The electronic logging device (“ELD”) mandate has been in full effect since December 16, 2019. The mandate is aimed at creating safer roadways by allowing more efficient tracking and enforcement of compliance with hours-of-service regulations. FMCSA found that trucks equipped with ELDs had a 53% lower driving-related HOS violation risk and a 49% lower non-driving-related HOS violation risk than non-equipped trucks. Since the ELD initial compliance date of December 2017 through December 2020, a year after the mandate went into full effect, road-side inspections with HOS violations dropped by more than 50% according to the FMCSA. Also, overall driver violations at roadside inspections dropped to 784,188 in fiscal year 2020 compared to that of 1,023,654 in fiscal year 2018.
Additionally, FMCSA launched an online program to help both drivers and their employers better understand the hours-of-service rules that went into effect on September 29, 2020. The Educational Tool for Hours of Service (“ETHOS”) allows users to enter their duty status into a log so that potential violations can be identified. The ETHOS program will allow drivers to create a sample record of a duty log so they can determine if there were any violations. Using a mock duty status program tends to be a better learning experience for the drivers and safety managers who are accustomed to working with the ELDs on a daily basis. FMCSA has stated that the ETHOS program is solely meant for educational purposes, and that any data provided by drivers is not being retained for any other purpose. This training is important because the industry must continue to grow and adapt with the advancements in technology.
That is because, with the continued development of cellular technology, your ELD compliance could be impacted. Most mobile carriers are beginning to shut down their 3G networks to make room for more advanced networks, including 5G. Any ELD that requires 3G cellular connectivity to perform its functionality will no longer be in compliance with the technical specifications in the ELD rule after the 3G network it relies on is shut down. When in an area that does not support 3G, a 3G device will register a malfunction. In accordance with 49 CFR 395.34, the carrier has eight days to get the malfunction resolved, in this case by replacement, unless an extension is granted. For a reset or replaced ELD, under 49 CFR 395.8(k), data or documents showing the driver’s record of duty status (RODS) for the current 24-hour period and the previous 7 days must still be retained. These can either be uploaded into the “new” ELD when it is set up or retained in paper format.
As of the date of this article, some of the major mobile carriers that have already shut down their 3G networks include AT&T, Sprint, Sprint LTE, and T-Mobile, and, most recently, Verizon, which shut down its 3G network around December 31, 2022. Many other carriers, such as Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk, and several Lifeline mobile service providers utilize the AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile networks. If your ELDs rely on a 3G network, ask your ELD provider about their plan for upgrading or replacing your device to one that will be supported on a more advanced network. As of the date of this article, all previously granted FMCSA extensions have expired which allowed drivers to use paper records of duty status in lieu of an ELD until the 3G-dependent devices are replaced with a compliant 4G or 5G device.
Motor carriers and drivers should be fully aware of their obligations under the ELD mandate and cognizant of the technical and practical effects of ensuring full compliance in order to avoid potential violations and service interruptions.
Written by associate Patrick Wachter.