When it comes to managing electronic logging devices in the back office, “Obviously, the big thing is to monitor for violations,” advised Annette Sandberg, CEO of TransSafe Consulting and a former administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, during a recent HDT webinar on the ELD mandate presented by Omnitracs.
“Whether you have an AOBRD or an ELD, there's a lot of data [gathered] that will help you better maximize your drivers’ time, and make sure that they actually can drive more hours and work more hours,” she explained “here's opportunities to optimize your freight and have visibility into the time and location of where your freight is and when it's going to get to the appropriate location. And obviously, there's opportunity to gather detention time if you're having detention issues with particular customers.”
Tom Cuthbertson, vice president of Regulatory Compliance for Omnitracs, pointed out that timing for audits should be a concern for fleet managers. “An auditor could come in but ask you several days ahead of time to have driver log data available and send it to them prior to the audit. That's a little different than what may be usual with an AOBRD. So, you need to be prepared to review your edits and look at how your edits are being done during the audit, and [any] malfunction of devices. Realize that if a malfunction happens in a device and it doesn't recover, then there's only eight days to have that unit repaired and back into the truck. So, those, kind of things you need to worry about with an internal audit.”
Sandberg noted that the “last thing you want is to have FMCSA or a state investigator show up to do a compliance review and nobody knows how to pull driver logs and the various reports that they ask for. It will make them clearly question your system and your ability to manage that system.”
She cautioned that motor carriers “need to be vigilant with these [logging] systems because they capture things a lot of carriers weren't aware they might capture, and then in the event of an audit, these are the things that FMCSA or the state investigators are going to ask for.”
That being said, Sandberg recommended “absolutely monitoring all the unassigned drive time. I have carriers [among clients] that are just kind of letting unassigned drive events chalk up. Their drivers never accept it. And they don't have anybody in the back office actually monitoring it and trying to assign it to a driver. That can be very, very dangerous in the event of an audit because this is the first report that FMCSA will ask for. So, they'll come in and they'll say, ‘I want to see your unassigned driver report for this month.’ And then they're going to look at what truck accumulated that mileage, and they're going to try to track down who should have accepted that time because in essence, that's a false log. If that time belongs to a driver and they didn't accept it, and you didn't assign it, then obviously whatever driver that belongs to, didn't have the appropriate time logged on to their log.”
She said another thing that a lot of carriers aren't paying attention to are odometer “skips” or jumps. “You need to ask your ELD vendor, whoever they are, ‘Do you have an odometer skip or jump report?’ They all should have it. And really the reason they should have it is that the easiest way [for a driver] to circumvent an ELD is to simply unplug it from the truck. If I unplug it from the truck, and I drive for an hour, and then I plug it back in, then if it's working properly, it should show that jump in the odometer-- that there were so many miles that accumulated in that one hour, and that needs to go back to the motor carrier to track and investigate and figure out why that happened.
“Where we're seeing a lot of this is with drivers who want to do personal conveyance, and they don't necessarily want to show the carrier that they're doing personal conveyance so they'll unplug the device, drive a personal conveyance, and then plug it back in,” she continued. “The second report that FMCSA or the state investigators will ask for is this odometer jump or skip report. And so, as a motor carrier, you need to make sure that your back office is actually checking these reports. Are they investigating, trying to figure out what drivers are doing? And then are drivers being held accountable for time that they should have been putting on their logs because, again, this is a false log.”
Cuthbertson advised “looking at how you may have categorized those unassigned vehicle moves if it wasn't directly to a driver. As Annette said, that will be a big thing in an audit. The other thing is, as you're going through this, remember that many fleets are still running AOBRDs and are not on ELDs yet. So, if you come into an internal audit, make sure that you understand if you're in a transition and be able to communicate that because you're going to have information in two different forms. You will have it under an AOBRD method as well as ELD. So make sure that's there.”