Are you ready for the changes brought about by the final ELD rule put forth by the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)? Whether or not your company will be subject to the rule, it’s helpful to understand the basics because it’s signaling a change in fleet management—to be exact, it’s about to get more and more digital.

Here’s the down-and-dirty run-down, with resources for where to learn more about how the ELD rule may impact your organization and the tools you use to manage your company vehicles.

 

What is the ELD Rule?

In case you haven’t been following along, the ELD rule is the most recent iteration of ongoing events marking the evolution of electronic logging technology used by commercial motor carriers and truck drivers. The FMCSA most recently rolled out its long-awaited final rule mandating the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELD). And, according to the FSCSA website, the use of ELDs in accordance with the rule will help create a safer work environment for drivers and make it easier and faster to accurately (and electronically) track, manage, and share records of a driver’s Record of Duty Status (RODS) data.

If you explore the specific requirements of the ELD rule, you’ll find that the final rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation:

  1. Requires new technical specifications for ELDs that address statutory requirements;
  2. Mandates ELDs for drivers currently using RODS;
  3. Clarifies supporting document requirements so that motor carriers and drivers 7 can comply efficiently with HOS regulations; and
  4. Adopts both procedural and technical provisions aimed at ensuring that ELDs are not used to harass CMV operators.

 

Who does the ELD rule impact?

Most motor carriers and drivers who are currently required to maintain RODS will be required to use an ELD. The FMCSA estimates 3 million vehicles and 3.4 million drivers fall under this ruling. A few exceptions are drivers who use paper RODS for not more than eight days in any 30-day period; those who conduct drive-away-tow-away operations where the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered; and those whose vehicles were manufactured before model-year 2000.

Get more details from FMCSA.

 

How do I know if I need to file RODS?

Most drivers must follow Hours of Service (HOS) regulations and keep a 24-hour RODS if they drive a commercial motor vehicle that is used as part of a business and is involved in interstate commerce and fits any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

See FMCSA’s Hours of Service webpage for more information.

 

WHEN does the ELD mandate take effect?

Carriers and drivers who are using paper logs or logging software must transition to ELDs no later than December 18, 2017. They are required to have an ELD information packet onboard their commercial motor vehicle containing:

  • A user’s manual for the driver describing how to operate the ELD;
  • An instruction sheet describing the data transfer mechanisms supported by the ELD and step-by-step instructions to produce and transfer the driver’s hours-of-service records to an authorized safety official;
  • An instruction sheet for the driver describing ELD malfunction reporting requirements and recordkeeping procedures during ELD malfunctions; and
  • A supply of blank driver’s RODS graph-grids sufficient to record the driver’s duty status and other related information for a minimum of 8 days.

Those who use Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRDS) prior to the compliance date must transition to ELDs no later than December 16, 2019. Prior to the compliance date of December 18, 2017, ELD use is voluntary.

Access the FMCSA implementation timeline for details and more information.

 

WHY is this important?

Two words: safety and efficiency. What’s more, the final ELD rule supports the motor carrier industry—the carrier side as well as the enforcement side, so it’s implementation creates a win-win.  

Safety. There’s compelling evidence that widespread use of ELDs will lead to safer roads. More details in the report here -  Evaluating the Potential Safety Benefits of Electronic Hours of Service Recorders.

The rule also sets consistent standards and allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk. One of the key requirements of the ELD rule prohibits harassment of drivers based on ELD data or connected technology (such as a fleet management system), and the rule also provides recourse for drivers who believe they have been harassed. Nothing is transmitted to enforcement unless there is reason to do so, like a roadside inspection, a traffic infraction, or an FMCSA compliance audit.

Efficiency. In addition to boosting commercial vehicle safety, the U.S. Department of Transportation expects it will reduce paperwork burden and improve compliance with hours of service rules. While many fleet management professionals and small- to medium-sized business owners with company vehicles have been switching from paper-based systems to electronic ones, the ELD rule mandates a more digital process for many carriers and drivers who have been using paper logbooks to record their compliance with Hours of Service (HOS) requirements.

Learn more about the paper-to-electronic transition in Ready to Toss the Clipboard Mileage Log Out the Window?

 

OK…one last thing. What about ROI?

In the fleet management arena, safety and efficiency lead to savings. Even if your company isn’t required to comply with the ELD mandate, it makes sense (make those cents—and lots of them) to automate the various components of your fleet management process. Electronic driver logs, just like the fleet telematics solutions in the marketplace, save time and are more accurate. As discussed in What ROI Should You Expect On Fleet Telematics?, using a digital fleet telematics solution to log miles, track vehicle location, and keep your finger on the pulse of fuel usage, for instance, leads to cost savings, increased compliance, increased driver productivity, and even lower insurance costs. It all adds up to an easy-to-achieve return on your investment in technology.

Dig deeper into ROI by reading this Small Business Owner Spotlight: Jamar Power Systems Achieves 66% Cost Savings by Leveraging Telematics Technology.

Get more answers to frequently asked questions about the ELD rule from the FMCSA.

 

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Automile Your Quick Reference Guide to the ELD Mandate