Clock is ticking toward U.S. ELD mandate

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ORLANDO, FL – Electronic Logging Devices (ELD’s) are on track to be mandated in the U.S. on December 18, as regulators finalize the underlying systems and prepare to relegate paper logbooks to the trash bin of history.

“Hours of Service hasn’t changed. Hours of Service enforcement is not going to change,” stressed Joe DeLorenzo, director – office of enforcement and compliance at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), during a presentation at the American Trucking Associations’ annual meeting.

But requirements around the way workdays are tracked clearly will change.

Once the deadline day arrives, enforcement teams will begin issuing violations, warnings, and citations to those who run afoul of the rules. Out-of-Service penalties will be added to the list on April 1, 2018.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) begins train the trainer sessions in the next week, with state representatives diving into the technologies for three days. Most if not all of the training that these trainers conduct will be completed by the deadline day, said Collin Mooney, executive director.

The CVSA has canvassed all states, and only a couple are still completing the underlying legislation. Both are on track to have the rules in place by December 18. “They’re going to be ready,” Mooney said.

Once the deadline arrives, the unblinking ELD’s will begin tracking Hours of Service violations by the minute. “Technically there’s never been wiggle room,” Mooney observed, noting that all violations found at the roadside will be documented.

DeLorenzo said FMCSA won’t be concerned by one violation in a day, perhaps 15 minutes here or there, but multiple violations will trigger compliance reviews.

Vendors have already certified 135 devices as meeting the ELD standards, and a “bunch” of new ones are coming, he said. “There’s quite a variety to choose from.”

Since the equipment is “self-certified” – meaning that vendors are the ones who say whether a device complies with the rules – it’s important to ask questions when spec’ing an ELD, DeLorenzo said. A recently introduced online file validator, for example, can identify any problems with the data being transmitted. “It’s a pretty straight upload process and will kick back a report,” he added, challenging reports that have suggested there have been problems with the system. But many devices were also self-certified before that tool was even available.

Mooney is sure there will be a “couple” of ELDs that don’t comply. But regulators believe most issues will be addressed with software patches rather than requiring the equipment to be rejected outright.

Like any rule, there are exceptions. Those who operate within a 160-kilometer radius and don’t require a logbook today, for example, won’t need and ELD. Occasional drivers required to prepare a Record of Duty Status for eight or fewer days in any 30-day period can also stick with paper, said DeLorenzo. “You do not want to figure this out on Day 8,” he warned of the latter rule. “You need to be thinking about how you’re going to be managing your runs.”

Paper logs can still be used for trucks that are rented for eight days or less, aligning that with the time allowed if an ELD malfunctions. “You can’t do multiple eight-day pieces in a row,” DeLorenzo said. “Beyond that, the driver needs to be on an ELD.”

Paper logs are also going to be accepted in trucks that have pre-2000 Model Year engines.

It’s not the only way that older equipment will be considered. Existing Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRD’s) will be grandfathered until December 16, 2019. They can also be moved into different trucks as long as the vehicles aren’t adding to a fleet’s overall capacity. Any additional trucks will require a device that meets the ELD standards.

If drivers end up moving from a truck that has an ELD into another truck that has an AOBRD, meanwhile, there are other steps to follow. “One way or the other, whether it’s a printed copy or edited into the ELD, make sure your driver has the previous seven days [of logs],” DeLorenzo said. There is no option to hand write logs and reconstruct the Hours of Service.

At the roadside, ELD data will be transferred by the web or email, or uploaded through a Bluetooth link or USB key. “In an overwhelming majority of cases we’re going to be looking at web services in the way that data is transferred,” DeLorenzo added. That web-based transfer service was officially opened a few days ago and will be tested in coming weeks.

 “As we get everybody used to this process of electronic transfer, not only is it going to improve the accuracy of the inspection, but also I think it’s going to improve the speed,” he said. If all else fails, the ELD is expected to have a display screen or printout.

Officers will give drivers a code to transfer the data, and the file will be accessed, looking much like the Electronic Record of Duty Status pages seen today.

“It’s also very important for drivers to know what they have,” he said, referring to the way data can be transferred. “The more your driver knows, the easier that inspection will go.”

The rules don’t require drivers to let enforcement officers walk away with the devices, DeLorenzo said, answering a question from one carrier. He suggested training drivers to step out of the truck and hold the display to show the screen to officers.

Drivers will also have the chance to reject unassigned miles that were driven by someone else, such as a mechanic. Fleet notes at the back end can identify who actually moved the truck at those times. A so-called UPS exemption has addressed operations where different drivers may be moving the trucks around a facility. It’s now possible to count all the miles in a specific location as yard moves.

Compliance reviews are expected to change as well, with officials asking for an electronic transfer of Hours of Service data before an investigation begins. “It allows us some efficiency in terms of checking those records, DeLorenzo said.

Another “fairly significant” change is in the supporting documents like bills of lading and expense receipts needed to verify logs, DeLorenzo said. With ELD’s verifying accuracy on their own, there needs to be no more than eight of the documents per 24-hour duty period. They should include documents issued close to the beginning and end of the day, he added, and toll records don’t count toward the eight-document total. The documents must also be retained for six months and submitted within 13 days.

The mandate is clearly at the top of mind. It was the top industry issue identified in a 2016 survey by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). Jim Ward, president and Chief Executive Officer of the DM Bowman fleet, says that he can’t get through 10 emails before coming across the offer of a webinar to discuss the new rule.

“It’s a huge impact on a number of small businesses,” Ward said, referring to how 91% of U.S. carriers have six trucks or less.

But he’s been using electronic logs since 2011.

“It’s been a good experience for us,” he said. “What we know as a supply chain will get better with what we’re doing.”

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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