The Real Problems with ELDs

Aug 25, 2021 9:28:42 AM / by Tiffney Lopez

After years of slow implementation, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) started strict enforcement April 20181.

Safety is the primary idea behind the digital form of paperwork. Previously, truck drivers were required to keep paper logbooks. 

The ELD device is a source of information regarding the truck’s engine power status, motion status, miles driven, engine hours, who is driving, which vehicle it is, motor carrier, and duty status2. The driver is required to certify his or her records, transfer the records, and have them ready for review by a safety official (e.g. Department of Transportation officer), according to the FMCSA.

The ELD mandate is not entirely supported by those in the trucking industry’s popular organizations, like Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA)3. While there is no published statistic at the time of this writing, it is well-known drivers, carriers, and dispatchers say ELDs are a source of contempt.

Oversight could potentially be the root cause of this contempt. Before the mandate started, a truck driver, as well as others in the industry, could lie with little to no repercussions. A truck driver could lie about his or her Hours of Service (HOS) and make up any lost time spent at a shipper, in traffic, or sleeping.

Nevertheless, ELD complaints can be mitigated with a deeper understanding of how they work and how they can be beneficial to streamlining a business for increased productivity.

It's not the ELD, it's the driver. 

It is the general consensus the majority of drivers in the trucking industry follow the law. In order to properly implement the ELD mandate, many drivers had to change life-long behaviors, including how long they were behind the wheel.

With the industry moving approximately 70 percent of the freight4 in the U.S., and two million tractor trailers5 on the road, truck drivers are in a peculiar position to see goods are delivered on time and the safest way possible. Even the most disciplined  drivers can find themselves in a position where they need to make up lost time, which paper logbooks made easy. The FMCSA regulates how many hours a truck driver can be on the road in one day, and having an ELD (somewhat) enforces it.

The regulations regarding when a truck driver can drive, sleep, take a break, or work but not drive, were updated in 2020.

The majority of truck drivers are employed full-time and are not allowed to work more than 14 hours straight. Of that, only 11 hours can be dedicated to driving. The rest of the time the driver must do other work. Drivers also have to be off-duty for at least 10 hours between working periods.

Nobody really wants to drive more than 11 hours in a day. Available data from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, it shows that approximately 1 percent of work shifts require more than 10 hours of driving, and less than 4 percent of work shifts require more than 13.5 hours of on-duty and/or driving time6.

With a 14-hour clock that starts at the beginning of the day and keeps rolling no matter what, any wasted time ends up cutting into drive time. Loads end up sitting instead of advancing. Drivers end up sleeping in the truck instead of getting home on time.

Time management is at the heart of truck driving because keeping the truck loaded and moving is usually the primary consideration. Drivers and dispatchers must balance load times, traffic patterns, speed limits, vehicle capabilities, and the driver’s own physical and mental fatigue to try and maintain a network of pickups and drop-offs.

It's not the ELD, it's the shipper.

ELDs, unfortunately, do not account for time spent at the shipper. The 14-hour clock continues to roll despite how much time the driver has to wait. When a shipper overloads a truck it leaves the driver with few answers to compensate lost time.

Do drivers go back to the shipper and get their load changed when overloaded or do they drive illegally and risk a ticket, additional delays, and points against their Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score?

An overweight ticket could potentially lead to a truck being put Out of Service (OOS). Before ELDs, some drivers would go back to the shipper and had their loads reworked. Once that was finished drivers would then start their day. Some drivers considered their day starting once they were able to successfully get their load moving forward.

In public comments to the FMCSA, it was pointed out shippers and receivers have no oversight during the loading and unloading process when it comes to taking a driver’s HOS in to account7. The ELD binds the driver to 14 hours when the truck starts moving at the beginning of a driver’s day, whether they put themselves on-duty or not.

Avoiding the situation in the first place with a weight management system can take care of detention issues. Each carrier must balance the cost of finding a solution against the cost of the problem, but doing nothing is no longer an option.

The problem of a driver being detained at the shipper was formerly in the shadows, but with the ELD mandate now in place, the lack of accountability has been forced into the light. The contempt for ELDs is misplaced, as it is the shipper’s fault in this situation.

It's not the ELD, it's the traffic. 

While some traffic patterns are predictable, if a driver is rolling into Boston during rush hour, he or she has either made a rookie mistake or been given the world’s most unfortunate appointment time. Perhaps, in another scenario, there has been a crash and the interstate is now at a stand-still.

Planning for predictable traffic patterns is one of the many things that makes a professional driver a professional. With the clock ticking on the 14-hour window, what happens when the traffic isn’t predictable and a driver is trapped? The FMCSA allows a driver to report exemptions for adverse conditions and extend their drive-time by two hours.

It extends the 14-hour clock it takes into account unforeseen circumstances. It’s important to understand exactly how claiming adverse conditions works. When adverse conditions do arise, speeding doesn’t have to be an option. Many drivers are pushed harder by a dispatcher, the ELD doesn’t know that. ELDs can give a dispatchers visuals of where their trucks are located, who can work, who is tired, and how to make changes to the original daily logistics plan.

If, in fact, a driver is dealing with a situation where they are stopped traffic, there are ELDs which put a driver’s status to On-Duty Not Driving if the truck is stopped for six or more minutes.

It's not the ELD, it's lack of routine maintenance. 

A truck broken down on the side of the road is one of the worst reasons to lose drive time and money, especially when it’s preventable. That 14-hour clock ticks away, even if the driver is taking a nap waiting on the insurance company to send their roadside service guy to fix the truck.

Because truck maintenance is one of the largest expenses a carrier has, preventative measures are key to keeping operational costs down. There are thousands of diagnostic codes and ELDs can share valuable information with a click. With the proper software you can immediately have access to which truck has issues, what the fault codes are, the date it happened, and how many times it has happened.

The FMCSA requires drivers to inspect their truck each working day. It’s known as a Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) and an ELD can provide that service electronically8. Preventing a mechanical breakdown is why the FMCSA says DVIRs are completed.

There have been more than 15 million state and federal roadside inspections since 2017, according to data from the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System9. While it may seem the ELD is the problem with a roadside emergency, it can actually be the answer to preventing an emergency in the first place.

It's not the ELD, it's the DOT. 

Getting pulled over can ruin anyone’s day, especially if they are being told they have done something wrong. Some of the frustration can come from getting a ticket, losing drive-time because of being pulled over, and even dealing with a DOT officer who may not be completely up-to-date on industry regulations.

Most interactions with DOT officers start because of something noticeably wrong with the truck. The most common problem: a burned-out light. As mentioned previously, this is mostly likely preventable. The responsibility of the upkeep of the truck, including registration, tags, and place-cards rests on the carrier and/or driver. Having your HOS complete, and any needed annotations made, will reduce the amount of time being eaten into by the DOT.

For drivers who believe they have been incorrectly ticketed by the DOT incorrectly, the FMCSA provides a resource known as DataQ. Drivers can make a Request for Data Review (RDR) of inaccurate data by the FMCSA. 

It's not the ELD, because some don't need one. 

There are those who are excluded from the ELD mandate which include drivers in agriculture, trucks built before 2000, and short-haul, timecard exceptions. Even though the ELD isn't required for these drivers, it's still possible they can get value out of using one

It's not the ELD, it's the Hours of Service. 

Laws are always changing, and your ELD should update when said regulations do. While the ELD implementation is still fairly new, the HOS regulations are still the same as they have always been. 

On average, it can cost upwards of $3 million for a truck crash where there is a fatality. In order to minimize that statistic the FMCSA continually assesses information and utilizes public comment to see drivers are able to maintain a good safety-rating and harm is reduced. 

The FMCSA recently changed the sleeper-berth split and now offers a 7/3 split in addition to the 8/2 split. Rules behind when a drivers are allowed to drive versus when they aren't, rests on safety. ELDs are supposed to make roadways safer for everyone. 

How drivers use their 14-hour shift is their responsibility. It's also the responsibility of the carrier to see each driver's needs are met. 

It's not the ELD, it's the provider. 

Devices are like humans, imperfect. It's possible either you or your ELD will make a mistake. Fixing the problem on your own might not always be feasible. Talking with a customer support team about log issues, sleeper berth questions, and what FMCSA regulations you need to know should leave you feeling confident and worry-free. 

Drivers, carriers, fleet managers, and dispatchers should all have a way to communicate with their provider as many situations are time-sensitive. Some companies have customer support teams in the same building they manufacture ELDs, making access to information easy and convenient. 

There are also technical requirements that must be met by FMCSA standards. Providers are expected to certify the device they created  and meet those specifications. 

Finding the right ELD also means finding a provider who services and features are in line with your objectives and can help your company and team grow.

 

Topics: ELDs

Tiffney Lopez

Written by Tiffney Lopez