Doctors aren’t forced to use computers at their workplace, nor are they forced to keep medical records. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will be forcing most truck drivers to install an electronic logging device (ELD) in their trucks to record their Hours of Service (HOS). The sweeping mandate has been announced as early as 2015, and most of the truck driving industry has heard about it prior to 2017.

Why Are Truck Drivers Being Forced to Use Computer Loggers in Their Trucks?

The FMCSA has looked through their gathered statistics and studies and found that truck drivers who use an ELD are significantly more likely to comply with HOS. The lawmakers think that ELDs will keep sleepy truck drivers from violating HOS, which would hopefully lower the frequency of truck accidents. As a bonus, they also think the mandatory adoption of ELDs will make it easier for trucking companies to report and share their HOS compliance stats and Record of Duty Status (RODS).

What Exactly Is the ELD Rule Going to Do? And When Is It Going to Happen?

The ELD mandate is part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). It states that all truck drivers who’re required to follow HOS and RODS regulations must be driving a truck equipped with an ELD by December 18, 2017 – but there are exceptions. This also includes buses and trucks in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

What happened after December 18? After the ELD mandate went into effect, if you were required to install an ELD but didn’t and you’re pulled over, the law enforcement officer can give you a citation in violation of 49 CFR 395.22(a). A citation given for this provision finds that you’re in “no record of duty status,” which could have a fine between $100 to $10,000.

The good news is that there are no Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) points given and you won’t be forced into out-of-service status.

Why? The FMCSA has given a grace period until April 1, 2018 to allow for agricultural industries to comply with the ELD mandate, but the grace period applies to all truck drivers affected by the December 18 deadline.

After April 1, 2018, not having an ELD installed in your truck when you’re required, will allow law enforcement to issue a citation that includes a minimum of 5 CSA points and a mandatory immediate 10 hours of out-of-service status. Additional citations for not having an ELD installed add 10 more hours of out-of-service status – so your second offense is an immediate 20 hours of mandatory out-of-service status. But the law allows you to safely drive your truck to the nearest truck stop or rest area to wait out your out-of-service status.

But You Might Be Exempt From the ELD Rule

The ELD mandate allows for certain exceptions even after April 1. It only really applies to truck drivers who need to abide by HOS regulations. That means that if you use a truck to haul loads no more than 115 miles from where you routinely report in, or if you only rarely haul interstate, then you might not be legally required to install an ELD in your truck.

You’re also exempted from installing an ELD in your truck if you’re a driveway-towaway driver and you’re hauling a motor home with it or some kind of vehicle where one set of its wheels is touching the road.

If you’re driving a rig manufactured on or before the year 2000, you’re also exempted from getting an ELD for it.

If you use paper logs to comply with RODS for 8 days or less within a 30-day interval, then you may not be required to install an ELD in the trucks you drive.

If you’re using a qualifying automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) for recording your RODS, then you don’t need to switch to an ELD until December 16, 2019. To qualify for the exemption, your AOBRD must satisfy the requirements set forth in 49 CFR 395.15:

1. AOBRD must have the manufacturer’s certificate stating that the AOBRD complies with 49 CFR 395.15.

2. AOBRD is regularly maintained and recalibrated following the manufacturer’s specifications.

3. AOBRD (and any support systems) must be tamperproof to the fullest extent possible, including prohibiting editing HOS data.

4. AOBRD must warn the driver via audio or visual alerts if it suddenly stops functioning. If there are sensor failures or any informational editing, it must identify these in printouts of the data. (Models older than October 31, 1988 are excused from this requirement.)

5. Drivers must be trained to properly use the AOBRD.

6. The AOBRD automatically records the following driver status changes accompanied by the current city and state:

  • a. Location and time driver reports to work.
  • b. Driver starts to drive.
  • c. Driver is on-duty but not driving.
  • d. Driver is released from work.

7. The AOBRD only updates driver’s duty status changes only when the truck is at rest, except it must record the exact time the truck crosses a state boundary.

8. If the AOBRD has an electronic display, it must be able to show the following:

  • a. Driver’s total hours of driving during the current day.
  • b. Driver’s total hours on duty of the current day.
  • c. Driver’s total hours on duty for the last 8 consecutive days.
  • d. Driver’s total miles driven during the current day.
  • e. If there is more more than one driver using the device, the AOBRD must be capable of recording and displaying each driver’s duty status changes separately.
  • f. For each driver using the device, it must be able to show the time and sequence of driver duty status changes.

9. If code abbreviations are used, the abbreviation key should always be accessible in the truck’s cab and in the employer’s place of business.

10. The AOBRD can feasibly give government authorities a means to check driver’s HOS for the past 7 days.

  • a. This includes HOS chart and printout (or electronic display) showing time and sequence of driver status changes.
  • b. Any support systems used with the AOBRD in the employer’s place of business or the driver’s residence must also feasibly give government authorities a means to check the same information required of the AOBRD, including HOS, edited data, driver status changes, and sensor failures.

11. At all times, the truck must carry instructions on how the required data is being stored on the AOBRD and how to retrieve it.

12. Truck must carry a supply of blank RODS graph-grids to cover recording for the current haul.

It’s very important that you check that your ELD or AOBRD satisfies the FMCSA’s regulations. Even if you have an ELD or AOBRD installed, not using one that qualifies when pulled over by law enforcement still gives them the power to put you out-of-service for 10 hours after April 1.

But You Can Also Use Your Phone as an ELD!

If you’re required to install an ELD in your truck (even if you have a qualifying AOBRD, you’ll still need an ELD by next December), you’re looking at a mandatory $160 to $600 expense that the government isn’t planning on paying (although you most likely can deduct it as a business expense when you do your taxes). Most large fleet companies will have no issue footing that bill to comply with the ELD mandate and have all their trucks equipped with compliant ELDs.

But smaller fleets and budding owner-operators may not have the capital to get all their trucks ELDs. The good news is that the FMCSA allows you to use your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device as an ELD if its function complies with regulations. You can find FMCSA-certified apps, some for free, on Google Play of Apple’s App Store.

The issue with smartphone ELDs is that they’re generally more inaccurate and some people have reported that if you take your phone with you when you walk around, it records your movement as though you’re still driving the truck. Also, losing signal and network coverage can cut your smartphone’s connection to the ELD app and your fleet manager’s ELD-monitoring system, in which cases your ELD may no longer be compliant. But, fortunately in these circumstances the regulations allow for you to use paper logs to temporarily record your HOS and RODS.

Make sure you’re fully compliant or fall within one of the ELD mandate exceptions by April 1! You don’t want to get CSA points tacked onto your record and have your haul delayed by 10 hours. You should check with a truck driver attorney to make sure you’re fully compliant and free and clear to continue hauling when April 1 hits.