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Electronic Logging Devices - The New ELD Requirement

Jul 26, 2016

Commercial drivers have been required to maintain detailed paper logs since 1938. However, in December, 2015 the FMCSA issued a new mandate requiring Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). This new mandate requires that ELDs replace paper logs by December 2017, which allows only 2 years for drivers to be in compliance.

ELD-Truck Driver Photo.jpgELDs are intended to simplify logging of key information, help enforce compliance of the complex HOS (hours of service) rules, increase safety on the roads as well as provide other benefits. ELDs will automatically track driving time, engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information.

Primary Mandate Components 

There are 4 major components to the mandate:

1. The ELD Mandate: The requirement that commercial drivers who presently use paper log books switch to ELDs within two years. It is estimated by FMCSA that roughly 3 million drivers will be affected.

2. Rules prohibiting driver harassment: Procedural and technical provisions designed to protect commercial truck and bus drivers from harassment from information generated by ELDs or through the ELD itself

3. Technical specifications: Detailed performance and design requirement for ELDs so that manufacturers produce compliant devices and systems. These specs will also allow purchasers to make educated selections as well.

4. Supporting documentation requirements: Although ELDs will result in paperwork reductions there will still be requirements for retention of supporting documentation to verify on-duty driving time. 

Possible Negative Consequences

Potential drawbacks of the new ruling are:

  • Costs related to the device, installation and software
  • The learning curve that drivers, dispatchers, fleet operators and enforcement personnel will experience before and after any needed training is completed. Drivers will also need to learn how to trouble-shoot the devices as issues with them are encountered.
  • A feeling of lost privacy by drivers since the devices use GPS tracking to log their every move. While they’re on duty, the devices will track their location within a one-mile radius, and when they’re off duty it will track them within a 10-mile radius. 

Anticipated Positive Consequences

According to FMCSA, the largest takeaway of the ELD rulemaking is that it would ultimately reduce HOS violations by making it more difficult for drivers to misrepresent their time on logbooks and avoid detection by FMCSA and law enforcement personnel. Based on an analysis, it will help reduce crashes by fatigued drivers and prevent approximately 20 fatalities and 434 injuries per year for an annual safety benefit of $394.8 million.

Other benefits of the ELD mandate include:

  • Decreased paper work for drivers saving more duty time for driving and other tasks.
  • Reduced planning time for carriers, allowing them to have real time visibility into drivers’ HOS status.
  • Simplify or eliminate auditing of paper records for carriers.
  • Increase compliance and reduce violations, as paperwork errors will be markedly reduced.
  • Improve load distribution accuracy.
  • Easier than manual documentation

Other Concerns About the Mandate

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) filed a petition with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals stating that the regulation is an outrageous intrusion in the rights of professional truckers and would encourage harassment of drivers. The mandate includes very specific rules prohibiting driver harassment through the device and stiff penalties for violating these rules. The specs also require that there be a mute functionality to eliminate messaging alerts to drivers that are off-duty during rest periods. Any allowed edits to documented information through the devices may only be completed by drivers, as well. It is uncertain at this point what the outcome of this petition will be. 

In summary, the benefits of Electronic Logging Devices appear to outweigh the drawbacks. Driver safety, and by extension the safety of the general motoring public, are key objectives of this mandate. Any reasonable regulatory mandate that improves the safety of motorists is perceived to be beneficial overall!