As regulators start enforcement of a rule that makes truckers use digital driving time trackers in their big rigs, the agency in charge of the regulation conceded there are still problems with the technology.
Drivers are having trouble getting the devices, known as ELDs, to track time and transfer data accurately. Some ELDs are reporting that truckers are hundreds of miles away from their actual locations.
Starting Sunday drivers of heavy-duty trucks must have electronic logging devices in their vehicles.
Regulators say ELDs will ensure that truckers comply with a federal hours-of-service rule. The rule limits driving to no more than 11 hours a day within a 14-hour workday. Drivers must then be off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
Although the rule started in December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gave truckers a grace period and delayed enforcement until April 1. Truckers could be placed out of service and unable to drive for 10 hours if they don’t have a working ELD beginning on Sunday.
But spot enforcement such as issuing citations has started in some regions.
George Madsen, a trucker driving in Iowa, said he received a citation for not having a working ELD back on January 23. Madsen said his Rand McNally device was not displaying his correct driving time. He was cited by an Iowa Department of Transportation inspector for falsifying his driving logs and other infractions. Madsen is fighting the charges and has a hearing scheduled for April 18.
Madsen said he’s worried that the violations would endanger his commercial driving license and livelihood.
The FMSCA on Thursday told Trucks.com it discovered that some of the 330 ELD devices on the market do not meet the technical specifications for data transfer used to show driving hours to law enforcement. The agency declined to say how many ELD models are not working properly.
“There have been some snags in the data transfer process with some of the providers,” Joe DeLorenzo, director of enforcement and compliance of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told Trucks.com.
“We’ve been working with the providers that are having those issues to get them squared away,” DeLorenzo said.
Truckers told Trucks.com they are having trouble with their devices and even though they have reached out to the vendors, don’t believe the problems will be resolved by Sunday’s deadline.
“I used the Rand McNally 50 and it never did work, I could never get it to connect,” Tim Philmon, an independent trucker from Middleburg, Fla., told Trucks.com. “I spent hours on the phone, but could never get someone to speak to, so I ended up going with another provider, which wasn’t cheap.”
A spokesperson from Rand McNally said the company has increased its number of customer service representatives to assist truckers with ELD issues they are experiencing.
“We are constantly getting feedback from truckers and want to get their issues sorted out,” Alexis Sadoti, a spokesperson for Rand McNally, told Trucks.com.
Another trucker, Paul Bazydlo, an independent trucker from Manchester, Mich., has been using the Rand McNally 50 ELD device since November. Bazydlo said he’s spent 10 to 15 hours on the phone or on hold with customer service representatives trying to figure out why the GPS system on his ELD device doesn’t work.
The FMSCA has granted Bazydlo five waivers since November because he doesn’t have a working device. The last one runs out Sunday.
In a recent email, the federal agency told Bazydlo, “to press the manufacturer for a fix or look at getting a new company to work with.”
Bazydlo said he is frustrated that the agency has failed to remove his model device from its approved ELD registry.
“I didn’t wait until the last minute to find an ELD solution, but it appears my ELD provider did,” Bazydlo told Trucks.com. “It irks me that I will be penalized for not having a working ELD, but the providers don’t have a penalty for not having their issues fixed.”
The types of data transfer and other issues should have been resolved before the devices were sold to truckers, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the organization in charge of enforcing the ELD mandate, told Trucks.com
“We should have had a process where you had to submit your device and then you have to go through it, review your code and demonstrate an effective data transfer on the front-end,” Collin Mooney, executive director of CVSA, told Trucks.com.
But FMCSA allowed ELD manufacturers to self-certify on a federal registry that their devices worked.
The self-certification registry is consistent with the agency’s practices, DeLorenzo said.
“For us to get involved, testing and analyzing every device was not a solution that was chosen through the notice and comment process of the rule-making,” DeLorenzo said.
Greg Anderson of Bardstown, Ken., a small motor carrier with just 11 trucks, said he spoke with federal officials at the Mid-America Trucking Show earlier this month about problems his fleet was experiencing with ELDs but received no answers.
Anderson said he installed ELDs from Omnitracs a month ago but has experienced problems ever since.
On Thursday, he said one of his driver’s ELD showed the trucker was in Oklahoma City when he was actually in Louisville, Ken. Another driver was delivering in Maine but his ELD showed that he was in Pennsylvania.
“They tell me to refresh, to reboot, and we do, but it isn’t solving our issues,” Anderson told Trucks.com.
If all 11 trucks are pulled over for roadside inspection before his challenges are addressed, Anderson said it could prove catastrophic to his flatbed and refrigerated freight business.
“It could potentially cost me $15,000 per week if these devices on all of my trucks aren’t working properly and I can’t stay in business for long if that happens,” he said.
Omnitracs did not return Trucks.com phone call for comment.