ORLANDO, Fla. — Roadside enforcement officers will be prepared to enforce the U.S. electronic logging device (ELD) mandate that comes into effect Dec. 18, and don’t expect a “soft enforcement” period.
That was the message from Collin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), who was addressing the ELD mandate at the American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference & Exhibition Oct. 21.
“On Dec. 18, enforcement begins,” he warned. “We will be writing violations, citations, and warnings. There is no delayed enforcement – we are not using the term soft enforcement at all.”
The CVSA has indicated it won’t place drivers out-of-service for violating the ELD rule until Apr. 1, 2018, but Mooney cautioned this is being done to allow CVSA to better understand the industry’s readiness for the new rule, it’s not a postponement of enforcement.
“This will give us a handle on what this will look like, how big a problem this is,” Mooney said. “There is a way for us to track this within our current inspection selection process, so hopefully when Apr. 1 rolls around, a lot of fears will subside that we are not placing the whole industry out-of-service for ELD non-compliance.”
Virtually all Canadian fleets operating in the U.S. will have to use electronic logs beginning Dec. 18. Anyone requiring a paper record of duty status today will need to use either a current generation automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD), or an ELD that meets the new technical standard. Only AOBRDs currently in use will be allowed beyond Dec. 18, for a two-year grandfather period. Fleets can continue using these systems on existing capacity, but can’t install them in added capacity.
The only exemptions will go to: drivers operating within a 100 air mile radius; drivers who are required to prepare record of duty logs for no more than eight days during any 30-day period; drivers conducting drive-away/tow-away operations; or those driving trucks with engines manufactured before the model year 2000.
Joeseph Delorenzo, director, Office of Enforcement and Compliance with the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), reminded fleets that come Dec. 18, they’ll have but two options: to continue operating AOBRDs that were installed prior to that date, or to run ELDs. It’s up to ELD providers to self-certify their devices with the FMCSA, which then includes them on an online registration site.
“It’s important that if you are a new user and purchasing (an ELD) that you have a conversation with the vendor about what they have done and how it fits with your operation,” Delorenzo warned, adding there were 135 devices listed on the FMCSA website as of the week of Oct. 16. “I’d ask questions about self-certification so if you’re making a purchasing decision, you’re making a good choice.”
While it may seem late to be shopping for an ELD, Jim Ward, president and CEO of U.S. fleet D.M. Bowman, said he believes many fleets are not yet ready for the impending rule.
“I was in a meeting this week with several fleets and when I asked how many of them were using some sort of ELD, about a third of the people in the room raised their hands. There’s a very short time period right now to effect change going forward,” Ward said.
At D.M. Bowman, Ward admitted there was some initial pushback from drivers, but that subsided when they saw the productivity gained by using e-logs.
“If there is a way to be able to do something more productively and more efficiently and save some time, they’re going to use it,” he said. “The hours-of-service hasn’t changed – just the way we’re monitoring it has changed. They started to realize we were using data to be better planners of their day, so long-term they benefited from the use of the data and they saw that as a very nice benefit.”
A side benefit, according to Ward, is that the company was better able to demonstrate to shippers and receivers that held up drivers and equipment that this was choking productivity.
“We average 6.8 to 7.2 hours of drive time in our fleet,” he said. “This is a huge opportunity to get working with the shipper community (to reduce delays). When you can get good data, people will listen to you and improve the system. The supply chain will get better as a result of what we’re doing.”
Concerns remain, however, about the enforcement community’s readiness for the new rule. There are two options to transfer e-log data to an enforcement officer: using telematics, such as web-based services and e-mail; or local connections such as Bluetooth or an encrypted USB drive.
“I think in the overwhelming majority of cases, we’re going to be looking at web-based services,” said Delorenzo. “It’s the fastest, cleanest, easiest one for us to work with.”
He said the log inspection process will be faster, which will also benefit drivers as they’ll spend less time at roadside having their paper logbooks scrutinized.
Mooney addressed the issue of enforcement community readiness, by assuring fleets that enforcement officers will be fully trained by Dec. 18. A number of three-day train the trainer sessions are currently being held across the U.S. Those trainers will return to their jurisdictions and then train all other inspection personnel, Mooney explained.
“By Dec. 18, most, if not all, will be trained,” he insisted.
The enforcement representatives also took issue with any idea that the ELD mandate will take flexibility away from drivers.
“A lot of folks are tying the ELD to the hours-of-service rules themselves,” said Mooney. “All violations we find at roadside will be documented on roadside inspection reports. A number of folks in the industry refer to that as their wiggle room. Technically, there never was wiggle room.”
Mooney pointed out that as with paper logs today, annotations can be made to point out exceptional circumstances (ie. having to exceed drive time because of unforeseen bad weather). Asked what will happen if an ELD on the FMCSA’s list of self-certified devices is found not to comply, Delorenzo said those instances will be managed on a case by case basis. But he’s hopeful most shortcomings will be able to be rectified remotely with a software update.
“If it can’t be done, if the vendor goes out of business, those things are going to have to be addressed on a case by case basis,” he said. “Each one is going to have to be done differently, depending on what the situation is, how many there are out there – those we’ll handle as they come up.”
While there remains some unanswered questions and concerns about the impending ELD mandate, Ward said fleets should benefit from the transition to ELDs in the long run.
“It’s been a good experience for us,” he said. “And it has had a very positive effect on us, from a safety perspective.”