If you run a small business, you're likely either affected by or have a hand in the trucking industry. In 2017, an average of 49.3 million tons of freight were transported every day through the U.S. transit systems. Trucking and logistics are a major part of any small business, and the government is trying to better regulate the industry to cut down on hours of service fraud and improve the safety of America's roads. The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) takes full effect in December 2019 and requires trucks to have an onboard device to log things like hours of service.
If you run a small fleet as part of your business, it's important to be aware of these regulations so you can institute changes if your business is affected.
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What is an ELD?
An electronic logging device is a piece of hardware that is installed on a truck to track vehicle activity. These devices ensure that your drivers are complying with hours of service (HoS) regulation, which sets driving limits in a 24-hour period and ensures drivers are taking the appropriate number of breaks.
HoS regulations require drivers to log driving, break and on-duty time. They've been around for a while, but in the past, trucking companies and drivers have used paper logs to track this time. This left considerable room for tampering and adjustment from the driver or trucking company. An ELD cannot be tampered with because it's connected to the vehicle. This provides transparency between drivers, trucking companies and the government. It also ensures that safety remains a priority. If you have an ELD, or work with a company that claims to provide ELDs, you can check this list of registered devices to ensure you're compliant. [Interested in a telematics solution for your business? Check out our best fleet tracking software of 2019.]
Most trucking companies and drivers are subject to the new ELD mandate. If you're transporting goods by truck in state or across state lines, you will likely have to comply with the new rules.
There are a few exceptions to the ELD mandate that could apply to some small businesses:
- Drivers who use paper logs no more than eight days in any given 30-day period
- Driveaway-towaway drivers
- Owners of motor homes or recreational vehicle trailers
- Drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000
Keep in mind that this only applies to commercial transportation companies that were required to maintain HoS records. If your business handles deliveries but your drivers don't use paper logs to track driving activity, then these new rules don't affect you.
What's the implementation schedule?
Like many government initiatives, ELD has had a long rollout so the industry has time to adjust to these new measures. ELD compliance started back in December of 2017, when paper logs were required to be phased out. As of the writing of this article, we're in phase two of the ELD compliance plan, which requires HoS tracking through either Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRD) or ELDs. These are both in-vehicle devices that cannot be adjusted or tampered with. By Dec. 16, 2019, all vehicles are expected to be using ELDs to track hours of service.
What are the penalties for a violation?
If you continue to use paper logs, use an AOBRD after Dec. 16, or fail to purchase and install enough ELDs for your fleet, you could be subject to penalties. Violations will usually impact your Safety Measurement System (SMS) score, which is a grade the FMCSA uses to regulate safety among trucking companies throughout the nation. You may also be subject to fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the incident.
How do you start?
The FCMSA has a variety of resources on its website detailing how to purchase ELDs and train drivers to use them. Finding an FCMSA-approved device is the first step in ensuring compliance. You can also partner with a telematics company that provides ELD compliance as well as various other fleet tracking services, like fuel management, driver safety performance data and route optimization. The ELD mandate will bring technology into every commercial truck on the road, opening the door for more data and more informed fleet decisions.