Since the ELD mandate went into effect late last year, most carriers have been required to use technology systems in order to track drivers’ hours of service. In an effort to set themselves apart and make their systems more useful, many ELD vendors offer applications that take care of other business requirements as well.
One of the most popular additional services offered by ELD vendors is IFTA record keeping. IFTA refers to the International Fuel Tax Association, a group that exists to facilitate the redistribution of fuel taxes paid by interstate carriers based on the number of miles driven in each of the lower 48 states and 10 Canadian provinces.
With over 300 ELDs on the market, carriers may be making purchasing decisions based on the availability and quality of these additional applications.
“Can an ELD accomplish what the FMCSA wants and accomplish the record keeping and the data that IFTA requires?,” President of North American Transportation Services Association Dave Gray asked. “The answer is yes, definitely, and it can be in the carriers’ best interest to have a device that does both because capturing that data automatically can really simplify and automate that whole process.”
While using one automated system to keep track of both HOS and IFTA data can help carriers save in administrative costs, relying on an inadequate system could cost them big in the long run.
“The ELDs were designed by the FMCSA to capture driver time, and IFTA is all about the vehicle,” Gray said. “They don’t care about the driver, so the ELD provider needs to understand those differences, especially when it comes to capturing and reporting the data to IFTA.”
A reliable ELD provider is particularly important when it comes to IFTA record keeping because the data is only reported once per quarter and carriers typically go several years between audits, so the carrier may not know how well the vendor did capturing the correct information for quite some time.
“There are audits happening, and carriers are using ELD data that they use to generate the reports, but the data is incomplete,” Gray said. “It is not summarized properly. It is not adequate as far as to determine the correct distance.”
One big issue carriers may come across when using an ELD to capture IFTA data is inadequate distance capturing. While some vendors elect to capture distance more often, ELDs are only required to do so every 60 minutes. This is a red flag for IFTA auditors, who recommended distance be captured about every 15 minutes, according to Gray.
Administrator of Motor Carrier Division Dawn Lietz said the reason auditors prefer to see distance captured more frequently is related to trucks moving through the small New England states.
“You can easily drive through a jurisdiction and never have it recorded,” Lietz said. “Some ELD devices aren’t capturing routes, just hours, so all you have is where they were at the time it pinged.”
Another issues carriers can run into when using ELDs to capture IFTA data is retention time.
Carriers are required to keep IFTA records for a minimum of four years following the date the tax return was filed for the specific reporting period. Some ELD vendors store IFTA records for as little as six months. If the carrier fails to record the data before it disappears, the carrier remains responsible for the lost records, according to Lietz.
If a carrier cannot provide adequate IFTA records, the jurisdiction in question can choose to knock the reported mpg down to four or take the lowest mpg reported and reduce it by 20 percent, depending on how far out of compliance the records are.
“My recommendation first and foremost would be for them to learn the IFTA requirements for the record keeping because they purchase anything and quiz the vendor on whether or not they meet that,” Lietz said.
EROAD is one company dedicated to making electronic compliance hassle-free by offering ELDs equipped to handle IFTA record keeping. The company stores records for at least four years.
"At EROAD we look at how the entire industry can benefit and improve from the use of technology so drivers and fleets can improve their daily operations, and so regulators and the enforcement community can work with other stakeholders in a collaborative effort to improve safety and efficiency as well," EROAD Director of Regulatory Compliance for North America Soona Lee said.
Lee's responsibilities include serving as a liaison with the enforcement community, a role that sets EROAD apart from many other ELD providers.
Lietz said that while she cannot promote any specific ELD vendor and has not personally evalauted an EROAD system for compliance, she is aware of the company working with jurisdictions to ensure IFTA record keeping is performed correctly.
Both experts agreed that using ELDs to record IFTA data involves a learning curve that could be very expensive if carriers do not do their homework.
To learn more about EROAD's product, visit the company's website.
A full description of IFTA’s record keeping requirements can be found on the association’s website.
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