Moderator Dan Horvath of ATA and panelists (l-r) Bill Goins of Old Dominion Freight Lines, Jim...

Moderator Dan Horvath of ATA and panelists (l-r) Bill Goins of Old Dominion Freight Lines, Jim Mullen of FMCSA, and Lisa Gonnerman of Transport America discuss real-world aspects of rolling out the ELD rule.

Photo: David Cullen

Come Dec. 16 — less than three months away — motor carriers still running with grandfathered automatic onboard recording devices to track hours-of-service will have to be switched over to devices that are compliant with the electronic logging device mandate that first went into effect almost two years ago.

Yet despite all that lead time, a multitude of warnings from experts that the switchover can be complex, and a rapidly closing compliance window, anecdotal evidence suggests more than a few trucking operations are cutting things really close.

“We don’t really have a good feel, quite candidly,” for the number of fleets that haven’t yet switched from AOBRDs to ELDs, said Jim Mullen, chief counsel for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, speaking on an Oct. 6 panel at the American Trucking Associations’ annual meeting in San Diego.

The decidedly unscientific raise-your-hand poll Mullen took of audience members indicated a majority had switched over, but that would be cold comfort for any manager still riding the grandfather clause who heard Lisa Gonnerman, vice president of safety and security for Transport America, detail what the transition entailed for the Eagan, Minnesota-based carrier.

Asked by moderator Dan Horvath, ATA’s vice president of safety policy, what she would do differently now the fleet’s conversion is complete, Gonnerman replied, “Different? I’d do more training.”

Transport America began the conversion process for its 1,700 trucks in February and as of now, all drivers have been trained, said Gonnerman. “There’s a lot of planning to do and it takes time. We started the training by piloting it first before beginning, in July, to bring the program to each of our terminals.”

The training included about an hour of “face-to-face instruction” on ELDs for each driver as well as hands-on training for roadside inspections so drivers know they should tell inspectors that they’re “now on an ELD.” Gonnerman credits that aspect with the fleet not having many issues at roadside.

A key element of driver training was to explain the difference between an AOBRD and an ELD. But it wasn’t just about drivers. “We did training for the safety department, including on how to get information [from the ELD] and understanding the reports that are generated,” said Gonnerman.

“There was also lots of training for the back office,” she continued. “The impact there [from switching logging devices] is substantial; we had to put some new policies in place, such as on how to handle log edits, and that takes time.” Also, allowing drivers to make use of personal conveyance mode results in “very challenging” auditing by the back office.

“We have kept tweaking the training based on questions that come in to us and by which questions are being repeated,” Gonnerman advised. “And even now, we keep sending out training reminders on ELDs to our drivers.”

Panelist Bill Goins, an Old Dominion Freight Line driver and an America’s Road Team captain, noted that while he was initially skeptical of ELDs, he has come to appreciate how they make his job much easier.  “At the end of the day, I don’t have to sit down with apen and a ruler and a calculator before I can go to bed,” he said.

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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