States will be ready to enforce the electronic logging mandate when it goes into effect Dec. 18, said Joe DeLorenzo, director of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Office of Enforcement and Compliance. But whether law enforcement will place trucks out of service for not having an ELD might be postponed until April.
On Wednesday (Aug. 23), DeLorenzo spoke about the ELD mandate in a webinar hosted by Transport Topics, a publication of American Trucking Associations.
“We work really closely with the states,” DeLorenzo said.
He anticipates a “good uniform enforcement” of the mandate. At the same time, states should be sensitive to some level of confusion on the driver’s part in regard to enforcement. He expects law enforcement will be ready for the mandate and that roadside complexity will be reduced when it goes into effect and paper logs are eliminated. Complexity should also be reduced again on Dec. 17, 2019, when the carriers with automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) must switch to ELDs.
“From an enforcement perspective, this is about hours of service compliance,” DeLorenzo said.
As of Dec. 18, when a driver is pulled over by law enforcement and not in compliance with the ELD mandate, the driver could receive a citation, and the driver or carrier could face penalties. DeLorenzo said he’s working with states and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance on how to handle out-of-service violations, which would require the truck in violation to be put out of service until the violation is resolved.
“We may have a softer rollout of the out-of-service violation.”
Major Jay Thompson of the Arkansas Highway Police said the executive board for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which determines out-of-service violations, has voted to postpone placing a vehicle out-of-service for not having an ELD until April 1. The board has asked member states to vote on the change before it would go into effect.
Thompson said Arkansas has voted to push back to April the out-of-service violation for not having an ELD. The executive board meets again in mid-September, and he expects a decision on whether to postpone the out-of-service violation to come after that. Yet, even if approved, the ELD mandate will still go into effect Dec. 18.
“We’re gearing up for it,” he said. “We’ve trained our officers.”
If the out-of-service violation is postponed, it would give officers time to educate drivers on the mandate, Thompson said. Officers would give warnings to drivers operating without an ELD but wouldn’t hand out citations during the grace period. As long as the vehicle or driver isn’t placed out of service for other violations, drivers wouldn’t be put out of service if operating without an ELD. However, they’ll still be required to have a logbook to remain in compliance with the hours of service rule.
“This is not just a spur of the moment regulation change,” Thompson said.
Seth Clevenger of Transport Topics said the rule was approved in 2015, and has since been upheld in numerous court cases. Most recently, a Texas legislator called for a two-year delay of the rule, but DeLorenzo said he would “urge people not to procrastinate” on preparing to comply with it based on something that may or may not happen.
DeLorenzo said if carriers were to be flagged for having multiple violations of the ELD mandate, they could face from a warning letter to an investigation. He urged carriers to train not only drivers on the mandate but also support staff who are involved in the driver process. He suggested ELD training would be something that would be included in continued driver training.
DeLorenzo also discussed the web transfers system, and said it will be operating when the mandate goes into effect. Test runs of the system are expected to take place in September or October, he said. ELDs must be capable of wirelessly transmitting their data or sending it via USB 2.0 and Bluetooth.
The FMCSA website has a list of between 80 and 90 vendors of ELDs, and the federal agency does an “initial screen” of each vendor’s application, he said. But the agency relies on the manufacturer to certify the device just like any other electronic device. If a carrier faces an issue with a vendor’s ELD, it might be a simple software fix that can be handled wirelessly. But if it becomes a widespread issue with the hardware, the FMCSA will work with the vendor to resolve it. The agency has a checklist on its website about ELDs, and along with training their drivers, carriers should also be having conversations with the vendors.
For carriers who use AOBRDs, they have two more years before they must purchase an ELD. If they are replacing trucks in their fleet with new trucks, they can use existing AOBRDs in the new trucks. But if they are expanding their fleet, they must purchase an ELD for those new trucks.
Russ Elliott, senior vice president of operations at Melton Truck Lines in Tulsa, said the company has used AOBRDs for 10 years and plans to take advantage of the grandfather clause.
“When we converted 10 years ago, we had a (1%) increase in productivity,” he said.
Driver reaction to using the equipment is based on how one sells the program to the fleet.
“Don’t treat anything like a jam down,” Elliott said.
The company has supported using electric logs and others should be on this platform as it promotes safety, he said. Barring a last-minute change from the White House, Elliott expects the mandate to be enforced as planned.
Tom Poduch, director of Logistics Design at Transervice Logistics, said carriers shouldn’t be afraid of the technology. Drivers who already use a smartphone already know how to use 60%-80% of the system. The company started using AOBRDs seven years ago and plans to switch to ELDs soon.
Clevenger and transportation analysts also have discussed the impact the mandate is expected to have on freight hauling capacity, and if capacity is reduced, it would likely cause rates to rise. But how much rates will rise is uncertain. A capacity reduction of 3% to 5% has been is projected.
“It’s all speculation,” DeLorenzo said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be 2% or 20%. There will be some impact.”
Some exemptions to the mandate include drivers who drive within a 100-mile radius, keep logs for no more than eight days in a 30-day period and who drive trucks with an engine model older than 2000. Drivers who have an ELD that is deemed uncompliant will have eight days to replace it. DeLorenzo suggested to keep a logbook in the truck at all times just in case this were to happen.