The proof and the pudding

by Sandy Johnson

“The proof is in the pudding” is an idiom most people get wrong. The correct saying is “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” meaning you only know something is a success after it’s been tried out or used.

Nothing could be truer for the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate.

There’s been a lot of speculation about how ELDs will affect productivity, compliance, driver job satisfaction, and a host of other issues.

Well, the Dec. 18 deadline is almost here and all we really know is that come hell or high water, the FMCSA seems determined to enforce this rule.

You may not know it, but you’ve been living with the ELD mandate for almost two years, when FMCSA laid out a three-phase compliance rollout for drivers who currently have to keep a logbook to record duty status.

Phase 1: Awareness and transition. This started Feb. 16, 2016, as a period to get familiar with the requirements under 49 CFR 390.5. Carriers and drivers subject to the rule are supposed to have used this time preparing to comply.

Phase 2: Phased-in compliance. This is the two years from Dec. 18, 2017, to Dec. 16, 2019, when carriers and drivers subject to the rule must use automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) that were installed prior to Dec. 18 or self-certified and registered ELDs with FMCSA.

Phase 3: Full compliance. After Dec. 16, 2019, all drivers and carriers subject to the rule must use self-certified ELDs that are registered with FMCSA. Every single truck and driver has to have their ducks in a row.

What have we learned?
Since the proof is in the eating, how does the ELD mandate taste so far?

First, a lot of truckers are exiting the “awareness and transition” phase unprepared. Some are pinning their hopes on a last-ditch effort in Congress to delay the ELD mandate for two years, saying more time is needed to deal with the certification of devices (or lack thereof), connectivity in remote areas, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and the ability of law enforcement to access data. These are all legitimate concerns, but I wouldn’t count on any sort lifeline from Congress right now.

Second, ELD suppliers have come out of the woodwork to promote devices they say will satisfy the requirements. The last time I looked at the list of self-certified ELD vendors, I counted 132—every single one claiming to be the best thing since sliced bread. It’s overwhelming, and choosing the wrong ELD is a costly mistake. Two years ago, FMCSA estimated that the average annual cost of an ELD would be $495 U.S. per truck. Some truckers say the actual figure can be well north of $1,000 for the device not including the cost of maintenance, service contracts, and training.

Third, enforcement officers need more awareness and transition. After Dec. 18, we’re in the phase where an enforcement officer might give you the benefit of the doubt when you get stopped. I’ve heard through the grapevine that until mid-April 2018, no vehicles will be put out-of-service for ELD violations and enforcement will be a slap on the wrist. After that, you can expect out-of-service violations and huge fines.

Of course, ELDs and duty records can affect many layers of enforcement, including fuel tax and other distance-based reporting. At a time when both you and officials are in a period of phased-in compliance, the more you know about ELDs and, in particular, your ELD, the further ahead you’ll be.

With Dec. 18 just weeks away, the ELD pudding won’t be on the stove for much longer. It’s time to set the table and get ready to eat.

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  • “Some truckers say the actual figure can be well north of $1,000 for the device …”
    My guess is these people are comparing solutions that include additional back office opportunities well beyond just the ELD mandate. i.e. Peoplenet, OmniTracs, and Zonar to name a few.