By: Steve Vaughn, National Director of Field Operations, HELP Inc.

Although the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate is now upon us, many trucking industry professionals remain unprepared. According to an online poll conducted during the first week of December by HELP Inc., the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass services, 49% of the 1,620 respondents said they had yet to purchase an ELD before the deadline. Of those who have not installed an ELD in their vehicles, 68% had no plans to do so before the deadline.

This poll underlines a sentiment that’s been discussed in trucking industry circles in the months leading up to this week’s mandate: some are not clear on the exemptions to the rule, and many operators do not believe they will be subject to penalties for non-compliance. Some plan to wait until it’s closer to April 1, 2018 — when the out-of-service grace period ends.

Between December 18, 2017, and April 1, 2018, drivers who are required to use ELDs to record their hours of service may still be issued a citation during a roadside inspection, but the violation will not count against a carrier’s CSA score.

This policy decision, recently announced by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, follows the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance decision to delay out-of-service actions until the April 1 date.

While this may help ease the transition for those fleets that have yet to make the switch from paper records of duty status to ELDs, it should not be used as an excuse to avoid researching and installing ELDs in your vehicles. This period is intended to allow drivers sufficient time to become comfortable with using the device, and it also provides roadside enforcement with the same benefits.

It is important to remember this is only a temporary reprieve, and citations for failing to comply may still be issued at the discretion of the roadside inspector or at the discretion of the officer’s agency.

If you have not done so yet, now is the time to begin the process of finding the ELD that meshes best with your operation. When selecting an ELD, make sure it is on FMCSA’s registry of devices.

ELD manufacturers were tasked with self-certifying that their device complies with FMCSA requirements before asking that it be added to the registry. FMCSA says ELDs have to automatically record date, time, location, engine hours, vehicle miles as well as information that identify the driver, carrier and vehicle.

And of course, the ELD mandate has no impact on the current HOS regulations. It does not change the number of hours a driver may drive or be on duty and then drive. It only changes the way these hours are recorded. Drivers may still be cited for HOS violations during the implementation period and placed out of service for failing to use either a paper log, AOBRD, ELD, or exceeding the allowable driving hours. Any violation cited during this period will count against a motor carrier’s CSA scores.

As the end of the year approaches, it’s a perfect time to confirm your understanding of the rules and exemptions, and make sure all drivers in your fleet are ready to use ELDs. Of course, that’s if you haven’t already selected and installed the devices. According to the HELP Inc. poll, five out of 10 fleets are prepared and ready for compliance. That’s a strong start, but hopefully the other five won’t wait much longer. It will be required in a matter of days and April will be here before we know it.

** This article was originally published by Fleet Owner and can be viewed here.