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

Most of us have heard the strong industry reactions to the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, which takes effect on December 18, 2017. Many drivers and carriers are worried about its financial impact on their businesses, and there remains some confusion regarding its implementation. There are some crucial things to know:

First, the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate has no effect on Hours of Service rules. The ELD itself is just a means of tracking drivers’ hours but does not change the number of hours a driver is allowed to drive. ELDs are an electronic way to capture data that was previously captured on paper, and will record all duty statuses.

Carriers may continue to use currently installed automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) until December 16, 2019, but after that time they are required to switch to ELDs. While AOBRDs can capture data on miles driven, engine use and speed, the new ELDs automatically monitor additional information such as change of duty status, engine off/on changes and driver identification, and it is not possible to edit driving time as it could be with AOBRDs.

Second, any driver who currently is required to keep paper logs of Hours of Service is subject to the new ELD rule. As short-haul drivers were not required to complete and submit logs, they are not subject to the ELD rule — as long as they do not exceed any part of the short-haul exemption more than eight times in 30 days.

In fact, the exemptions to the ELD rule are:

  • Drivers who use paper logs for not more than eight days out of every 30-day period;
  • Drivers of vehicles [with engines] manufactured before 2000; and
  • Driveaway-towaway operations (when an empty motor vehicle with one or more sets of wheels on the surface of the roadway is being transported).

As for vehicles used for personal conveyance, they are in a special driving category. Long-time guidance to the regulations has acknowledged that a driver may use a regulated commercial vehicle during off-hours. For example, when a driver completes his workday he/she can operate the unladen vehicle as means to access necessities (hotel, food, etc.) or even use the commercial vehicle as transportation to and from home.

The regulation allows the carrier to configure the ELD to authorize a driver to account for this time as personal use. This also applies to driving time while a driver is completing in-yard moves where a driver is off the highway and the time is being recorded as on-duty/not driving time with an annotation of yard movement. To make sure this takes effect, the driver must manually indicate both special driving conditions before the vehicle goes into motion.

For any operation that is not exempt from the regulation, the next challenge is finding and installing ELD devices in all vehicles prior to the December deadline. There are numerous ELDs on the market, so use care when choosing the best one for your operation.

Devices must be self-certified and registered with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. When stopped for a roadside inspection, if the ELD appears on the FMCSA list, the law enforcement official will accept it as a valid ELD. The driver is responsible for understanding how the device works and have in his/her possession a user’s manual describing how to operate the device, how to transfer information to a safety official and procedures in case of malfunctions.

The driver must also have a sufficient amount of paper grid graph logs in order to record a minimum of eight days in case a device malfunctions. If there is a problem transferring data, the device must also have a back-up mechanism. The device shall either display or print the required information.

In addition to the ELD rule, an accompanying rule has been announced by the FMCSA describing the requirements of supporting documents.

In the meantime, make sure the ELD you select is on the approved list, begin installing them, and take time to train your drivers on their proper use. If done correctly, using an ELD could end up making your operation more efficient and keep everyone on the road a little safer.

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