What Drivers Need to Know About Personal Conveyance

Personal conveyance has been an issue for truckers and truck owners, and now the FMCSA has responded.

For many trucking companies, December of 2017 marked the beginning in a whole new, electronically monitored, era in trucking. December was the deadline when companies were required to provide an Electronic Logging Device (or ELD) in each truck. Though the tiny flash drive type device plugged into the engine control module of the truck does not look like much, many truckers have stated publicly that this new mandated “mini boss” has made life more difficult instead of having the intended effect of making America’s highways and byways a little safer.

The ELD Deadline has Passed, now what?

Why the Mandate?

Those who support the new law insist that it makes perfect sense to replace the decades-old practice of having drivers record their own hours of service in a paper logbook. Some state that the new electronic logs will be more accurate while others insist they will be more difficult to rewrite when extra time is needed. They also insist that drivers will save time because they will not need to compile so much paperwork and that dispatchers will have a reduced workload with the ability to see all electronic information at a glance.

What is the Reality?

In reality, the hours of service that truckers are allowed to be behind the wheel have not changed. These current hours of service rules state that a driver may be on duty for 14 hours out of 24 but must then spend 10 off-duty hours before driving again. And while this sounds reasonable to most individuals, truck drivers and fleet operators know that current hours of service regulations combined with ELD regulations have brought a host of unanticipated problems. Sadly, these problems cost carriers money, time, and the ability to earn a living as kinks in the system are being worked out.

Faulty ELD Systems

Anyone who says they have never seen technology fail might not understand what technology actually is. The FMSCA reported in March of 2018 that more than 300 ELD devices on the market do not even meet the specifications needed so a driver can show logged hours to a member of law enforcement if they are pulled over. As bad as this is, it does not even begin to cover the number of units that have been sold and do not work properly.

There are too many drivers being ticketed simply because their ELD quits working at random times and they are unable to connect with the needed tech-support people. Some drivers say they have spent as many as 15 hours on the phone, both on hold and with a company representative trying desperately to get the required technology working. And this is time when the truck is still, the wheels are not allowed to roll, so no money is being made.

Add to this the fact that some ELD systems do not calculate hours or mileage correctly, some even showing that a driver is in an entirely different state and the new ELD requirement has had a very rocky start.

The “Right Now” of Electronic Logs

One basic thing that electronic logs lack is the ability to think, plan and consider as a human being might. And this leaves too many drivers dealing with a system that tells them to do x,y, or z immediately.  Drivers, however, know that this is not always possible.

For instance, when a driver is heading for a place to get loaded or unloaded and the system suddenly says that the 14 hours of driving is up, the system wants the driver off the road immediately.  Right now.  And this is simply impossible as parking a semi for the night requires more than just pulling off the road and setting the brake.

New Personal Conveyance Guidelines

Thankfully, the FMCSA listened to what drivers were saying about not being able to find parking quickly enough to satisfy the system and published some new guidelines about personal conveyance at the end of May.  Previous guidelines date back to 1997 and state that “laden” vehicles could not be used for personal conveyance (or getting to a safe parking spot).

The new regulations state there may be valid reasons for a driver to continue driving, whether there is a load on the trailer or not. The new guidelines allow for drivers to use their vehicles to get to a nearby safe parking place. To date, no limits have been set on distance but most drivers understand that they will be required to produce the ELD logs should they get pulled over, and that an officer has the right to determine if they have driven too far under the personal conveyance guidance.

Personal Conveyance Essentials

There are a few nitty-gritty parts to the new personal conveyance stipulations that drivers should know.  They include:

  1. The new guidelines are not legally required. A carried may decide to allow or not allow personal conveyance in a company vehicle.
  2. If a carrier allows personal conveyance, they are not allowed to place limits on things such as number of miles or times of day.
  3. Clear company policy on personal conveyance should be provided to each driver.
  4. Personal conveyance may only be used during off-duty hours.

FMCSA is Listening to Drivers and Carriers

At the very least, the changes to personal conveyance stipulations show that the FMCSA is listening to what drivers and carriers are saying about the new electronic logbook mandate. Hopefully, things will only get better as drivers, carriers and the government work together to find solutions that will truly make the industry better for all involved.

The ELD Deadline Has Passed: Now What?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put into effect a new mandate for truck drivers regarding how they log their hours. The ELD mandate went into effect on April 1, 2018 and requires all drivers to now use an electronic logging device to track and record their hours of service. These devices are installed into the vehicles and automatically record driving times. If a driver is found to not have an ELD and not be using one to log hours of service, the driver will fail an inspection and not be able to drive.

What Happens When a Truck Is Not ELD Compliant?

The rules under the mandate indicate that on and after April 1, 2018, all drivers must use an ELD. If a driver is not using one, he or she cannot drive and must be placed out of service. They will not be required to stop driving at an inspection point, though. They can continue to their destination, but cannot drive after that. The driver cannot drive again until after a ten hour period even if he or she becomes compliant within that time. Drivers may face fines if they are not compliant with the law.

How To Ensure Compliance

Drivers and carriers must take ELD requirements seriously to avoid penalties. To ensure compliance, drivers need to choose a device from the list of FMCSA-approved ELDs. It is also important for drivers to remember that not all electronic recording devices are created equal, and therefore, not all are approved. The devices that will comply with FMCSA regulations all draw information from the engine automatically. Also, as part of the mandate, a driver must have with him or her in the truck the user manual, ELD malfunction sheet and data transfer instructions.

Once they have a device, truck drivers need to learn how to use it. Having it is not enough to be completely compliant. It is important that a driver knows how to transfer the information on the ELD because this must be done during inspections. In addition, every driver must know how to log out.

Dealing With Common Issues

Since ELDs are being used to monitor service hours and ensure drivers are staying within the limits and operating legally, it is imperative to ensure the information on the device is accurate. However, there have already been some common issues that are causing problems for truck drivers.

As with any electronic device, an ELD can malfunction. This was taken into consideration when the law was implemented. If their devices malfunction, drivers are allowed to use a paper log system for up to eight days while the ELD is repaired. The eight day period can be extended but a request must be made. Extensions are typically granted if the device is not accurately recording hours due to an internal issue, but decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

ELDs have an edit feature that every truck driver needs to know how to use. Edits may be required in many different situations to fix issues with recorded hours that were not actually drive hours. Only a driver should edit information in the ELD because the driver is the one ultimately responsible for the information. Edits made by others have to be approved through the system before they are recorded. If a driver does not okay an edit, it will not be recorded.

The device keeps a record of both edited and unedited versions of the logs, so any mistakes can be fixed and edits cannot be used to get around the hours of service laws.

Another common issue is hours when the driver is not the one behind the wheel yet they are recorded as drive hours. The best way to avoid this issue is to assign a maintenance log in for anyone else who will drive the truck. For example, if the truck requires maintenance, then whenever the truck is driven by maintenance personnel, they need to use the maintenance log in. That way, the hours are going under something and not being left for the driver to have to worry about.

While the new ELD rule can be great for many reasons, such as reducing paperwork, some may find it frustrating. However, being compliant with the FMCSA’s ELD requirements is mandatory. Drivers are the ones who ultimately hold the responsibility to ensure compliance. They need to be aware of the rules and know how to use the device properly or they could face penalties.

What is the ELD Mandate?

Truck drivers and other commercial motor carriers need to be aware of the ELD mandate, which all commercial fleets must implement by December 18, 2017. Some drivers may be asking, what is the ELD mandate? ELD stands for Electronic Logging Device, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passed a rule that requires commercial vehicles to use these devices to electronically record a driver’s duty status.

Prior to the mandate, truck drivers used paper logbooks to record their hours of service. Not only does an ELD reduce the time it takes to fill out the paperwork, it also provides a number of other benefits to drivers as well as fleet and safety managers.

ELD System Functions

Tracking compliance in regard to hours of service is just one of the functions of an ELD system. Some of the others include:

  • Report on driver behavior – this includes information about idling, hard braking, and speeding
  • Map integration and rerouting – helps truckers avoid construction and navigate areas of high traffic
  • Automation of IFTA – makes it easier for companies to report fuel use under the International Fuel Tax Agreement
  • Streamlines DVIR – drivers must record and turn in driver vehicle inspection reports on a daily basis

ELD Benefits

The ELD mandate is expected to result in a number of benefits for both drivers and management. The initial goal of the system was to cut down on the amount of paperwork and increase accuracy. By doing so, it reduces the hassle of having to fill in a paper log every day; saving everyone time.

Dispatchers are able to keep up with a driver’s status in real time, and there is increased communication with those on the road. This helps them plan for the trip more efficiently and make sure everyone is in compliance in regard to the hours of service. Drivers themselves are also able to make better time because their routes are more streamlined thanks to the rerouting function.

For many companies, an ELD system will lead to increased revenue over time. This is especially true for businesses that integrate ELDs with other telematic equipment throughout their fleets. The data gained from these systems can help in the following ways:

  • They can show how to reduce the costs of operations and fuel
  • Show how to proactively maintain fleet equipment
  • Demonstrate how to create more uptime
  • Increase utilization rates

Integrating ELD systems can also improve customer satisfaction. With the optimized routing of trucks, materials and supplies are delivered quicker and with fewer delays.

Improved safety is also a benefit of using ELDs. Commercial trucking companies have a lot of liability, and overtired drivers have always been an issue. Because an ELD keeps track of the hours of service, drivers cannot fudge the time they are on the road. This keeps them more alert and able to stay safer, reducing the number of accidents. In fact, studies have shown that drivers who are well rested log around 10 percent more miles every week and are less likely to quit the job compared to those who work on limited sleep.

The rule surrounding ELDs include articles that prevent drivers from harassment. If drivers feel they have a valid case, the mandate has a provision for drivers to file a complaint with the regulatory board.

Exemptions to the Mandate

While most commercial trucks are required to have ELDs installed by December 18 of 2017, there are exceptions to the rule. Small businesses that have vehicles that are older than 2000 are not required to comply with the new rules. Companies with driveaway-towaway functions are also exempted as long as the shipments include the driven vehicles. For example, the ELD rules do not apply to businesses that deliver new motor coaches, and similar vehicles, to the dealers direct from the manufacturers.

Companies that do not have  long-distance operations,  are not subject to the log book rules, may not need to install ELDs. This is because records that are limited to fewer than eight days every 30 days are part of the exceptions.

ELDs and Tired Drivers

Although the use of ELDs have shown to reduce accidents due to less driver fatigue, the mandate is not enough to prevent tired drivers from being on the road. Companies are strongly encouraged to analyze the data they collect from the ELDs. Comparing different schedules and driving behavior can go far to determine which drivers are the safest on the road.

Some data scrutiny has shown that consistency is important. Drivers who start at the same time every day, no matter what that time is, are at a lower risk on the road. Those who drive irregular shifts tend to have more accidents.

Surprisingly, data has shown that short-haul drivers typically are at higher risk than drivers who drive longer hauls. The theory is drivers with longer drives have more opportunities to take a break and even a short nap if needed.