Photo: J.J. Keller & Associates

Photo: J.J. Keller & Associates

Unless your drivers are exempt from logging their hours of service, your fleet must transition to operating with electronic logging devices (ELDs) or automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) by Dec. 18, 2017.

The path to operating with ELDs should include retraining drivers and supervisors on the hours-of-service limits, tightening up hours-of-service compliance and auditing, developing and training on ELD policies and procedures, and training on the ELD system itself. Will your new policies and procedures pass FMCSA’s scrutiny as adequate safety management controls — not the least of which is detecting and correcting any cheating of the system? 

A step that can’t be overlooked is creating effective policies and procedures for the new operating environment. Remember, to minimize stress and uncertainty, the best policies are ones that are easily understood, provide a measurement mechanism, and have clear consequences for noncompliance. However, coming up with policies for a new way of operating and for sustaining a different culture can be hard to do.

When developing the new policies, your goal should not be to explain every possible situation. You are aligning policies with regulations, stating expectations regarding what you will and will not allow, and clearly outlining what will happen if the policy is not followed. One example of a clear policy is to state that “compliance with the hours-of-service regulations is a condition of employment.” The details and the different situations that might come up can reside in the procedures that support the policy.

To support compliance with the electronic logging-related policies, you must develop procedures. Here is a list of core procedures you would want to consider:

  • Define how and when drivers are to be trained on hours-of-service regulations and the operation of the ELD initially, and on an ongoing basis.
  • Document who will have authority to do which actions within the ELD back-office system, including account maintenance, log auditing, and reviewing unassigned-driving events.
  • Provide specific guidance on auditing logs to detect the new methods of falsification.

Limit supporting documents to eight per driver per duty day, within the five categories of allowed documents — per the ELD final rule.

  • Outline how and when drivers are to be counseled, retrained, and disciplined when violations, improper edits, tampering, or falsification occurs.
  • Require supervisors to consider the driver’s available hours and level of fatigue when assigning a movement — include actions to take when a driver’s hours are insufficient for a movement.
  • Prohibit harassment and coercion of drivers by anyone in the organization, as well as define each and the difference between the two. Authorize dispatch to allow drivers to go to the closest safe location to park if they are being forced to leave a shipper, even after designated carrier representative attempts to gain approval to park at the shipper. The driver must feel safe to drive and the ELD record should be annotated with details.

The hours-of-service policy must prohibit engaging in the most common ways drivers may try to falsify their electronic logs. You may need to incorporate the detailed procedures for your particular ELD system. For absolute clarity, the policy should require, at a minimum, that drivers:

  • Log in and out at the appropriate time.
  • Log in using their own credentials.
  • Edit only to correct errors or omissions.

Provide examples of actions considered to be falsification, such as logging in after a driver has started his/her on-duty time for the day and logging out before driving is completed for the day. Drivers must know that these actions will generate unassigned events that must be reviewed and correctly assigned or annotated. It is highly recommended to require a daily review of unassigned events to avoid an unmanageable backlog. A zero-tolerance policy should be considered for intentional falsification.

Other operational issues to consider covering in your new policies and procedures:

  • Require drivers to properly handle ELD malfunctions and to transfer/display data for roadside inspections. If the driver cannot or will not do this, a violation will be written, which will affect both the driver and the carrier.
  • Define the requirements to use the “Personal Use” or “personal conveyance” (off-duty driving) option, which is typically when drivers take the truck from the terminal to their home and back to the terminal, or when the truck is used for purely personal short trips.
  • Define the requirements to use the “Yard Move” option, which drivers and company mechanics can choose if they move trucks on private property that is restricted from public access. ELDs must automatically record drive time at 5 mph or greater as “on-duty driving,” so this is an option to reduce unassigned drive time events.
  • Determine whether each company mechanic will have an ELD account to reduce unassigned driving events when operating a truck. It is not required to have ELD accounts for most company mechanics because they stay within a radius (100 or 150 air-miles) considered to be exempt from logging. For truck repair vendors, do not create an account. The back-office personnel will need to annotate the vendor-generated unassigned events.
  • Determine if you will have drivers use a portable ELD to plug into a rental truck, or if your rental company will provide the ELD. The data generated on an ELD that is not interoperable with your system may be a recordkeeping complication you want to avoid.
  • Determine whether you will require your owner-operators to lease an ELD of your choosing or theirs, and whether you would charge the owner-operator. Consult legal counsel on this one.

After the policies and procedures are developed and/or updated, ask the question, “Have we provided simple and clear guidance to improve our safety and compliance in the electronic logging world?”

You may discover gaps in your new/updated policies and procedures due to unanticipated situations or changes in regulations. Periodically review and revise these “living” documents to keep them relevant, accurate, and compliant, as well as aligned with your safety vision and culture.

Mark Schedler is senior editor at J.J. Keller & Associates with more than a 25-year career in transportation/logistics. This article was authored under the guidance and editorial standards of HDT’s editors to provide useful information to our readers.