As of December 18, 2017, the age-old practice of truck drivers manually tracking their work hours and rest hours has faded into history. U.S. law states that all truck drivers must use an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) to maintain hours of service record. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) made the announcement earlier in December 2015, allowing a two-year grace period for carriers and drivers to comply with the new regulation.
An ELD tracks the number of hours a driver was on duty based on a number of factors such as GPS locations, engine hours, miles traveled and even vehicle movement. Approximately three million truck drivers are expected to come under the new law.
Why the new regulation is important?
The practice of keeping work hours and rest hours – often referred to as “hours of service” – started in the early 1930s. This data was used to decide payment amounts number of on-duty hours, and status on change of duty etc. The regulation was first implemented by the FMCSA to ensure that drivers are getting enough rest between and during shifts.
The main objective of the initiative was to prevent mishaps due to driver fatigue from long shift hours and lack of proper rest. As per this study, driver fatigue accounts for more than 13% of the road accidents. Therefore, it is important to ensure proper rest for drivers to reduce fatigue related accidents.
The use of paper logs made it easy for both drivers and motor carriers to manipulate the data. With the introduction of e-logs, that possibility is completely eradicated as the machine collects data not only through manual inputs but from location activation, vehicle movement, and meter reading, as well. The reliability in data guarantees that drivers are properly rested following a healthy shift.
An earlier attempt to mandate ELDs was made in 2012 but eventually was turned down citing possible driver harassment by carriers. However, the updated rule considers any driver harassment as illegal and ensures the drivers’ safety through penalties and fines.
As per the new regulation, using an ELD and its information to interrupt the driver’s off-duty time would be termed as driver harassment. However, the law would only consider harassments that involve the use of ELD information. For instance, it would be considered as harassment if a driver is forced to work during rest hours.
Another important feature of an ELD is, it offers minimum edit to both drivers and carriers. Earlier, the carriers had more power to manipulate the data and take unilateral decisions such as violation of hours of service. The new ELD regulations empower drivers with more authority. For example, there is a mute function for drivers to have an uninterrupted sleep during rest hours.
Here are a few important aspects of the latest regulation that needs to be understood:
- Interstate drivers do not need to keep paper logs once the ELD is in place. However, they will still need to keep at least eight supporting documents.
- The drivers must submit all their documents to their respective motor carriers, either in electronic or paper forms. The carrier should then keep it for each 24-hour period the driver is on duty.
- FMCSA allows drivers and motor carriers to use any wireless devices or smartphones as an ELD as long as long as it is in compliance with the technical requirements.
- Canadian and Mexican domiciled drivers are also required to comply with the new regulations while driving on the U.S. roadways.
- Before you choose an ELD provider, make sure that they are on the FMCSA list of certified and registered partners. Those devices that are not in the list may not be in compliance with the new rule.
According to this announcement, the following are exempted from the law.
- Drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000 do not need to comply with the new regulation
- Drivers who use record of duty status (RODS) for less than or equal to eight days out of 30 days
- Drivers of a vehicle that is up for delivery or motor homes
If a driver is not ELD-compliant or doesn’t fall under exemptions, he or she will be fined for violation and non-compliance. If a carrier has been marked for multiple or continuous violation, a federal investigation will be initiated. Starting April 1, 2018, a ten-hour out-of-service penalty would be imposed upon non-compliance.
How does it impact the industry?
- The biggest challenge lies in how drivers embrace the technological provisions. Some may find it easier while others are going to be unhappy, especially those who have only used paper logs.
- The next hurdle is for carriers to diligently manage dispatches and efficiently deal with priorities and long trips. The driver is now in a better position to say “NO” to: a 70-hour week, urgent dispatch just because, you know he can!
- Choosing the right device for a fleet is going to be another challenge for motor carriers. One that worked for a competitor may not suit everyone. A thorough research should be conducted by carriers considering the long-term goals and specific requirements before choosing the e-logs and associated technology provisions.
- According to experts, even the best carriers in the industry might observe a productivity loss of 3% to 5% in the initial period. But if a provider doesn’t have a proactive approach, the number could very well increase.
- Roadside enforcement should also adopt and adjust to this change. There is going to be a learning curve with respect to ensuring technology compliances
Like any new technology transition, ELD regulation comes with its own set of ambiguities. Once the dust settles and early challenges are addressed, we can hopefully see a smooth and efficient process flow in the industry.