While April 1 turned out not to be the total disaster so many predicted, the hard enforcement date has brought pain to some individual truck drivers and fleets. Dave Gray, president of Glostone Trucking Solutions, says that his company has seen some common issues crop up repeatedly since April 1, including a misunderstanding of what the hours-of-service (HOS) rules actually are at this point.
Gray, speaking during a Glostone-hosted webinar entitled, “ELDs: It’s past April 1…Now What?,” said that HOS rules and related issues such as what is a yard move, personal conveyance, and understanding the short-haul 150-mile air radius exemption are among the issues Glostone customer service reps have been dealing with.
Glostone offers truck licensing, safety, fuel tax reporting, training & DOT compliance solutions. The company also sells the Geotab ELD product and offers customer support programs.
“April 1 wasn’t the disaster many predicted,” Gray said. “Trade magazines were predicting trucks being parked on the exit ramps and being placed out of service and on April 1, our phones were quiet. Our phones were much busier on Dec. 17.”
He also noted that using the annotation/editing functions are critical to explaining issues that crop up, such as the driving under adverse conditions that can allow up to 2 hours of additional drive time, but they must be used correctly.
“Be aware that when you edit the log, it records the location of that edit,” Gray said. “If it creates an audit trail that indicates you may have violated HOS, it is a false log.”
A false log violation is a $2,500 fine from FMCSA, he noted. An example Gray cited occurred last week when Glostone was helping a customer through an audit. The driver unplugged his unit in Louisville, KY, and then plugged it back in and edited the unit to reflect his drive time. Unfortunately, for him, when the unit logged that edit, it also logged the location at which it took place, which was New Jersey. The following day, the same thing happened and when the driver made the edit, it logged him in Ohio. This occurred seven times, Gray said, leaving the driver facing a potential fine of over $15,000 for the seven false log violations.
“It’s very, very difficult with the requirements of an ELD to hide any of this stuff,” he noted.
Adverse driving conditions can allow drivers/dispatchers to reroute a truck for unplanned disruptions. “Adverse driving conditions are unexpected, something that couldn’t be [predicted]. Routing a truck through rush hour traffic probably wouldn’t fly but routing a truck around an accident might fly,” Gray said. “It needs to be used carefully, and maybe drivers are using it correctly and understanding it, but it is something that officers are telling us they are really paying attention to.”
Another problem he is seeing is that drivers are marking driving time as yard moves or personal conveyance. Both are allowed, but only under certain conditions. Gray’s advice on all these issues is to maintain detailed records related to this moves to prove you have used them correctly.
Many of the issues Glostone is seeing relate to the lack of understanding on how to use the devices, Gray said. Forgetting to log off at the end of the day creates confusion, failure to assign unassigned driving time (such as for maintenance) and not having the proper paperwork or not knowing how to transmit data to enforcement officers is another common violation.
“You have to take the initiative to understand how to do it,” he said. “Some enforcement folks are going to be [very helpful and help you do it] like an officer last week while others are going to be [impatient] and say I don’t have time for this and issue a violation.”
Impatience is another problem for drivers, Gray said, particularly when it comes to turning on devices. “There is a bit of a lag time from when you press the button and when it actually registers on the log,” he said. “Many drivers are not used to that lag time and they are quick triggers and press the button and press the button not knowing why it is not working.”
This happens most frequently when drivers supply their own devices, such as their phones, for compliance apps. Drivers who use their own devices and work in team situations are also having issues. According to Gray, in team driving situations, the ELD logging must be completed on the same device. If a driver doesn’t want someone else to use their phone or tablet, than a separate ELD device must be purchases.
“It’s got to be on one device, typically, and they have to be able to share which driver is on and which driver is off,” he said. “Failure to log off can put all miles on single driver. It’s a very common problem and we get calls on it almost every day.”
Unassigned driving time is another item tripping up drivers. “We’ve had some drivers who think this is a good way to get around the rule. … [they] take them out of the system so their logs are fine but their miles are assigned to unassigned driving,” Gray said.
The ELD still collects data, though, and when an enforcement officer looks at the information, he will see a perfect log but a graph showing unassigned driving time.
“If you are an owner operator, it’s very difficult to say those are not your miles,” Gray said. “Unassigned driving, when it becomes unreasonable, becomes a false log and a false log is a $2500 fine.”
The final point Gray made was that as of April 1, ELD violations are now being added to carrier SMS scores, which count against their CSA total. There are now 22 separate ELD-related violations that count against SMS scores.
While violations before April 1 were not supposed to appear on CSA scores, Sam Tucker, founder and CEO of Carrier Risk Solutions, wrote in a recent LinkedIn blog that violations have been appearing on carrier scores.
“So, any motor carrier who received a non-hours related ELD violation during this period would have to go through the DataQ process to have the violation points reversed,” Tucker wrote.
Gray noted the same thing and said that carriers/drivers should check their scores and if something is there that shouldn’t be, challenge it.
“During the soft enforcement period, they points were not supposed to be added to your CSA (score),” he said. “That’s what you should be doing now, is checking your CSA score. If they were added, they should be able to be removed.”
Gray concluded by offering some basic advice to anyone operating a commercial vehicle and subject to the ELD rule:
- Understand the software
- Understand the HOS rules
- And start using the data to gain productivity, efficiency and improve the business
On that last point, Gray told the webinar audience that larger carriers are starting to charge for detention time.
“There’s a huge demand for trucks, but it’s not just trucks, they are looking for compliant trucks and they are starting to ask for proof of ELD and compliance,” he said. “There’s a whole new emphasis on detention time. …The larger carriers are starting to make shippers and receivers pay for detention time because they now have proof.”