Technology problems with electronic logging devices continue to plague small-business truckers trying to comply with a new federal regulation to use the equipment to digitally track their driving hours.
Strict enforcement of the ELD rule kicked in April 1 following a three-and-a-half-month grace period. Now commercial vehicle inspectors can place truckers without an ELD out of service for 10 hours. The same applies for truckers without a working device, even despite technical glitches.
But just weeks into enforcement, many truckers are struggling to get their devices to work. They are reporting problems with the systems not tracking their accurate location, mileage and the hours they drive. Some of the devices simply don’t work at all.
One trucker’s ELD device — manufactured by Rand McNally — caught on fire while he was driving down the highway.
“I had to throw the device out of my truck when I was driving down the road because it caught on fire, costing me $1,900 in repairs,” Alan Morgan of Clinton, Okla., told Trucks.com.
His device plugs into his truck engine control module, or ECM, which records vehicle movement.
“Then my check engine light kept coming on, default codes kept flashing, so I called [Rand McNally] and it would be days before someone would contact us back,” Morgan said. “As a trucker I couldn’t stop for days to wait for a response.”
Mark and Betty Jones of Crossville, Ala., who run a 10-truck fleet, said they have struggled to keep their systems working.
“Last week, it showed me driving 100 mph down the highway, when I obviously wasn’t going that fast,” Mark Jones told Trucks.com. “But it’s my word against the device.”
Some of the devices show the truck’s accurate number of driving hours but fail to track the number of miles it has traveled.
Frustration with the devices caused three of their drivers to quit trucking. The company now has four trucks without drivers. That’s cost $25,000 in income since the start of the year, the Joneses said.
The ELD regulation is meant to enforce the federal hours-of-service rule, which limits time behind the wheel for truckers to no more than 11 hours a day within a 14-hour workday. Drivers must then be off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
Besides forcing drivers to park their trucks for a penalty period, ELD violations negatively affect a driver’s compliance, safety, accountability, or CSA, score compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Truckers are assessed five points for not having an ELD and another two points for being placed out of service.
Rand McNally and J.J. Keller are the main ELD vendors the agency worked with to fix problems, primarily software glitches, following the implementation of the ELD mandate, said Bill Quade, associate administrator for enforcement and program delivery of FMCSA.
The biggest issue now with some ELD devices involves the transfer of data showing trucker driving hours for commercial vehicle inspectors to review at roadside, Quade said.
“Some of the issues have to do with problems with FMCSA systems, which we are working on,” he said.
Rand McNally did not respond to Trucks.com’s request for comment on whether the issues with its devices are resolved.
FMCSA rules allow ELD manufacturers to self-certify that their devices worked. There are now 330 devices on the approved federal registry.
The data transfer and other issues should have been resolved before the devices were sold to truckers, Collin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, told Trucks.com.
ELD manufacturers had two years to meet technical specifications, but some providers waited until right before the deadline to self-certify their devices, Quade said.
Trucking companies also could have done a better job preparing for such a major regulatory change by installing and testing the devices prior to the Dec. 18 deadline, Quade said.
“When businesses go through a major technology integration, they never go without some hiccups here and there,” he said.
The large number of different devices in the market also poses a challenge for the commercial vehicle inspectors charged with enforcing the rule.
It’s impractical for every officer to be familiar with the workings of every device, Mooney told Trucks.com.
“We are trying to navigate this whole process too,” he said.
Some truckers won’t be able to easily switch to a better device if they are having problems with their ELD.
The devices are often sold with two- or three-year contracts that have high early penalties. Those whose devices aren’t working say they are struggling to reach customer service representatives for help.
Alan Adams of Anderson, Ind. — the owner of a small trucking company — said he made sure to have his ELDs installed prior to the Dec. 18 mandate.
After investing $33,000 to purchase 33 Rand McNally ELDs and experiencing numerous problems, Adams already is switching over to another provider.
“We are in violation with about eight of our trucks because we couldn’t get the devices to work and are waiting for some replacements,” Adams told Trucks.com.
He has sent numerous devices back to the manufacturer because they didn’t work, only to be sent refurbished models, but still charged full price.
“I lost three senior drivers with impeccable safety records over their frustration with the devices,” Adams said.
Truckers experiencing problems with their devices can email their malfunction complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org, which is maintained by the FMCSA, Quade said.
“If we see a pattern of a particular device having problems, we will contact the manufacturer to make sure they get those issues fixed,” he said.
Truckers only have eight days to get their ELD fixed or risk being cited. Timing is tricky because often they are on the road when problems arise.
“It’s been understood all along that some of the self-certified ELD suppliers wouldn’t fully meet the requirements,” Clem Driscoll, president of C.J. Driscoll & Associates, a telematics consulting firm, told Trucks.com. “There was a risk that trucking companies would buy the devices and have to replace them with something else.”
Some trucking fleets bought low-cost ELD solutions from “new suppliers with no track record,” Driscoll said.
“We haven’t heard the last of this problem,” he said.