Former truck inspector explains impacts, exemptions to ELD mandate

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 848 views 

A former truck inspector expects the number of exemptions to the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate to rise as requests pile up, but the number of denied exemptions will be greater than those granted.

On Monday (Dec. 18), the ELD mandate went into effect, allowing roadside inspectors to start writing citations for violating the mandate. ELDs track a truck driver’s hours of service and duty status, and most truck drivers who maintained paper logs for hours of service are required to use an ELD to track them. Through April 1, drivers won’t be put out of service or receive Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) points for violating the mandate.

John Seidl, a transportation consultant for Integrated Risk Solutions and formerly a Wisconsin State Patrol inspector and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration investigator, spoke about the exemptions and impacts of the rule in a conference call hosted by Stifel transportation analyst John Larkin.

“We’re going to get more and more exemptions,” Seidl said.

Some of the existing exemptions to the ELD mandate include drivers operating a truck with an engine older than year model 2000, short-haul drivers operating within a 100- or 150-mile radius and those who don’t keep hours-of-service logs for more than eight days in a 30-day period. Recently, 90-day waivers for livestock, agricultural and rental truck drivers were granted by the FMCSA.

Seidl encouraged people to comment on proposed guidance on the hours of service rule that has implications on enforcement of the ELD mandate. On Tuesday (Dec. 19), the FMCSA proposed to revise guidance for personal use of trucks while off duty, commonly referred to as personal conveyance. This provision is available to drivers who use their truck for personal use and is a duty status drivers have the option to select on their ELD. Deadline to submit comments on the guidance is Jan. 18.

Existing guidance shows personal conveyance is when a driver who is not working uses their truck, not laden with freight, to travel short distances. If approved, the proposed guidance would allow drivers to use their truck while laden with freight, and the short distances restriction would be removed.

Like personal conveyance, a yard move is another duty status drivers may select on an ELD and also could have implications for enforcement of the ELD mandate. The government hasn’t defined yard moves and what is considered a yard. But in the ELD mandate, carrier Schneider suggested a yard move was “an on-duty not driving activity where all driving is done within an area that does not allow for any public access.” This might include a gated area that only allows for delivery trucks, not all motorists, Seidl said. But it wouldn’t include a mall parking lot, where all motorists are allowed to drive.

“Some ambiguity still exists around some of the language surrounding the new rule,” according to an industry update by Larkin. “Those carriers that have waited until this month to install their ELD’s might not have taken the time to understand these and other nuances and could well be, unknowingly, in violation.”

Carriers can decide whether to turn on the provisions for yard moves and personal conveyance for drivers, but the use of these provisions will likely be the two most common ways drivers will falsify logs, Seidl said.

“Since the devices allow drivers to enter data themselves regarding sleeper berth time, rest stops, etc. — it is still possible for drivers to ‘fudge’ their electronic logs,” Larkin noted. “However, carrier safety departments and enforcement officers can triangulate, more easily, in on the cheaters as location stamps are provided periodically. An experienced carrier safety professional or a state or federal enforcement officer can identify cheaters with less effort than before, as historically, many fuel stops failed to time stamp their receipts, truck scale operators obscured their time stamps and shippers and receivers did not accurately verify pick up or delivery times.”

Drivers using automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRD) won’t be required to use ELDs until December 2019. AOBRDs that can be updated to meet the ELD specifications will be allowed after the 2019 deadline. Until then, carriers that replace existing trucks must use existing AOBRDs in the new trucks and cannot purchase new AOBRDs to place in new trucks.

Drivers must keep instructions for using an ELD in their trucks at all times, and if drivers upgrade their AOBRD to an ELD, the AOBRD instructions must be replaced with the ELD instructions. Also, drivers must keep paper logs in case the ELD malfunctions.

More than 200 ELDs are listed on the FMCSA’s website, which shows the self-certified ELDs, but Seidl said some of those devices aren’t ELD compliant.

“This could be a function of the FMCSA’s policy of allowing manufacturers to self-certify their own devices,” according to Larkin.

Between 20% and 25% of carriers have yet to install an ELD, and among these carriers are the worst offenders of hours of service rules.

“If these carriers were bending the hours of service rules to the tune of 10% and 20%, we could still see another 2%-5% reduction in fleet utilization beyond that already experienced.”

This could be significant with capacity already tight, and shippers should prepare for rate increases as capacity continues to tighten. Stifel has buy ratings for Lowell-based carrier J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Van Buren-based carrier USA Truck, and expects carriers’ margins to “gradually expand as contract pricing strengthens over the next two to three quarters.”

Another impact of the ELDs is they could provide evidence of coercion rule violations. Shippers and receivers who pressure drivers to exceed hours of service rules to deliver freight could face an FMCSA investigation if they violate the coercion rule. Drivers who are coerced to bend the rules to complete a shipment can submit documentation to support their claims of coercion. The FMCSA must investigate every claim with some documentation but will only look into it if the driver complains.