With the aim of keeping long-haul truckers safer, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented a rule mandating all commercial vehicle drivers, who are required to comply with Hours of Service (HOS) record-keeping requirements, use an electronic logging device (ELD). The ELD rule, which has been debated hotly for several years, went largely into effect Dec. 2017. Carriers that already use automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) have until Dec. 16, 2019, to connect their engine to a compliant ELD.
At its heart, the ELD mandate ensures compliance with the HOS requirements that limit the number of hours truckers are allowed behind the wheel in a single stretch. Those limits are intended to keep drowsy drivers off the road and reduce a significant cause of highway accidents. Shortly after the HOS implementation in 2013, the FMCSA began targeting the AOBRDs most truckers already have installed onboard as a way to ensure compliance with these requirements.
While accountability may be the motivation driving ELD use, the devices offer a number of additional cost-saving and safety benefits to truckers and, consequently, end-users. ELDs reduce drivers’ time spent maintaining a paper log—up to 20 hours a year—and the need for check calls, as well as the administrative burden of sorting through and storing paper records. ELDs also provide real-time driver status, which helps dispatchers at companies like TP Trucking to better plan loads and routes that maximize fuel usage. This data also can help drivers and dispatchers identify maintenance issues as soon as they arise, or help dispatchers easily locate trucks that break down.
Despite these benefits, there are vocal opponents of the rule, who argue about the effectiveness of the HOS requirements and caution that mandating ELDs opens drivers up to unreasonable searches and seizures. Critics such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) also note that the rule is confusing as written and rife with unanswered questions ranging from how to handle cybersecurity concerns to what constitutes a compliant ELD, as these devices are at-present self-certified. Other critics are concerned that the amount of data made available to dispatchers and law enforcement is an infringement upon drivers’ privacy. The OOIDA continues to seek exemptions from the rule for small truckers, indicating that this issue continues to evolve.
Like it or not, non-compliant truckers are now subject to fines—and carriers new to ELDs are learning how to navigate a new world of benefits that instant data can provide.