With a few exceptions, ELDs are now found in almost every semi-truck on the road, performing the integral job of keeping track of drivers’ hours of service.
During his time inspecting trucks while working for the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Bureau, Daniel Vega, Reliance Partners’ director of safety, regularly witnessed issues with ELDs — including user error — when the ELD mandate first went into effect.
“When they first started the transition from paper logs to ELDs, there were a lot of people who didn’t understand how to properly connect them. As time progressed it got a little bit better, but I still saw malfunctions and improper connections occasionally,” Vega said.
Now that most drivers have become familiar with ELDs, issues related to human error are less common. Technology can still fail, however. Devices break, drivers might be unable to access their e-logs due to phone or tablet issues, and other kinds of technical errors can cause a system to fail to record accurate drive time.
When ELD failures happen, drivers and carriers need to know what to do to stay compliant with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
What should a driver do when an ELD fails?
The law requires drivers to keep hours-of-service logs for a total of eight days, which includes the previous 24 hours and the seven days prior to that. So, when ELD malfunctions occur that prevent drivers from having accurate logs, they must create accurate paper logs for the time period of the malfunction.
“If the ELD was broken and they kept no log, that’s a ‘no logbook’ violation. That happens occasionally, but for the most part, most drivers would know that they have to carry those paper logs,” Vega said.
Important to note is that a driver can only have paper logs for a total of eight days after a malfunction occurs unless the carrier receives approval from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for an extension.
Drivers should report any problems to the motor carrier as quickly as possible, Vega said, so they should pay attention to their ELD to make sure it’s working properly. FMCSA advises drivers to report issues within 24 hours.
“As an inspector, through the conversation you have with the driver, you ask when the log stopped working and you look at the logs to make sure it’s not working. Sometimes it actually is working, but the driver just doesn’t know how to use it. Those are the things an officer will figure out during the inspection process,” Vega added.
Action carriers must take when ELDs fail
When a malfunction occurs, a carrier must correct it within eight days of the discovery. This means either resolving the issue or supplying the driver with a new ELD.
“The reason why that’s so important is that the motor carrier can extend the period permitted to correct the issue, but they have to notify the FMCSA division administrator for that state within five days. The FMCSA will determine that based on what occurred with your ELD,” Vega said.
Carriers are also responsible for providing drivers with certain in-vehicle information pertaining to their ELDs. This includes an instruction sheet describing ELD malfunction reporting requirements and recordkeeping procedures during a malfunction. Carriers must also provide drivers with sufficient blank logs to record duty statuses for a minimum of eight days.
Vega recommends keeping all required information in one place, like a binder. It should contain registration, insurance and all the in-vehicle information under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations section 395.22. This includes a user manual, an ELD data transfer instruction sheet, malfunction reporting requirements and the correct grid logbook pages in case of malfunction.
“It’s so easy to put that in the binder so then the driver knows where it’s at. A lot of drivers don’t know where their instruction sheet for the malfunction is and then they would get written up for it,” Vega said.
Reliance Partners is a freight insurance agency based in Tennessee. It provides safety consulting to trucking companies to improve their risk management and safety programs.
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