Photo courtesy J.J. Keller
By early December 2017, an estimated 3 million commercial drivers will have thrown out their paper logbooks. A long-anticipated rule requiring electronic logging devices for truck and bus driver hours of service was announced Thursday morning.
“Since 1938, complex, on-duty/off-duty logs for truck and bus drivers were made with pencil and paper, virtually impossible to verify,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk.”
An electronic logging device, or ELD, automatically records driving time. It monitors engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information. Although many fleets already are using some version of electronic logbooks, the agency estimates making them mandatory will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries each year.
Truck and bus drivers who currently use paper log books must adopt ELDs within two years. The agency estimates about 3 million drivers will be affected. However, drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000 will not have to use ELDs.
Motor carriers that are already using electronic log systems compliant with current federal rules (defined as Automatic On-Board Recording Devices, or AOBRDs) have an extra two years to switch over to the new ELD requirements.
The rule includes technology specifications detailing performance and design requirements for ELDs so manufacturers are able to produce compliant devices and systems.
It also establishes new hours-of-service supporting document (shipping documents, fuel purchase receipts, etc.) requirements that the agency said will result in additional paperwork reductions. In most cases, a motor carrier would not be required to retain supporting documents verifying on-duty driving time.
The rule strictly prohibits using ELDs to harass drivers. (A separate FMCSA rulemaking further safeguards commercial drivers from being coerced to violate federal safety regulations and provides the agency with the authority to take enforcement actions not only against motor carriers, but also against shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries.)
The rule permits the use of smartphones and other wireless devices as ELDs, so long as they satisfy technical specifications, are certified, and are listed on an FMCSA website.
Canadian- and Mexican-domiciled drivers will also be required to use ELDs when operating on U.S. roadways.
In developing the ELD Final Rule, FMCSA said it relied on input from its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, feedback from two public listening sessions, comments filed during an extended comment period following the 2011 proposed rule, and comments to the 2014 supplementary proposed rule. The final rule also incorporates mandates included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act and other statutes.
Published reports indicate the rule is scheduled for official publication Dec. 16. The requirements kick in two years from publication date. A copy of the ELD Final Rule is available at: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/electronic-logging-devices-and-hours-service-supporting-documents
Further information, including a searchable list of frequently asked questions and a calendar of free training webinars, is available at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/elds.
Corrected 11 a.m. EST 12/11: Final rule is not published on Dec. 11 as initially reported. Published reports indicate it is scheduled to be published Dec. 16.