While nearly all motor carriers subject to the federal electronic logging device (ELD) mandate have complied with the industry-shaking regulation, a large portion of these carriers have complied using automated onboard recording devices (AOBRDs). Specifically, the final rule mandating ELDs allowed for AORBDs to be grandfathered in and used for an additional two years after the mandate went into effect, despite these devices not technically qualifying as ELDs due to software limitations, information sharing capabilities, lack of connection to the trucks’ engines, or other issues. Though many carriers (as much as half by some estimates) chose to take advantage of this loophole, these carriers must begin to be wary of potential issues in transitioning to ELDs prior to the December 16, 2019 deadline in order to account for any potential roadblocks that may arise.
First, there will almost certainly be technological challenges if fleets plan to keep the same systems in place while relying on the vendor to upgrade these systems to become ELD compliant. It is typical for vendors who have never manufactured ELD compliant devices to engage in a trial and error period where the first iterations of the newly installed software do not meet the technical specifications mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Because of this, it is recommended that carriers begin testing software updates as soon as possible to ensure the software is compatible with the carrier’s operations.
Additionally, whether fleets decide to upgrade their current systems from AOBRDs to ELD or to purchase new devices altogether, it is crucial to anticipate that ELD suppliers will struggle mightily to keep up with product demand and support calls once the deadline becomes close, just as they did in the final weeks leading up to the original mandate. This means finding a new telematics provider or contacting your current telematics provider now in order to ensure that your company’s trucks won’t have to be parked come December 16, 2019.
If carriers choose to install new devices altogether, this should be done as soon as possible, as well. Early installation not only protects the carrier from a last-minute demand surge leading to a supply shortage, but also gives the carrier time to get the devices prior to the deadline so that there is a substantial training period for drivers prior to the systems going live. If carriers choose to go with a new telematics carrier for their ELDs and have nowhere to start, a list of registered ELDs and related companies can be found on the FMCSA’s website here: https://eld.fmcsa.dot.gov/List. While useful to begin a search, it is important to keep in mind that the companies and devices on this list are self-certified and have not been approved by the FMCSA.
Regardless of how carriers using AOBRDs intend to become fully compliant with the ELD mandate after December 16, 2019, the keys to a smooth transition require a carefully managed, realistic, and deadline-oriented transition plan to be carried out by the carrier. This plan needs to be put in place as soon as possible to ensure carriers learn from other’s mistakes and that this deadline does not sneak up on carriers like it did the first time around. If you have any questions about compliance with hours of service rules, the ELD mandate, or any other FMCSA regulations, please contact Kevin Coghill (804-377-1273) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Steve Setliff (804-37-1261) at email@example.com.