The Count-Down to Electronic Logging Devices

trucks

R. Scott King, BSME, Sr. Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::

Commercial vehicle operators have long been required to comply with federally-mandated hours-of-service rules that control and limit driving time. While the rules have changed over the years, particularly the amount of daily and weekly drive time, the primary objective of such rules has remained constant: to reduce fatigue-related commercial vehicle crashes and related injuries and death.

Historically, commercial vehicle operators have been required to maintain their own hours-of-service records on paper logbooks. This honor-based system had its critics, to be sure, and apparently included the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This is because the FMCSA has, for over half a decade, been pursuing the replacement of the paper logbook with the so-called Electronic Logging Device.

After much debate between and within the motor carrier, driver, and technology sectors, the Final Rule, published in the Federal Register on December 16, 2015, establishes extensive ELD performance criteria, new protections against driver harassment, and contingency provisions for equipment failure.

In the most basic terms, The Final Rule requires that these on-board devices detect and record changes in driving status and provide a means of easy data access. The device is to record data such as date and time; vehicle engine hours and mileage; and driver, vehicle, and motor carrier identification information. While much of this data is recorded periodically and automatically throughout a drive cycle, driver input remains a requirement. Access to the recorded data can be through a variety of means including email, cloud-based data storage services, Bluetooth technologies, and USB-tethered devices.

The devices are also required to record a truck’s positional information; however, this feature includes a unique provision that applies different levels of precision depending on whether the truck is being used for business or personal use. In the former, the device is required to pin-point a truck’s position to within a one mile radius while in the later, a ten mile radius is required. Other anti-harassment features require the devices be equipped with a muting feature that silences carrier-to-truck notifications while a driver is resting in the truck’s sleeper berth.

The devices are required to detect system faults and illogical operational actions, and provide a recording of when and why they occur. When faults arise, an operator is required to notify the motor carrier within 24 hours, and to revert to paper log recording up to a limit of eight days.
The FMSCA estimates that this new technology, which must be implemented no later than December 16, 2017, will prevent over 1,800 crashes and save 26 lives annually. For the full online text of the Final Rule, search on Docket No. 2015-31336 at the Federal Register website.

R. Scott King, BSME, Sr. Automotive / Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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