Welcome to the land of ELD confusion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The early days of enforcing a U.S. mandate for electronic logging devices (ELDs) have been marred by confusion over the workings of individual devices and more.

Kerri Wirachowsky, director of the roadside inspection program for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), refers to the example of one fleet that had installed Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) last February.


At first glance that device should be accepted, because it was installed before the mandate took hold on Dec. 18, and would be legal until Dec. 16, 2019. The problem is that the user hadn’t been able to reach the supplier to upload the related hours of service functions, she said during the Omnitracs Outlook user conference. That meant a ticket, and more frantic calls to the supplier.

“The inspectors are confused with this too,” she said of the AOBRD requirements. “It’s not the hardware, it’s the software.”

It’s hardly the only source of confusion, and there are still plenty of questions to answer.

The alliance’s driver-traffic enforcement committee meets in Portland, Ore., this April to discuss the underlying out of service criteria. One of the issues to be covered is how long a truck will be out of service if an ELD violation is recorded. It’s currently set at 10 hours.

Then there’s the matter of what happens if cellular connectivity isn’t available. “The inspector cannot write the charge for not transferring [data] until they can determine the connection is valid,” Wirachowsky explained. But drivers and enforcement teams might be operating with different cell phone providers. Where one device’s signal registers, another might not. “I think they will probably have to develop further guidance on that,” she said.

Questions aside, full enforcement of the mandate begins April 1. As of that date, vehicles are out of service if:

  • they use an unauthorized advice that is not registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
  • a driver can’t produce and transfer data electronically to an authorized safety official, or produce the output via a display or printout.
  • drivers have an AOBRD and can’t display or provide the Records of Duty Status.
  • a driver indicates they’re using a special driving category when not involved in that activity.

There had been some question about whether carriers were already facing harsher penalties than they should. Inspectors who are writing up an ELD violation prior to April 1 are supposed to reference a special 392.22a code. That’s important because it separates ELD issues from other hours of service violations and won’t affect a CSA rating. “They’re basically just documenting the violation,” Wirachowsky said.

At first glance, CVSA itself wondered if the code was being recorded. But the codes are being entered, she insisted. “It was getting filtered into the vehicle violation data. It was in there and it was kind of lost.”

Not everyone requires the devices, of course. The ELDs are not required among those who don’t require logs entries for more than eight days in 30 days, if the driven truck is part of a shipment (like new saddle-mounted vehicles), or if the model year of the engine is older than 2000.

The model year requirement is leading owner-operators to invest in glider kits, Wirachowsky added. “They can if they want. The exemption is there.”

Waivers also apply to the Truck Renting and Leasing Association, United Parcel Service, and Motion Picture Association of America. And 90-day temporary waivers have been issued to those who transport agricultural commodities, and those integrating PeopleNet ELD system updates.

Fleets have the power to solve many issues, she said, referring to the value of keeping any applicable waiver information in a truck cab.

“Print it off, put it in the cab, tell the driver,” she said. “If [the waiver] is extended, recopy it and shove it back in so they can see the start and end date.

“It’s helpful to you guys to give an inspector what they need at roadside,” she added.

So, too, does Wirachowsky recommend equipping cabs with information for the specific device found inside, whether it’s an AOBRD or ELD.

The information required in the cab includes a user manual describing how to operate the ELD, an instruction sheet for producing and transferring data, and an instruction sheet for reporting malfunctions and record-keeping procedures during malfunctions. This can be electronic in nature, she added.

“Drivers are producing all kinds of stuff roadside. They don’t know what they’ve got,” Wirachowsky said. “Tell the driver what to point out, because if the inspector can figure out what they’re looking at, that’s step one.”


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

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