium imposed by President Trump.

What Next?

Once you have determined whether you have drivers that will need to be in compliance with the new ELD rule, the time to start acting is now. Look at “Taking Action” on page 44 for where to start on the road to ELD compliance. 

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