The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently said it won’t enforce the ELD equipment rule on trucks rented by a commercial carrier and used only eight or fewer days a month (though drivers of those vehicles will be required to keep paper logs). Certain trucks and vehicles used only for short-range agricultural product delivery purposes, plus certain short haul trucks that never venture more than 100 air miles (or about 115 ground miles) are also exempted from the ELD Mandate. But combined, all those vehicles represent less than one percent of the miles driven annually in the United States by commercial trucks, so for nearly all practical purposes, any remaining hopes that the government might delay the launch of the enforcing the ELD Mandate should be abandoned.
And that means if you own or drive one of the estimated one million trucks still not equipped with ELD devices — or about 29 percent of the estimated 3.5 million commercial trucks operating in the United States — the clock is ticking louder and louder each day that we get closer to the Dec. 18 implementation deadline.
Already some ELD equipment providers are telling potential customers that it’ll be weeks before they can deliver their devices for installation. And garages all around the nation — both those owned by trucking companies themselves and the independent shops — are reporting that they are having to schedule installations weeks in advance because of the huge backlog of ELD installation work piling up on their driveways. And the process doesn’t stop with buying and installing an ELD device. Drivers have to be trained on how to use them properly. If drivers can’t demonstrate to an inspector during a roadside stop that they know how to operate their ELD, both the driver and the truck owner will be subject to fines. But scheduling drivers for training can mean disrupting both their schedules and customers’ delivery schedules during the critically important, high volume fourth quarter of the year.
So, what’s the answer, if you or your company fall into the category of operating trucks not yet equipped with ELD devices?
- Decide to act now. Waiting for the FMCSA to announce a change of heart about its ELD implementation deadline is no longer a viable strategy. You have to make your equipment selection ASAP, and it’s not something you should do alone. Not at this point. If you need assistance to find and select a unit now go to someone that has been in the industry for several years. They should be able to provide you with reliable advice.
- Not all devices are equal in quality, capability or manufacturer/supplier support. Nor can they all deliver the goods in time for your trucks to be equipped and your drivers trained before the Dec. 18 deadline. So get educated quickly and make a wise decision. Maybe the biggest thing to look for is making sure the vendor supports hours-of-service rule sets you need and not just a 60/70 hour rule set.
- Make training a priority. Before you make an ELD selection, review the training materials. If they are bad or non-existent, find another provider. Depending on when you can get the devices installed you may have to schedule some or all of your drivers in for training even before the devices are mounted in their trucks. That’s not ideal, and should be avoided if possible. Still, it may be necessary. You’ll also need to make sure whoever you want to be your ELD system trainers get trained themselves immediately so that they can begin passing on their knowledge to your drivers. And that likely will require scheduling your trainers to go to the offices of your supplier for a couple of days of class work and hands-on learning experience.
It’s true that the FMCSA recently announced that it will delay putting drivers and trucks out of service if they’re discovered to lack ELD devices, but the potentially hefty fines against the truck owner (in addition to fines against the driver) called for in the ELD Mandate legislation and the FMCSA’s implementation rules will still be imposed beginning Dec. 18. So, clearly, the clock continues to tick louder every day as we count down to the ELD Mandate deadline. Don’t let it count you and your trucks out.