ELD, the three-letter acronym that many in the transportation industry either love or love to hate. Before we discuss the ELD in more detail let me provide a little history on how the ELD came to be. In the late 1930’s the US developed a requirement that all commercial motor vehicle drivers must adhere to a limitation of the number of hours they work. This became know as the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations and the driver’s hours of work were self recorded on paper sheets known as logbooks. These are known as a Record of Duty Status (RODS). Canada followed along many years later with a similar format, yet with a slightly different set of rules.
There are 4 categories of the driver’s day that must be recorded:
Off Duty – time at home or any time that is not considered to be on duty in relation to any work conducted for the company or on / with the vehicle.
Sleeper Berth – time spent in the sleeper berth or bunk, of the vehicle. If staying in a motel or hotel then this time would be recorded as Off Duty
Driving – time spent in the driver’s seat, behind the steering wheel, operating the vehicle on the roadway, in a yard, backing into a dock, or any time moving the vehicle.
On Duty – time spent not driving but still tending to the duties of the job such as waiting to load / unload or involved in the loading / loading process, conducting a vehicle inspection, enforcement or roadside inspection, and any other work-related duties.
During the 1980’s some motor carriers in the transportation industry started to help the driver in recording their RODS in an electronic format via such devices as a tachograph and this became known as an Electronic On-Board Recorder (EOBR).
This limited the amount of time a driver needed to touch or edit the electronic recording.
Later, in this same phase there grew various tools to record the RODS in an electronic manner such as a laptop computer or through an app on your smartphone. Later, came the Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD) which limited the driver’s ability a bit more, to alter or manipulate the
RODS and was able to record the movement of the vehicle through GPS tracking.
With the compensation for drivers paid in a form that rewards for the number of miles travelled in a day, most drivers try to maximize their workday to the limitation of the number of hours allowed to operate before taking the required breaks. It has been known for may years that the paper logbook has been an issue with properly and legally recording the driver’s hours of work and has led to concerns of driver fatigue. The paper logbook can be manipulated and rewritten, and this is not to say that all drivers do this, however, it is a known fact that it can be done and was done in many cases.
Therefore, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) was created. This device is similar to the AOBRD; however, this unit is connected to the vehicle’s engine through the Electronic Control Module (ECM) and can record when the vehicle is being operated such as when it is travelling down the road, parked, and sitting idle or shut off. The ELD is a small computer that is usually mounted on the dashboard of the vehicle and is equipped with software that knows and monitors the hours of service regulations.
The driver must log in with specific credentials prior to operating the vehicle and then through the display screen of this device will advise the driver of their current status and will alert them when they are soon to exceed the limits of the regulations.
December 2018, the US regulated that all commercial motor vehicles with a model year of 2000 or newer and within a specific weight classification must be equipped with an ELD in order to operate outside of a 100-mile radius of their home terminal. Now there is a bit of an issue with the ELD rule and that is the manufacturer of the ELD device must be certified before it can be offered to the motor carriers for use. That may seem like a good idea; however, this certification was a self-certification process.
Once the ELD manufacturer was able to self-certify to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) they would be listed as approved and available to motor carriers via the FMCSA’s website. There are currently over 500 self-certified devices listed on this website.
When the December 2018 mandate was announced there was a grandfather clause that allowed current users of an AOBRD 24 months to switch over to an approved ELD. If the motor carrier did not have a current AOBRD then they had no choice but to implement an ELD.
With all this said, Canada was watching closely on the side lines as they were fine tuning and tweaking their own regulations. Any Canadian motor carriers that operate in and out of the US are required to follow the same regulations as the US motor carriers via the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). Many Canadian motor carriers operating to and from the US were ahead of the curve and were already operating either an AOBRD or an ELD.
Shortly after the implementation of the ELD on December 2018, it was discovered that some of the self-certified ELD devices were in fact editable and able to be manipulated by the driver and the motor carrier. This obviously did not go over well with enforcement and many motor carriers, however, not much has happened to correct the issue.
The Canadian transportation industry, while in the process of getting ready for implementation of their own ELD regulations, saw this self-certification as a major concern. So, after much deliberation and consultation between Transport Canada and the transportation industry, the new Canadian ELD regulations being implemented now include a Third-Party Certification process to help limit and eliminate the ability to edit and manipulate the ELD and keep the Canadian motor carriers on a level playing field.
The Canadian ELD regulations are slated to go into effect June 2021 and it is expected the number of approved ELD manufacturers will be very small in comparison to the approved ELD devices listed on the FMCSA’s website. There are many arguments within the world of the drivers out there, that the
ELD has now limited them in the ability to do their job, and they cannot work as much as they previously did. The ELD did no such thing, as the Hours of Service regulations did not change, only the way the RODS are recorded has changed. The ELD has limited the driver’s ability to manipulate the RODS and is now recorded in real-time rather than how the driver wanted to record their time on a paper logbook.
Now, on the other hand, many drivers have found great benefit with the ELD. It has simplified the RODS and minimized the time and touch points of picking up a pen to update a paper logbook. It provides real-time updates of their current status and has helped many drivers and motor carriers develop better time management tools and processes. Many feel they get better rest and are less stressed and fatigued due to having a more stringent and automated process of tracking their hours.
The addition of the ELD to the transportation industry has come with several added benefits. With the ELD connected to the ECM of the vehicle the motor carrier is now able to monitor the movements of the vehicle and view several telematic data points (depending on the manufacturer) such as harsh braking, speeding, extended hours of drive time, location, idling, fuel economy, and so on, all in real time. This ability provides the motor carrier to better manage their hard operating costs as well as aid in driver coaching opportunities based on behaviours and habits of the drivers. New driver and employee training opportunities are able to be created, developed, and implemented to reduce and prevent future incidents, violations, and crashes.
With telematics being one additional area of the ELD technology there is no doubt we now have more information at our fingertips to not only assist in the reduction and prevention of future incidents but to also aid in the review and analysis of these various incidents. With real time data it now leaves less to speculation and provides more towards facts and evidence to understand the root cause of the incident, analyze trends, address and implement preventable measures, defend or exonerate the driver, and provide corrective coaching opportunities.