Understanding the Legal and Regulatory Aspects of ELD Usage in Trucking

The ELD mandate has made an impact on many truck fleets. For those carriers, understanding how ELD systems operate will help them decide whether these systems are right for their trucks.

The best ELDs go beyond federal compliance to give fleet managers deeper insights into vehicle statuses. This helps them streamline roadside DOT inspections.

Legality

ELDs are hardwired into truck engines, monitoring driving time, vehicle movements, and engine hours. They are a much more accurate and efficient recordkeeping system than paper logbooks. They allow law enforcement to easily review drivers’ hours of service (HOS) compliance and can detect if the driver is not getting enough rest.

Smaller trucking companies often flout the HOS laws by encouraging drivers to work past their mandated rest periods. This can contribute to fatigue, a major cause of truck crashes. ELD in trucking can help prevent these violations by making it more difficult for drivers to fudge the data.

Unlike paper records, an ELD is a secure electronic device that no one except authorized carrier staff can alter. Even when a driver or carrier edits an e-log, the original is saved and always available for inspection. It also protects drivers from harassment based on the data it produces.

Regulatory Compliance

In addition to being more convenient, ELD systems help truck drivers comply with federal regulations regarding hours of service. For example, the devices make it much more difficult for truckers to manipulate their records of duty status (RODS) by falsifying or fabricating data. In fact, before the ELD mandate, some truckers with dangerous safety records hid their poor reputations by changing companies and re-registering as “chameleon carriers.”

With the new technology, it’s more straightforward for authorized safety officials to retrieve HOS data from the device, analyze it, and identify instances of possible non-compliance. Then, they can take appropriate action, such as a warning for minor violations or placing a driver out of service for serious abuses.

Despite the benefits of implementing an ELD solution, many truckers and fleet managers have expressed concern about adding this additional burden. This is especially true for smaller fleets. A new proposal was recently introduced that would exempt trucking firms with fewer than ten trucks from the requirement to use an ELD system.

Privacy

The ELD mandate has received a mixed response from truckers. Some see it as government overreach, and others have taken the opportunity to leverage the technology for business opportunities.

An ELD automatically records all driver logs, including fuel stops and vehicle movements. The device also records each time an entry is made, making it only possible for drivers or fleet managers to alter their logs if they provide express justification.

In addition to ensuring compliance with federal regulations, an ELD solution can help save time on paperwork and reduce costs for drivers. This is because a single solution provides easy, fast, and accurate data collection, which can be reviewed by fleet managers or DOT roadside inspectors as needed.

However, it is important to note that a single ELD solution can only be used for one country’s HOS regulations. Therefore, if you plan to operate in Canada, finding an ELD solution that meets Canadian rules is necessary.

Technology

When choosing an ELD, trucking companies should look for systems that have been FMCSA-approved. There are dozens of ELD products on the approved list, and those considering putting these systems into their trucks should take the time to find the best options.

Another important consideration is the ease of installation. Choosing hardware that can be installed easily by fleet technicians or specialists is recommended. This can lower the cost of ownership by eliminating the need to pay outside service providers for installation services.

While many truckers were initially reluctant to adopt ELDs, they have since found that these devices can effectively ensure compliance with existing HOS rules. In addition, they can help reduce driver fatigue, a key factor in fatal truck accidents that kill dozens of people every year. This is particularly important during the ongoing driver shortage, as exhausted drivers are more likely to cause accidents.