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ELDs: Do Your Homework Before You Buy

This story appears in the May 9 print edition of iTECH, a supplement to Transport Topics.

As carriers chart out their plans to comply with the upcoming electronic logging device mandate, one of the first questions they likely will ask is this: Which of the many devices on the market will actually meet the regulation’s requirements? One logical place to turn is the online list of registered ELDs maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, but carriers should take that list with a sizable grain of salt.

To have their devices added to that registry, technology vendors merely need to “self-certify” their products. In other words, the ELDs on the list aren’t vetted by FMCSA or another third party, but by the manufacturer of the device.

Seth Clevenger

However, the ELD rule does include a procedure to remove a device from that list if it is challenged by enforcement and deemed noncompliant. In that event, the device manufacturer would have an opportunity to fix any deficiencies in the product before its removal, or to appeal its delisting if it comes to that.

From the buyer’s perspective, however, the obvious danger here is that a carrier could select an ELD on the list and deploy it across its fleet, only for that device to be decertified at a later date.

BEST OF MAY iTECH: More stories, columns

Hopefully that never happens. And it may not. After all, vendors certainly have a stake in ensuring that their devices meet the standards. But the risk is there. If the ELD space is flooded with vendors looking to take advantage of the massive market created by the mandate, the odds increase that one or more will make a mistake or misinterpret a crucial detail in the rule.

For its part, FMCSA has published a test procedure designed to ensure that a device meets the requirements. Vendors aren’t actually required to follow that procedure to self-certify, however, so it’s really providing an optional aid to vendors rather than assurance to buyers.

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