Electronic logging drives safety and efficiency
Federal ruling requires commercial vehicle drivers to log hours electronically; local truck rental offers new logging systems.
New federal regulations soon will require that all commercial vehicles come equipped with an electronic logging device, or ELD.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in December 2015 it had finalized a rule requiring all commercial motor vehicles (CMV) to log their hours of service electronically. In order to help drivers comply with the new regulations, Grand Rapids-based Star Truck Rentals is equipping all of its CMVs with ELDs.
“The ELD rule makes tremendous strides in safety because drivers are no longer able to violate hours of service,” said Michelle Usselman, safety director for Star Truck Rentals. “Using ELDs, CMV drivers have greater awareness of any upcoming violation, so they take appropriate action before a violation occurs.”
The new requirement was implemented to create a level playing field for drivers by preventing the possibility of an operator falsifying his or her hours of service, which would have been a greater problem when drivers logged their hours manually.
“You would hear stories about how drivers would keep two different records so they could cheat on their hours,” said Tom Bylenga, president of Star Truck Rentals. “Honest guys couldn’t compete.”
Regulations on hours of service also are made so drivers rest regularly, preventing fatigue and reducing the possibility of accidents. According to data from the Center for Truck and Bus Safety of Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who use ELDs have an 11.7 percent reduced total crash rate and a 5.1 percent lower preventable crash rate than drivers without ELDs.
FMCSA-compliant devices must automatically record date, time, location information, engine hours and vehicle miles, as well as ID information for the driver, vehicle and company. As a backup, an ELD must be able to display, either digitally or with a paper printout, the standardized data set as requested by law enforcement. An ELD also must be able to transfer data either through wireless internet or Bluetooth technologies.
Through data transmission provided by the ELD, distribution companies will be able to monitor their drivers’ routes and ensure the driver is complying with the speed limit and highway regulations.
“Our systems also provide geofencing,” Bylenga said. “It sets up a boundary that the driver must remain in. If a vehicle breaks that fence, it sends an alert to the company.”
Star Truck Rentals uses the CyntrX ELD Pro system. The system is approved by the FMCSA.
“One of the biggest advantages to CyntrX is the capability of remotely communicating diagnostic information automatically from the vehicle,” Usselman said. “This comprehends a multitude of different sensors including engine codes, after-treatment systems, tire status and even ancillary equipment such as reefer hours and box temperatures.
In the event of a breakdown, the CyntrX system also will follow the driver to a substitute vehicle provided that vehicle is appropriately equipped, maintaining the integrity of the driver’s service log.
According to the FMCSA ruling, drivers will be given a two-hour exemption to their regulated hours in the case of unforeseen adverse conditions such as bad weather, vehicle failure or traffic jams. ELDs allow companies to track all of this information.
“If they can’t reach their destination in that time, they have to shut down and go off duty before starting back up,” Usselman said.
Bylenga is confident the new ELD regulations will enhance the productivity of distribution companies like Star Truck. Truck dispatch and management will be able to keep closer tabs on drivers’ routes and records, increasing productivity, but it also may diminish productivity in the commercial vehicle economy.
“In terms of safety and playing fairly, honest drivers will be able to compete with those who aren’t playing fair,” he said. “But some drivers may want to quit. They don’t want Big Brother standing over their shoulder.”
Although the FMCSA ruling enables companies to keep closer tabs on their vehicles and drivers, the ruling also has a technical provision, which prevents companies from using ELDs to harass drivers.
CMV operators will have until Dec. 18 to comply with ELD regulations. After that date, law enforcement may issue citations against operators whose vehicles are not equipped with an ELD, but officials will not be able to place a vehicle out of service until April 1, 2018.