If you are a trucker that keeps track of anything related to regulations, you know about the FMCSA’s ELD Mandate. As of December 2019, all non-exempt trucks (exempt trucks including ones that tow other cars, among others) are required to have a compliant electronic logging device (ELD) to track various factors of driving data.
The mandate is a great idea in theory. Nobody would argue in favor of going back to manually tracking driving times with paper logs or worse, driving beyond hours-of-service regulations and dozing off into an accident. But at the same time, the FMCSA has made it unnecessarily difficult for drivers and carriers to stay compliant.
Currently the best way to check to see if an ELD is compliant is to check the FMCSA webpage regarding registered ELDs, where almost 600 ELDs have the thumbs-up from the FMCSA to list on the website.
The problem starts on the first line before the list. “The listed devices are self-certified by the manufacturer. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does not endorse any electronic logging devices.” It implies that getting on the list takes little more than filling out relevant details (links to the user manual, company website and address, etc.), and not an actual audit of the ELD to see if it is compliant.
The FMCSA reserves the power to revoke certification status if it audits it later (though it has not done so yet), and a manufacturer can self-revoke its certification status if it wants to avoid liability. This should cause doubt in the minds of truckers buying an ELD. Did you buy a FleetOperate ELD before December 9th, 2019 and are using it in your truck? They self-revoked their certification on that date, and you are now violating the mandate by using a non-certified machine!
Even when an ELD is no longer certified, it can take time before the FMCSA moves it from the list of certified devices to the revoked list. This essentially turns ELD implementation into a guessing game: your device may soon become non-compliant, or may even be non-compliant at the time of purchase, and you will be none the wiser in the interim.
There is also no process for recertification, meaning a device system can be non-compliant for months or even years before it is eventually pulled from the registry.
The problem compounds when considering driver satisfaction with ELDs. According to a poll conducted by OverDrive Online, 46% of voters have said they are “not satisfied at all” with the service their ELD provider gives. We have talked about how the low barrier to entry in polls can cause non-drivers to cast votes and skew results, but at a rate of 46% of all votes, it is easy to say with confidence that there are at least a small handful of legitimately unhappy customers.
Regulatory compliance is a two-way street. If the FMCSA wants to improve public safety by requiring ELDs in trucks, it should take steps to make following the rules easier.
The way things are now, a trucker needs to pick from the list of ELDs in the website, and pray that the ELD stays compliant and the company providing support stays in business.
To better manage the system, the FMCSA should change its certification system from filtering out bad ELDs to filtering in the good devices. Each certification should require an audit from the FMCSA to see that it has the required specifications to make it compliant. Additionally, the FMCSA should require recertification after every set period of time, such as two years, to make sure the device stays compliant with changing regulations and the company providing support is still in business. Finally, the FMCSA should be as diligent as possible in updating its registry list to avoid leaving truckers high and dry.
Will all of these steps take time, effort, and money? They certainly will. However, it is a significantly better system than a free-for-all where any company can say their ELD is compliant until they change their mind or the FMCSA receives too many complaints, and the trucker suffers as a result.
The way things are now, the system puts an undue burden on truckers and carriers alike, who just want to haul freight. If the FMCSA wants to improve safety regulation, one of the best ways to do so is to make it as painless for those trying to follow it as reasonably possible.
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