The new mandate concerning electronic logging devices (ELDs) has been in the works for decades. In 1986 the first requests appeared for the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to create a mandate that would require trucking companies to use electronic logging devices in their commercial vehicles. Now, with a new mandate having been passed and deadlines for compliance rapidly approaching, it’s time to look at the new laws and what they mean for the trucking industry. This blog talks about the new ELD mandate, explaining how and why it came to exist and who will be most affected by this new law. ELD legislation promises to change the trucking industry from top to bottom. In this article, we explore how this will be done.

Legislating the New ELD Mandate

The trucking industry has always been highly regulated in the United States. It is the job of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a subdivision of the DOT, to regulate virtually every aspect of the trucking industry.

Trucking became a popular commercial method of transportation in the late thirties and especially after the Second World War. In 1938, the first legislation was passed which required drivers to maintain a log book indicating how many hours of service they had accumulated. Logbooks are often viewed as cumbersome by some drivers who bemoan the amount of paperwork associated with manually tracking their hours of service. Some drivers even falsify log entries to work more hours than they’re meant to or to take more breaks than they ought to.

In 1986, the DOT started receiving requests from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) to do away with paper logbooks in favor of electronic devices that automatically log when a truck is in motion. This lobbying group is a scientific and educational organization whose aim is to reduce highway traffic fatalities in the United States. Almost 29 years after the initial requests, the ELD rule was signed into law on December 16th, 2015.

What is the New ELD mandate?

The FMCSA does an excellent job of outlining the features of the new ELD legislation on its website, making this information readily accessible. The ELD mandate is divided into three parts:

1. A section mandating who is required to use ELDs and the timeline for compliance across the industry.

2. A section addressing driver harassment. There has been some concern that electronic logging devices would enable motor carriers to harass or coerce drivers by digitally manipulating their logbooks. A motor carrier could edit the data on the ELD to implore the driver to take on a load that would put them over the legal hours of service. Therefore, the ELD mandate contains legislation that specifically protects drivers against harassment or coercion by their employers.

3. A section providing the technical specifications that manufacturers are to follow when designing ELDs for use in the trucking industry. For example, to help prevent driver coercion or harassment, ELDs must prompt the driver to confirm any edits and additions made to their logbooks by the motor carrier. This feature prevents employers from unfairly modifying the driving records of their truckers to try and get them to drive for longer hours.

Who is Impacted by the New ELD Mandate?

The ELD mandate is a far-reaching legislative action that affects parties both inside and outside the industry. Here are some of the key stakeholders and how they might be affected:

Manufacturers – The ELD legislation creates clear guidelines on how electronic logging devices must be designed and built, standardizing them across the industry.

Law Enforcement – Compliance officers have the authority to request a log book from a Commercial Vehicle Operator in much the same way that highway patrol officers can request to see a Driver’s License and Registration. It will now be more difficult for drivers to neglect or falsify records, enabling law enforcement agents to better protect the public from drivers who engage in unsafe practices, such as exceeding the permitted hours of service.

Motor Carriers – Dispatchers will benefit from improved information about the location and duty status of drivers, enabling them to better estimate arrival times and deliver better service to consumers.

Truck Drivers – Truckers will spend much less time doing paperwork and administrative tasks, resulting in time savings that can be allocated towards the allotted 11 hours of daily driving. The FMCSA estimates that truck drivers spent 20+ hours per year creating and submitting paper records of duty.

Insurance Providers – Insurance providers should be able to offer more competitive rates, thanks to fewer fatigued truck drivers on the road leading to fewer traffic accidents and fatalities.

The Public – Tighter regulations designed to prevent traffic fatalities help us all—everyone who regularly uses the roads, especially the interstate highway system, can now rest assured that the driver in the truck next to them is being closely monitored and tracked to ensure that it’s safe for them to be behind the wheel.

The ELD mandate provides a much-needed mechanism for improved regulation of truck drivers. Carriers will be able to monitor their fleets and drivers to improve efficiency, shippers will have more accurate estimates of arrival times and an improved capacity to plan and organize, and the roads will be safer for everyone. The new ELD mandate is something we can all embrace as a step forward for road safety and better practices in the trucking industry.