Is it an AOBRD or an ELD? Make sure your drivers know and have the right in-cab documents. Photo: J.J. Keller

Is it an AOBRD or an ELD? Make sure your drivers know and have the right in-cab documents. Photo: J.J. Keller

Since enforcement of the electronic logging device mandate started in mid-December, J.J. Keller reports that it is seeing problems with confusion whether a device is an ELD or a grandfathered automatic onboard recording device, as well as complaints about vendor support, and more drivers running out of hours due to delays.

J.J. Keller Senior Editor Mark Schedler reports that its compliance experts are seeing four recurring themes:

  1. Drivers are not sure if they have an AOBRD or ELD in the truck, and enforcement isn’t certain either, due to the variety of devices now in operation.
  2. ELD-related citations are being issued in several states for AOBRDs, even though drivers were compliant with Section 395.15, which is the AOBRD regulation.
  3. Carriers who chose vendors with insufficient levels of customer support are feeling the pain in the form of frustrated drivers and a potential loss of equipment productivity.
  4. Drivers are running out of hours due to delays at customers, traffic, and major accidents, and/or are not getting credited with a full break because of starting on-duty time just minutes too soon.

Schedler offers a closer look at each of these:

1. Know the requirements of the device in the truck

This may sound basic, but drivers must be certain of which device they are using (AOBRD or ELD), and understand the requirements for the respective device. If you or the vendor didn’t provide adequate instruction on the actual device in the vehicle, this can — and is — resulting in miscommunication with enforcement. 

2. Incorrect citations and data transfer failures

There are reports of drivers with AOBRDs being cited (but not fined) for ELD-related violations. The violations have been primarily for “failure to transfer data,” when, in fact, AOBRDs are not required to transfer data – they only must display or print the required hours-of-service information. If your driver was incorrectly cited, the citation should be contested via the DataQs process, even though there is no CSA point impact until April 1, 2018. A pattern of ELD-related violations will be looked upon unfavorably in court and by insurance companies, regardless of CSA point values.

There are also several reports of data transfer failures with purported “ELDs.” However, drivers were not cited and were permitted to use the device as an AOBRD if the display was compliant. The root causes of the data transfer problems were likely ELD-related versus FMCSA system-related. Different enforcement districts may choose to correctly cite for the failure of a purported ELD to transfer data.

Data transfer issues and any other ELD malfunctions must be repaired within eight days. You can file for an extension with the state FMCSA office within five days of the malfunction. If the vendor is unable to provide a compliant device, other actions to consider are reporting the vendor to the FMCSA and/or switching vendors.

3. Vendor support may be insufficient

Along with having a compliant device, customer support is one of the most important aspects of the vendor decision. Carriers are now experiencing the reality of their vendor’s customer support. There are 175 vendors and 278 models on the FMCSA ELD registry to choose from, and many do not have a strong track record in the AOBRD/ELD business. Blogs are filling up with unhappy stories of broken vendor promises and long waits for customer service responses.

Driver frustration with ELDs and AOBRDs can be reduced by a vendor with 24/7 support. If adequate time wasn’t devoted to training on data transfer procedures, edits, unassigned drive time, and other areas, a solid vendor can assist with this task. If things are bad enough, you might have to think about switching vendors.

4. Avoid and address potential hours issues

The hours-of-service regulations have not changed, yet there has been an increase in the reporting of drivers running out of hours before reaching a safe place to park. The burden is on the back office to consider drivers’ available hours and the expected hours for a trip, including potential delays at customers. Dispatching procedures must provide guidance on how to handle situations when there isn’t enough capacity to handle “priority” loads. Drivers cannot make the problem disappear.

Create, if you don’t already have, a safety procedure that addresses situations where a driver could be forced to leave a customer without enough hours to make it to a parking location. Personal conveyance or “off-duty driving” cannot currently be used as the back-up plan. If drivers run out of hours and must leave a location after failing to gain approval to park there, the electronic log must reflect the actual “on-duty driving” that occurred.

Instruct drivers to enter detailed annotations with the reason for any exceptions used or hours-of-service violations. Trends of violations are an audit concern, but an occasional well-documented instance of being over hours shows that you aren’t allowing continual unsafe practices.

The start date for full enforcement is fast approaching. Effective April 1, drivers will be placed out of service and Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) points will be assessed for ELD-related violations.