ELD Rule Analysis

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ELD Rule Analysis indicates there is not a logging device in trucks or on the market today that meet the new ELD requirements.

By: Dave Gray, President, Glostone Trucking Solutions

The FMCSA has proposed its long awaited Electronic Logging Device or ELD rule this past week.  This new rule is in the “proposed” stage whereby the FMCSA allows the public to give feedback and allows itself the option to make changes based that feedback.  At some point, the FMCSA will determine that they have heard all of the comments and will have made any necessary changes (or not).  At this point, they will change the status of this rule from “proposed” to “final”.  The ELD rule will become mandatory two years from the date the rule is made final.

The experts who follow FMCSA rulemakings expect the “proposal” stage of this process to take until spring of 2015.  Should the ELD rule then become a “final” rule, we can expect the rule to become mandatory in the spring of 2017.

The rule itself covers over 250 pages of explanation, everything from what an ELD must and must not do to driver and company penalties for not using an ELD.  In the coming weeks, there should be a lot of analysis and feedback.  After reading the 250 pages, one thing is for certain.  There is not a logging device in trucks or on the market today that meet the new ELD requirements.  ELD makers will be scrambling to meet the new requirements and have their systems added to the FMCSA approved ELD device list.

One of the largest hurdles ELD makers will need to overcome is in reporting data to enforcement.  The data itself the FMCSA requires to be reported is not difficult.  As a matter of fact, the driver location data must be “dumbed down” to meet the FMCSA reporting requirement.

Allow me to explain:  Todays GPS location tracking is very accurate and can pinpoint a location to within a couple of meters.   A major criticism for mandating such location tracking devices (like an ELD) is the loss of driver privacy and the ability for government to know exact locations.  The FMCSA’s attempt to answer that criticism was to dumb down the location coordinate data required for reporting to enforcement.

The FMCSA wants the reported location data while driving to be latitude and longitude coordinates and these coordinates to only be carried out to two decimal places.  When carried out to two decimal places, the location tracking accuracy is to within a mile give or take.   The FMCSA feels that this one-mile location proximity is sufficient data for determining the accuracy of a driver’s time driving.  It also allows the FMCSA to say they don’t have enough data to know exact location which protects the driver’s privacy.  The rule goes on to say that when a driver is using his truck for “personal conveyance”, the ELD can only report these location coordinates with 1 decimal allowing location accuracy to within ten miles.  Again, the attempt is to protect the driver’s privacy when using his truck for non-commercial purposes.

The problem for ELD makers becomes the dumbed down data required by the FMCSA for electronic logging will not suffice for carriers who want to know exactly where their trucks are or for the distance tracking required by the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) or the International Registration Plan (IRP).  These agreements require, if GPS is used, highly accurate tracking and must account for every single mile the truck travels whether in commercial operation or not.  A carrier using the FMCSA dumbed down coordinates for IFTA and IRP record keeping will find they won’t have sufficient records to determine accurate distance when audited by state auditors.

The FMCSA has offered some guidance which allows a carrier to collect detailed location and distance data for other purposes but, what is reported to FMCSA enforcement can ONLY be to the accuracy level they have outlined.  This leaves the ELD makers who may also offer truck location, IFTA and IRP data collection, needing to have the ability to collect very accurate location and distance, report dumbed down data to the FMCSA and very accurate data for IFTA and IRP.

Carriers will need to be very careful with any ELD systems they may purchase.  If meeting the FMCSA ELD mandate is the only concern of the carrier, a system that collects location coordinates once per hour and only reports that location to within 1 mile is perfectly fine.  If a carriers’ intent is to also use the data to know exactly where their trucks are at any given time and/or for IFTA and IRP reporting, the system purchased must be able to not only report dumbed down data to the FMCSA but collect and report much more accurate location coordinates for these other uses.

Time will tell if changes to the rule will be made.  One thing is for certain, more change is coming!



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