On December 18, 2017, the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate will take effect.

Although most fleets are prepared for the upcoming ELD rule, some of them still have questions. To answer some of those questions, a panel discussion was held at the American Trucking Associations (ATA) Management Conference & Exhibition (MC&E) 2017.

The panel highlighted an important aspect of the ELD mandate.

Many truckers assume that the ELD mandate is changing the hours-of-service rules and regulations. That’s not true. The ELD mandate is only going to enforce the Hours-of-Service rules that already have been in place.

According to the panel, the new ELD mandate will not change the current hours-of-service (HOS) rules. It will, however, affect the way these rules will be monitored and enforced.

Joe DeLorenzo, Office Compliance and Enforcement Director at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), clarified that the ELD mandate is focused on HOS compliance — not reform.

The biggest thing to remember is that it is really still about HOS reinforcement,” says DeLorenzo. “All we’re really doing is moving from paper logs to electronic records.

Executive Director Collin Mooney of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) also affirmed that the HOS enforcement rules would remain untouched by the mandate.

Back in August, the CVSA announced a “phasing-in” enforcement period from December 18, 2017, to April 1, 2018. Within this time window, safety inspectors will cite and fine vehicles without ELDs. However, they won’t be placing vehicles out of service until April 1, 2018.

The phasing-in stage can significantly impact the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) scores prescribed and acknowledged by the FMCSA.

According to DeLorenzo, “The tricky issue with CSA is that the program treats an inspection, an inspection with a warning, and an inspection with a violation, all the same.”

Over half of commercial fleets still don’t have ELDs

Another issue discussed in the MC&E 2017 is drivers and fleets delaying their adoption of ELDs.

In a study published by C.J. Driscoll & Associates, an alarming 60% of commercial fleets are still tracking HOS using paper logs.

That’s a little scary in terms of supply and demand,” says Clem Driscoll — President of C.J. Driscoll & Associates.

The study surveyed a total of 529 fleet operators in the United States. Over a third of the respondents who haven’t transitioned to ELDs said they would do so in the fourth quarter of this year.

When such a large number of truckers simultaneously try to get ELDs, there will be confusion and panic. Industry experts believe that the situation would lead to an ELD supply shortage. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you buy and install ELDs while they are still available.

Other issues tackled during the MC&E panel discussions

In addition to everything mentioned above, the MC&E panel also addressed a number of other issues:

  • Similar to paper logs, the FMCSA also requires ELD entries to have an “annotation” feature. This can be vital for drivers in certain situations, such as noting adverse driving conditions, which allows for two additional hours of driving time.
  • It’s been established that ELDs are not mandatory for vehicles with pre-2000 engines.
  • Under the ELD rule, “personal conveyance” is deemed optional, so carriers may choose whether to allow it or not. When used, the accuracy of GPS tracking is expanded to a 10-mile radius, giving drivers more privacy during the personal use of CMVs.
  • Automatic onboard recording devices, also known as AOBRDs, can still be used until December 16, 2019. After December 16, 2019, AOBRDs will have to be replaced with ELDs.
  • A total of 135 self-certified devices are now included in the FMCSA’s official ELD list. According to DeLorenzo, a case-by-case approach will be implemented when handling revoked certifications.

ELD benefits

In addition to helping carriers with data gathering, there are several other ways fleets and owner-operators can benefit from using ELDs:

1. Less administrative work

Fleet administrators and drivers will have lesser paperwork to deal with as ELDs automatically track and record the movement of vehicles and important pieces of information.

According to estimates made by the FMCSA, drivers, in particular, spend 20 hours annually filling out paper logs and sending their records to their respective carriers. With an ELD, the time spent by drivers doing paperwork is cut by 15 minutes a day. As a result, they will have more time on the road, which can easily translate into higher income for drivers.

2. Easier communication between managers and drivers

Before ELDs were introduced, dispatchers had to make a series of check calls to drivers for updates. During check calls, drivers would often relay their location, their estimated time of arrival, and their remaining drive time (among other things).

This can be very distracting for drivers, and the information is rarely 100% accurate.

With ELDs, however, dispatchers get real-time updates of their drivers’ locations, progress, and estimated time of arrival.

With a modern messaging system with latest features, fleet managers can easily communicate with drivers whenever they need to.

3. Crash prevention

Virginia Tech did a study for the FMCSA analyzing the potential of ELDs to prevent accidents.

Their research showed an 11.7 percent reduction rate in accidents involving drivers who used an ELD, and a marginal reduction rate (5.1 percent) in preventable crashes than trucks that had no ELD.

The FMCSA, for its part, has claimed on its website that ELDs are expected to prevent at least 26 deaths and 562 injuries annually.

4. Faster inspections

When drivers don’t use electronic logs, inspectors consume a lot of time understanding the handwritten papers logs and checking drivers’ records to determine if they’ve been compliant with the HOS rules.

With an ELD, however, everything becomes digital, making it easier for inspectors to review drivers’ records.

As a result, road inspections are completed significantly faster, and drivers can get back on the road sooner.

What’s next?

The message conveyed during the panel discussion is clear: “ELDs can help fleets and owner-operators adhere to the HOS rules.” More importantly, the panel highlighted that ELDs don’t change any of the Hours-of-Service regulations. In fact, the ELD mandate is all about enforcing HOS rules and monitoring drivers’ compliance statuses to improve safety.

With the benefits that ELDs bring, truckers stand to gain from having the device installed in their vehicles. The sooner the devices are installed, the sooner they can enjoy the benefits of using ELDs.

If you are without a compliant ELD, try Motive.

The Motive ELD is FMCSA-registered, easy-to-use, and packed with useful fleet management features.