The Dec. 18 deadline is fast approaching. By now, you should have selected an ELD (electronic logging device) provider that is in the process of installing the ELDs in your trucks and vans.
Last issue’s article (“ELD Compliance for Small Fleets” Sep/Oct ’17) dealt with navigating the different avenues that small fleets can take to comply with the ELD mandate. This article will provide information on the path after implementation, from driver buy-in and training to configuring your internal processes and analyzing inspection and compliance issues.
When it comes to ELDs, one of the most-asked questions is this: Will your administration and the back-office duties of your administrative people change?
“A lot of that will depend on how a company is organized already,” says Samuel Mayfield, a retired state trooper and Department of Transportation (DOT) inspector. “A safety manager responsible for hours of service and driver qualifications will still continue being responsible for those things.”
But it will change how they go about reviewing hours of service, according to Mayfield, who is also an Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)-certified instructor with FleetUp, a provider of ELD compliance solutions and fleet management services (FMS).
Whereas it took a considerable amount of work to review paper log books on an ongoing basis, “An automated ELD system will improve their efficiency levels, simply because it will more directly highlight ANY issues in need of resolving for fleet organizations to more effectively manage those drivers,” he says.
Mayfield admits that the manual paper system compelled many safety managers to concentrate on their problem drivers, “and let everyone else have a free pass because of time management.”
This free pass becomes more difficult with a digital system. “You’re going to be taking in a lot more data, even if it’s just to satisfy the HOS mandate,” says Mark Schedler, editor, transport management at J.J. Keller & Associates.
“You could be held liable for negligent management a lot easier today than you could before,” Schedler says. “With all this data coming in, you can’t say today you don’t know who your rogue drivers are.”
This higher level of knowledge could even increase the workload, Schedler says, or at least until the fleet has configured its digital dashboard and refined its processes under the new system.
That said, many ELDs are installed as part of full telematics systems, which would provide a host of ancillary benefits — from better driver routing and load management to improved fuel economy and being able to anticipate servicing before parts failures.
“There is considerable training involved in getting a driver compliant with ELD, from both a technology side and an hours-of-service side,” says Rich Mohr, vice president, rental & global product manager of Ryder System.
While regulated drivers would already be familiar with hours-of-service recordkeeping, electronic logging requires a different set of criteria, including how to properly log off the unit if the driver gives the vehicle to another driver.
“You used to be able to take your logbook with you,” Mohr says. “Now that logbook is electronically connected to that vehicle.”
Fleets should assign an internal trainer or multiple ones, depending on the number of locations. A trainer should be assigned to back-office staff as well. These individuals are good examples of the “train-the-trainer” philosophy; they’re the ones who get trained by the provider and then return to your company to train the rest of your staff and drivers on software and platform updates.
Schedler suggests an in-person “town hall” approach to driver training with a call-in line available to remotely located drivers. “This allows the naysayers to be in the same room as the people who had a positive experience,” he says, referencing his previous fleet management experience in implementing AOBRD devices, the precursors to ELD. “We used the weekly town hall meetings to have open and honest discussions to foster buy-in of the remaining drivers in the fleet.”
Don’t underestimate the training process, our experts say. During this period, fleets should have their drivers continue to run paper logs while testing the new ELD systems.
Remember, of course, that ELDs must be up and running on Dec. 18 whether you’re still running paper logs or not — and running paper logs past the deadline might present an unneeded compliance headache if the digital and paper logs don’t match.
Breakdowns also affect ELD use. In instances where a replacement truck is necessary, FMCSA rules allow for suspension of ELD recording in favor of paper logs for eight days.
For longer rental lengths, rental providers such as Ryder are providing ELDs in the rental trucks. The information would still need to be transferred. This would happen manually, though Ryder and other providers are developing an API for heavy users that would connect its system with others, Mohr says.
In an inspection situation, showing the compliance officer a copy of the rental agreement — along with an emailed or printed copy of their prior seven days logs — should suffice, says Mohr.
“Roadside inspections won’t change very much in terms of how they’re conducted,” Mayfield says, though electronic transfer of ELD data will become part of the process.
This new process necessitates that the detaining officer will be able to see and read the onboard ELD screen without getting into the cabs of your trucks, which requires a mount for the ELD. (There may be a few reasons that you don’t want a DOT officer climbing into your drivers’ cabs.)
Logbook data will be transmitted by approved telematics, Bluetooth, or USB methods to a government website, and the officer will access the website to view the data. “If the officer is satisfied with the data when presented on the ELD screen at the roadside stop, he may not even ask for a data transfer,” Mayfield says.However, “If demanded, it must be on the spot.”
In terms of violations, “The verbiage might change, but the concepts and effect of the fine will be exactly the same,” Mayfield says.
In the new electronic realm, “Not managing unassigned driving events is the easiest way to get a driver in a lot of difficulty,” Schedler says.
With the continuous recording of geographical location, the officer will be able to see (once he has accessed or downloaded the driver’s log) if the log matches the actual use of the vehicle for that day. Unaccounted-for driving gaps, such as personal conveyances, become harder to explain. Simply turning off the ELD and finishing the route as an unassigned event will trigger an investigation.
Failing to match records is a clear violation. Drivers who say they were simply driving to reposition the truck after a delivery for use the next day will not be an acceptable explanation. Cheaters who do exactly that today with their paper logs — or those who do not keep a log at all — have a much greater chance of being caught after Dec. 18.
There have been rumors about “soft enforcement.” Don’t count on it!
The DOT has stated it will not start putting violators out of service until April 1, 2018. As well, citations will not count toward a fleet’s CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) scores until then. That said, these are only temporary reprieves. The severity of violations hasn’t lessened — not having an ELD will carry the same penalty as not having a logbook prior to Dec. 18.
A final note — many small fleets are still not ELD compliant. If you’re in this category, you’ve had two years to get ready, and the implementation date is just around the corner. Delaying this process will not make it disappear; a failure to implement will have serious repercussions on your business.