ELD Technology Issues Continue to Plague Small-Business Truckers

April 18, 2018 by Clarissa Hawes

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.

The FMCSA acknowledges problems with some of the devices.

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 eld@dot.gov, 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.

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11 Responses

  1. Mike

    The company I work for uses Keep Trucking. It’s easy to install and I haven’t had any issues with it. It is by far one of the better ones out there.

    Reply
  2. ELIAB MUNIZ

    Stay away from Rand MC Nally ELD! They filled with issue.
    Customer support is the worse I have ever experienced.

    Reply
  3. Paul Bazydlo

    I am not sure why one should be written up and penalized monetarily for any malfunction of a device the government mandated us to have. As a single truck Independent, I would never have “automated” a task that generates one piece of paper a day.

    If you have an ELD there should be absolutely no penalty to the driver or trucking company if a software glitch is causing an issue. Especially if a Law Enforcement Officer can plainly see that the Hours of Service are being adhered to just by looking at the screen of your device.

    So what if I can’t email my logs to them! If Law Enforcement can look at them on my tablet during the inspection. That should be sufficient. There should be no penalty administered for things that have nothing to do with the HOS service regulations. I as a single truck Independent really don’t have the time and resources to try to figure out why I can’t email information that has already been verified in person at the point of inspection. Nor should I have to waste my time!

    I should also not be penalized for not having the proper location on my logs because of a GPS malfunction. I always knew where I was on paper logs.

    There are always going to be computer glitches. And as they have absolutely nothing to do with the safe operation of a Commercial Motor Vehicle the FMCSA should stop penalizing Motor Carriers for those issues, period.

    I kept hearing how this was going to make my HOS compliance documentation easier. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been working with my ELD manufacturer since December 1, 2017 to correct issues I never had when utilizing paper logs. I did not wait until the last minute to implement an ELD.

    This whole mess can be summed up with a quote from Ronald Reagan. The nine most frightening words one can hear. “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help!”.

    Reply
    • Dawn

      I totally agree Paul, if the officer can see you are making a effort to use and stay in compliance with regulations the officer should work with you and be educated enough to realize the difference between someone not in compliance and someone who has a malfunction. Even if you can`t email due to a internet connection etc, the officer can still see the previous logs and grafts. Also the ELD system itself. And if there is still problems, as soon as the driver gets back to his or her company the office person can send a email of the information needed to the officer. With no penalty to the driver or company.

      Reply
      • jeannette

        I totally i agree with you Dawn and Paul the officer should understand that there will at any given time there could be a glitch they are computers it happens with cell phones ,desk tops , tablet ,how many times have you called a major company and they have told you that there computers are down why would it be any different with ELD’s !!

  4. Dawn

    I work for a small company in Canada, Ontario, I installed our ELD systems before the Dec 18, 2017 mandate so that our drivers would be prepared.
    We use GeoTab who are great and helpful but there is no immediate help for drivers when they are on the road. There’s a number of coarse, I’ve put it on the back of each tablet (as required) but its a waiting period to get any real help. Which if you are a driver you and I both know you are on the clock. You only have so much drive time and do not want to be waiting around. Time is money!
    I say this being very happy with our provider and will not be changing. This is a new program for everybody there are bound to be some quirks to have to work out. As long as officers can see there is strong effort to stay in compliance, hopefully during this transitional period we can all work together to make this successful. With all these addition extras the government has put into mandate is pushing us little guys out of business. I do see benefits to the ELD system but us small company’s with 6 trucks total and with only one run to Pittsburgh that our drivers really need the ELD systems, it seems like a lot of money to me. But what choice do we have, we either comply or be put out of business. With all these extras the last couple years, they are killing us small guys. We made more money in the last 2 years in my bosses 20 years in business, but we`ve never had a harder time keeping a float. I`ll be lucky if I still have my job here in year, I`ve been here over 10 years. We are treading in quicksand here and could really use a break!

    Reply
  5. Patrick LaCross

    They should do a judicial review of this law as the law is arbitrary 10, 14, 30, 11, 8, are all arbitrary numbers picked by the whim of some bureaucrats not by scientific studies
    Laws have to be based in science not someone’s feelings. That’s what dictators do

    Reply
  6. Todd E Wynecoop

    Eld’s need to go! They cause more harm than good! Making drivers, drive when tired, pushing them selves. President Trump said, he was for the American worker! I fail to see that, with the small business trucking companies! I’ve lost 2k a week, on this eld! Call your reps for your state, let them know you want elds removed! Your reps work for you, you don’t work for them!

    Reply
  7. Mike M

    I have been a single truck owner operator for 23 years under my own authority.

    In anticipation of the ELD rule being finalized, I bought a 1996 Intl with a brand new motor and rebuilt trans. Detailed the paint, spray painted the frame, polished the aluminum, cleaned it up real good inside, put in a brand new comfy memory foam mattress and a power inverter for comfort.

    Once I had it running, I sold my 2007 KW. Granted, this truck is no W9!!!

    Granted, I have spent a good chunk of money making the old iron “right”.

    Suspension, king pins, shocks, brakes, tires, AC components, alignment.

    It is a good running truck and gets way better fuel economy than the KW ever did! The second nicest thing about it, absolutely NO emission controls!

    I might not be the fastest thing running down the road, but here is the absolute best part: NO ELD!!!

    I’m just one guy, one truck. I don’t fight the regulations, just figured how to work the way I want in spite of them and keep going.

    Reply
    • Larry

      Their runing trucking industry. Gong to cause small co. Out of bunks

      Reply
    • Eddie

      I’m a 2 truck owner op myself Mike with a 2007 & 2010 Freightliner. I thought about doing the same exact thing as you. The only thing that’s got me hesitant is the thought that they will move to mandate the older trucks as well after noticing an influx on their emergence . Not trying to jinx anything… just predicting our good ole boys ‘ next move.

      Reply

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