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Deadline Approaching for Fleets Using Automatic On-Board Recording Devices

By December 16, 2019, motor carriers who were granted a 2-year extension on the electronic logging devices (ELDs) mandate because they were using an Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRD) will be required to transition their AOBRDs to ELDs. With the deadline quickly approaching, it is important for carriers to assess their current situations to determine the plans that must be in place in order to ensure the smoothest possible transition.

First and foremost, carriers must determine whether their fleet is currently operating with AOBRDs or ELDs. There are many carriers currently under the mistaken impression that they are running ELDs when in fact they are running AOBRDs. Do the proper research ahead of time to determine what exactly your company is using. In fact, multiple vendors that support both AOBRDs and ELDs have reported that as many as 80% of their customers are currently using AOBRDs instead of ELDs.

The differences between AOBRDs and ELDs can seem minor but are significant. The biggest difference between the two is the methods of communication for data transfer. With AOBRDs, the driver is simply required to provide law enforcement with logs of their records of duty status (RODs) in any way possible, whether it be fax, email, hand delivery, etc., within 48 hours of an inspection. The regulations pertaining to ELDs, on the other hand, are far more stringent. A driver using an ELD is required to provide a law enforcement officer with his/her records on demand by email, web services, Bluetooth, or USB. Drivers using an ELD are also required to have the ability to display or print the graph of their RODs during a roadside inspection. 

Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations on unassigned driving time are far stricter. Unlike carriers using AOBRDs, those using ELDs must assign all unassigned driving time to a driver, if applicable, and if not, for some other use, such as a mechanic move or driver in training. Furthermore, a properly functioning ELD will register any driving whatsoever as “on-duty driving,” while those with AOBRDS were only required to have reasonable policies in place to determine when a driver was “on-duty driving” and when a driver was not.

Fortunately for carriers, the vast majority of transitions from AOBRDs to ELDs will only require a simple, over-the-air software update and will not require any hardware changes. However, it is important that drivers know when the update is coming ahead of time so that they can obtain their previous 7 days of logs, as required by the FMCSA.

Despite the fact the technical change-over is fairly simple, It is important for carriers to realize that this transition will involve far more time and energy than simply plugging in a newly updated device and going to work. Motor carriers will need to provide extensive training on the ELDs to drivers and back office employees alike, given that ELDs will likely affect nearly every aspect of a business. It is also wise for a motor carrier to designate one or more “super users” who are trained directly by the ELD vendor to be experts in how the devices operate.

Motor carriers’ policies and procedures must also be updated to reflect the new rules, practices, and procedures that will come with the advent of ELDs that were not a concern while the fleet was using AOBRDs. For example, a driver using an ELD will have more editing rights than a driver using an AOBRD. The new policies should then reflect how a driver can edit or annotate an entry as well as when an edit or annotation is legitimate and when it is not.

Lastly, while over eight months away, motor carriers must acknowledge that time is of the essence. Just like during the original December 2017 deadline, experts anticipate the upcoming December 2019 deadline will be a huge disruptor in the industry. As a result, motor carriers should anticipate bandwidth issues should they wait until the last minute to transition their AOBRDs to ELD, which may make it more difficult to access the technical support for any device their fleets may be using. As a result, motor carriers should develop a plan as to how they will handle the transition from AOBRDs to ELDs.

If you have any questions regarding your company’s transition from AOBRDs to ELDs, please contact Kevin Coghill at kcoghill@setlifflaw.com (804-377-1273) or Steve Setliff at ssetlifflaw.com (804-377-1261).