ELDs: Owner-operators have some decisions to make

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At a session billed as an electronic-logging-device regulatory update specifically for owner-operators, Vigillo’s Steve Wilhelms went well beyond the federal nuts-and-bolts approach to the topic suggested by the title to really dig into the “challenges you face in picking, choosing” and implementing an ELD in an owner-operator or small fleet business.

Steve-WilhelmsOnly a half-dozen or so among the audience, in total about half-and-half independents/small fleets with authority and leased drivers, were already running with some kind of electronic logging device, some not connected to the engine and thus unlikely to satisfy the terms of the mandate. Use of ELDs is required in December of 2017 for those using paper or non-engine-connected apps, December 2019 if you’re utilizing an engine-connected ELD today.

 

 

ELD devices, now with a regulation behind them, continue to proliferate, Wilhelms says, presenting this chart representing the further explosion of devices expected:

ELD-proliferation

He makes an analogy to the quick population of apps in iOS and Android markets for smartphones after the platforms’ launches now years ago. In those markets, “there’s no regulation behind” the vast majority of those apps, no law requiring any of it be adopted. “The more regulations are developed,” he says, “the more it costs trucking companies, and the more products it gives service companies to provide.”

Choosing whether or not to wait for new devices to come out and further potentially drive down the cost of implementation, Wilhelms notes, was one of the many business decisions an owner-operator was facing today “if you’re not using a device.”

Many operators today are choosing to remain in wait-and-see mode as regards ELD implementation, Wilhelms says, and as has been reported in Overdrive. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s legal challenge to the mandate is making its way through the courts, with oral arguments scheduled for next month in the 7th Circuit in Chicago. Wilhelms notes that “much to everybody’s surprise,” OOIDA had been successful before, when the 7th Circuit vacated FMCSA’s previous limited-mandate for ELDs in 2011.

With the more recent case, he notes there is some “chatter around the industry” that indicates many “don’t see as good of a chance of them winning.” That, however, you’d do best to take as “this much more” — Wilhelms indicated the distance of about an inch between his thumb and forefinger — “than gossip.”

Other considerations for any eventual ELD choice, provided you don’t fall under the 1999 and old model year or short-haul exceptions to the mandate:

**ECM connector type | Does your truck “have a 6-pin or 9-pin connector on your ECM – that will be very important when you order the device that connects to it.” 13-pin connectors, too, are in some power units, Wilhelms adds.

**Intrastate rules | The state of Texas, noted an attendee would be likely adopt the ELD mandate in whole cloth but perhaps with an extended deadline for implementation for intrastate truckers there — December 2019. If you run intrastate, keep an eye on just what your state will do in terms of adoption of the federal regs.

**Keep a handle on your data after implementation | The ELD mandate, as we’ve reported, requires the devices to collect a limited amount of data. Wilhelms emphasizes “what they’re not required to collect,” including “speed, hard brakes, rapid acceleration, the steering function and other vehicle performance parameters, but you’ll find there are many devices out there that will offer to capture all of this information. I’m going to tell you that this info can be good as long as it’s managed. If you totally ignore it and you have a device [that collects it], you’re responsible for your driver’s actions when you get this type of data. Safety side of me says, ‘this is good data,’ but if you don’t manage it — it’s going to be tough on your pocketbook and tough to manage – be prepared to put a couple of zeros on the end of that settlement check [in the event of an accident]. Be aware of that when you choose your device.”

**Take time to test it out and determine how it may affect your operation | Whether you’re running by yourself or  operating a small fleet with drivers, run “paper and plastic,” Wilhelms says, side by side for a week or a month to get a feel for the device and how it fits in your day-to-day.

More owner-operators may find themselves obligated to make a change, even if OOIDA’s suit is required, in the end, given Wilhelms estimates “15-20 percent of brokerage firms require [ELDs], or the shipper that the broker is” handling freight for requires them. “That number may multiply rapidly as we move down the road.”

 

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