On the 10th of December 2015, a 516-page ruling was released by the United States Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that requires all truckers operating in the USA to completely change how they account for their hours of work. The new Electronic Log Device (ELD) mandate means that drivers who currently keep paper logs of their hours worked, rest time and other details of their job functions must install electronic log devices, machines that connect directly to the truck’s engine and automatically record and capture all movement of the vehicle.
This article discusses how and why this new law was enacted, how the new electronic logging devices will work, and why now is the right time to introduce this legislation that reduces paperwork for truckers in the industry and increases their safety.
A Brief Background on the New ELD Laws
The trucking industry has been stuck in the Stone Age in terms of technological advancement. Since 1938, drivers whose working hours are regulated by the government to prevent tired drivers from staying in the road, have been required to keep pencil and paper logs of their driving hours. Although truckers are legally required to keep the book up to date, this practice is impossible to enforce from a legal standpoint and there is no accountability for truckers who misrepresent their hours worked to stay on the road for longer. This practice is so widespread that the logbooks, which must be presented at truck inspection stations on major highways, are frequently referred to as “comic books” and treated like a joke.
It was 1986 when the first requests were made to the United States Department of Transportation for a mandate that would require electronic logging devices to be used in the trucking industry. Today, many trucking companies are using Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) to record the duty status and driving time of truck drivers. An examination of such a device can be requested by a law enforcement agent, and the trucker must be able to show logs of the previous seven days, including the current day, in order to be compliant with hours of service (HOS) laws.
In 2012, the United States passed the MAP-21 bill, requiring the FMCSA to establish a mandate for the implementation of electronic logging devices throughout the trucking industry, and the ruling that was released in December of 2015 includes provisions for businesses to adapt to these new laws, requiring compliance no later than December of 2017.
Functions of Electronic Log Devices
ELDs are similar to the AOBRDs that are already in use by many trucking companies. Both devices are capable of recording whether the vehicle is moving and monitoring whether the driver is on duty, however, there are some key differences that make ELDs a cut above what’s in use right now. First, ELDs will connect directly to the engine, providing the most reliable information about whether and when the truck is being operated.
Additionally, ELDs will transmit information to safety or fleet managers in real time, enabling trucking companies to monitor the safety behaviors of the employees that operate their vehicles and to better plan loads in compliance with HOS safety requirements.
How Electronic Log Devices Will Improve Driver Safety
It’s safe to say that the adoption of electronic logging devices in the trucking industry is going to dramatically increase driver safety. The present system, which tries to hold truckers accountable to reports that they themselves are responsible for creating with a pencil, does very little to protect driver safety other than shake a fist at those who want to drive beyond what’s legally permitted.
Electronic logging devices add a much-needed layer of transparency to the process of monitoring and enforcing HOS regulations by generating reports that are known to accurately reflect the times that the vehicle was in operation. As a result, truckers can no longer be pressured by dispatchers into working longer hours, and truckers that have worked all of the hours they are permitted cannot falsify reports that would enable them to drive while fatigued.
Getting fatigued drivers off of the road for a rest may very well reduce traffic fatalities—it is known that driving while tired is just as dangerous as driving while impaired, especially when you’re driving an 18-wheeler truck with a massive payload. The new ELD mandate forces drivers to follow the rules—driving when they’re permitted and resting when required, in order to comply with HOS regulations and improve safety for everyone on the roads.
The new ELD mandate is an important step for the trucking business in the United States. While already a safe and efficient industry, the requirement for electronic logging devices improves the regulation of driver behavior, facilitates a higher level of compliance with HOS regulations and reduces the time that drivers must spend filling out paperwork. Importantly, any reduction in the number of fatigued drivers on our roads is an advancement in public safety that benefits everybody.