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Unpacking the requirements of the ELD Final Rule

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Jason Morgan is the editor of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 15 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

Christmas came early for the trucking industry when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) gift-wrapped the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Final Rule and placed it under the tree on Dec. 10, 2015. Fleet Equipment ripped open the regulation package and talked with truck technology experts who are on the ELD front lines. So let’s get right into it.

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The four main elements of the ELD Final Rule include:

  1. Requiring commercial truck drivers who currently use paper log books to maintain hours-of-service records to adopt ELDs within two years.  It is anticipated that approximately three million drivers will be impacted.
  2. Strictly prohibiting commercial driver harassment. The Final Rule provides both procedural and technical provisions designed to protect commercial truck drivers from harassment resulting from information generated by ELDs.  (A separate FMCSA rulemaking further safeguards commercial drivers from being coerced to violate federal safety regulations and provides the agency with the authority to take enforcement actions not only against motor carriers, but also against shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries.)
  3. Setting technology specifications detailing performance and design requirements for ELDs so that manufacturers are able to produce compliant devices and systems—and purchasers are enabled to make informed decisions.
  4. Establishing new hours-of-service supporting document (shipping documents, fuel purchase receipts, etc.) requirements that will result in additional paperwork reductions. In most cases, a motor carrier would not be required to retain supporting documents verifying on-duty driving time.

The ELD Final Rule permits the use of smart phones and other wireless devices as ELDs, so long as they satisfy technical specifications, are certified, and are listed on an FMCSA website. Canadian- and Mexican-domiciled drivers will also be required to use ELDs when operating on U.S. roadways.

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“In my opinion, the most difficult aspect to the ELD mandate is realizing that this is not an overnight process for both a fleet and its drivers,” said Fred Fakkema, vice president of compliance at Zonar Systems. “Getting them to switch from paper logs—a routine they are more than familiar with—to an unfamiliar technology is going to be tough; there will definitely be a learning curve. Having a designated expert to understand the requirements in the mandate will help, knowing the responsibilities of the carrier and driver are very important.”

Fakkema went on to explain the driver has the responsibility to maintain the electronic log and there can no longer be auto changes to assist the driver, other than the two outlined in the final rule: Changing the driver to driving status when motion above 5 MPH is detected, and changing to on-duty status after the driver has been idle for five minutes and doesn’t respond to the one minute prompt.

“Fleets that are not prepared to manage yard moves, personal conveyance, and unknown drivers will have difficulty in implementation—working with a vendor who understands and has a system to accommodate these requirements will be vital,” he explained. “Fleets need to take a strategic approach to adapting to the ELD mandate from start to finish, it will take time to understand all the pieces of the ELD mandate and how it will affect your fleet.”

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