ArkInspect6 Photo: Rusty Hubbard/Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Dept.

Looking ahead to ELD enforcement issues

FMCSA also plans to overhaul “personal conveyance” guidelines where hours-of-service status is concerned.

Fresh off the implementation of the highly-controversial electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, changes are already being contemplated to it, especially where “personal conveyance” or the personal use of a commercial motor vehicle by a driver is concerned.

On top of that, experts warn that staying compliant with the ELD rule will require drivers and motor carriers alike to pay closer attention to items such as supporting documents, instructional materials, and especially “form and manner” details when logging on- and off-duty status with the devices.

“The shipment ID number and trailer number, where applicable, are both required elements and you need to manually enter them unless your ELD is integrated into a transportation management,” John Seidl, a transportation consultant and account executive with Integrated Risk Solutions, explained during a conference call this week hosted by Stifel Capital Markets.

“If you don’t, you will get cited for a form and manner violation,” he explained. “You also need to keep instruction cards and a blank set of logbooks on the truck. This has been a requirement since 1988. But if you are using an AOBRD [automatic onboard recording device] the instruction cards are different compared to an ELD – and if you fail to change the instruction card you will be cited for that.”

When it comes to “personal conveyance” and “yard moves,” Seidl said the basic guidance offered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is changing.

Under previous guidance, he noted that a driver could only use “personal conveyance” of a commercial motor vehicle under three conditions: they only traveled a short distance; they were not working; and their vehicle was “unladen” with freight, meaning a tractor-trailer is empty of freight

Under new guidance proposed in the federal register, the “short distance” and “unladen” requirements would go away; whether or not it's laden or unladen with freight would no longer be relevant. Instead, FMCSA would focus on what the “purpose” of the vehicle movement is – and if it's solely for the driver's benefit and not for the movement of goods, then it would considered “personal conveyance.”

“Yard moves” is another tricky area, noted Seidl, because the government “has not specifically defined what a yard is.” He noted that motor carriers have submitted comments to the FMCSA requesting that the agency define the nature of a “yard” in the regulations, and not in its guidance, so there is a more “uniform understanding” as to when drivers can record it in their electronic logs.

When it comes to enforcement of the ELD mandate, Siedl – who served a goodly number of years with the Wisconsin State Patrol as a motor carrier inspector – reiterated that the industry is now in a period of “soft enforcement” and inspectors won’t place drivers or vehicles out-of-service for violating the ELD rule until April 1, 2018.

He added that having a false ELD or no record of duty status via an ELD after April 1 will result in a driver and their vehicle being placed out of service for 10 consecutive hours.

However that doesn’t mean failure to comply with the ELD rule won’t have consequences over the next three and half months, he warned.

“Here is the effect: drivers will get citations for not having an ELD and some states will write tickets and some won’t,” Siedl emphasized.

The states set their own fines for violations, too, he stressed, meaning tickets could cost anywhere from “a couple hundred bucks” to “over a thousand” for not having an ELD, instructional materials, supporting documents, and blank logbooks.

“Some states rely on the revenues” from such fines to fund various highway safety programs as well, Sield added: “I’m not so sure they suspend them until April 1.”

He also pointed out that trucking company insurance underwriters will see such tickets and will care a lot about them, as well. “And litigators will care, too. If you are cited 52 times for not having an ELD and you are in a crash, you are potentially liable,” Siedl warned. “So a lot of things can hurt carriers and drivers if you do not put them [ELDs] in.”

When it comes to enforcement of the ELD rule, here’s is what he thinks will become the most problematic violation issues for motor carriers and drivers alike:

  • Visibility of ELD data at the roadside
  • ELD malfunctions and data diagnostic events
  • Personal conveyance and yard moves
  • Form and Manner
  • Lack of instruction card and/ or supply of blank paper logbooks

If an ELD malfunctions, a lot of work will need to be completed in short order, Siedl emphasized:

  • If the ELD fails to work, a driver must immediately complete a paper log.
  • The driver must also provide logs for each of the past seven days by either re-constructing the logs on paper immediately, possessing data from the logs, or getting access to ELD data via the device or via his or her company.
  • ELDs must be repaired within eight days or be granted an FMCSA extension for repairs.
  • Important note: so-called “data diagnostic events” need correction but do not rise to the level of an ELD malfunction.
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