By now, most carriers and drivers know they need to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) rather than paper logs to track hours of service (HOS). However, those who have not yet converted over to ELDs face new penalties that can drag down a fleet’s federal safety scores.

In April, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that violations related to ELD regulations found during roadside inspections are now included in the agency’s Safety Measurement System (SMS).

As of April 1, enforcement officers have been placing trucks out-of-service if they do not have an ELD self-certified under the FMCSA standards.

The FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program has a few components, and SMS is one of them. It measures the safety of individual motor carriers by using roadside inspection data (not just out-of-service violations), as well as state-reported crashes, over the past 24 months. Results are measured in seven different categories, known as BASICs, which stands for Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories.

The good news is that ELD-specific violations received before April 1, 2018 will not be counted retroactively in SMS. However, anyone who has received ELD-related violations from April 1 onward will start to see them reflected in their fleet’s CSA and SMS records, which were recently updated per the agency’s usual monthly schedule. An important distinction: hours of service infractions are treated like any other BASICs violations. In other words, being over hours before April 1 remains an SMS-recorded violation, regardless of whether the driver had an ELD in place at the time, or not.

What does this change in policy mean for drivers? It means the FMCSA is treating drivers without an ELD or with a non-functioning ELD the same as those without a written log, according to Warren Hoemann, former FMCSA deputy administrator and now a consultant to PrePass.

“If this happens, you’re in violation of the hours of service rules and it will go against that BASIC under CSA. If you have enough of these violations in your fleet, or you’re an owner-operator [running under your own authority] it will create an alert that causes law enforcement officers to pull in your trucks for an inspection every time you go past a scale, until you show everything has been corrected,” he said.

For trucking operations using weigh station/truck inspection station bypass systems, such as PrePass, this means ELD violations can add up to time spent in line at these facilities, costing time and money.

Hoemann said because an ELD violation is considered the same as an hours-of-service violation, law enforcement and FMCSA consider this a serious offense.

He said all of this is part of the scheduled phase-in of the ELD mandate that began last December, which allowed trucking companies and drivers to get acquainted with the devices during a period of so-called “soft enforcement,” which ended at the start of April 2018.

“Part of that is you not only have to have a functioning ELD that is showing your current 24-hour cycle, it means you have to have the records in the ELD that show the seven previous days,” Hoemann said.

A complete list of the ELD violations and their severity weights is available on the FMCSA’s CSA website.

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