Connect the Dots: Meeting the New ELD Rules

Create: 03/01/2016 - 12:00

Preserving fuel economy and monitoring vehicle health are critical in the business of transportation. Today’s fleet manager can use IoT technology to help track and contain fuel costs as well as pinpoint potential mechanical problems before they become schedule disruptors.

While it's tempting to get caught up in the technology and enormous potential of IoT-based fleet management that it’s sometimes just as easy to forget there are laws governing fleet tracking, in particular the use and application of electronic logging devices (ELDs). So here’s a quick heads up: A new ruling came down last December (2015), became effective last month (February 16), and compliance is mandatory by December 18, 2017.

ELDs are what used to be called electronic on-board recorders (EODRs) and are used to keep track of where a truck has been, how it’s been used, speed of operation and fuel usage, among other parameters. While it’s difficult to be a trucker of any size without some form of electronic logging (elogging) to manage expenses, for larger fleets, they’re an indispensible tool and a key part of a larger ecosystem that helps ensure profitability, on-time delivery and safety.

Of course, for some drivers, there is the element of “big brother” and harassment by ELDs, which can interrupt much-needed sleep. This harassment element is one of the key aspects of the new ruling with which transportation companies need to comply.

Fortunately, numerous companies offer compliance solutions that combine increasingly accurate truck, position and driver- sensing data and telematics with enhanced cloud services and data analytics. One such company is Fleetmatics Group Plc., which is offering a webinar on compliance on March 9.

The need for an update to rules around ELDs is the described in the ruling itself, which comes from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The concept of driver harassment is particularly interesting. It’s actually an amendment to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), and it defines or establishes:

  • Minimum performance and design standards for hours-of-service (HOS) electronic logging devices (ELDs).
  • Requirements for the mandatory use of these devices by drivers currently preparing HOS records of duty status (RODS).
  • Requirements concerning HOS supporting documents.
  • Measures to address concerns about harassment resulting from the mandatory use of ELDs. 

The ruling is designed to both improve commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety while reducing the paperwork burden on carriers and drivers by increasing the use of ELD to improve compliance with the applicable HOS rules. To help with this, and make compliance a little less onerous, the timeframe in which a driver must submit RODS and supporting documents to a motor carrier has also been extended from 8 to 13 days. 

Some interesting technical specifications have also been touched up by the ruling, including the elimination of QR codes and TransferJet requirements, with electronic data transfer now being enabled through either wireless Web services and email or Bluetooth  (wireless) and USB 2.0 (wired). Also, “to facilitate roadside inspections, and ensure authorized safety officials are always able to access this data, including cases of limited connectivity an ELD must provide either a display or printout.”

ELD System Elements and Compliance Path

A number of technical elements comprise the solution (see figure 1). Those include capturing engine status and usage data, graphing of driver duty status, the incorporation and application of telematics (USB and Bluetooth, as mentioned above), tamper resistance, and identification of sensor failures and data inconsistencies, (i.e.: edited data.)

Figure 1. From technical failures by sensors and telematics, to data displays, driver harassment and enforcement, the ecosystem around electronic logging devices is complex.

As complex as ELD may be, it’s a crucial part of an effective IoT-based fleet-management system, with all the benefits that entails, from reduced cost, safer trucks through better maintenance, lower fuel costs, on-time deliveries, happier customers, a more informed and engaged data-driven staff, and of course improved to pline and bottom line numbers. 

However, installing ELDs is just a first step. They need to be supported by a communications and data-analytics and presentation infrastructure to make them both useful and easy to use.  Such communications includes vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and cellular networks, as well as accurate positioning using the latest global navigation satellite system (GNSS) devices that can track multiple constellations (GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou 2) to get consistent accuracy down to under a meter to track such detail as errant lane changes.

Many companies are on top of this already. For example, Fleetmatics provides mobile workforce solutions for service-based industries using the software as a service (SaaS) model and has a bit of history in this space, with 35,000 customers, 709,000 subscribed vehicles, and 101 billion data points collected.


Figure 2. The Fleetmatics LogBook app embodies the company’s data-driven, IoT-based model and will help ensure your transportation fleet meets the new ELD rulings by the compliance deadline. (Image courtesy of Fleetmatics Plc.)

Impressive numbers, to be sure, but its focus is where it needs to be, on “extracting actionable business intelligence from real-time and historical vehicle and driver behavioral data.”  Its latest LogBook is an instantiation of that model and is particularly useful, as it will help ensure you don’t run afoul of the new ELD ruling when it goes “live” in December of next year.

About Author

Patrick Mannion's picture
Patrick Mannion
Patrick Mannion is an independent writer and content consultant who has been working in, studying, and writing about engineering and technology for over 25 years.

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