AOBRD use after April 1? FMCSA has a clarification

 Source: ShutterStock

Source: ShutterStock

A recent change in a portion of the Electronic Logging Devices rule regarding AOBRDs is the latest development as the trucking industry heads toward full ELD implementation on April 1.

It's a relatively minor change in the rule, but does drive home the point that there still are some uncertainties with the ELD mandate as the April 1 deadline for full enforcement nears. But that deadline is one that the industry appears to be getting ready for: a recently-completed survey by DAT shows that compliance percentages are at a high level. 

The rule change was discussed on a webinar March 13, a few days after the revised policy was posted. That webinar featured Bill Mahorney, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration division chief and La Tonya Mimms, a FMCSA transportation specialist. It was sponsored by Teletrac Navman, an ELD manufacturer.

As for the AOBRD rule, in a March 9 postings to its FAQs, the FMCSA posted an amendment to its rule for carriers that are running both ELDs and Automatic Onboard Recording Devices.

The revised Q&A on the page asked whether a carrier "that installed and required its drivers to use an AOBRD before December 18, 2017 install and use a new ELD-capable device that runs compliant AOBRD software after that date?"

The succinct answer was, "Yes, until December 16, 2019." No exceptions to this date were listed. The December 16, 2019 date is significant because that is when all AOBRDs must be replaced by ELDs.

Even that fairly straightforward answer doesn't fully explain the changes, discussed on the webinar. At that time, Mimms, in response to a question about being able to continue to run AOBRDs, said that if a fleet decides to expand beyond its 2017 size, "those new vehicles have to be equipped with an ELD." Replacement vehicles that do not grow the size of a fleet can continue to run AOBRDs. That appeared to suggest that any expansion of a fleet that was running AOBRDs needed to have ELDs installed on the new equipment. While AOBRD usage would have been grandfathered for the legacy fleet, the answer appeared to suggest that a fleet expansion would have needed to run ELDs.

But Mahorney qualified that answer. He noted that a fleet expansion must install ELDs, but that they can operate on the less-precise AOBRD software. "That fleet may purchase and install ELDs that are running on AOBRD software until December 2019," he said. "In other words, everything has to be ELD. It's just something that would require a software push."

Bryan Coyne of PeopleNet, an ELD manufacturer, said the change by the FMCSA came after extensive consultation with the industry. "They did a good job of listening," he said. "The specifics of the words they used are extremely critical."

ELD usage, according to a survey conducted by DAT through March 13, was 91%. The survey was of 645 carriers, 93% of which were owner-operators. Of that 91%, 81% were operating with an ELD, and 10% were under some sort of exemption. Two percent said they planned on installing one prior to the April 1 enforcement.

But the survey also revealed some disturbing possible consequences which might only get worse when the deadline arrives. Two-thirds of the ELD users said they're driving fewer miles, and 71% are making less money than before they installed their ELDs; this in a market where rates have been strong and there is far more demand for truckers than driver supply.

The carriers who use ELDs reported that 67% are driving fewer miles, and 71% are making less money, than they did before installing the devices. They're finding it more difficult to park their trucks — 26% said it was "harder" to find parking, and 61% said it was "much harder." As the DAT release on the report said, "Parking issues and driver detention can take up valuable time, and ELDs deprive the drivers of the flexibility they once enjoyed when recording Hours of Service on paper logs."