FMCSA standing up vetting process for ELD certifications

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Continental VDO Roadlog

Following prior Overdrive reporting on the self-certified nature of the devices on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic logging device (ELD) registry of providers, FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne emphasized that the registration and certification process is modeled on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s procedures for auto makers. The approach to certification allows ELD device/software providers to self-certify “under penalty of perjury,” DeBruyne said, that their product “has been sufficiently tested to meet the ELD technical specifications” as outlined the ELD mandate final rule.

In the automotive world, DeBruyne explained, manufacturers routinely “self-certify compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) adopted by NHTSA.”

Under the terms of the ELD final rule, as previously reported, truckers not covered by one of the exemptions or extensions to compliance will be required to use one of the ELDs on FMCSA’s registry for hours of service record-keeping when the December 2017 compliance date rolls around. As also previously reported, following its publication in February, the registry currently lists only three devices.

Those devices have begun to receive closer scrutiny, noted an FMCSA official speaking on background. By the end of this week, the official noted, watchers shouldn’t be surprised to see changes to the public display of the devices, with one or more of the registrants either voluntarily withdrawing pending the ability to provide further documentation or supplying more information.

The Ohio Trucking Association, in its comments on the ELD final rule, objected to the device registration and certification process as adopted, because the registry lists only products self-certified by the providers themselves. Since FMCSA has not actually approved the devices, OTA argued, it puts carriers at great risk if they inadvertently choose a noncompliant product. The distinction to date hasn’t been obvious, as indicated in prior reporting.

FMCSA’s final rule outlines a process by which devices could be removed from the registry if found noncompliant, offering the provider opportunity to correct the issue and thus perhaps spare its customers a noncompliance finding. Given that providers self-certify their products under penalty of perjury, as DeBruyne noted above, noncompliance with device specs in the rule could open up the potential for legal action, something no manufacturer/software developer would want.

Following the initial three devices being self-certified since the registry went live in February, the agency began reviewing product registrations, contacting each company to request further required documentation, the official speaking on background told Overdrive. And going forward, the official noted, no certification of an ELD provider will appear on the registry without the same vetting of the information prior to its public listing. The agency, in essence, is standing up a pre-publication vetting process for further registrations and certifications to be included in the ELD registry.

None of the providers on the registry today said they planned to voluntarily withdraw their product’s registration. Two of the providers listed there, however, did confirm that conversations with FMCSA had taken place toward a goal of providing documentation of capabilities to conform to the mandate’s required device specs and/or conform to the ELD registry’s needs.

FleetUP, for instance, is “working with the FMCSA,” said COO Dave Holt, to provide additional documentation. The agency “requested one raw data report to show that our graphical report comes from the data in the cloud-based database.”

Mike Lanzone of Load Logistics described his conversations with agency representatives, two in the last several weeks, as starting as auditing on the agency’s part. It all resulted, he adds, after some back and forth, in confirmation that the certification was good to go as far as the agency was concerned.

Another listed provider in the registry, Gorilla Safety, however, said they’d heard nothing from the agency as yet other than an initial affirmation of their registration and certification after it was submitted.

Ultimately, the agency’s vetting doesn’t constitute a compliance field test, the agency official noted on background. FMCSA simply doesn’t have the resources, the staffing or financing to field test every device themselves.

Compliance in the field may be initially a matter of users’ confidence in their vendors. Lanzone, of Load Logistics, notes he’s given prospective customers the opportunity to to download and field-test for themselves the Android app that is the driver-user interface for the ELD and portions of the broader TMS.

Several other systems are at least partially testable in a similar way via free apps available on both Android and iOS app marketplaces, though the technicalities of the ELD mandate itself are more detailed than what the average user will glean simply from device use.

Spokesman DeBruyne has noted that future enforcement of device compliance, if and when the mandate is in force, is expected to rely on investigations FMCSA will conduct “when warranted.”

(Aaron Huff contributed to this report.)

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