It’s critical to know how it may affect your business.
By Tony Verillo
The winter holidays may seem a long way away, but if you check your calendar you’ll see they are less than seven months away. You should also know December is the month the new federal mandate for electronic logging devices (ELDs) takes effect as well.
Yes, December 18, 2017 is the deadline for motor carriers to equip their commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) with these devices. This law will affect nearly 3½ million drivers.
The rule is intended to help create a safe work environment for drivers and make it easier to record, accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status (RODS) data. The ELDs are designed to electronically record a driver’s on-duty and driving time and are meant to replace the paper logbooks currently used by most drivers.
It’s also important to note the ELD rule does not change the current hours-of-service (HOS) rules or restrictions as mandated by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), Part 395.
So what does all this mean to you? This article will hopefully clarify who the new rule impacts, who may be exempt, what to expect, how to implement the practice into your operations, and what it may cost you.
Who Is Affected?
For the most part, all the regulations set forth in the FMCSR apply to any motor carrier that operates a CMV in interstate operation. The definition of a CMV is any vehicle meeting the following criteria:
- Any vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more
- Any vehicle carrying hazardous materials that require placarding
- Passenger vehicles designed or used to transport more than eight passengers for hire, or 15 passengers not for compensation.
Some states have a slightly different definition for a CMV if operated strictly intrastate. Carriers should review that definition within their respective states to determine applicability. However, if your company crosses state lines at all, then the definition above applies to you, and therefore the rules apply.
Going forward, your company and each of your drivers must fully comply with HOS regulations and may very likely have to comply with the ELD mandate.
It’s important to know that before moving to ELDs, it is critical to be sure your company’s drivers and staff are fully compliant with the current HOS regulations and restrictions. Drivers who do not adhere to these rules will only compound the issue when you move to ELDs—as they will be creating permanent and irreversible log entries. These records will be subject to audit and pose the potential for serious fines or sanctions.
The ELD mandate provides a few exceptions from the rule. Based on these exceptions, all of the company’s vehicles may be exempt or just a portion depending on the company’s daily normal operations. All possible travel scenarios should be considered before deciding how your company is impacted. A summary of each exception is as follows.
- Short-haul operations: This applies to drivers of CDL type vehicles. It limits a driver’s travel to within a 100 air-mile radius of their home terminal and no more than 12 consecutive hours on duty. It also requires a driver have 10 consecutive hours off-duty prior to starting their shift. See FMCSR 395.1(e)(2).
- Operators of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles not requiring a commercial driver’s license: This applies to drivers of property carrying only, non-CDL vehicles. It limits a driver’s travel to within a 150 air-mile radius of their home terminal. See FMCSR 395.1(e)(2).
- Drive away-tow away operation: This refers to an operation in which an empty or unladen motor vehicle with one or more sets of wheels on the surface of the roadway is being towed or transported as defined in FMCSR 390.5.
- Trucks manufactured before the model year 2000.
Each of the first three exceptions have additional restrictions within the rule and before opting out of installing an ELD, you should become familiar with the full scope of whichever exception is being used.
Drivers who would otherwise be exempt from ELDs but who have exceeded the 100 air-mile or 150 air-mile radius more than eight days in any 30-day period must use ELDs.
Finally, any company that is currently using an automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD), or voluntarily chooses to purchase and require drivers to use an AOBRD by December 18, 2017, will be granted an additional two years to become compliant with the ELD regulations.
Just as important as knowing who is exempt, is knowing who is not exempt from the ELD mandate. These include:
- Owner operators
- Small fleets
- Passenger carriers
- Leased/rented trucks
Once it is determined ELDs will be required, businesses should take steps to manage the transition to ELDs. First and foremost, management must embrace the change as a move toward safety, reduced violations, and improved efficiency.
Hold meetings with supervisors to discuss the new requirements and what’s expected. Have them assist in setting up the program from the start, including a written policy. Identify a reputable ELD provider that suits your business needs and can help you through the entire process. And most important, be sure to leave sufficient time before the deadline to get the system installed and working correctly.
After the purchase and installation, it will be necessary to provide training to drivers, mechanics, and administrative staff. Choose personnel with a solid understanding of the current HOS rules and a commitment to the new system.
Expect naysayers and critics. However, through education and management support, most of their concerns will be put to rest. It has been my experience most of the common misnomers are simply not true. For example:
- Drivers will quit if forced to use ELDs? False!
- ELDs will shut down a truck if a driver runs out of hours? False!
- Drivers must have the ability to print from ELDs at roadside? False!
- Trucks cannot be used for personal use or yard time? False!
In fact, after getting familiar with the systems, most drivers prefer the electronic systems to the written logbook. They quickly realize the ease of recording and time-saving benefits derived from ELDs. Some drivers may prefer to use paper logs while learning the new systems as a backup to the ELDs, and this is fine as long as they are also doing electronic logs at the same time.
ELDs are linked directly to a truck’s electronic control module and therefore the data gathered is directly related to vehicle motion and operation (ignition on/off, idle, speed, mileage, braking, etc.).
The ELD records changes to duty status automatically as well as based on driver inputs. For instance, at 3 miles per hour it will automatically change from on-duty status to driving if the driver fails to record the change. When a driver signs on to the unit, it automatically switches from off-duty to on-duty status. At engine shutdown, the ELD automatically switches from driving to on-duty status. It will do the same after six minutes of no vehicle motion. These are built in fail-safes to ensure true and accurate HOS recording and reporting.
What do these systems cost? Just like any electronic device, you can get models and prices across a wide spectrum. There are many different types with everything from dash- mounted models, hand-held models, and cellphone-compatible units. Manufacturers have different designs, purchase programs, and price points.
Most have a per unit purchase cost ranging from $200 to $1000. Most monthly service charges per unit range from a few dollars a month to $50 depending on the plan and depth of data required for your needs.
Be sure to assess your company’s operations and desired level of data reporting before making a purchase. It is also important to know any manufacturers of ELDs are responsible for registering their ELDs and certifying they meet the technical specifications set forth in the ELD rule. ELDs must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, so be sure to check the FMCSA website at https://3pdp.fmcsa.dot.gov/ELD/ELDList.aspx.
In summary, safety is the bottom line and the ELD mandate does not appear to be going away. It was created to improve highway safety while accurately tracking drivers’ hours. It is not a choice, but a mandate. It is critical to make sure both you and your drivers continue to comply with HOS rules.
If you believe you’re exempt from the ELD mandate, be sure you can structure your business practices to legally qualify for the ELD exemptions and examine if you can consistently operate within those parameters on a daily basis. Know you must continue to record and monitor drivers’ hours even if exempt.
If you find you must comply with the ELD mandate, then determine what other applications you can use the data for and how much information you may need (or want) based on the size of your business. Choose a reputable dealer based on customer satisfaction, industry input, and reliability. Ask for live demonstrations. Look for systems that are driver-friendly and easy to operate.
Either way, the holidays and the ELD mandate will be upon us before we know it. Examine the rule, review the exceptions, and make a determination for your company before time runs out.
Tony Verillo owns and operates Vista Transportation Safety Consulting, a private consulting firm dedicated to assisting the trucking and motor coach industries. Before starting his own business, Verillo served as an inspector in the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles for more than 20 years.