Electronic Logging Device mandate draws near

The two-year window given by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is coming to a close and it’s time for construction material companies and drivers to embrace compliance with the new Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate. Even though the official date is set for December 18, 2017, there’s still a lot of confusion around what it means to be ELD compliant and who, exactly, falls under the mandate.

Understanding the Mandate

First, it’s important to know that the ELD mandate includes a number of provisions intended to help reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. The mandate aims to hold motor carriers and drivers to the foremost safety standards while removing the highest risk drivers, vehicles and carriers from the road. It establishes the following:

  • Minimum performance and design standards for recording hours-of-service through ELDs;
  • A rule for the mandatory use of ELDs by drivers that requires preparing hours of service (HOS) as a part of Records Of Duty Status (RODS);
  • Requirements concerning HOS supporting documents; and,
  • Measures to address concerns about harassment resulting from the mandatory use of ELDs.

ELD technology is designed to sync with a truck’s engine to capture additional data points such as power and motion status, miles driven and engine hours to adhere to compliance. Under the new mandate, all of this information should be available to authorized safety officials during roadside inspections and as part of on-site or other reviews.

BENEFITS TO DRIVERS?
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Electronic logging devices follow a template drawn from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-required data.
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Trimble Construction Logistics has programmed full electronic logging device functionality into its cab-mounted ConnectedTablet.

For many years, construction material companies and drivers have been using paper logbooks to record their compliance with HOS requirements. However, this process is incredibly time consuming. Implementation of an ELD solution improves the process by automatically recording hours on an in-cab device, which is connected directly to the truck’s engine. Also, some systems actually afford more drive time by tracking HOS by the minute rather than in 15-minute increments, as is standard with manual tracking. ELD solutions automatically record the date, time, location information, engine hours, vehicle miles, identification information for the driver, authenticated user, vehicle and motor carrier information, all of which will enhance fleet management and improve business operations.

ELD solutions also mean roadside inspections will be much faster, as drivers simply need to provide a screen display of their e-logs or take part in a roadside data transfer. Drivers will also have the tools and data necessary to avoid stiff financial penalties under Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA Regulations), and companies may see their insurance premiums decrease over time, due to a reduction in accidents.

The mandate will also provide increased transparency to help reduce driver harassment, which is defined by the FMCSA as any action by a fleet manager that results in a driver violating HOS rules, placing the driver and other motorists at risk.

WHAT TYPES OF VEHICLES MUST COMPLY?

The ELD mandate applies to all drivers who are currently required to keep HOS and RODS logs. However, the rules are not straightforward when it comes to concrete fleets. There are additional complexities to consider, such as whether the driver always stays within a 150-mile radius under eight days within a 30-day window.

Vehicle violations are on the rise, and it’s important to know whether you must be ELD compliant to reduce the risk of lowered safety scores and large fines. If there are still questions about whether or not a fleet is required to implement ELDs, the FMCSA has provided numerous resources to reference. The language written within the official mandate can be unclear and difficult to understand, which is why the agency included an informal FAQ section to obtain quick and consumable facts. The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association also has an excellent resource on how the rules apply specifically for mixer truck drivers.

Companies that have implemented automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) installed and operational by December 18, 2017 will have until December 2019 to comply, at which time they will need to adopt ELDs. Most ELD solution vendors are working tirelessly to make their products adhere to the FMCSA guidelines and will help customers make the transition.

WHAT ELD SOLUTION MAKES THE MOST SENSE?

The FMCSA will be working with technology providers to ensure their solutions are, indeed, ELD compliant. The ELD certification requires a rigorous application and verification process to ensure that products adhere to agency standards.

Due to reliability and ease of use, a fleet management system is the most common type of solution available today. These are often installed in the cab of a truck, and feature a display plus onboard computer that provide critical HOS information to the driver, including number of hours driven, on-duty hours recorded and remaining available hours.

Typically rugged, stationary hardware, a fleet management system is not reliant on a driver’s mobile device for communication. However, data will often be transmitted wirelessly to the back office, allowing fleet and safety managers and dispatchers to review HOS information in near-real time. Per the ELD mandate, the device must also be fixed, mounted and within arm’s reach of the driver while the vehicle is in operation. When the vehicle is not in operation, mobile solutions also give drivers flexibility and allow for extended productivity. Drivers using a smartphone or tablet outside of the cab can perform walk-around vehicle inspections, complete proof of delivery forms, or stay connected with family and friends.

When it comes to selecting the right ELD technology, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Each fleet requires a unique solution to achieve the largest return on investment. For example, there is a growing demand for company-owned, personally enabled (COPE) devices. This approach gives drivers mobility, while also allowing corporate control of devices in the key areas of security, safety, cost and support measures. Another strategy a fleet manager might consider is “bring your own device,” using computer-assisted logs or low-cost telematics. For other fleets that use company assets and drivers, an industrial-grade mobile platform using company-owned devices might offer the most return, as it eliminates certain risks associated with having drivers provide their own devices.

Change is difficult for any organization. Often, it takes mandates from industry regulators to initiate change that should have positive effects on both driver safety and the organization’s bottom line. Fleets that have already implemented automatic on-board recording devices have experienced overall reduction of overhead costs through decreased insurance premiums, fuel savings and other operational costs while improving customer service and driver efficiency—all of which add up to a better business.


John Rice is vice president for Trimble Construction Logistics, which provides technology solutions designed specifically for the construction materials industry. He has more than 10 years of experience working with aggregate and ready mixed concrete companies to increase productivity through technology, and can be contacted at [email protected].