Webinar: Preparing to be inspected for ELD compliance takes knowledge & planning

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There were times during a webinar conducted by David Osiecki of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting that the points he was making seemed painfully obvious. Then he started talking about what he has heard about Roadcheck.

Osiecki held a webinar June 21, jointly sponsored by FleetLocate by Spireon and FreightWaves, to discuss how drivers should be prepared for inspections that have ELD compliance as a key part of the action by law enforcement. The points he made early on were ones that one might think would be pretty basic. For example, does your truck have an ELD, a grandfathered Automatic Onboard Recording Device (AOBRD), or is it running grandfathered AOBRD software on an ELD device? Would any drivers not know that?

Earlier this month, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Administration conducted Roadcheck, an annual push to increase roadside checks of drivers with a focus that changes each year. This year, it was on ELD compliance. And while Osiecki said there has been release of data from CVSA, he said he's spoken to enough people about what was found during Roadcheck that it became clear his simple recommendations for drivers to follow were in many cases not being observed.

"A lot of the drivers are not real confident about what they have," Osiecki said, referring to the inability of many drivers to distinguish among the three-headed option of ELD/AOBRD/ELD with AOBRD software. "I don't know, you figure it out" is a statement that Osiecki said many inspectors heard from drivers during Roadcheck.

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This is occurring even as Osiecki said there is still "leniency in the process." Although the ELD mandate went into effect December 18, hard enforcement was to begin April 1. "There seems to be a willingness in the enforcement community to work with drivers if the driver is not capable to talk about what they have," Osiecki said. Inspectors have reached out to those drivers’ companies in some cases, he said. But he added that it varies depending on the state and among the enforcement officers.

To illustrate how the lack of knowledge is impacting the number of violations that were cited, Osiecki said that since the start of the year, there are more than 35,000 violations of the ELD rule because a truck had installed an ELD that was not registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. "But the vast majority of those that were not registered were not violations at all, because they weren't ELDs, they were AOBRDs," Osiecki said. Such a situation can really only occur if the driver doesn't have a solid knowledge of what they've got in their truck.

But although Osiecki may have focused on stories of problems, they aren't the norm, he said. He conceded that he needed to rely on anecdotes, but said inspectors he has spoken to have said that "the systems seems to be working well for drivers who do know what they have."

Osiecki kicked off the webinar with a slide that declared: Failure to prepare is failing to prepare. The message was that a company or an individual owner-operator needs to spend the time to get ready for an inspection, so when it occurs, surprises are kept to a minimum.

“Make sure they know how to use the device," Osiecki said. "I know it sounds simple, but the technology is new to a lot of people." Among the things that Osiecki said drivers need to know is how to toggle among various displays on the ELD, and how to transfer data.

Transferring data to an inspector is a lot easier if there is connectivity to the internet. During the Q&A portion of the webinar, Osiecki said the stories coming out of Roadcheck highlight the fact that internet connectivity in many rural areas of the country is poor, and transferring ELD's Records of Duty Status, the so-called RODS, becomes problematic.

That then raises a new line of questions of being prepared for how to provide an enforcement officer with paper records, Osiecki said. Some of the solutions he laid out were basic: "de-cradling" the ELD and putting it in the hands of the enforcement officer, or just letting the officer look at it while still in its holder.

And at a certain point, Osiecki said, it comes down to behavior. Drivers should react calmly to questions from law enforcement officers, and the answers should be succinct. "The drivers should know that the inspector wants it to go as smoothly and quickly as the driver does," Osiecki said. If there are violations, he added that drivers should take the opportunity to ask questions of the officer that would help prevent the driver from getting hit with later citations for the same violation.

One simple solution is what Osiecki called a "driver letter." As he described it, driver letters are nothing more than some sort of document that has a great deal of relevant information in it, and it can be used not only to assist with providing the driver with information, but can also serve as a way of having the carrier's company put a lot of information into the law enforcement officer's hands without needing to rely on a driver’s less-than-perfect knowledge.

"Even if the driver is thoroughly confident, getting inspected is a stressful situation for many drivers," he said.