During Roadcheck 2017, Hours of Service violations (HOS) topped the list of driver violations, as a whopping 32.3% of drivers were found to be over their allotted hours. And though the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance hasn’t released the results from this year’s annual enforcement event (held June 5-7), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that the numbers of HOS violations have dropped dramatically this year due to the recent ELD mandate. Just prior to Roadcheck 2018, the FMCSA’s chief enforcement official, Joe DeLorenzo, said, “We’ve definitely seen an improvement from December and from April (the dates when the mandate took effect). More importantly, from about a year ago, hours of service violations are about half of what they were back then, according to our most recent analysis.”
Most drivers are using the new equipment, too. This past May—just one month after full enforcement of the mandate took effect—fewer than 1 percent of drivers were cited for operating without an ELD during roadside truck inspections. And fleets are beginning to see positive results. In a survey by software provider Teletrac Navman, 26% of respondents reported fewer accidents and 43% noted that they had saved money on fuel (surveyors noted that these numbers may be low since only one-third of respondents reported using the advanced telematics analysis that ELDs afford). But even with all of this positive news, ELDs continue to be the biggest source of concern in the transportation industry—and the biggest source of confusion, which in turn, feeds the concern.
Several misconceptions about ELDs persist even now, months after adoption.
Myth: ELDs shut trucks off when they reach the maximum hours of drive time.
This myth has its basis in fact. Though ELDs are supposed to track speed, mileage, hours, driving habits, and location, some do have the ability to turn off a truck’s engine. There are very few of these types available and the shutdown feature is not required by the mandate, but some companies have chosen to use it.
Myth: ELDs help law enforcement track trucks.
ELDs may have GPS devices, but only the fleet receives that location information. Also, though ELDs pinpoint on-duty drivers’ locations within a mile, the radius stretches to ten miles once drivers are off duty.
Myth: ELDs send HOS violations directly to the Feds.
Again, only drivers’ companies will receive information about hours—just as it was when drivers used paper logs.
Myth: ELDs are only for large fleets or big trucks.
All trucking companies–from heavy equipment trucking companies to those using under-26,000-lb. trucks–must comply with the mandate unless they meet the eligibility criteria for an exception.
But once the myths are proven false, drivers and fleets still have questions about exactly how the new rules work. Most* concern three umbrella issues: Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs), exemptions, and data and documentation.
*The new personal conveyance rule has also been causing some confusion. More about that rule here.
FMSCA’s DeLorenzo says, “The number-one point of confusion on roadside inspections is whether the driver has an AOBRD or ELD,” adding that drivers often don’t know which one they’re using. TransSafe Consulting CEO Annette Sandberg, a former FMCSA administrator notes that it’s not just drivers who are confused regarding ELDs and AOBRDs. “There really has been a pretty significant challenge of getting all the enforcement personnel trained,” she says. “FMCSA did try to train a lot of state enforcement people at the end of last year. However, like any training, just like carriers had difficulty training, not all enforcement personnel were trained equally.” Since regulations and requirements differ for ELDs and AOBRDs, John Seidl, a former enforcement official and current VP of risk services at Reliance Partners, suggests that drivers be educated about the basic differences between the two. And as for ill-informed officials asking AOBRD-users for their ELDs, he advises companies to instruct drivers to say, “Sir, I don’t have an ELD; I have an AOBRD because my company installed and used them prior to December, and here’s my proof.”
That proof is also important. Trucks using AOBRDs installed before the 2017 ELD deadline of December 17 are exempt from the ELD mandate until December 16, 2019, but drivers should carry documentation that proves that fact. Seidl suggests that companies create an “AOBRD evidence” file that contains printed driver’s logs for every truck operated in December prior to the deadline, and that they make sure drivers have a copy of the file to keep in the truck with them.
DeLorenzo says that there’s also a lot of confusion around exemptions. “On at least a weekly basis, I talk to at least one driver or one company that is eligible for an ELD exemption and is not taking advantage of it,” he says.
As noted on the FMCSA’s website, exemptions include:
- Drivers who use paper RODS for not more than 8 days out of every 30-day period.
- Drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000. (As reflected on the vehicle registration)
- Drivers who are required to keep RODS not more than 8 days within any 30-day period.
- Drivers who conduct drive-away-tow-away operations, where the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered, or the vehicle being transported is a motorhome or a recreation vehicle trailer with one or more sets of wheels on the surface of the roadway.
And for trucks hauling agricultural commodities, the FMSCA “provides exceptions from the HOS rules, during planting and harvesting periods as determined by the State, for the transportation of agricultural commodities…within a 150 air-mile radius from the source of the commodities.” (more about the rule here).
In addition, the Senate recently passed legislation that delays implementation of the ELD mandate for agricultural haulers until September 30, 2019. Supporters of the amendment say the mandate doesn’t take into account the different challenges that livestock haulers face, like the fact that animals can’t stay in a trailer during the required 10-hour rest period, or that it would be a nightmare for drivers to unload and reload them during rest periods—even if there were enough facilities that could handle these types of layovers.
Once again, drivers need to understand any exemption they may be using, and to keep documentation at hand.
“If I’m an officer and I ask for proof and you don’t have it,” says Seidl, “now you’ve got to fight it later.”
Data and Documentation –
As mentioned, documentation is incredibly important, but it’s also a problem area. Seidl recommends that each truck have:
- An ELD user’s manual.
- A step-by-step instruction guide that explains how drivers can produce and transfer hours-of-service records to an inspector.
- Another sheet that details the steps to take if an ELD malfunctions.
- Blank driver’s records of duty status graph, at least 8 days worth.
DeLorenzo also suggests that drivers make better use of annotations. “I think when we moved to ELDs, people forgot how to use annotations,” he says. “Annotations are available, so use them to explain away situations.”
These three areas—AOBRDs, exemptions, and documentation—may cause the most confusion, but as with any new rule, there are more questions, many of which are answered in the FMSCA’s ELD FAQs.
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