Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) Now Mandatory For Commercial Vehicles
I’m Ed Smith, a Truck Accident Lawyer in Sacramento. Every 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 that are aimed at improving road safety and preventing 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 who are required to prepare HOS records of duty status (RODS).
The ELD rule is being enforced with an aim 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 result in a benefit of 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 compliance with the federal law 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, as well as 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, but also 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, and 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 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 as well as 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, which showed that FMS users can expect to achieve up to 15 percent reduction in truck downtime and up to 13 percent increase in vehicle utilization.Lower Accident Rates
Statistics indicate that commercial truck drivers who make use of electronic logs have an 11.7 percent lower accident rate as well as 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 as well.Vital Aspects to Consider in the New ELD RuleThe AOBRD Provision
Prior to 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, but 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 in such case, you can install and use that same AOBRD in your new truck. But you are not permitted to buy or install a new AOBRD in your vehicle beyond the deadline of December 18th, 2017. What this means is that while you do receiving 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 a number of ELD compliant vehicles. Fleet owners and managers should also note that many recent AOBRD systems can be changed to ELD just 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 the driver acts on them. If the driver rejects a particular edit, a process of operational reconciliation would 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, and the system is meant only to maintain it.
A technical requirement under the ELD rule 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 these devices are not verified by the FMCSA for compliance and performance. The buyer should, therefore, make sure that they are buying a device that is certified 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 whether an ELD product registered on the FMCSA website is actually 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 a number of manufacturers are entering the market, buyers should ensure that they select a stable supplier that is expected to remain in the market for the long haul.
The buyer must ask essential questions such as how much experience does the manufacturer have in creating e-log and related devices, how old is their company, and what is there existing product range in the market.
The vendor should be in a position 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 with an understanding of such operations.
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 has a requirement for 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, in the current market it is easy to over buy or under buy a device.SmartPhone or Tablet-Based Systems
A number of 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, a buyer should look at all possibilities before buying such a system. A cell phone or a tablet might not have 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 while 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 with regard to 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.
Injury lawyers with awards and settlement proceeds in excess of one million dollars are eligible for membership with the Million Dollar Forum. I am honored to be a member of this esteemed organization.
Summaries of my past Verdicts and Settlements are posted to my website.
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