What the ELD Mandate Means for Your Fleet

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In December 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) set forth a new rule that would require all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to have electronic logging devices (ELDs) installed by the end of 2017. Essentially, ELDs are devices installed into commercial vehicles to help track Hours of Service (HOS) and other information that gets reported back to fleet managers and regulatory bodies.

While the ELD mandate has been in practice for over two years, there are still questions about what ELD trucking is, who it affects, its pros and cons, and how recent updates to HOS rules may affect drivers. As a fleet manager, driver, or even a business owner, it’s helpful to understand FMSCA regulations to ensure compliance and optimal safety and efficiency.

To help you out, we’ve put together this easy-to-follow guide about the ELD mandate and why it’s so important to the commercial vehicle industry.

What is the Purpose of the ELD Mandate?

The primary reason for instating ELD regulations is to ensure roadway safety. The number of injury-related crashes involving large trucks or buses increased 62 percent from 2009 to 2015. With this surge in accidents, it appeared necessary to implement standards that would protect all drivers.

As technology has improved, ELDs appear to hold great value in streamlining the commercial driving process, from planning routes to verifying inspections. Trucking ELD is particularly important as it relates to Hours of Service compliance, which regulates how many hours drivers can operate a commercial vehicle.

Additionally, ELD regulations create opportunities for increased efficiency at every level of business and operations. With ELD technology, many processes are automated, like logging hours or offering drivers directions. Ultimately, this helps drivers, fleet managers, and businesses save time and money. It also creates more transparency between drivers and managers to ensure that inspections and hours are appropriately logged and accounted for.

Who Needs to Comply with the ELD Mandate?

If you are a motor carrier or a driver who is required to hold records of duty status (RODS), you are most likely subject to the ELD trucking regulations. It also includes commercial buses and commercial vehicles traveling to Canada and Mexico.

Who is Exempt from the ELD Mandate

Vector illustration of a stack of boxes and an ELD device in front of a dry van trailer

While most motor carriers and drivers must comply, there are a few exceptions to the ELD rule as follows:

  • Drivers who operate under the short-haul exceptions may continue using timecards; they are not required to keep RODS and will not be required to use ELDs;
  • Drivers who use paper RODS for not more than 8 days out of every 30-day period;
  • Drivers who conduct drive-away-tow-away operations, in which the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered;
  • Drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000.

If you think that your vehicle or fleet falls under one of these exceptions, check with the FMSCA to make sure that you are exempt to avoid violations.

What Documentation Do Drivers Need to Carry?

Vector illustration depicting a truck operator reviewing a checklist

In December of 2017, FMSCA started requiring that drivers under the ELD mandate must also carry an ELD information packet onboard. This packet can be a hard copy or electronic, but must contain the following items to remain compliant:

  • User manual for the driver that describes how to operate the ELD
  • Instructions about data transfer that’s used by ELD and how to send that back to safety officials
  • Instructions for drivers on how to handle malfunctions and how to correctly report them
  • Blank driver’s RODS that can accurately record the driver’s status and other information for a minimum of eight days

What Devices are Compliant with the ELD Mandate?

Part of ELD compliance is making sure that devices fall within the technical specifications set forth by the regulations. Smartphones, tablets, and other wireless devices are allowed in addition to portable ELD devices. If drivers use a portable device, it must be mounted while the commercial vehicle is in operation. Further information about portable devices can be found in the ELD Rule Section 395.22(g).

What to Expect When Implementing ELD Trucking

One of the concerns that fleet managers and drivers have regarding the ELD mandate is the process of integrating the rules and devices with current operations. There is a fair amount of infrastructure involved during implementation, but all measures are intended for optimal safety and efficiency. The following sections look at what to expect if you need to transition to ELDs.

Training Takes Time

Anyone involved in commercial vehicle management or operations will need to have training on the ELD mandate. Drivers, in particular, will need extensive training since ELDs are installed in the vehicle and often used by the driver. They need to understand how to operate it and all the functions that are necessary to properly log hours, record information, and pass inspections.

Fleet managers benefit from ELDs in a variety of ways, but only if they understand the value of them. Training in the following areas can be highly beneficial for fleet managers

  • How to read and calculate reports
  • Understanding time-tracking in ELDs
  • How to translate driver data into good decision making
  • Understanding the GPS tracking features

With proper management of ELDs and their relevant reporting fleet managers can save hundreds of hours of paperwork and hassle.

Be Prepared to Invest in New Technology

With any new regulation change, there are financial investments. The transition to ELDs certainly warrants financial considerations for anyone involved in commercial trucking. ELDs are installed in the vehicle and must comply with FMSCA regulations, thus making vehicle owners responsible.

How much does an ELD trucking device cost?

ELD devices range in price from $200 to $900 depending on the functions offered, with the most popular devices coming in around $500. If you have numerous vehicles to outfit, that can be a costly endeavor.

Additionally, you may want to purchase devices from which you’ll compile important information to be used later. While the expense can seem overwhelming, it’s important to factor the ROI from ELDs. Within six months, fleet managers can expect to see savings on labor due to decreased clerical work and time spent seeking out information.

ELD Mandate Offers Benefits to Everyone

All stakeholders stand to win when using ELDs. It may take time to see the ROI, and some people may feel resistant to a new system, but as ELDs become a normal part of commercial trucking, the benefits will be apparent. The following sections review many of the benefits for the driver, fleet managers, and business owners.

Fleet Managers Have More Transparency

Fleet managers are probably one of the most affected stakeholders because they are responsible for so many of the functions that dictate how commercial vehicles are run. ELD trucking makes the administrative aspects of a fleet manager’s job far easier and simplified. A few benefits are:

  • Managers can see the status and location of vehicles at all times
  • Visibility into hours driven to ensure drivers are compliant
  • Customizable ELD dashboard/functions to meet the fleet’s needs
  • ELDs offer information to help coach drivers

Efficient Systems for Drivers

Drivers are responsible for managing their Hours of Service, which is at the center of ELD regulations. Historically, drivers have had to log time by paper and pen, leading to inaccuracies and violations. With trucking ELD, everything is automated. The ELD corresponds to the vehicle being turned on, off, or idle, and automatically generates logs.

Drivers can receive assignments electronically and also get turn-by-turn directions that save time and may prevent driving in hazardous conditions with automated alerts.

When inspections are conducted, information is gathered from the ELD rather than paper logs, which can easily be put in by drivers, or is automatically gathered saving time and money.

Avoid Compliance Issues as a Business

As a fleet manager or business owner, you’re also responsible for making sure the business runs smoothly. Violations, inaccuracies, and inefficient systems are all costly but can be avoided by properly using ELD trucking. Overall benefits include:

  • Fleet managers can easily see and report what’s going on and any discrepancies to be addressed
  • Quickly ID who needs to do inspection reports
  • Save money on materials like paper and extra labor hours in logging
  • Decrease fuel costs thanks to better navigation
  • Compliance: Drivers get alerts when they have to stop driving; better safety, fewer violations, which means financial savings.

Recent Changes to FMSCA Hours of Service Rules

Recently, the FMSCA made changes to the HOS rules, which address the sleeper-berth exceptions, exception for adverse driving conditions, short-haul exception, and break periods. The FMSCA claims that these changes will help consumers save money and contribute positively to the U.S. economy, while improving safety on America’s roads and increasing the efficiency of the supply chain. Details of these changes include:

  • Require a break after eight (8) hours of consecutive driving. Driver is also allowed to use on-duty status to take their break, rather than off-duty.
  • Drivers can split their 10-hours off duty into an 8/2 split or 7/3 split. Neither will count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
  • Modifications to the adverse driving conditions exception allow for extending the window for which driving is permitted by two (2) hours.
  • Lengthened drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours. Additionally, the distance limit will be extended so driver can operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The changes will not increase driving time and rules remain in place to prevent CMV drivers from driving more than 8 hours without a 30-minute break.

The updated rules are set to go into effect 120 days after publication in the Federal Registrar.

What is the Future of the ELD Mandate?

As with any law or regulation, updates and revisions are common. As noted above, some significant changes are set to happen as a result of HOS updates. While these changes have been in the works for some time, the COVID-19 crisis has brought challenges to the supply chain that should be somewhat alleviated by the new guidelines.

Drivers continue to express concern over losing money based on the ELD requirements, prompting more investigation on how the regulations can be amended to maintain the same levels of safety and efficiency, and provide drivers appropriate compensation.

ELD trucking will continue to evolve as technology changes and as vehicles continue the trend towards more automation, and as the global economy fluctuates. In the process, it’s good to have allies in the commercial trucking and trailer industry that can help you navigate changing regulations, equipment, parts, and service, like the experts at Hale Trailer Brake & Wheel, Inc.

Whether you need a trailer rental, purchase, or repair, our trailer rental locations are a great place to get in touch with a representative who are prepared to answers any of your questions related to commercial transportation. If you’re looking for more information about the best equipment to compliment your ELD system, contact us today!

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