Electronic Log books and how they will affect your business….

Drivers in the United States are expected to see a number of big changes when it comes to their businesses. Any driver that regularly operates in the United States including Canadian drivers will now be required to regularly use electronic logging devices by the end of this year. In 2017 the US voted to mandate electronic logging devices in commercial vehicles and trucks.

These changes come directly from the US Federal motor carrier safety administration and it means the truckers across the United States with an estimated over 140,000 Canadian drivers will have to modernize the system that they are using for recording their time on the road.

This mandate comes directly as a method to better track the hours of work and to limit the total amount of time that a trucker can be behind the wheel for improved safety on the road. By including ELD systems it’s possible to make sure that trucking companies are following their mandate for total hours worked within a week for safety as well as extra records for inspection, maintenance and more. Electronic laws will eventually improve enforcement and compliance with FMCSA standards.

The problem with logs which are not based on the electronic monitoring systems is that they can be extremely easy to fake. Written logs will no longer be accepted under the law because companies and workers could basically write in whatever they want to remain compliant.

A 516 page final rulebook was released on December 10 of 2015 outlining the various requirements set out for ELD manufacturers to ensure that their systems are fully accepted by the FMCSA. These types of rules ensure that even the electronic documentation manufacturers are forced to create a product that will remain compliant and extremely difficult to fake. Ultimately enforcement is the name of the game here with the ability to verify data.

As an added bonus for drivers and managers electronic logbooks are a change that can certainly save time. On-duty off-duty logbooks have been created for bus drivers and truck drivers since the late 1930s and through the automated use of electronic logging it’s possible to not only record the data in real time from any vehicle but also at a fair amount of assistance in time management, scheduling and more.

Electronic logbooks are making it simpler for roadside safety inspectors to easily spot violations in federal law that could be potentially putting lives at risk. Logbooks can be very difficult to verify in these roadside checks but with a quick look at the electronic logging device, it’s possible to verify the data and potentially get drivers off the road who are in violation.

When does the mandate go into place?

All drivers operating in the United States will have to start using electronic logs by December 18 and 2017. An electronic logging device must also be updated to improve all technical requirements outlined in the most recent version of the final rule document. If you log systems are already in place in the form of an automatic or onboard recording device, these will be temporarily permitted until the year 2019 on December 16. AOBRD’s are only temporarily compliant and the full transition to ELDs to meet the newest technical standard is a requirement.

Based off of current ordering and demand it’s estimated that most suppliers of the ELD systems can help a company become compliant between 12 to 24 months if they have AOBRD systems on all of their vehicles. Because of this incredible demand from manufacturers the FMCSA has introduced this grandfather clause to deliver two additional years in finding the ELD standard. The bottom line is having at least some type of electronic tracking available in the vehicle for now. By eventually updating to ELD the devices can continue to be compliant and upgraded through various software patches and for all drivers. Upgrading to ELD will not only ensure that a trucker driver can operate legally but it can minimize the eventual cost of compliance for fleets. Knowing electronic devices can be patched instead of requiring extensive hardware updates can be a big break for many business owners. Some versions of the AOBRD’s can also be upgraded with their own firmware or software update to make them ELD compliant especially if they are modern devices. This means that if the business owner has already updated their fleet to AOBRD’s some light research or regular updating to the device could be all that’s needed to turn a fairly modern system completely compliant under the new standard.

Differences in standards:

The FMCSA plans to eventually publish a web list of devices which are compatible and updatable in an online database. This can make the process of actually discovering accepted devices and updating your software much easier. What is important to note however is that every ELD is going to present data differently and have different tools for business owners to use within their business. Different systems are going to have different interfaces as well as different ways of presenting the data for both owners and operators as well as inspectors. This can also lead to compatibility issues as suppliers begin purchasing pre-equip police trucks, acquiring used ELD systems and purchased used trucks from other owner and operators. Eventually what could happen is a giant mixed fleet of ELD’s presenting data differently and making data very difficult to examine for a business owner. In many cases this is an issue that’s being somewhat overlooked and many business owners may want to consider making sure that all of their trucks are equipped with similar systems for ease of use.

This rule is one of the largest changes to the trucking industry for many years and while many business owners consider it to be a big intrusion into the rights of privacy, many applaud the idea of the improvements to Highway safety. Various groups have come forward to attempt athwart the mandate for ELD’s but the mandate has been made official under the final rule. The good news for drivers however is that there is a law that prohibits the use of shippers, receivers, motor carriers and more on the manipulation of ELD’s and driver harassment.

How this will effect small and large companies:

Ultimately this new standard can have quite a large effect on the trucking industry in different ways based off of the size of a business. Smaller owner operators may find it easy to update their compliancy especially if they are directly in charge of their own trucks and driving schedule. Monitoring and coordinating just one truck for the upgrade or a few trucks for the upgrade can be a fairly simple task. Smaller owner operators to even consider the idea of leasing a truck that’s already compliant or purchasing a used truck that’s already compliant especially if they are just starting their business. A big concern that could face many owner operators however is that they may not be able to beat out the larger competition by offering longer driving time through written logs. The automated driving logs will hold owner operator drivers much more accountable.

Larger companies may face greater difficulty when it comes to their upgrade process however. Many manufacturers of ELD systems are absolutely swamped with orders and upgrades right now and as a result it could take up to a full year to reach compliancy. This is leaving many owner operators purchasing devices that need to be updated in order to be somewhat compliant under the grandfathered rule. Making sure that some type of electronic logging device is available on board is essential for compliance. If a large-scale company is unable to complete compliancy by the deadline this could lead to extensive expenses. Having entire fleets of vehicles off the road could be extremely detrimental to a company. Giving larger companies electronic logging devices in their vehicles however is a huge benefit not only for their compliancy but for tracking, scheduling and more. It can be very difficult for dispatchers and owners to keep tabs on their drivers especially if they are working in a very large fleet. These types of devices can finally put control back into the hands of management and owner operators. Many ELD’s also come with advanced software and data output that can be introduced to computer software for improvements to efficiency. This can help an entire fleet to examine improvements that could lead to greater profitability.

Compliancy remains a big concern for companies of all sizes and scales within the trucking industry. With these rules now finalized it’s extremely important that owner operators, managers and drivers are willing to focus in and do what is possible to initiate these changes before they risk the chance of fines, violations of federal law and more. The Commercial Vehicle Training Center will continue to monitor any situation that arises with FMCSA.