Electronic logging violations cost carriers tens of thousands of dollars, with potential violation fines ranging up to $13,000 per instance in some cases. Most violations, though, are preventable with the right mix of education, training and due diligence.
The recent changes in hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, designed to offer more flexibility for drivers in managing their time, has upped the complexity level of e-log compliance.
The HOS changes, which went into effect at the end of September, include:
- Expanding the short-haul exception to 150 air-miles and allowing a 14-hour work shift.
- Expanding the driving window during adverse driving conditions by up to an additional two hours.
- Requiring a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allowing an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.
- Modifying the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least seven hours of that period in the berth and a minimum off-duty period of at least two hours spent inside or outside of the berth. The two periods must total at least 10 hours and neither qualifying period can count against the 14-hour driving window.
Ahead of the latest changes, a study by the J. J. Keller Center for Market Insights found that drivers and carriers were still struggling to understand and properly use electronic logging devices (ELDs) nearly three years after they were first mandated. Nearly one-quarter of motor carriers surveyed anticipated the short-haul exemption in the latest changes would impact their operation’s use of ELDs, and many were concerned about ELD programming changes.
Not understanding the regulations or how to use them properly is a key driver of violations. Tom Bray, senior industry business adviser with J. J. Keller & Associates, spends a significant amount of time talking with carriers, often after they have experienced an e-log error or violation. Bray has put together a list of the top violations found during compliance reviews, along with steps carriers can take to avoid violations.
Compliance review violations
Violations can arise from compliance reviews or roadside inspections. The most common during compliance reviews are:
- Not using ELDs when required
- Falsified records
- Drivers not sending in logs
“During a compliance review, the No. 1 violation is not using an ELD when required,” Bray said. “Carriers aren’t sure who is required to use them and when to use them so they are creating completely avoidable violations during compliance reviews and at the roadside.”
Falsified records can occur with electronic or paper logs. In either case, these situations can be avoided with a thorough analysis of logs by the carrier and having the driver correct any errors, Bray noted.
Roadside inspections generate violations similar to those found during compliance reviews, but there are some differences because of the varying time periods inspected. During roadside inspections, enforcement officials review the previous seven days of records, as opposed to six months of records during a compliance review.
Roadside inspection violations
The most common roadside inspection violations are:
- General form and manner
- Falsified records
- Not using ELDs when required
“The top violation found during roadside inspections is what’s called general form and matter.” Bray explained. “For example, say a driver didn’t have something on record that they should have, such as a trailer number.”
Falsified records and not using ELDs when required are two of the other main violations.
“There’s a myth that drivers can’t falsify e-logs,” Bray said. “But they can. It’s easy enough to do. It’s also easy to catch, which is what drivers may not understand. In the background data, it’s obvious.”
Like when the violation is found during compliance reviews, the primary reason drivers are cited for not using ELDs when required during roadside inspections is because they and/or their employers may not understand that an ELD is required.
Unless the driver uses one of the exemptions to the ELD rule, he or she must use an ELD. These exemptions include:
- Drivers not required to maintain a record of duty status for more than eight days in a 30-day period.
- Drivers operating within 150 air-mile radius that use time record, rather than logs..
- Drive-away, tow-away operations in which the commodity being delivered is the vehicle itself or a recreational vehicle.
- Drivers operating vehicles in which the engine was manufactured before model-year 2000 or the vehicle was manufactured before model-year 2000.
Bray said roadside violations also can crop up for technical violations, such as an e-log user not having the required user manual on hand, instructions on how to transfer the logs, instructions for malfunctions or a supply of blank driver’s records of duty status graph-grids sufficient to record the driver’s duty status and other related information for a minimum of 8 days in case their ELD malfunctions.
“The interesting part is that except for the blank logs, the other items are usually built right into the e-log system,” Bray said. “A driver just needs to pull up the file and show it to the inspector. But they often don’t realize they’re there.”
One trend Bray said he has noticed is a decline in “limits violations” (§395.3). These are when drivers are approaching the end of their allowable drive time.
“There just aren’t that many limits violations in the top 20 driver violations anymore,” he said, noting that it could be due to drivers receiving warnings from their ELD devices that they are approaching the end of a driving shift. “Over the last fiscal year, these violations have dropped on the list of top roadside inspection violations to number 18. Paper logs didn’t tell drivers anything. But e-logs tell drivers they are running low on hours, so find a place to stop.”
Bray said that these top three violations are common, which suggests drivers do not understand the rules and carriers need to be more diligent about correcting them. J. J. Keller offers two free resources for carriers to help them navigate compliance with e-logs. They are:
Bray said that when carriers identify errors in internal audits, they need to go reengage with the driver to educate them on the violations and how to avoid them.