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Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)

electronic logging devicesEvery commercial bus and truck driver is now required to install and use an electronic logging device or ELD to maintain a record of compliance with the Hours of Services (HOS) rules to improve road safety and prevent driver fatigue. The new ELD rule is a requirement from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of the US Department of Transportation for all commercially licensed drivers required to prepare HOS records of duty status (RODS).

The ELD rule is being enforced to improve road safety by employing advanced technology and replacing the traditional written logs for commercial vehicles where verification is nearly impossible. Road safety inspectors will now find it easier to examine driver records and spot federal law violations more effectively.

The FMCSA has estimated that the use of ELD under the Final Rule will benefit more than $1 billion a year, mainly by way of reducing industry paperwork. With the new automated technology, not only will it be easier to enforce the law for roadside safety, but commercial drivers will also have greater protection against harassment due to the inclusion of certain protections in the ELD rule.

According to the FMCSA, this rule puts all motorists at an advantage because the new technology will increase federal law compliance and help reduce accidents and save lives.

Salient Features of the ELD Rule
  • From December 18th, 2017, commercial bus and truck drivers are required to adopt ELDs. The FMCSA estimates that nearly three million drivers will be impacted by the new rule.
  • The ELD rule is designed to prevent harassment of a commercial driver. Procedural and technical provisions have been made in the Final Rule that will protect drivers against harassment, which could potentially arise due to data produced by the ELDs. Furthermore, if commercial drivers are coerced by the carrier to violate safety laws, enforcement action can be taken by the FMCSA not only against the carrier and the shipper and the receiver and other transportation intermediaries.
  • The new rule outlines technological specs related to the requirements of design and performance for the ELDs. This will help manufacturers to create compliant devices and enable buyers to make informed choices.
  • The ELD rule lists new HOS document requirements, which will further reduce paperwork. Motor carriers will usually not be required to retain supporting documents in their possession to verify on-duty driving hours.

The use of smartphones and similar wireless devices is allowed under the Final Rule to be used as an ELD, as long as they have the required certification, comply with the technical specifications, and are listed on the website of the FMCSA. Drivers with domicile in Mexico and Canada are also bound by the ELD rule when they operate on roadways in the US.

Motor carriers that have been previously using compliant Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRD) are permitted to continue using those devices for up to two years from the date of compliance.

Advantages for Carriers and Drivers

The Regulatory Impact Analysis for ELDs conducted by the FMCSA estimates that the new rule will save per driver $705 a year in paperwork alone. That is only a conservative figure. According to the FMCSA, truck drivers on average fill out 240 RODS per year. Following the ELD rule, the time spent by a driver in logging the HOS will come down by 4.5 minutes per RODS or 19 hours a year.

Advantages in terms of fleet management systems (FMS) are not just restricted to savings in paperwork. These systems include multiple features that are designed to reduce costs and improve conditions for the drivers. Some of the benefits include:

  • Increased Fuel Efficiency - As the ELDs will improve monitoring of excessive idle times and speeding events of commercial vehicles, fleets can create incentives for drivers to help bring down fuel costs.
  • Reduced Vehicle Downtime - The Aberdeen Group conducted a study that showed that FMS users can expect to achieve up to a 15 percent reduction in truck downtime and a 13 percent increase in vehicle utilization.
  • Lower Accident Rates - Statistics indicate that commercial truck drivers who use electronic logs have an 11.7 percent lower accident rate and a 5.1 percent lower preventable accident rate than truck drivers who do not use electronic logs.
  • Effective Compliance with Regulation - When the commercial bus and truck drivers comply with the ELD rule, their compliance with other regulations improves.
Vital Aspects to Consider in the New ELD Rule

The AOBRD Provision

Before the ELD rule, the prevailing regulatory standard for optional electronic logs was AOBRD. The new rule has a provision that commercial bus and truck drivers using these compliant systems can still continue to use them for a maximum period of two years. However, it is vital to consider what happens when a carrier replaces an AOBRD compliant truck after the deadline.

The FMCSA says that you can install and use that same AOBRD in your new truck in such a case. But you are not permitted to buy or install a new AOBRD in your vehicle beyond the deadline of December 18th, 2017. This means that while you do receive some breathing time if you have AOBRD installed in your existing vehicles, it will no longer apply when you add new vehicles to your fleet.

According to some experts, a fleet that has AOBRDs installed in its current vehicles would do well to adopt ELDs terminal by terminal or site by site once they have several ELD compliant vehicles. Fleet owners and managers should also note that many recent AOBRD systems can be changed to ELD by upgrading the software.

Reduced Chances of Driver Harassment over E-logs

One of the vital changes introduced with the new ELD rule is that greater responsibility and control over e-log edits is now given to the drivers. This will cut down the risk of using logs as a way to harass drivers. The new rule allows the drivers to edit the e-logs. Additionally, if the driver receives an edit from the back office, they will have the option to reject or accept it.

The edits from the admin office made in the driver’s e-log will stay pending until they act on them. If the driver rejects a particular edit, a process of operational reconciliation will follow. This is a critical provision as it empowers the drivers and recognizes the fact that ultimately it is the driver who is responsible for HOS. The system is meant only to maintain it.

Under the ELD rule, a technical requirement is that when a driver has logged into the system, the device will ask them whether the unassigned mileage that may be showing in the system is on their account. The driver will have the option to reject or accept such unassigned mileage.

Unassigned Mileage Accounting

The new ELD rule requires proper accounting for the unassigned mileage (unassigned vehicle moves). If a vehicle is moved around the yard for the purpose of refueling or a technician takes it out for a road test, the driving time will get recorded by the ELD. This mileage must be accounted for and assigned to a driver.

In case the unaccounted mileage has not been assigned, when the driver logs into the system next time, the device will prompt them to indicate whether they are responsible for those hours. If the hours are rejected by the driver, the carrier will have to reconcile them. Experts suggest that motor carriers could assign hours for such random tasks to exempt drivers, and a special category can be created for this purpose. This will make reconciliation easier for unassigned hours.

ELDs are not Verified by the FMCSA

Before choosing an ELD product and vendor, drivers and carriers should know that they are not verified by the FMCSA for compliance and performance. Therefore, the buyer should make sure that they are buying a certified device and registered with the FMCSA and listed on their website. If a device is not vendor certified by the manufacturer and not registered with the FMCSA, it may not be a compliant system.

The manufacturers carry out their own tests to award certifications for ELDs to vendors. However, sometimes a test may not be according to the test specifications established by the FMCSA. Therefore, a fleet may be unaware of whether an ELD product registered on the FMCSA website is compliant. The fine line between registration and verification must be noted. The FMCSA is currently only doing registration of products, but not their verification.

As a result, an ELD that is currently registered on the website of FMCSA may tomorrow be found to be non-compliant and removed from the site. That makes it important for ELD buyers to do their homework and not just pick any product off the FMCSA list.

Choosing the Right Provider

The FMCSA has adopted a “buyer beware” approach, and the onus is on the buyers to choose the appropriate ELD provider and install a compliant device. As several manufacturers are entering the market, buyers should ensure that they select a stable supplier expected to remain in the market for the long haul.

The buyer must ask essential questions such as how much experience the manufacturer has in creating e-log and related devices, how old their company is, and their existing product range in the market.

The vendor should be able to provide sales support, maintain a connection with the buyers, and update the devices as and when new regulatory changes come up. Special operation fleets such as those operating in the oil fields should choose a provider to understand such operations.

Watch the video below to learn more about the rules requiring truck drivers to use electronic logging devices.

Buying the Correct Product

Each buyer will have different requirements, and they should choose an appropriate product. For instance, several low-cost devices are out there in the market that will only comply with the ELD rules and not do anything else. But if the fleet requires more features, they must select more advanced products. IFTA report and driver vehicle inspection e-reports, for example, are two key features commonly required along with electronic logs.

Apart from these features, a fleet may need features that enable dispatching, messaging, and workflow apps. If the fleet does not have clarity about its precise requirements, it is easy to overbuy or underbuy a device in the current market.

SmartPhone or Tablet-Based Systems

Several low-cost ELD providers offer systems that only require a smartphone or a digital tablet that the user already owns. The system will wirelessly share data from the mobile device with another special device that gets data from the engine’s electronic control module.

While such systems are more affordable, buyers should look at all possibilities before buying such a system. A cell phone or a tablet might not have the same resilience as a purpose-built ELD device. A system could require a paid subscription service apart from the device’s regular data plan.

Buyers should ask: how often batteries and chargers may have to be replaced; what would happen to compliance if the battery gets exhausted or the driver forgets the mobile device at a truck stop; what steps would be necessary to prevent device use the vehicle is operating?

Developing a Fleet Policy for ELDs

It is essential to create the right fleet policy for e-logs. The policy should cover issues such as:

  • What will be the role of the drivers concerning e-logs?
  • What kind of ELD options should be chosen for the fleet?
  • How the auditing must be done to track false entries or errors of omission?
  • Who would be responsible for unassigned mileage?
  • Who will audit the e-log edits?
  • What deterrent action should be taken against a driver found to be falsifying or tampering with e-logs?
  • Who would have the charge of disciplining, correcting, and counseling drivers if concerns arise?

Like any new system, the new ELD rule will take some time to be understood and implemented comprehensively. But what is clear is that the system is forward-looking and introduces greater transparency with the help of technology. Over time, it is bound to improve roadside safety, reduce harassment of commercial vehicle drivers, and increase cost-efficiencies for the operators, creating a win-win situation for all.

Truck Accident Attorney in Sacramento

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Truck Accident Attorney. The aftermath of a trucking accident can be catastrophic for both injured people and their families. If you or someone you love needs my help, please don’t hesitate to call me for compassionate, free, and friendly advice. I can be reached by phone at 916.921.6400 and online via my website: AutoAccident.com.

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

See our client reviews on AvvoGoogle, and Yelp, and our past cases on our Verdicts and Settlements page.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 11.17.20]

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:br rey [cs 2268]

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