E-logs: The new normal
It’s no secret our industry can be slow to adopt new technologies. We’ve developed tried and true processes over the years, and we don’t like to change them without good reason. Well, with the ELD Mandate now in effect, Uncle Sam gave fleet managers a good reason, namely hefty fines for non-compliance.
And now that we’re a month or so into the new normal of required electronic logging devices, it’s a good time to look back at what has worked and what has been less than perfect.
A surge in compliance, but questions remain
The end of the last year saw a surge in ELD sales and installations as drivers and fleet owners rushed to meet new requirements. And while many of these e-logs devices meet government regulations, there are a number that haven’t been approved by the FMCSA. Noncompliant devices can lead to a “fix it ticket,” which gives the fleet owner eight days to re-equip with an approved device.
What’s interesting is that some companies, mostly smaller fleets and single truck owner-operators, are still holding off until hard enforcement starts on April 1. Until then, violations won’t result in shutdowns, though they may still result in a citation for HOS violations.
A major concern, along with uncertainty about what is and isn’t an acceptable ELD, is the unpredictable nature of technology. Anyone who has ever had a computer freeze at the wrong time or a cell phone die when you needed it knows technology is anything but fail-safe. So what happens if a driver is being inspected and the ELD fails?
This, thankfully, is one question with a clear answer: a broken ELD platform won’t immediately lead to a violation, but the operator will have to repair or replace it within eight days or face penalties.
More exemptions may be forthcoming
There have been a number of trucking groups who have come forward and filed exemptions to the ELD Mandate already. These include trash and recycling hauling fleet American Disposal Services (ADS), the Association of Energy Service Companies (AESC), the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and Cudd Energy Services, an oilfield service fleet.
These groups have requested exemptions for a variety of reasons. Frequent stops and short trips make current ELD difficult for trash hauling fleets, according to the ADS. The AESC has argued that while most of its operators fall under the short-haul exemption, sometimes they’re required to operate outside its boundaries. As its drivers spend little time on public roads, they argue that it’s wasteful and unnecessary to require ELDs.
The ARA has sought an exemption as the law puts an undue economic burden on trucks that deliver products and services to often remote farms. The CES’s objections hinges on poor cell coverage in many massive oilfields that would prevent drivers from logging into devices.
Enforcement isn’t fully clear yet
As a fleet manager, it’s natural to be concerned with how the ELD Mandate affects drivers. And it can be easy to overlook the other side of the coin — how it impacts the people who enforce it. Early returns on the law seem to indicate that enforcement officers could benefit from some additional training on what ELDs are and what kind of information they should report.
There seems to be some confusion from officers about the differences between ELDs and AOBRDs, users of which are grandfathered in for another year. Some officers are not aware of this temporary loophole in recording devices and are issuing violations to drivers who are in compliance with the law.
So what now?
There’s no question e-logs are here to stay. They have experienced a few hiccups since mandatory implementation, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever be going back to paper logs. And quite honestly, once implementation is over, fleet managers shouldn’t want to anyway. They can get all their information on HOS in one convenient platform, ensure accuracy and eliminate fines altogether.