Don’t Buy an ELD Without Knowing These 7 Requirements

The FMCSA has issued a revised “final rule” timeline for the electronic logging device mandate. With a new target set of September 2015, the industry is abuzz with questions regarding how the ELD mandate will affect fleets and their daily operations.

What are the technical specifications of the devices? Which are compliant? How will they perform? Is there a certification process for ELD providers? These are just a few of the questions circulating.

Although the final rule is still in development, the FMCSA has identified a distinct set of technical goals to address. Expect final key requirements to focus on at least these seven objectives: interoperability, cost reduction, proof of compliance, driver harassment and privacy, tamper resistance, technology evolution, and device certification.

Let’s dig in…

 

eld-checklist

Transmitting Data to Enforcement

A standardized output format also enables data from ELDs to be easily transmitted to authorized enforcement officials at a motor carrier’s facility or for roadside review. The proposed rule outlines a number of different options for transmitting data, while still protecting a driver’s privacy. These are categorized as “primary” and “backup” methods.

Some of the primary options include wireless data transfer via:

  • Web services
  • Bluetooth
  • Email

Other backup options include:

  • USB 2.0
  • Scannable QR codes
  • TransferJet (A close proximity wireless data transfer technology)

Vendors are required to support at least one primary method and two backup methods.

Security and standard methods for transmitting data

While the FMCSA wants the transfer mechanisms to law enforcement to be easy, they also recognize it needs to be done in a secure manner. For example, if an ELD vendor includes email as a primary communication method, it must be built to meet advanced encryption standards. That email must be sent in a standard format, in this case RFC 5322 Internet Message Format, and a receipt email will be sent to a specified address.

Incorporating these standards is such a priority that the FMCSA devolved a new section in the regulatory code: 395.38 which describes materials that are referenced by the new regulation, including security standards, USB specifications, and coded charter sets.

While this may be confusing to a fleet operator, safety manager, or driver, it gives providers the details they need to make a solution that can be used by the large number of groups impacted by the rule.

What’s being collected by the device?

The SNPRM goes into great depth on what data elements must be collected by the ELD, as well as specifications for their formatting. From how the information must be displayed on screen as a graphical representation of a log, to what location data the device must collect (like the Vehicle Identification Number), the FMCSA details it all.

Driver Harassment and Privacy

Concerns about driver harassment are central to the ELD specification. Not only do the technical specs address statutory requirements pertaining to prevention of driver harassment, but they also take driver privacy into account.

During the previous mandate comment period, the biggest concern amongst drivers focused on pressures from motor carriers to break Hours of Service (HOS) rules. Based on this, the FMCSA’s specifications call for drivers to be granted access to their HOS records upon request. Record review must be made available for the entire 6 months that the motor carrier is required to maintain said records.

In addition, the FMCSA details a number of other ways to protect privacy of drivers:

  • The device must have a “mute” button so the driver is not interrupted during off-duty or sleep berth statuses
  • GPS precision must be set at a 10 mile radius while a vehicle is being used for personal conveyance, allowing less precise tracking when a truck is being used on personal time
  • The driver must be able to edit non-drive segments of the log
  • The driver must approve logs edited by the carrier
  • Before edits are accepted, driver must be able to reconcile any unassigned vehicle movements

Tamper Resistant

ELDs that meet the SNPRM’s specifications will also need to be “tamper resistant.” Tampering is defined as the alteration of hardware, software, or stored data.

For example, the SNPRM outlines that each captured data record would include a code derived from the data itself at the time of recording. eRODS software (the software system that FMCSA is currently developing in conjunction with state partners to receive, analyze, and display ELD data in a way that can be efficiently used by authorized safety officials) would then verify the authenticity of the information. Using this unique combination of vehicle mileage, ECM data, time record, and location coordinates increases the difficulty of fabricating data and helps authorized safety officials spotlight data inconsistencies.

Evolving Technology

The FMCSA specifications are designed to be specific enough to help lower costs, but open enough to address the inevitability of technology evolution. As technology evolves, and standards change, the specifications allow for solutions that are innovative and adapt to the changing needs of motor carriers and drivers.

Device Certification

With a large number of technical specifications coming from this rule, the FMCSA will require that ELD’s be certified by their providers. The FMCSA hopes that industry testing and certification standards will emerge and evolve over time. However, it is not mandating blanket testing, as it intends for ELD providers to have the flexibility to meet or exceed the performance requirements posted.

What to Look for in a Provider

The specifications outlined in this SNPRM list a number of details to be established with the final rule. The most important question to consider is whether or not your provider is aware of and compliant with all of the specifications?

A simple test to begin the vetting process is to ask if your vendor submitted comments during the comment period and was involved in the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee. Your provider’s participation in the process indicates a level of interest and dedication to the final outcome.

Also consider if your vendor has:

  • Current solutions that can be used until 2019
  • Technical staff that understands the regulation
  • A history of working with the FMCSA and the ELD regulatory process
  • Financial resources able to make the continual ELD product and HOS updates expected

Join the Conversation

As we move closer to the ruling date and additional information is released, the buzz will grow. To keep up to date about the ELD mandate and how it affects you, visit eldfacts.com, an important new information site designed to foster industry understanding of this critical legislation.