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Most drivers and businesses should now be aware of the impending new regulations that all commercial truck drivers will have to adhere to. These regulations concern the use of electronic logging devices, also known as ELDs, on trucks. After first coming up with the idea in 2000, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued its final ruling on the use of electronic logging devices in late 2015, and most operators have been mindful of it ever since. For several years, making the use of ELDs’ compulsory was blocked by the federal courts. It was 2012 before Congress passed a bill requiring a mandate for most commercial trucks to use ELDs.
Since last December, most independent operators and larger fleets have had two years to implement the changes. Many of the larger operators were already using them as the information they provide is useful to businesses as well as ensuring they are legally compliant.
Federal regulators hope that these changes will lead to drivers taking more frequent breaks and a reduction in the overall level of fatigue. They are also designed to make it much more difficult to cheat the existing rules regarding what drivers can and can’t do on the road. The industry has not been happy about the new regulations, especially independent owner-operators and small carriers who generally still use paper logs. It sees them as burdensome and awkward, but in reality, they are a much simpler way of recording a truck’s drive time.
Most road trucking companies will soon be required to use electronic logging devices in their fleet if they aren’t present already. It is important for all commercial haulage businesses to understand what the e–log mandate is and what it will mean for them.
What is an Electronic Logging Device?
An electronic logging device is not as large as it sounds. It is a small piece of equipment that is installed in the truck to record the vehicle’s drive time. Some unscrupulous operators let their drivers drive on the roads for longer than they should be for their own safety and that of other motorists. The rules say that:
- Drivers may be on the road for a maximum of 11 hours after at least 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- They may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- If a driver is on the road for 60/70 hours over a period of 7/8 consecutive days, they must have some off-duty time and should not be behind the wheel of a truck.
With paper logs, it is simple to adjust the hours to suit. However, that can be dangerous as if a driver falls asleep while driving a truck, they could cause a very nasty accident and are putting lives at risk.
An ELD will help to prevent this from happening, as it will record the drive time of a vehicle accurately. This will help to make the roads safer and will be better for the health of the drivers. They are also less time-consuming than completing logs manually.
The Advantages of an ELD
For businesses, drivers will no longer be able to claim they have worked more hours than they really have. The FMCSA estimates that drivers using manual logs spend 20 hours a year completing them, time for which they have to be paid while their vehicle is not moving. Vehicles that are not moving cost the operator money, and ELD’s should help to make them more profitable. With paper logs, drivers round their stop time to the nearest 15 minutes, where the ELDs will record their stop time to the nearest minute. Roadside inspections should be quicker, meaning less time will be wasted while the driver deals with the inspectors.
They can also have GPS attached to them, so the operator will be able to track a vehicle at all times. This will save the operators time in having to call drivers to find their exact location at any point in the day or night.
When Do These Regulations Apply?
For most trucking businesses, these regulations are already in place. The rules went into effect on February 16th, 2016, which marked 60 days from the rule being placed in the federal register. December 18th, 2017 was the compliance date, which is when drivers and carriers were legally required to have electronic logs in their vehicles.
However, trucking businesses that use the older automatic on-board recording devices were given an additional two years to complete the transition. These drivers will need to be compliant and replace their AORDs with ELD devices by December 16th, 2019.
There are some fleets who will be exempt from the new regulations and will not have to comply with the ELD requirements. For example, any commercial trucks produced before the year 2000 are exempt from the requirements. Regional and local carriers whose area of operations does not extend more than 100 miles from their terminals will also be exempt. Finally, the tow-away and drive away businesses that are used to transport the trucks from factories to places of business or dealerships will also be exempt.
In order to be compliant with the rule, the electronic logging device installed in any truck must be able to transfer information in one of two ways. Either through Bluetooth and USB 2.0 or through email and internet services. The electronic locking devices must also provide a printout of the requested data or display it visibly during a roadside inspection. In other words, the ELD must be able to give a reading, even if there is no internet connection. Lots of businesses are unhappy about the extra financial burden that these devices will place on them. However, there are also many groups who are supportive of the move, including a large number of the drivers themselves. More accurate data about how a trucker is expected to work, and the corporate cultures that exist, is important in understanding the challenges that face the industry today.