3 ways ELDs are NOT helping with roadside inspections

(Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Despite electronic logging devices’ ability to streamline operations and reduce the administrative burden associated with paper logs, the devices are not always the most helpful tools when it comes to roadside inspections.

Both drivers and inspectors have felt the burden of adapting to new technologies since the ELD mandate took effect in December 2017.

Drivers must learn how their devices work and learn to operate without the trademark flexibility paper logs allowed. Inspectors must be able to differentiate between devices operating in different modes and identify drivers working under various extensions and exemptions.

“When the ELD mandate first went into effect, we were having quite a few issues with inaccurate locations and connectivity. A lot of these devices rely on cellular signal, and Missouri is a rural state,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Assistant Director Kevin Kelley said. “As time has gone on, and the devices have improved, we’re not seeing that as much as we were. With anything new, you’re going to have some hiccups and speed bumps.”

Even as ELDs become more integrated into the industry, unfamiliarity can complicate the roadside inspection process and leave everyone involved feeling frustrated.

Here are just a few of the hurdles drivers and inspectors must continue to clear:

Device confusion

One of the most prevalent issues inspectors face during the inspection process is figuring out what type of device the driver is using and how it operates.

“Our number one issue is trying to tell the difference between AOBRDs and ELDs,” Kelley said. “The devices are so similar, and some certified ELDs run AOBRD software.”

AOBRD, or automatic onboard recording device, regulations are not as strict as ELD regulations. In order to be considered AOBRD-compliant, fleets must have deployed the devices before the ELD mandate took effect. Those carriers are considered “grandfathered in” and have been able to continue using AOBRDs. They are allowed to continue using these devices until December 16, 2019.

It is crucial for both drivers and inspectors to know if they are using an AOBRD or an ELD in order for the inspection to be carried out correctly.

When asked how carriers could help ease the confusion at inspection time, Kelley encouraged them to make sure drivers knows what type of device they are using and can convey that to the inspector.

Longer wait times

The introduction of ELDs has led to longer inspection times as everyone involved learns to adjust to changing technology.

In addition to the time it takes to determine what type of device is being used, drivers and inspectors alike often experience delays while going through the process of transferring eRODS. This can be caused by technological malfunctions, error messages or simply the stress of using something new.

The slowdown can be exacerbated by drivers who have not been properly trained on how the system works or inspectors who do not know the system well enough to use it properly.

“ELDs have lengthened the time of an inspection right now because of the learning curve,” Kelley said. “We’ll get better and quicker, and hopefully the inspection times will get back to what they were with paper logs. One time-saving benefit to ELDs is that they are easier for our personnel to read.”

Kelley said the state of Missouri is helping to combat this issue and others with additional training and knowledge refreshers.

Less flexibility

ELDs have eliminated much of the flexibility drivers enjoyed while using paper logs when it comes to hours of service. The devices record in seconds, as opposed to 15-minute increments, which could lead to more violations for inconsequential shortages and overages.

“We have had drivers short of reaching their 10-hour break by minutes or even seconds because these devices are very accurate,” Kelley said. “If it’s short by a few minutes, we tell our personnel not to penalize the driver for that.”

Kelley recognizes drivers are not always to blame for these small misses, thanks to other hot button issues like parking.

“We have heard a lot about drivers having a hard time finding places to park and rest because there is no flexibility or ‘cheat time’ like there was with paper logs,” he said. “We are very cognizant that these guys are having a hard time.”

While Missouri inspectors may be instructed to show drivers mercy in situations like these, the outcome can vary from state-to-state and inspector-to-inspector.

These scenarios fall under the FMCSA’s nominal violation guidelines, which grant inspectors the ability to decide how to cite minor infractions using their own discretion.

EROAD Director of Regulatory Compliance for North America Soona Lee said the popular ELD provider encourages its clients to make sure they avoid these small infractions by resting one minute longer than required.

Ultimately, both Lee and Kelley agree that working toward more seamless integration of ELDs is a team effort than involves not just drivers and inspectors, but vendors and regulators as well.

“I’m always glad to be able to work with the industry and vendors,” Kelley said. “Those relationships need to stay in place in order to make this mandate work for everybody.”

Lee said EROAD has been working closely with the FMCSA as issues arise and accommodations have been made as needed.

“The industry at large is coming up to speed, and hopefully these issues can be resolved,” Lee said.