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ELD Mandate 101: the basic facts

Get insight into what the ELD mandate entails, the benefits of this mandate and the responsibilities of fleets when it comes to complying with ELD requirements.
ELD Mandate 101: The basic facts

With the long-awaited implementation of the FMCSA's ELD (Electronic Logging Device) Mandate, gone are the days of drivers logging their records with pencil and paper.

The FMCSA has travelled a long road to pass this rule that requires fleets to install ELDs to track their drivers' Hours of Service - and all along the way it's been met with confusion and concern. Now that it's a reality, fleet managers and owners need to find the best way to adapt their businesses to comply with the ELD Mandate.

We've rounded up some basic information to help you on your way to compliance.

ELD Mandate Basic Facts

Learn the basics regarding the ELD mandate timelineWhat is the deadline for compliance with the ELD Mandate?

Many fleets have been operating with Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) or Electronic Logging Devices for some time already. But if yours isn't an ELD that complies with the required technology and you want to avoid hefty fines, you have until December 2019 to install an ELD.

What are ELDs?

ELDs are tools that allow truck drivers and motor carriers to comply with Hours of Service regulations by electronically capturing Records of Duty Status.

What type of ELDs can be used?

ELDs need to meet certain specifications to comply with the mandate. Some of the most important requirements include:

  • It must connect to the vehicle's engine to record if it's moving.
  • Location information must be captured automatically.
  • It must allow the driver to log in and select whether he/she is on-duty, off duty, or sleeper berth.
  • It must have a mute button, so drivers aren't interrupted when off-duty or in the sleeper berth.
  • It must provide data in a standardized format.
  • This data must be transmitted to law enforcement through wireless web services, USB or Bluetooth 2.0.

What are the long-term benefits of ELDs?

Apart from the obvious cost and time savings your business and your drivers will make by cutting back on reams of paperwork, there are a number of others benefits to using Electronic Logging Devices. By being better informed on a driver's status, fleet managers are able to plan better. Communication between drivers and dispatchers is improved, and it's also been shown that drivers using ELDs report fewer accidents, which means overall road safety is boosted.

How much is it going to cost my company?

It's true that ELDs used to be prohibitively expensive for many for hire and private motor carriers, especially smaller owner-operated businesses. But developments in modern technology mean prices have dropped considerably. These costs will also quickly be offset by the savings made in other areas like fuel efficiency improvements and better use of driver resources.

We hope you've found our little ELD mandate 101 crash course useful. If you still have questions, check out our ELD FAQ.

Benefits of the Mandate

The road to the passing of the FMCSA's ELD Mandate Final Rule hasn't exactly been smooth Ð in fact there have been plenty of bumps and obstacles. And this is why there is still so much uncertainty about the actual benefits of using electronic logging devices.

Fleet managers and owners and drivers of commercial vehicles across the country have also expressed concerns over the inconvenience of installing electronic logging devices as well as the high costs that could be involved.

But experts say there really isn't too much to worry about as for-hire and private motor carriers are set to reap countless rewards in the long run, making the initial inconvenience and cost worthwhile.

Here are just some of the biggest benefits:

It's an opportunity to operate more efficiently

ELDs will effectively increase productivity and reduce costs. Not only will automated logs save time for drivers and companies, but the real-time data collected can be used to boost driver and vehicle productivity, manage fuel usage, improve maintenance plans and improve customer service Ð all of which will mean fleets can operate more efficiently.

Decreased paperwork

Thanks to the automated logging of real-time data, drivers won't have to fill out reams of paperwork to track their Hours of Service. Plus, with handwritten paper logs a thing of the past, dispatchers will no longer have to rely entirely on drivers to submit accurate, legible records.

Increased road safety

Various studies have been conducted over the past few years on the impact of electronic logging devices on road safety. Not only will ELDs ensure all commercial vehicles are properly maintained, they can also be used to track dangerous driver behavior like excessive driving speed, harsh braking and harsh acceleration.

Less down time, more drive time

Instead of spending precious hours filling out paper logbooks by hand, drivers of commercial motor vehicles spend can now spend that time driving. Vehicle inspections by traffic authorities will also be quicker thanks to automated records and digital logs, which once again means more time on the road.

It may seem like there's plenty of time to go until the FMCSA's final ELD Mandate deadline on December 16 2019, but there are other important dates and deadlines in the three-and-a-half years before then.

However, let's not get ahead of ourselves Ð it's just as important to look at where the mandate began. We've put together this timeline and the accompanying graphic as the ultimate resource for fleet managers and owners.

The origins of ELDs

Drivers of commercial motor vehicles first started using ELDs (electronic logging devices) in the 1980s. Early adopters tended to be private motor carriers and the first systems operated on batch processing, where all the information is collected and held until being processed as a batch at the end of a specific cycle.

There was no real-time mobile communication of the data Ð and some of these outdated systems are still in service today.

ELD for Efficiency

Yes, you must use electronic logging devices (ELD) to comply with the ELD Mandate. And, yes, you will have to invest quite a bit of time and money in transitioning to an ELD system that fulfils all the regulations outlined in the FMCSA's Final Rule. But, as we've said in an earlier post, there are plenty of benefits that come from moving from paper and pen to web and wireless technology.

One of the biggest benefits of using a well-developed ELD system is that you'll save money in the long run, especially when it comes to cutting fuel costs.

Firstly, you'll be able to use the ELD to monitor driver behavior and collect data on speeding, harsh braking and sudden accelerating, all of which are known to affect fuel consumption. Insights taken from this information can be used to compile driver training programs and incentive schemes to encourage more fuel-efficient Ð and safer Ð driving habits.

Some ELDs will even alert drivers and managers in real-time when they exceed the speed limit, prompting them to take corrective measures immediately and be more fuel efficient. Monitoring this data over time will also allow managers to identify trends in fuel wastage and reward good driver practices.

Take it a step further by installing ELDs that come with navigation or GPS solutions that offer route-planning options Ð less time on the road in lighter traffic conditions will have a positive effect on fuel consumption too.
You'll also be able to monitor idling times on each vehicle in your fleet. Just one hour of idling consumes up to a gallon of fuel. Multiply that by hundreds of vehicles and it quickly escalates, costing thousands of dollars a day in wasted fuel, not to mention the added wear and tear it causes with subsequent maintenance repairs.

With an ELD system in place you can set idling limits and track how much time each vehicle in your fleet spends idling. With these details at your fingertips, you can quickly deal with those drivers who regularly exceed predetermined limits and potentially save hundreds of gallons of fuel every week.

It's a proven fact that better-maintained vehicle are more fuel efficient -- devices will also be able to monitor the condition of the truck, meaning faults can be fixed as soon as they're reported and not left to get worse.
And this is just the start. As more and more fleets install ELDs, the technology will develop even further, with even more benefits to your bottom line.

ELD Timeline Explained

First attempts at mandating electronic logs

The idea of a federal mandate on electronic logging devices goes back to the early 1990s, with initial suggestions being incentive based.

Then in April 2010, CFR 395.16 was announced in the Federal Register. This rule drew the distinction between old devices (Automatic On-Board Recording Device or AOBRDs) and newer technology (Electronic Onboard Recording Devices or EOBRs). However, this never became law as it was shut down by the US Court of Appeals.

Congress passes MAP-21

Two years later the US Congress passes the MAP-21 Act, which requires the FMCSA to write a rule mandating electronic logging devices Ð this is when the term ELD is born. It replaces the older terms Ð AOBRDs and EOBRs Ð with the aim of avoiding confusion around the correct terminology.

Final mandate published

Fast-forward another few years to December 2015, when the FMCSA publishes its ELD Final Rule: the ELD Mandate. The mandate outlines the timeline for compliance, with a final deadline at the end of 2019. It also specifies the required information vendors must gather from any vehicle manufactured in 2000 and later and includes anti-harassment measures for current ELD users.

Going forward

In an effort to make compliance as straightforward a process as possible, the FMCSA has set a number of deadlines that for-hire and private motor carriers must meet. AOBRDs are still allowed in the first phase, but all new devices installed by fleet managers and owners must comply with ELD Mandate standards. This phase ends in December 2017. After that, all AOBRDs must be replaced with certified ELDs.

You may think that the FMCSA's ELD Mandate December 2019 final deadline is a long way off and that you still have plenty of time to comply.

But upgrading your current systems or installing entirely new ELD systems isn't necessarily going to be a quick process, especially if you're managing an incredibly large fleet. This is why it's essential to start planning what you need to do to comply with the ELD Final Rule as soon as you can.

The first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the ELD Mandate timeline and what compliance will involve. You can do this by reading our earlier blog post: ELD Timeline explained

A chart representing important dates in the ELD Mandate timeline

Understand that there will be a lot of operational changes that come with ELD compliance, so don't wait until the last minute to research exactly what devices will suit your fleet's needs and make sure you leave enough time to adequately train drivers and dispatchers on how to use these systems. Make sure you choose an ELD supplier that has been recommended by the FMCSA so that you don't end up spending a fortune on electronic logging devices that don't meet the requirements set out in the ELD Mandate Final Rule.

Besides getting a head start on compliance, early adoption of ELD technology will give your business early access to all the benefits of electronic logging devices. If chosen in conjunction with a fleet management system, these benefits will include improving driver safety and saving on fuel costs to reducing maintenance costs and avoiding breakdowns.

The Hefty Price of Non-Compliance

If it's been said once, it's been said a thousand times over: don't wait until the last minute to become ELD Mandate compliant. The earlier these electronic logging devices are installed, the better Ð especially as the process of doing so and training the appropriate employees will likely take longer than expected.

If that doesn't motivate for-hire and private motor carriers to get started on researching and complying with the ELD Mandate by the Final Rule deadline of December 2019, then maybe this will: non-compliant carriers will face penalties that include hefty fines.

However, the FMCSA is still very vague on the exact details of what the penalties will be and whether the punishments will go beyond just fines.

The jury's still out but speculation is rife, with a few industry professionals hinting at the temporary shutdown of non-compliant operators or something even more severe.

Watch this space as the finer points of non-compliance are released.

Transition to ELD in 6 steps

With the deadline for the FMCSA's ELD Mandate Final Rule just around the corner, we've set out your journey to compliance in six straightforward steps.

1.    Assess your current situation: paper, AOBRD or ELD
The first step to compliance is understanding how the ELD Mandate will affect your fleet. Take note that it applies to all drivers currently required to keep records of duty status (RODS). To do this you need to look at your current system Ð are your drivers using paper logs or do you have Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) or electronic logging devices (ELDs) installed. If you're still using paper logs, you'll need to have either an AOBRD or an ELD installed by December 2017. If you have AOBRDs, you have until December 2019 to make sure they comply with FMCSA's regulations as set out in the ELD Mandate.

2.    Pick a provider
The ELD Mandate Final Rule requires that all device providers first self-certify and register the device with the FMCSA, who will then maintain a list of vendors and make it available for review by motor carriers and drivers. However, self-certified does not equal verified. There could be some vendors that self-certify their devices for various reasons, without meeting all ELD requirements. So how do you find the right provider? Ask yourself whether you've heard of the vendor before or if you know of other fleets using its products. If the answer is no, it's probably best to do more research and continue your search. Try to stick to one of the big names in the industry, with a solid reputation. Non-compliant vendors will be removed from the FMCSA's list. 

Did you know? Keep in mind, that MiX's consultants are trained to help take the pain out of moving with the Mandate.
Find out more

3.    Pick a device
As we move closer to the deadline, there will be more and more ELD solutions to choose from and your options may appear unlimited. However, all devices must meet certain criteria as set out by the FMCSA in its Final Rule. There are various specifications that the device needs to meet, but basic requirements include:

  • Being integrally synchronized. The ELD must be directly connected to the vehicle's engine (if it is a model year 2000 or later).
  • Self-certification. The vendor must be able to provide proof that the device meets the FMCSA's strict ELD requirements.
  • Ability to electronically send HOS at roadside. The device must be able to send Hours of Service data to law enforcement officers using one of two options:
    • A telematics-type ELD: Electronically transfer data to an authorized safety official on demand via wireless web services and email.
    • Local transfer method-type ELD: Electronically transfer data to an authorized safety official on demand via USB2.0 and Bluetooth.

4.    Begin installation
Now that you've evaluated your needs and chosen a provider and device, you can set about installing the system across your fleet.

5.    Train staff
Even before picking a vendor and specific make and model of electronic logging devices, you can begin educating staff on the general benefits they offer everyone from drivers and dispatchers to maintenance teams and managers. That way, any resistance to compliance can be tackled head-on as early as possible. Once the specifics of the system are known, you can plan a schedule to train all relevant staff on how to use it. Moving from a manual system to ELD means more than simply changing the hardware and software Ð it will affect most aspects of the company, including the culture. The key is to be transparent about the whole process from the start.

6.    Implement
Now that you've installed the devices and trained your staff, you're ready to begin using your new ELD. Give yourself and your fleet enough time to test the new processes so you can work out any bugs or conduct additional training well before the relevant deadline.

ELD Mandate: Do you qualify for exemption

While compliance with the FMCSA's ELD Mandate is compulsory for most drivers of commercial motor vehicles, for-hire and private motor carriers, it's not required for others.

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate applies to all commercial motor vehicle drivers who are currently required to maintain records of duty status Ð an estimated 3.5 million drivers, according to the FMCSA.

So who is exempt from compliance?

1. Drivers who are not required to keep records of duty status

Drivers of commercial vehicles such as those who cover short-haul routes only and who aren't currently keeping these records won't need to install an ELD.

2. Drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000

Commercial motor vehicles from 1999 and earlier do not need ELDS as long as their dates of manufacture can be verified. This is because very few of these older vehicles manufactured have electronic control modules, which are essential in providing the required data on engine performance, fuel efficiency and emissions to electronic logging devices. The ELD Mandate applies to model year, not the year of the engine (refer to the last four digits of the VIN).

3. Empty vehicles being delivered for sale or repair

Drivers for commercial towing operations will not need ELDs for the commercial motor vehicle they're delivering for sale, lease or repair.

4. Drivers that don't exceed the prescribed minimum hours of service.

Drivers that log less than eight days of service during any rolling period of 30 days don't need to run an ELD. This mostly covers short-haul drivers who only occasionally drive outside of the specified exemption radius.

* Important note

Even those drivers who are exempt from the ELD Mandate still have to comply with the FMCSA's rules governing Hours of Service. It's also important to note that even if you are exempt from running an ELD, this doesn't prohibit you from installing one Ð in fact many exempt fleets are installing electronic logging devices for the cost- and time-saving benefits they offer.

The ELD Mandate on driver harassment and driver coercion

The New Year has arrived with a bang -- and, with it, the countdown to December 2017, when commercial motor carriers will be required by law to have implemented Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs).

There is a lot to be said about the ELD Mandate Final Rule, which was published in December 2015. But weÕd like to address a less-discussed, but important, topic: ELD technical requirements for dissuading driver harassment and driver coercion, and what that means for your fleet.

What is driver harassment?

Driver harassment means an action by a motor carrier towards a driver employed by the motor carrier (including an independent contractor) involving the use of information available through an ELD that the motor carrier knew, or should have known, would result in the driver violating Hours of Service (HOS) requirements.

What is driver coercion?

Driver coercion is defined as when a motor carrier, shipper, receiver or transportation intermediary threatens to withhold work from, take employment action against, or punish a driver for refusing to operate in violation of certain provisions. An example of this would be terminating a driver's employment for refusing to accept a load that would require him to violate HOS requirements.

Technical requirements to prevent harassment and coercion

To protect drivers from incidents of driver harassment and driver coercion, the FMCSA has included various technical requirements in the Final Rule, one being for ELD devices to prompt drivers for certain things whenever they log on. These are:

  1. Unassigned mileage. The ELD must track all miles associated with the vehicle and display any mileage not assigned to a driver. When logging on, a driver must be prompted with the choice to accept the unassigned mileage and associated hours. If the driver accepts, the system should then automatically add those hours to the driver's Record of Duty Status (RODS).
  2. Edits to logs. Under the ELD Mandate, drivers are responsible for their own RODS and will therefore need to be able to edit their own logs on a device. If a manager or supervisor edits a driver's logs, the ELD device must prompt the driver for confirmation of these changes Ð the driver can then accept or reject.
  3. Confirm logs. Drivers must be prompted to confirm their logs when they log in and out of the ELD device. If the driver has any logs that are not confirmed, the ELD must prompt the driver to verify the information.

The bottom line

As the deadline for compliance draws nearer, fleet operators need to be paying specific attention to these technical requirements and make sure that any ELD vendors they are considering are properly equipped to handle these requirements. While these requirements may seem to be minor to some, they play a critical role in protecting drivers and ensuring all-around compliance.

ELD Mandate 101: the basic facts
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