Electronic Logging Devices & The Owner-Operator

Semi Truck / Tractor Trailer at loading DockTruck drivers have had an obligation to log their Hours of Service (HOS) for many years now, and have had to be ready to provide those logs to law enforcement on demand.  The primary reason that the system was created was safety, making sure that drivers did not exceed the 10 hours of daily driving maximum which can lead to fatigue and accidents.  Until recently the primary method of logging their driving status was using paper logs, but GPS tracking technology is changing the way those logs are kept, and beginning later this year federal regulations will begin to force the transition away from paper to electronic logging for the industry.

In early 2016 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) finalized the rules for Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), which will replace both paper logs and earlier generation electronic logging technologies called Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs).  Drivers using paper logs will need to transition to either an ELD or AOBRD system by December 18, 2017, and everyone will need to be using an ELD system by December 16, 2019.  While this schedule gives everyone plenty of time to make the transition, there may be benefits to make the switch sooner rather than later.

How it works

The FMCSA has issued a really, really long set of requirements that define what qualifies as an Electronic Logging Device and what it needs to do, but the basics are straightforward.  At its core, the requirement is that the device needs to be able accurately track and manage when the driver is on or off duty, as well as when he or she is actually driving.  The system also needs to have the ability to share this information in a standardized form with safety officials.  All of the current systems achieve this goal by connecting a piece of hardware to the vehicle’s on board computer, which allows the ELD to accurately monitor when the engine is on and when the vehicle is moving.  There is also some sort of display on board that allows the driver to manually change his duty status, enter notes, and share the logged data with a safety official.

What’s The Impact

The FMCSA’s website has a long list of benefits for the driver, almost all of which revolve around making the job of keeping driver logs simpler, easier, quicker, and much more accurate.  And this all makes very good sense.  The electronic system will certainly reduce any number of mistakes that can be made when a human being is responsible for recording their duty status, whether those mistakes are honest ones or deliberately false.  Of course, its that second category that is at the center of the change.  The current paper logging system and, to a lesser extent the AOBRD system, are vulnerable to dishonest logging when a driver wants to circumvent the current limits on how many hours they can drive in a day.  For those drivers, the new system will make their efforts to cheat significantly more difficult, which in turn levels the playing field for the honest drivers that won’t take a pickup when they know that they would have to drive 20 hours straight to make it to the destination on time.

How Can We Help

Sageplan is currently evaluating the various ELD solutions that are currently in the marketplace, and several of the solutions appear to be compatible with our current GPS Fleet Monitoring solutions.  Expect an update from us towards the end of summer on our ELD solution.  If you are in the market for an ELD solution and do not want to wait until then, you can always give us a call and we’ll point you in the right direction.

If you are interested in the details, here’s a link to the FMCSA site on the ELD program: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/electronic-logging-devices

About Don Sesler

Don Sesler is the Owner and President of Sageplan Technology Consulting. While being the "company quarterback" does take up some of his time, Don still prefers the role of technologist, helping his customers improve the efficiency, security, and productivity of their business.

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