The final transition from old paper logs kept by hand to electronic logging devices (ELDs) is happening this month when the grandfather clause governing automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) is scheduled to expire in mid-month.
As such, enforcement of truck driver hours of service will be much more uniform and restrictive than it was under previous rules for AOBRDs that were grandfathered for fleets for two years.
ELD technology automatically records a driver’s driving time and other hours-of-service (HOS) data. This allows easier, more accurate HOS recordkeeping – and harder to fudge. ELDs monitor a vehicle’s engine to capture data on whether the engine is running, whether the vehicle is moving, miles driven, and duration of engine operation.
Under federal government regulations, carriers and drivers subject to the ELD rule had been able to either an ELD or an AOBRD by Dec. 18, 2017. AOBRDs had been allowed for use until Dec. 16 — if those devices were put into use before Dec. 18, 2017.
But starting Dec. 16, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is requiring all carriers and drivers subject to the rule must use ELDs. ELDs must have the capability of either telematic data transfer or local transfer.
FMCSA claims trucks equipped with electronic HOS recorders have a 53% lower driving-related HOS violation rate and a 49% lower non-driving-related HOS violation rate than trucks without such devices. The rule covers an estimated 3.4 million truck drivers, according to the agency.
“This is a big deal,” Jeff Mercadante, vice president of safety for Pitt Ohio, the nation’s 17th-largest LTL carrier. Pitt Ohio has won the American Trucking Associations’ Presidents Trophy for safety each year it was eligible for the last 25 years. Pitt Ohio first started using AOBRDs in 2004 but switched over to ELDs in the past year.
Most of the larger carriers were on AOBRDs before the new requirements came out on the ELDs, Mercadante said. The new ELDs have stricter guidelines installed on them, which helps law enforcement monitor the drivers hours easier than the AOBRDs, he said.
“I am not sure of the percentage of carriers that were using them but a majority if not all medium and large carriers were on AOBRDs,” Mercadante added. “This is important to all the carriers because they had to replace the old devices with new devices and retrain their drivers, which can be very costly.”
How large a segment of the trucking industry that will be affected by the closing of the two-year window on AOBRD use depends on exactly how many procrastinators there are in the trucking industry, which has more than 700,000 registered operators at the Department of Transportation.
David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association, said this rule would be a good test of the measure of industry procrastination.
“It’s a minority of the industry, but there are some. If you’re making the change today,” Heller told LM in early December, “you are procrastinating. The hope is the majority (of the industry) has made the conversion. If you have waited until today, you can expect some hiccups” in the AOBRD-to-ELD process.
In short, ELDs are much more restrictive and more expensive than AOBRDs. For example, rules governing ELDs are specific on how the device must handle certain events and situations. ELDSs automatically switch a driver’s duty status to ‘On-Duty, Not Driving’ whenever their vehicle has stopped moving for five minutes.
By contrast, AOBRDs are not required to change a driver’s duty status when the vehicle is no longer in motion.
In addition, ELDs warn drivers about any unassigned driving time and miles that the device records when they log into the ELD. Electronic logging devices require that all vehicle miles are accounted for — even if a mechanic takes the vehicle for a test drive around the block — to ensure driver logs are accurate. As a result, ELDs are far more restrictive than AOBRDs.
AOBRDs offer limited flexibility, giving drivers and fleets an opportunity to correct mistakes on logs. AOBRDs also display less information, making those mistakes and corrections less apparent. In contrast, ELDs will display all edits to DOT inspectors.
The only exceptions are truck drivers who use paper logs no more than 8 days during any 30-day period. Driveaway-towaway drivers (transporting a vehicle for sale, lease, or repair) are also exempt — provided the vehicle driven is part of the shipment or the vehicle being transported is a motor home or recreational vehicle trailer. Drivers of trucks manufactured before model year 2000 are also exempt from the ELD regulation, according to FMCSA.
FMCSA has informed the trucking industry there will be no extensions or exceptions made to the Dec. 17, 2019, ELD rule deadline. In addition, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) stated that inspectors will begin fully enforcing the ELD rule on Dec. 17, 2019.
In other words, there will be no “soft enforcement” grace period.
If a commercial motor vehicle driver is required to have an ELD and the vehicle is not equipped with a registered compliant ELD, the driver is considered to have no record of duty status. That also applies to a driver still using an automatic onboard recording device after the AOBRD to ELD transition deadline of Dec. 17, 2019.
According to the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria, a property-carrying driver who does not have a record of duty status in his or her possession when one is required will be declared out of service for 10 hours and a passenger-carrying driver without a record of duty status when one is required will be placed out of service for eight hours.
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