The Trucker’s Guide to the ELD Mandate

Phil Cohen

On December 18, 2017, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate took effect in the U.S. trucking industry.

Surely, as a member of the transportation industry, you’ve heard a great deal of (predominantly negative) chatter about it—but what are the ins and outs of the mandate? What changes will electronic logging devices introduce to your day-to-day life as a truck driver and how is the industry dealing with the impending implementation?

What is the Electronic Logging Device Mandate?

The ELD Mandate is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) dictum that will soon require all trucks in the United States to use electronic logging devices as they carry out their work. Rather than logging in a paper logbook (the “old school” tradition), truckers will be required to do so electronically.

Per the FMCSA website, the ELD rule will impose the following:

  • “Requires ELD use by commercial drivers who are required to prepare hours-of-service (HOS) records duty status (RODS).
  • Sets ELD performance and design standards, and requires ELD’s to be certified and registered with the FMCSA.
  • Establishes what supporting documents drivers and carriers are required to keep.
  • Prohibits harassment of drivers based on ELD data or connected technology (such as fleet management system). The rule also provides recourse for drivers who believe that they have been harassed.”

The mandate came about when Congress enacted the MAP-21 bill in 2012. The bill, initially intended to codify a strategy for highway funding, was later revised to include a faction that we now know as the ELD Mandate.

There are quite a few points to unpack from the FMCSA mandate. Let’s take a look at how it will change life for you as a truck driver, owner-operator or small fleet owner.

What Type of E-Logs Can I Use?

Per the FMCSA, there are two options for drivers that need to purchase an ELD system.

The first of said options is a “telematics” transfer type ELD, which can transfer data to a law enforcement official wirelessly (typically via email).

The second is a “local” transfer type ELD, which can transfer HOS and other data via Bluetooth or USB. It will be required that each ELD must be integrally synchronized with your truck’s engine so that it can measure the vehicle’s status and offer a report to safety officials. Your smartphone and tablet can also work, so long as they meet the above-mentioned requirements.

ELD Supporting Documents: What Will I Need?

You must have the following with you as you drive:

  1. A user’s manual for the ELD you chose
  2. Step-by-step instructions for transferring data to safety officials
  3. Instructions for addressing ELD malfunctions and alternative methods of logging
  4. 8 days’ worth of blank RODS graph-grids

The Benefits of the ELD Mandate

Many in the transportation industry have been up-in-arms over the ELD Mandate—but what, on the other hand, are the upsides of the legislation?

Driving with electronic logbook devices does come with certain benefits. It saves the driver time by reducing the paperwork that he or she would have ordinarily had to fill out under the old system. Less paperwork means less wasted paper– a great thing for eco-friendly truck drivers. It will also allow the dispatcher to stay privy to the driver’s status throughout the entire trip, thereby making it easier for the dispatcher to plan for more efficient loads/routes. Furthermore, the mandate is lenient on fleets that need to make the subtle transition from AOBRDS to ELD devices—such fleets are given until late 2019 to make the upgrade.

The ELD mandate may also improve the life for many drivers nationwide that are victims of widespread, institutional maltreatment from fleets that surreptitiously abuse laborers. However, the biggest impact will be felt by smaller trucking companies and owner-operators.

Criticism of the ELD Mandate

Despite a few anticipated benefits, there has been quite the uproar within many sectors of the trucking industry over the FMCSA’s ELD Mandate. Especially since smaller carriers are the ones who will be hit the hardest.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has come out strongly in opposition to the dictum. OOIDA recently made headlines for their failed attempt to challenge the mandate at the Supreme Court. They see the mandate as a violation of truckers’ Fourth Amendment rights and as a superfluous measure that has no substantiated assurance that it will increase highway safety.

To the average owner-operator, the electronic log requirement imposes a heap of red tape and regulations that one individual/a small group of individuals must navigate. And let’s not forget the cost of electronic logs. According to the Wall Street Journal, owner-operators can expect to shell out $1,000 for the cost of an e-log device. In addition to that, there’s a monthly service fee of $40.

The Trucking Industry

Truckers are limited to 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour time frame. With e-logs monitoring their every move,  every single minute drivers are stuck waiting at a loading dock or buried deep in a traffic jam now counts against the time. If a trucker is waiting over an hour to unload, it can really put a dent in their pay.

Essentially, the trucking industry is divided on the matter depending upon the size of each company—the little guys don’t want to have to make potentially costly, confusing changes, while the bigger guys abound with corporate efficiency, generally don’t mind the increased regulation. Larger trucking firms are less averse to the mandate, as many of them already have ELD systems emplaced or, at the very least, they already are using AOBRDS.

It is also worth mentioning that the mandate poses a potential threat to fleets that hire immigrant drivers without English proficiency—the FMCSA plans to enforce their English language requirements much more strictly after the ELD Mandate takes effect in December.

Myth-Busting the Mandate for Electronic Logging Devices

The following are a couple of myths that are circulating trucker’s chatrooms online. Let’s debunk some of the rumors:

Myth: The Authorities will Keep all of the Information from the ELD

Not true—the FMCSA claims that authorities will only store a vehicle’s/driver’s information in the event of a violation.

Myth:  The ELD Mandate will Worsen Shipper Delays

Not true—while it does not directly ameliorate the problem of shipper delays, it does not worsen it. In fact, if anything, the increased data recorded and made available to the dispatcher could lead to future solutions to shipper delays.

Myth: My Truck will Shut Down if I Exceed Hours

Nope, not true—the ELD will have no control over the driver’s capacity to operate the truck. It simply records your hours.

Preparing Your Trucking Company for the ELD Mandate

Now that you have a somewhat comprehensive idea of the ELD mandate, it is time to make the switch from paper records to an ELD system.

This part is crucial—you have to make an investment, here, and you need to be sure that you pick a device that will long stay on the FMCSA’s list of compliancy. Choose the best option for your company and get used to the new system—it appears as if it is here to stay. You should also follow these eld implementation tips when you’re setting up your ELD.

If you need financial support throughout the transition period, contact Factor Finders—we are the best when it comes to securing alternative financing for owner-operators and small fleet owners. Give us a call today and speak with a factoring expert who knows the transportation industry inside and out.

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Phil Cohen

Phil is the owner of PRN Funding and sister company Factor Finders. He has been an authority in the factoring industry for over 20 years, serving on the board of directors for several factoring associations.


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