If you’re in the situation of many owner-operators and small fleets and trying to squeeze a little return-on-investment out of an ELD, tread carefully with players new to the trucking industry getting into the partial automation of International Fuel Tax Agreement and International Registration Plan data collection for tax-reporting purposes. Buyer beware, say reps of the National American Transportation Services Association, whose member companies collectively work with more than 75,000 carriers who operate more than a million trucks.
Current NATSA President Dave Gray, also president of compliance services provider Glostone Trucking Solutions, emphasizes different standards for ELDs’ hours-of-service compliance support functions and IFTA data’s needs, particularly in the realm of long-term record-keeping.
State IFTA and International Registration Plan auditors, should you be audited by either, will want records going back four to nearly seven years, respectively, far and away beyond what’s needed for hours of service. If you end up utilizing an ELD service provider for IFTA/IRP data collection, don’t purge mileage and/or trip data you download from the ELD provider yourself, and make sure your agreement with the provider gives you ready access to that data years down the line if it’s stored primarily in a cloud account.
Have you ever been through an IFTA or IRP audit?
As recent polling above shows, most owner-operators have been through an IFTA or IRP audit (or both), often triggered by a substantial reduction in annual reported mileage or a significant rise in miles-per-gallon efficiency, according to some.
Other differences between ELDs’ hours-related data requirements and IFTA needs are in the area of “distance and accuracy” for tracking purposes, Gray says. “An ELD doesn’t need to [by law] be nearly as precise as what IFTA and IRP require.” Though many ELD providers do in fact go beyond well beyond the minimums required in the ELD rule, if they don’t, the minimum hourly ping of location specified in the rule isn’t going to be enough to satisfy what an IFTA or IRP auditor will want to verify your tax/registration filings.
Tracking standards for some special driving categories within ELDs, particularly personal conveyance, are required to be relaxed as well, and could complicate the need to track all miles – what IFTA and IRP ultimately want.
If you’re like many owner-operators and record your odometer readings at state line crossings, don’t stop doing that when switching to utilizing an ELD’s record-keeping services. Validate the distances the ELD records “against your odometer reading” at state-line crossings and elsewhere, Gray says, “to make sure every mile is captured” before putting your full trust in any solution.
If not, you could easily end up reporting your state miles short, and an auditor could have a field day re-creating your trips and calculating interest on short payments, notes Gary Markham of ProMiles, also a NATSA member company.
That’s not to mention fines. At the end of the day, carriers are the party ultimately responsible for their miles/gallons-reporting accuracy, not a service provider.
Mike Riegel, president of relatively new low-cost ELD provider Blue Ink Technology, one of the few BYOD-type devices without an ongoing monthly subscription, well understands the differences in what’s required for IFTA/IRP versus the ELD spec for hours recording.
His company is developing its IFTA collection/report-generation service now for ELD customers. As also noted above, “distance data needs to be recorded more frequently in order to get a good resolution inside of a state line, so for IFTA we will take position information once a minute,” Riegel says.
Blue Ink is offering ELD customers free use of its IFTA service through the end of the year, likewise a fault-code-reading function also in beta stage. “Once these services are out of the beta stage they will be $10/month per truck.” During the testing phase, Blue Ink will be looking to verify its service’s accuracy and “take the users’ feedback about once or twice a month, provide them with reports and use that feedback to format the reports and the app in a way that other drivers can easily read and record their data for IFTA. This will let us know what drivers expect out of their IFTA service.”