NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Fleets can promote smooth roadside inspections of electronic logs by ensuring that their drivers understand the devices installed in their trucks and keep proper documentation in the cab, enforcement and technology experts said.
The federal electronic logging device mandate, which went into effect Dec. 18, requires most longhaul carriers to install ELDs in their trucks to automatically record drivers’ hours-of-service data.
However, the rule also includes a grandfather clause that allows early adopters of older electronic logging systems known as automatic onboard recording devices, or AOBRDs, to continue using them in lieu of ELDs until Dec. 16, 2019.
Until that date, inspectors will need to know whether a driver is using an ELD or an AOBRD, and drivers should be able to tell them, said Kerri Wirachowsky, director of the roadside inspection program at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
In many cases, ELDs and AOBRDs use the same hardware; the only difference is the software.
“The device looks the same to me as the inspector,” Wirachowsky said here at Omnitracs’ Outlook 2018 user conference, held Feb. 25-28.
The grandfathered use of AOBRDs, combined with the growing number of ELD systems available on the market, has created a more complex environment for law enforcement.
To help ensure a smooth process at roadside, drivers must know what type of device they are running and know how to navigate the software.
“If your driver doesn’t know how to do it, things can go sideways pretty quick,” Wirachowsky said.
It’s particularly important that carriers keep the correct driver instruction cards for their devices in the cab.
Don’t carry both AOBRD and ELD cards in the truck, she said. Carriers using AOBRDs should have only AOBRD cards, and ELD users should carry only ELD cards.
When fleets migrate from AOBRD to ELDs, they should get rid of the AOBRD documentation.
“Drivers are producing all kinds of stuff roadside,” she said. “Keep it simple. Keep it clean.”
Tom Cuthbertson, vice president of regulatory compliance at Omnitracs, also stressed the importance of driver knowledge during roadside inspections.
“Make sure the drivers know whether they have an AOBRD or an ELD,” he said. “Make sure they have the cab card and enough log sheets to reproduce a week. Those are all regulatory requirements.”
While inspectors have been documenting ELD noncompliance and in some cases issuing citations, sharper enforcement is set to begin April 1, when inspectors can begin placing drivers out of service for operating without an ELD. Enforcement also will begin assigning points to the carrier under the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.
As it currently stands, the out-of-service penalty for having no ELD will be 10 hours, Wirachowsky said.
Carriers operating under one of the exemptions to the ELD mandate, such as trucks with engines built prior to 2000, should keep a copy of that exemption in the truck, she said.
“If you’re running on one of these exemptions or waivers, it’s very important from an enforcement standpoint that you carry it in your truck,” Wirachowsky said.
The ELD mandate’s exemptions and waivers are available on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website, she added. “If you’re using one of them, please do yourself a favor and print it off.”
Cuthbertson by Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics
As fleets move from AOBRDs to ELDs, they should examine any vehicle movement in their operations by people other than the driver, Omnitracs’ Cuthbertson said.
Fleets can create an “exempt driver” status for certain moves, such as a technician performing a road test. Otherwise, that unassigned drive time will be pushed to the next driver to log in.
“Make sure you look at your process,” Cuthbertson said.
It’s also important to ensure that maintenance staff understands that they have only eight days to correct an ELD malfunction, he said. In some cases, the problem could be the engine control module, not the ELD, he added.
As the industry continues to adapt to ELDs, the technology could yield benefits in a variety of areas, including driver detention, Cuthbertson said.
The information collected by ELDs could support carriers’ conversations with shippers and consignees that are delaying drivers at their facilities.
“The data’s there and the conversation can start to happen,” Cuthbertson said.