As we reach the end of the grace period for ELD compliance, the FMCSA has admitted that there are ongoing problems with the technology that they are requiring motor carriers to have. Most notably, drivers are facing issues with getting devices to track time and data accurately. In the most extreme cases, ELDs are reporting that truckers are hundreds of miles from their actual locations. Because the sole purpose of the device is to accurately track time and location, these malfunctions are worrisome. Malfunctioning ELDs pose a couple of problems:
- If truckers are over their hours because the device is incorrect, they could face fines from the FMCSA
- If they are under their hours, they could face repercussions from their employers
- If the device incorrectly reports that a truck is in a state for which the driver does not have a permit, they could face penalty for that as well
These violations could potentially endanger the livelihoods and licenses of truckers all over the country. While the FMCSA has acknowledged that there are problems with the devices, action has not yet been taken to solve the issue. Most of the people that have complained have been told to switch ELD companies.
Part of the problem is that the federal agency allowed companies to self-certify that their devices worked. This practice is pretty standard for the FMCSA, but this influx of problems is unprecedented. To help offset all the problems, the FMCSA has been issuing waivers to truckers that have experienced issues, but most of them are about to expire and they have yet to issue more.
Outside of the FMCSA, independent companies that produce ELDs have increased the amount of customer service employees to handle the influx of calls they are getting in regard to misfunctioning devices. Should these issues not be resolved soon, owners and operators could face weekly fines up to 15,000 dollars. This could put many of them out of business.
Written By: Shayla Powers
A few weeks ago at the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show, Ray Martinez, the new administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, held his first official “grass roots outreach” event. Martinez had hopes that the event would not be an angry one– but it was; the 90 minute “listening event” was characterized by tension and confrontation. Drivers from across the country accused Martinez, and by extension, the FMCSA, of ignoring the fate of independent owners and small fleet truck drivers under the new ELD rules. The group mainly consisted of individual owner-operators and drivers for small companies, and their concerns ranged from the highly debated ELD mandate, to lack of parking at truck stops. Most of them agreed that the FMCSA has overstepped their authority in regard to work hours and when they should take rest and meal breaks.
The crowd was also displeased with the way that Martinez was answering their questions, saying that he was disconnected from the people he was supposed to be serving, and was answering “like a politician.” Martinez listen to their criticism quietly, and without interruption. He told him that he was used to not being the most-liked person in the room, and told the crowd that he would address the complaints that “made the most sense” and would not negatively impact highway safety, but he made no promises. He pointed out that he does not have the ability to change the laws around the ELD mandate, but that there is some room for negotiation in regard to the rules surrounding mandatory hours. He said that the only way to fix problems and concerns within the industry is to listen and learn. He also stated that he and the FMCSA realize that long wait times at docks are inefficient, and that ELD are supposed to help highlight those inequities. At the end of the session, Martinez admitted that the contention was nothing new, and that these were the types of things that the FMCSA wanted to hear.
For more reporting on the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show, visit www.ttnews.com
Written By: Shayla Powers
FMCSA Awards More That $70 Million in Grants
At the end of last month, the FMCSA announced that it has awarded over $70 million in grants for both states and educational institutions. These grants are another attempt to increase highway and motor vehicle safety. Of the funds $41.5 million is reserved for High Priority grants meant to enhance commercial motor vehicle safety efforts and advance technological capabilities at the state level.
The other significant portion of the grants is going toward Commercial Driver’s License Program Implementation. The FMCSA has awarded $30.7 million to the states to achieve compliance with regulations and license standards and programs. The CDLPI grant program also provides financial assistance to entities capable of executing national projects that aid states in compliance programs. The goal of these programs is to reduce the number of severity of commercial vehicle crashes by requiring states to conduct knowledge and skill testing before issuing a CDL. It will also require states to maintain an accurate and complete history record for each driver that obtains a CDL and impose disqualifications against any driver that violates certain offenses. This is directly linked to the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program that the FMCSA announced earlier this year.
The final allocation is set to be given to nine educational institutions that provide commercial and bus driving training. These institutions include public and private colleges, vocational schools, truck driver training schools, state and local governments, and recognized Native American tribal governments. Also included in the nine grants for educational institutions are provisions for training U.S. Veterans:
Primary funding priority is given to regional or multi-State educational or not-for-profit associations that recruit and train current and former members of the United States Armed Forces (including National Guard members and Reservists) and their spouses to receive training to transition to the CMV operation industry.
This grant program was established in 2005 as a safety-improvement measure and was amended in 2015 to included the provisions of the FAST act.
For more information on the details of the grants and their recipients, visit:
Written by: Shayla Powers
Crash Preventability Demonstration Program
The FMCSA has unveiled yet another plan to help improve highway and road safety: the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program. This program is designed to assess the preventability of the most common types of motor carrier involved crashes, and is expected to run a minimum of two years, starting August 1, 2017. If you were involved in a crash on or after June 1st and would like to report it, go to https://dataqs.fmcsa.dot.gov.
The program allows motor carriers and drivers to submit Requests for Data Review through a FMCSA system; the data will then be looked over and the crash will be determined either Preventable, Not Preventable, or Undecided. Their preliminary decisions will be posted on the DataQ system and will make enforcers, as well as carriers, aware of the evaluations so that they can provide further documentation if available. For crashes found Not Preventable, the notice will provide the crash report number, DOT number, carrier name, date of the crash, the state the crash occurred in, and the crash type (i.e. infrastructure failure, being struck by a motorist/another carrier, etc.). However, before they issue their final decision, the general public can provide input in cases labeled Not Preventable, which provides insight from people that experience these problems first-hand. The final determinations will be located on the Safety Measurement System (SMS).
The FMCSA will use the data obtained from this program, along with others, to improve the agency’s ability to identify risks imposed by motor carriers and institute measurements to help combat truck-trailer involved accidents in the future, as well as examine the costs and benefits of further testing. These crash ratings will not retroactively pardon carriers for violations, nor will they impact other systems within the FMCSA. They will be used to reduce the frequency of accidents in the future. The list of eligible crashes can be found here, and a step-by-step video on how to submit a request is available here.
Written by: Shayla Powers
Electronic Logging Devices
The newest wave in the trucking industry is Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). These devices synchronize with a truck to automatically record driving times, and are intended to create safer work environments and provide more accurate hours of service. The new ELD rule will be implemented over a four year period and will ultimately replace the old automatic onboard recording devices. This rule is not only for carriers in the United States– Mexico and Canada domiciled drivers will also be required to use ELDs when operating in the U.S. For more information on exemptions and specifications, visit the FMCSA website.
ELDs must be certified, and it will be mandatory to register them with the FMCSA, and in theory, will make it much easier to share and manage driving logs– this also means that it will be much harder to lie on logs. Unfortunately, they can also be a money drain on small businesses; the FMCSA examined a number of ELDs and set a benchmark for what business owners can expect to pay for each vehicle. Annually, the devices (per truck) range from $165 to $183, with the most popular devices running close to $500. The FMCSA predicts that the long-term savings will largely outweigh the initial cost, but for some, that may be too late. The FMCSA estimates total ELD adoption costs to be around $975 million dollars, including driver and inspector training.
Despite high costs, fleet management using ELDs can also be beneficial– the constant monitoring of truck activity can help reduce fuel costs, downtime, and total crashes. The regulation also provides definitive precautions and protocols for harassment, which is defined as “an action by a motor carrier toward one of its drivers that the motor carrier knew, or should have known, would result in the driver violating [a rule],” suggesting once again that one of the main concerns is the safety of drivers.
Checklist for choosing an ELD.
Written by Shayla Powers