James F. Mahoney, Attorney

November 2017

ELD Rules Deadlines

The initial compliance deadline date for installing electronic logging devices is December 18, 2017.

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However, carriers and drivers operating vehicles with AOBRDs that are compliant with FMCSA Regulations (Part 395.15) and that have already been installed prior to that initial deadline have until December 16, 2019, to upgrade to ELD-approved status or replace those devices with an electronic logging device (ELD) approved by the FMCSA.

Essentially, compliant AOBRDs installed before the initial ELD Rule deadline are grandfathered for two years after the initial ELD compliance date.

Who Needs to Use ELDs?

Drivers who are currently required to use a paper-based record of duty status (RODS) — because they operate commercial interstate commerce motor vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds, transport more than eight passengers, or carry hazardous materials — will need to install an ELD in their vehicles, unless they meet one of the exemptions as shown below. This includes commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) as defined by Part 49 CFR 390.5 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and drivers who are subject to the requirements of 49 CFR 395.

Drivers who are exempt from having to install an ELD in their vehicles include the following:

  • Those with routes within a 100 air-mile radius of their starting point.

  • Non-CDL freight drivers on routes within a 150 air-mile radius of their starting point.

  • Drivers conducting “drive away, tow away” operations, such as delivering and dropping off vehicles.

  • Drivers using vehicles manufactured before model year 2000.

Drivers who use a paper RODS for not more than eight days during any 30-day period are also exempt, but it’s important to note that these are rolling 30-day periods, as opposed to calendar 30-day periods. A driver who uses a paper RODS eight times between January 15 and February 1, for example, would have to wait until after February 15 to drive again, unless they start using an ELD in their vehicle.

Transportation officials warn that this last exemption is the one that’s most likely to be the most difficult to manage, and understand. Careful advanced planning is required so carriers won’t get stuck waiting for a driver to clear the rolling 30-day period. Depending on the number of drivers in a fleet, keeping a sufficient number of extra ELD devices on hand is recommended.

An ELD is essentially the same as an ABORD, but, to qualify as an ELD, the device must meet the minimum technical standards (as shown below) and be self-certified as well as registered with the FMCSA:

  • Each ELD model will have a unique registration number that can be found on its display or printout. The list of available registered devices — along with the name of their manufacturer, as registered with the FMCSA — is available on the FMCSA website.

  • An ELD device synchronizes with the engine control module of a commercial motor vehicle to automatically record driving time and facilitate the accurate recording of a driver’s hours of service. Approved devices must meet the technical specifications of the ELD rule, which include standard outputs (see examples below) and the ability to clearly display and/or electronically transfer data to enforcement officers to streamline inspections.

Standard Electronic Logging Device Outputs. Approved ELD devices also allow for manual inputs, in case carriers and drivers need to annotate or explain any unusual circumstances (e.g., a brief yard move).

Why ELD Devices Are Required and How Their Usage Will Be Enforced

The ELD rule was adopted to increase the use of AOBRDs to improve CMV safety and reduce the overall paperwork burden for motor carriers and drivers as well as transportation law enforcement officers. This in turn is expected to improve compliance with the applicable hours of service (HOS) rules. But, in real life, there are ways “around” ELD recordings.

The ELD rule requires new technical specifications for ELDs to address the statutory requirements and receive approval from the FMCSA. The rule also clarifies supporting document requirements so that motor carriers and drivers can comply efficiently with HOS regulations while also adopting procedural and technical provisions to ensure ELDs are not used to harass CMV operators.

As for enforcement, the ELD Record of Duty Status must be shared by drivers and motor carriers in one of two ways during roadside inspections by state and federal enforcement officers:

  • Hard-copy print-out, although not all ELDs will have this capability.

  • Screen display that’s visible to enforcement officers at a reasonable distance—preferably extending the screen to outside the vehicle.

A third option, which is available only at the sole discretion of the enforcement officer, is to deliver the RODS data via fax, email or other method of electronic transmission. This option would require, of course, that the enforcement officer has a device on which to receive the data electronically.

A key factor for carriers will be the education of their drivers on how to use their ELDs and how to present the data to enforcement personnel. Safety officials need to be able to easily distinguish the different types of devices and cite the appropriate regulation or guidance for enforcement purposes. If the driver knows how the system works, they can greatly speed up the roadside inspection process.