ELDs (Electronic logging devices) – Not a Matter of ‘If,’ but ‘When’

Many companies are actively investigating on-board technology because of the wide range of benefits they can offer. Others are waiting until there’s a mandate to install them. Either way, it’s very likely that there will be a mandate coming in the not-to-distant future.

The highway bill known as MAP-21 took effect in the fall of 2012 and included an ELD (electronic logging device) mandate making it federal law that the DOT must issue a rule requiring all interstate CMV drivers who are subject to the hours of service rules in Part 395 to begin using ELDs two years after the final rule is issued. Further details state that motor carriers operating in interstate commerce and subject to the logging requirements in Section 395.8, would be required to install and use ELDs on all their commercial motor vehicles (specifically interstate commercial vehicles that weigh or are rated over 10,000 pounds, are any size hauling placardable hazmat, and certain types of passenger-carrying vehicles). In other words, drivers who are required to log today would have to switch to using ELDs two years after this rule is finalized.

Because the proposal would apply to drivers who have to log, there is an exception for drivers who use the 100 or 150 air-mile radius exceptions in section 395.1(e). These short-haul operations would be allowed to continue documenting their drivers’ time using time records instead of logs, just like they do today. However, under this proposal, the DOT would “draw the line” with drivers who are not eligible for the short-haul exception more than twice a week. So drivers who exceed the 100 or 150 air-mile radius, or who are otherwise not able to meet the conditions necessary to claim the short-haul exception more than twice per week would have to switch over to using ELDs.

Other provisions state that every motor carrier will have to set up and use an hours-of-service management system to detect and prevent violations. This has always been a best practice. Now it would become a requirement when the rule is finalized. This management system will likely include the use of supporting documents that carriers generate or receive in the normal course of business. The rule will specify the exact criteria these documents will have to meet.

So where do we stand on the road to mandatory ELDs? The FMCSA plans to issue a supplemental proposed rule around the end of this month and then take public comments for 60 days after that. As part of that proposal, the FMCSA intends to revise and update technical specifications and address the issue of “harassment” which resulted in their previous proposed rule on this matter to be rejected by the court. After all public comments are gathered, the agency will then begin to write the final version of the rule. This can be expected in late 2014 or perhaps early 2015.

ELDs are set to become a part of the motor carrier industry. Now that there is a mandate from Congress, this law adds some certainty to the issue; it’s no longer a matter of “if” interstate carriers will need to start using ELDs, but “when.”