All about ELDs: Expert tips on a transtion strategy

All about ELDs: Expert tips on a transtion strategy

Sandberg warned truckers not to wait until the deadline to get ELDs, pointing out that carriers she's worked with that adopted the older but similar AOBRDs found that doing so took longer than they expected. 

Looking into electronic logging devices, or ELDs, for your operation? Participants in a recent webinar got a chance to hear from a former administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) about the devices and what they'll mean for carriers and drivers, starting with the relevant compliance deadlines.   

Anchoring those deadlines is the date the ELD rule was published: Dec. 16, 2015. With a few exceptions, ELDs must be in place two years from then in commercial motor vehicles in any case where paper driver logs are now required, explained Annette Sandberg, who's now CEO of TransSafe Consulting. She spoke during a Jan. 21 Fleet Owner webinar sponsored by Telogis.

"Any driver that has to fill out a paper log will have to have an electronic logging device," Sandberg said. "That's basically what the rule says."

Motor carriers that are using devices that comply with FMCSA's regulations for automatic onboard recording devices, or AOBRDs — a precursor to ELDs — get an extra two years through Dec. 16, 2019, to have logging devices compliant with the ELD rule in their trucks.


Click here to access the Fleet Owner webinar, "Time to Develop Your ELD Compliance Strategy... and Fast" — don't miss the audience Q&A session included in the second half.


On that note, Sandberg warned truckers not to wait until the deadline to get ELDs, pointing out that carriers she's worked with that adopted the older but similar AOBRDs found that doing so took longer than they expected. "If you wait till the last second, you're going to have a lot of struggles with your drivers and just getting these systems adopted," she contended.

Giving an overview of ELDs, Sandberg said the point of the devices is to capture all the movement of a commercial motor vehicle, including engine start-up and whenever the wheels are moving, to ensure drivers stay within federal hours of service (HOS) requirements. FMCSA determined that ELDs will help avoid a significant number of crashes, prevent injuries and save lives each year, according to Sandberg, and Congress mandated the technology for certain drivers.

"If you think about it, requiring that a driver stay within those federally mandated hours of service makes sense in that it's going to make sure drivers aren't driving fatigued and aren't exceeding those hours," she said.

ELDs don't capture all of a driver's time recorded under HOS regulations, however, and carriers will have to keep supporting documentation for a driver's on-duty, not-driving time, Sandberg noted (more on this later).

Exceptions and ELD leeway

There are several exceptions to the ELD mandate, Sandberg told listeners. Short haul or time card drivers — including CDL drivers operating heavy trucks within a 100 air-mile radius or non-CDL drivers operating smaller commercial motor vehicles within a 150 air-mile radius — are one of those, she said.

However, the exemption only goes so far: if a driver exceeds the service limits for time cards more than 8 days in any "rolling 30-day period," that driver is then required to be using an ELD.

"That'll be a little difficult for companies that have a lot of time card drivers," Sandberg said. "They will have to constantly look at which of their drivers in a rolling 30-day period might exceed that 8-day limit — Jan. 15 to Feb 15 could be a 'rolling 30-day period' — and those drivers would be required to have an ELD in their truck."

Drivers who conduct tow-away, drive away operations also are exempt from ELDs. This exception to the rule is specifically for drivers "where the commodity they're driving is a truck or some other large vehicle; that is the commodity being delivered," said Sandberg. FMCSA carved out these drivers because the purchaser of the commercial vehicle will determine whether an ELD must be installed in that vehicle.

A final exception for ELDs is that they won't have to be used on trucks manufactured before 2000, and Sandberg said that's because those older vehicles' onboard computers don't have all the functionality needed for the devices to work, Sandberg explained.

"There are certain things that an ELD must capture from [the truck's electronic control module]. Because trucks prior to model year 2000 didn't have all those capture items, FMCSA agreed to keep this group out of the rule," she said.

Another key point of the ELD rule is that it doesn't dictate the device type or size of display an ELD can have, which will give ELD manufacturers some room for development. Sandberg explained that an ELD could be run on a smart phone, tablet computer or "some type of in-cab device created specifically for an ELD."

Further, there are two very different types of ELD products that will be allowed, and Sandberg described them as "local transfer" and "electronic transfer" devices. A local transfer device will be connected to the truck but won't be transmitting information online, wirelessly, via telematics, etc. and instead houses all its information; the driver must then turn in a local transfer ELD's records every 13 days, she said, such as having them downloaded at a terminal of the carrier.

An "electronic transfer" ELD — which Sandberg noted is likely closer to what people think of when they picture ELDs — will be connected and able to send information via web service, cellular communications or similar.

Requirements for ELDs

Sandberg described a number of requirements FMCSA specified for ELDs, regardless of what form they take.

• Must be mountable in the truck. Whatever their specific shape or size, ELDs will need to be able to be mounted inside the truck. "That's just simply so it's secure and not sliding across the dash or off the seat, something like that," she quipped.

• Must be able to be passed outside the truck. This requirement relates to law enforcement and other compliance officers. A driver will have to be able to physically hand an ELD outside the truck so that an officer won't have to climb up into the truck to see it, Sandberg explained.

"Whether that means that the cable the ELD is attached to is extra long or it's a smart phone or tablet you can take off a mounting bracket and hand to the officer, that was an important feature they have in the display requirements," she said.

• Must display certain info. Again largely pertaining to law enforcement, FMCSA has specified information that an ELD must show and how it must be displayed to give officers all the relevant data they need. This includes the driver's name, carrier name and address, total engine hours, total miles for each drive period, and if there's been any malfunction in the ELD itself (tampering counts — see below).

• Must be tamper-proof. ELDs must show if they've been unplugged for any reason, according to Sandberg. 

• Must not allow original record to be changed. Related to tampering prevention, an ELD's original drive records must be preserved. If a change to a record is necessary — a driver entered the wrong duty status, for example — annotations can be made to the record afterward.

Also, whether it's a driver or motor carrier official making any changes to an ELD record, that person's initials must be recorded with the change, Sandberg noted.

• Must encrypt data. ELDs will have to keep their information protected/encrypted to help keep it falling into the wrong hands. Some unauthorized person "can't just use a Bluetooth device, for example, and suck the data off an ELD," Sandberg noted.

• Must identify everyone accessing the ELD system. Just as all changes to ELD driver logs will have to be initialed, those who access a carrier's ELD system will need accounts identifying who they are. That means motor carrier managers or others who access the data and the drivers themselves, but it's even more than that.

"Everybody who's going to drive the truck has to have an account, and that includes mechanics and others," she said. "Every drive segment has to be identified as to who made it."

• Must account for all drive time. ELDs must record all drive segments, and if there's any unassigned drive time, it must be accounted for and assigned to a driver.

• Must record engine startup and stop times. ELDs will be connected to the truck's electronic control module and must record whenever an engine is started and stops.

• Must capture location either at change of duty status or at least once an hour while driving. Beyond capturing data related to drive time and commercial vehicle operation, ELDs must be able to record location info and must do so at specified times/intervals.

• Must show start and stop of personal conveyance and yard time. As specified in the ELD rule, FMCSA is considering personal conveyance and yard time in a truck to be off-duty drive segments, Sandberg said, and ELDs must record when these statuses begin and end.

• Must capture certain data elements. These include date and time, location, engine hours and the vehicle identification number. "That's so they can make sure the device is capturing the proper time from the truck that the driver is in," she explained.

• Must make two specific automatic changes of duty status. FMCSA has limited the automatic changes of duty status that ELDs can make to only two, according to Sandberg. Whenever a truck's wheels start rolling, the ELD must switch to "drive" status if not already in it; also, if the truck stops moving for five minutes, the ELD will prompt the driver to see if he or she is still driving.

"The ELD must warn the driver when it gets close to the five-minute mark, and if there's no response, the system will say [something like], 'We're stopped and haven't moved for five minutes — are you still driving?'" she told webinar participants. "It depends how the ELD manufacturer wants to word that, but if the driver doesn't then interact with the device in any way, the device will kick the driver out of 'drive' status and into 'on duty/not driving.'"

Anti-driver harassment provisions

FMCSA included a number of elements in the final rule for ELDs intended to guard against the devices being used to harass drivers. "I think the agency has done a very good job of trying to address that," Sandberg assessed.

For starters, an ELD must have a mute function. A driver will be able to mute the ELD "so that when they go in the sleeper berth, they will not be disturbed," she noted.

Also, ELDs will give drivers "a bit more latitude" when recording personal conveyance, which refers to instances such as a driver operating an unloaded truck from a carrier terminal to his or her home. When the ELD captures a location during an on-duty drive segment, it must record location to within 1 mile, Sandberg explained, but the device will only need to record location within a 10-mi. radius during personal conveyance.

FMCSA specified that ELDs can still capture more needle-accurate GPS location info during personal conveyance, she pointed out. But the devices need only show location within that 10-mi. radius for personal conveyances in the log that would be shown to a law enforcement officer.

Drivers also will have more control over their logs with ELDs than they did with earlier devices like AOBRDs. For example, if a motor carrier wants to make an edit to a driver log — perhaps assigning a driver to an unassigned drive period — the carrier would annotate the particular log segment and have the driver certify the edit.

Notably, the ELD rule does not require the driver in such a situation to certify the change/edit or else the carrier has to remove it, Sandberg said. "It just gives FMCSA or state enforcement the chance to ask questions about why the driver refused to certify that particular log and whether the edit was really proper," she added.

A carrier will be required to keep driver logs for six months, and not only must the carrier request that respective drivers certify changes to the logs, drivers must have access to all their respective logs if they leave the carrier, Sandberg pointed out. In an industry with some of the highest average turnover rates of any, this is likely to come into play quickly with ELDs.

A driver's access to logs could take one of several forms, she explained, depending on how the ELD manufacturer chooses to facilitate it. For instance, a driver could get his or her logs on a USB stick or similar media storage device or could download logs via a secure external website, for instance.

Supporting documentation

Whereas an ELDs' primary function is to record specific data for all on-duty drive time, there are hours outside of that function that factor into HOS requirements. On-duty, not-driving time must be supported with particular documentation.

"Because the ELD is reading the engine and if the wheels are moving, it will capture drive time," Sandberg told listeners. "Supporting documents will help the carrier validate that the driver is properly recording other on-duty time."

FMCSA specified in the final rule that carriers will be required to keep up to eight supporting documents for a driver's on-duty, not driving time for any 24-hour period. Also, the driver must submit supporting documents to the carrier within 8 days after they've been created.

"It's 'up to' eight supporting documents, since not every carrier is going to have eight supporting documents every 24 hours per driver," said Sandberg. "But the agency has said that if you have eight, you have to keep eight."

Supporting documents include bills of lading, which indicate where a load is being picked up and delivered. Dispatch and trip reports can serve as supporting documents, too, as well as expense receipts, according to Sandberg. Supporting documentation can also include payroll documents and mobile communications between the carrier and the driver.

And supporting documents should have specific data elements like the driver's name as well as date, time and location information. "It's important that carriers have a process set up to capture and keep appropriate supporting documents and can match them up to the [driver] logs," Sandberg noted.

That last point — matching documentation to particular logs — is an important one, she added. "You can't just throw all your supporting documents in a big box and if FMCSA comes and asks for them, you say, 'Twenty drivers' supporting documents are in that box somewhere.' It actually needs to be sorted by driver and by day so it matches the logs," she explained.

What's more, if a driver has supporting documents, he or she is required to hand them over if requested by an enforcement officer at the roadside.

ELD certification -- and taking the plunge

With all these requirements for ELDs, how is a carrier to know what product to choose? FMCSA has devised a method for manufacturers to self-certify their ELDs, Sandberg said.

Manufacturers will need to register with FMCSA and provide certain certification materials, and the agency then will list them on its website. Carriers will be able to check the list of certified ELD providers when deciding which products to consider.

Responding to feedback the agency received from law enforcement, FMCSA also will set up a process to de-certify a particular manufacturer's ELD if it is found to be non-compliant with the requirements. "The important thing for motor carriers is that they can only pick an ELD that is on that certified list," Sandberg said, adding, "I also recommend that motor carriers do some additional due diligence."

For example, she said, a carrier might want to ask an ELD manufacturer if the particular device was tested, and what testing protocols were used. "Did you run test data through?" she suggested asking a manufacturer. "Did you check various hours of service rules and things like that? What rules did you include with the device?"

On that point, Sandberg noted that states may have their own HOS requirements in additional to federal ones. A carrier should check that an ELD product covers all the rules needed for its operations, she advised. The carrier might also consider inquiring about an ELD manufacturer's self-certification documentation and the process the manufacturer went through to ensure the ELD meets the necessary requirements.

"Keep in mind, if by chance FMCSA decertifies an ELD manufacturer and you picked that device — maybe it was the cheapest one — you're going to have to change out your system and go find another that is actually certified," she told listeners. "So it's important that carriers do some additional due diligence."

As further recommendations, Sandberg said carriers should get educated on the types of ELDs available and what will best meet their needs. Fleets should also check that the back-office system that goes along with a given ELD has the right stuff.

"It's not just how the data gets captured. If you have 500 drivers you have to manage, you'll want to have the ability to look at the data in the back office and sort quickly which drivers have the worst problems, which have minor violations and so on so you can begin to target [those problems] and triage appropriately," she explained.

FMCSA has a good deal of ELD information available on its website at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/electronic-logging-devices and plans to update it on an ongoing basis, and Sandberg suggested that fleets check back often.

"We've got some time before you have to have an ELD in your truck," she said during the webinar, advising fleets to take advantage of that time to make an informed choice about the product they ultimately will use.

Following her presentation, Sandberg ran through a number of questions submitted from the audience. Check out the free archived webinar at http://event.on24.com/r.htm?e=1116621&s=1&k=7323A75C259C3786B0A627967E161C3F to listen. 

 

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