An ancient proverb says “He who hesitates is lost,” and that old piece of wisdom now applies to the owners and operators of the several million large trucks operating in the United States who have yet to install Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) on those vehicles. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s mid-June decision not to hear the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s argument against the federal mandate requiring nearly all large commercial trucks to be equipped with ELDs, owners and operators now have four months to comply.
The ELD Mandate, passed by Congress in 2012 and outlined in detail by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2015, will take effect Dec. 18. It only takes a technician 15-20 minutes to install the simplest ELDs in a single truck, but a last-minute rush is expected to swamp the trucking maintenance world. And that rush will be made all the worse by the fact that the deadline for ELD compliance falls just seven days before Christmas and smack dab in the middle of what is, by far, the trucking industry’s busiest time of the year.
Consequently, trucks that continue to roll without ELDs after Dec. 18 will be risking the suspension of their operating authority, while owners and operators will be risking significant fines and go out of service if no AOBRD or ELD is in place. And given the two-year advance warning of the deadline given to owners and operators by the DOT and FMCSA, they should not expect state and federal enforcement officers to be granting grace to the non-compliant trucks they pull over during what likely will be a period of heightened enforcement efforts running from mid-December through at least the first quarter of 2018.
Thus, even if they continue to oppose the ELD law, it’s now in truck owners and operators’ best interest to go ahead and get their vehicles equipped with ELDs as soon as possible. Doing so will allow them to beat the last minute rush and avoid the risk of failing to meet the Dec. 18 deadline.
Make time for ELD training. It’s critical.
It’s also advisable to get trucks equipped as soon as possible so that drivers can be trained to operate the new equipment properly. Mid-size and large fleet owners who don’t allow enough time for their drivers to be trained on, and to gain experience in ELD operations, over a period of weeks or months could be faced with the need to idle large percentages of their fleets in order to hold mass driver training and practice sessions. It is not just the drivers — Safety, Dispatch, and Maintenance need to be aware of operational items.
And, to be sure, driver training is a critical element of the ELD Mandate. Whenever a truck is pulled over for an enforcement spot check after the Dec. 18 deadline, the driver will be required to supply the officer with data from the ELD device. And an inability to operate the ELD correctly could be deemed a violation of the law.
While a small number of operators continue to seek exemptions based on the extreme environments (off-road, for example) in which they operate or the special purposes (outsized equipment that rarely travels on public roads) for which they are built, nearly all big trucks that travel U.S. highways now must comply with the ELD Mandate by Dec. 18 or face inspection violation fines, with the possibility of losing operating authority.
It’s critical to remember that part of this ELD conversation has to include training because the mandate isn’t about installation, it’s about use. And if drivers aren’t able to use the ELD, it’s no different than the truck not having it. So when looking at the timeline and the approaching Dec. 18 date, include time for training drivers on how to use the new ELDs.