FMCSA Proposes Rule for Electronic Driver Logs

by Oliver Patton

ARLINGTON, VA — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a regulatory proposal requiring interstate commercial truck and bus companies to use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) in their vehicles to improve compliance with the driver hours of service (HOS) standards.

The 256-page proposal spells out how the devices should work and sets requirements to ensure that electronic logs are not used to harass drivers.

Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, carriers, drivers and anyone else will have two months to submit comments. After the agency reviews the comments and publishes a final rule, perhaps later this year, carriers will have two years to comply.

The technical details

The basic requirement is for the device to record information such as date, time, location, engine hours, mileage and driver, vehicle and carrier identification and to make it available to inspectors.

The driver will be identified by his license number and the state where his license is issued.

The device has to be synchronized with the engine, to record on/off status, the truck’s motion, mileage and engine hours and will have to automatically record a driver’s change of duty and hourly status while the truck is moving. It also must track engine on/off, and the beginning and end of personal use or yard moves.

The agency is proposing that the devices use automatic positioning services, including either satellite-based Global Positioning Systems or land-based systems, or both.

The agency will not require the devices to print out the log, but it is offering that as an option. It says the device will have to produce a graph grid of a driver’s daily duty status, either on a digital display unit or on a printout. This is the first time the agency has proposed using a printer, and it’s looking for comments on the costs and benefits of that approach.

Many carriers now have onboard information systems that warn the driver when he’s approaching his hourly limits, but the agency is not requiring that capability in its proposal.

The primary communications method will be wireless web services, Bluetooth 2.1 or email. The backup will be wired USB 2.0 or scannable Quick Response code.

To guard against tampering, the device must not allow changes in original information about the driver’s records or in the source data streams that provide the information. It also must be able to check the integrity of the information.

Also, the device must be able to monitor and record compliance for malfunctions and inconsistencies.

Beyond the tech specs

The agency is proposing that the devices be certified by the manufacturer, and that certified devices be registered on the FMCSA website to make it easier for carriers to shop.

The agency projects net annual benefits of about $454 million, based on an average annual cost of about $495 per truck for the device and services. It based its calculations on Qualcomm’s MCP 50 system, describing it as an appropriate example of the current state-of-the-art device, although it looked at other products as well.

Among the benefits are reduced paperwork costs for carriers, as well as 1,425 fewer truck crashes and 20 fewer fatalities a year, the agency said.

The supporting documents portion of the proposal eliminates the requirement that carriers keep paper that verifies driving time, since the electronic log takes care of that.

It retains the requirement that carriers keep a variety of documents, ranging from bills of lading, dispatch records, expense receipts or payroll records.

To protect drivers from harassment, the agency is proposing that when the driver has indicated he’s in the sleeper berth the device is either muted or turned down so the carrier can’t interrupt his rest. Also, the driver would have to approve any changes the carrier makes in the driver’s data.

For more on this story, read the full truckinginfo article here. 

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