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Monthly Archives: November 2017

How the two basic types of ELDs operate

All compliant electronic logging devices will share a common bond: They can record data coming in from the system that controls the truck’s engine and component parts. The ELD final rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was specific in requiring synchronization with the electronic control module. That’s one of the reasons the agency didn’t require ELDs in trucks of model-year 1999 or older.

The rule requires ELDs to automatically record date, time, location information, engine hours, vehicle miles and identification information for the driver, carrier and vehicle itself. Unless the driver is enabled for use of the vehicle in a “personal conveyance” mode outside of work hours, ELDs are required to record all of those elements “when the driver indicates a change of duty status or a change to a special driving category” such as a yard move, the rule states.

When in motion, ELDs are required to record all of the information on an hourly basis at a minimum. Many ELDs are offered as part of systems built for detailed tracking purposes, useful to fleets and owner-operators for purposes such as automatic notification of arrival times.

Those systems are capable of recording in a much more refined manner, and some may default to that. Providers may or may not have the ability to adjust the refinement.

Though there are plenty of variations, two types of ELDs have emerged.

In dedicated unit configurations, the device is supplied by the provider and is likely to remain in the truck.

BYOD (“bring your own device”) systems allow buyers to purchase their own hardware for the driver interface, such as an owner-operator using an app on a personal Android- or iOS-powered smartphone. A carrier may seek out a deal on tablets to dedicate to its power units and drivers.

Dedicated units

Most older forms of electronic logging devices, known as electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) or automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs), have been the dedicated-unit type. Two examples that have been available for years are Omnitracs’ MCP series and PeopleNet’s current products used by many drivers employed by or leased to larger carriers.

Many of these units provide ELD functionality in a single device package tied directly to the ECM by a cable and plug.

Like mobile phones, such units use connections to the cellular network and GPS functionality to deliver on the ELD rule’s requirements for recording location, mileage and engine hours. Data storage occurs using a combination of the internet cloud, back-office servers and the device itself.

A notable exception among devices available for years now exists in the base model of the Continental VDO RoadLog, which is limited to hours of service recording and inspection-report functionality. With no connection to the cellular network with the device, fleets and owner-operators manage data storage via a USB-connected drive to transfer records to a laptop or other computer.

Other dedicated devices may pair two pieces of hardware, bridging the gap between the traditional single-unit EOBR and the two-piece BYOD systems readily available today. In most cases, those devices are in evidence on the quick-comparison chart when a BYOD and a dedicated version exist from one manufacturer. While the J.J. Keller Encompass and Rand McNally DC200 systems both are BYOD-capable, they also are offered with company-branded Android tablets that come preloaded with software: the Compliance Tablet from Keller and the TND from Rand McNally.

Any fleet or owner-operator willing to make the investment in dedicated tablets can turn a BYOD system into a dedicated one. For years, Bill Frerichs of St. Louis-based Frerichs Freight Lines has run the BigRoad logging app on Android tablets dedicated to his 10 trucks. Though Frerichs at press time still was evaluating his options for mandate compliance, moving all 10 of his trucks’ tablets to ELD functionality could be as simple as signing on with BigRoad’s program for leasing engine-connection hardware to pair to the tablets.

Jack Schwalbach, who manages the private fleet of Reinders, a Wisconsin-based turf and irrigation products company, did just that with Geotab. “We have dedicated tablets,” Schwalbach says. “The tablets are used just for logging – the data plan, we have locked down. Everybody’s got their smartphone on their own, so they use that” for anything else.

Bring your own device

The KeepTruckin BYOD-style ELD “black box” connects to the ECM via cable and plugin. KeepTruckin recommends users mount the device in the dash to maintain a clear GPS connection. The device pairs with the KT app on a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth connection.

The “bring your own device” phrase and its BYOD acronym came into use with the profusion of smartphones over the past decade. In trucking, it’s a common term to describe a major part of today’s ELD market.

Dozens of providers are offering their own versions of BYOD systems. A BYOD-configured ELD consists of a “dongle” that connects to the ECM via the cab’s onboard diagnostics port. The dongle typically pairs via a Bluetooth connection with a smartphone or tablet to transmit data.

Software from the ELD vendor on your smartphone or tablet enables you to change duty status manually when you stop. When your vehicle goes into motion, the ELD automatically will shift to the drive line in the log book.

Variations exist. The engine-connection dongle may or may not have a cellular connection. In the case of the KeepTruckin ELD, the ECM-connected device maintains a GPS connection but no cellular connectivity itself. For that, the system relies on the connected smartphone or tablet and its data plan.

Meanwhile, Geotab’s Go — also a BYOD solution (and marketed as the Transflo ELD T7 by Pegasus TransTech) — maintains its own cellular connection and is capable of being updated and troubleshot over the air if software/firmware updates are needed.

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OOIDA, NASTC to testify in House committee on impact of trucking regs on small carriers

The House’s Small Business Committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing featuring owner-operators and other small business truckers intended to examine the impact federal regulations have on small trucking companies and “explore ways to to provide regulatory relief to the industry.”

Testimony will be heard from Monte Widerhold of B.L. Reever Transport, who’s testifying on behalf of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association; Marty DiGiacomo, owner of True Blue Transportation, who’s testifying on behalf of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies; Stephen Pelkey, CEO of Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group, who’s testifying on behalf of the American Pyrotechnics Association; and Tommy Phillipou, a partner at DKN Ready Mix, who’s testifying on behalf of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

The hearing will take place at 11 a.m. EST at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, Nov. 29.

“Many trucking companies can be as small as a one-person business and are subject to many of the same federal requirements as large trucking companies, including transportation safety regulations, environmental regulations, worker safety regulations and labor regulations,” the meeting’s notice says.

The session, dubbed “Highway to Headache: Federal Regulations on the Small Trucking Industry,” will feature prepared statements from the aforementioned witnesses, as well as a question and answer session.

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Diesel prices continue upward trend

Diesel fuel prices continue to creep up as 2017 draws to a close as prices increased by 1.4 cents during the week ending Nov. 27, according to the Department of Energy’s weekly report.

The increase brings the national average to $2.926 per gallon, the highest diesel prices have been since March 2015.

During the week, prices increased in all regions except California, which saw a two-tenths of a cent decrease. The most significant increase was seen in the Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain regions, which saw 2.3-cent increases.

California is still home to the most expensive prices at $3.597 per gallon, followed by the West Coast less California at $3.113 per gallon.

The cheapest diesel can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $2.712 per gallon, followed by the Lower Atlantic region at $2.794 per gallon.

Prices in other regions, according to the DOE, are:

  • New England – $2.881
  • Central Atlantic – $3.074
  • Midwest – $2.884
  • Rocky Mountain – $3.026

ProMiles’ numbers during the week saw diesel prices increase by 1.9 cents to $2.884 per gallon nationwide.

According to ProMiles’ Fuel Surcharge Index, the most expensive diesel can be found in California at $3.592 per gallon, and the cheapest can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $2.72 per gallon.

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Orders trickle in for Tesla Semi

Just two days after California automaker Tesla revealed its battery-powered Semi, orders started rolling in.

John Roberts, J.B. Hunt president and chief executive officer, says his company has placed a reservation for “multiple” Tesla tractors, each requiring a $5,000 down payment for a 2019 production date.

Roberts says reserving the trucks was an important step in the company’s efforts to implement industry-changing technology.

“We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new, sustainable technology,” he says, adding J.B. Hunt plans to deploy the electric tractors in its intermodal and dedicated contract services divisions on the West Coast.

Retail giant Walmart also disclosed it has placed reservations for 15 trucks, deploying five in the U.S. and 10 in Canada. Canada is becoming a hotbed for Tesla Semi early orders. Canadian grocery chain Loblaw announced it would order a total of 25 of the new all-electric tractor as it works to convert its entire fleet to battery power by the end of the decade.

Grocery and discount house Meijer Inc., told Bloomberg News it would test four Tesla trucks.

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ELD violations won’t ding carriers’ CSA scores until April, FMCSA announces

Carriers who are hit with citations for non-compliance with FMCSA’s electronic logging device mandate will not have points recorded against them in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability carrier scoring system, safety officials said today at a public hearing in Birmingham, Ala. It was previously announced that those drivers also will not be put out of service during that period.

A driver found after the mandate’s implementation, Dec. 18, but before April 1, with no ELD or compliant AOBRD (automatic onboard recording device) will be cited for having no log, but it will have no impact on the associated motor carrier’s Safety Measurement System ranking, said Jon Dierberger, FMCSA field administrator.

That policy originated with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said Anne Collins, FMCSA’s associate administrator of field operations. CVSA brings together highway safety officials from every state and trucking representatives to set enforcement policies and practices, including the out-of-service criteria.

In August, CVSA and FMCSA said enforcement of ELD-related out of service criteria would be delayed to April 1 as a phase-in for ELDs’ implementation. Officials have also said inspectors will have some discretion as to writing citations as the mandate takes effect.

An AOBRD must have been used in the truck prior to Dec. 18 to be grandfathered in as compliant. As of Dec. 16, 2019, only ELDs that meet FMCSA criteria will be compliant.

In her first public appearance since starting her job Monday, FMCSA Deputy Administrator Cathy Gautreaux addressed the lingering opposition to the ELD mandate.

“FMCSA recognizes motor carriers, particularly independent and small motor carriers, want an extension,” Gautreaux said. As for the agency doing so on its own, “FMCSA cannot arbitrarily change the compliance date of Dec. 18.” The final rule was issued more than two years ago and the ELD mandate changes nothing about hours of service, so at this point there is no reason to change it, she said.

FMCSA has been training state-based trainers since October to have all jurisdictions ready for implementing the ELD mandate, she said.

Gautreaux also outlined three priorities for the agency: improving highway infrastructure, regulatory reform and safe deployment of autonomous vehicle systems.

Highway congestion wastes an estimated $3 billion per year in time and fuel, she said, and highway fatalities have begun to rise again. FMCSA hopes to support public-private partnerships that could help solve the problem.

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Texas Congressman asks Trump to delay ELD mandate via Executive Order

The Texas representative who has been the principal sponsor of the H.R. 3282 ELD Extension Act of 2017 two-year electronic-logging-device mandate delay has written a letter requesting President Trump write an executive order to delay the December 18 mandate enforcement deadline at least until April Fool’s Day next year. April 1 is also the date on which federal and state law enforcement partners have stated they will begin enforcing the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s out-of-service criteria around use of ELDs.

Rep Brian Babin (R-Texas) posted the letter to his Facebook page today.

Babin’s letter says the Congressman consulted the Congressional Research Service to determine if such a delay would be within the purview of the executive branch, concluding it would be. “My preference,” Babin writes, “would be to delay the rule for as long as it takes, but at a bare minimum, I would encourage an initial waiver for all sectors until April 1, 2018.” The Congressman asked for a response from the President by December 1.

The approximately three-month delay, in addition to conforming with the CVSA-approved out-of-service criteria enforcement delay, would eliminate “the very predictable havoc of trying to implement this massive, complicated regulation just a week before Christmas – perhaps the busiest time for the consumer freight network of the year,” Babin writes, later addressing the president directly. “A few powerful interests will tell you that this mandate is good for trucking, and our country, but millions of hardworking people across our country who came together exactly one year ago to elect you president profoundly disagree.”

He went on to cite concerns with the cybersecurity, cost and truck-safety implications of the mandate. You can read the full letter via this link.

As of midday today, November 9, 2017, Babin’s bill had 64 cosponsors, up from around just more than 50 the first week of October, when grassroots ELD mandate protests took place in Washington, D.C., and around the country.

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Likely FMCSA boss Martinez stands behind ELD mandate, hopes to shore up CSA

Raymond P. Martinez, President Trump’s pick to run the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration during his presidency, told a panel of Senators on Tuesday that he does not have plans to delay the agency’s Dec. 18 deadline for compliance with the electronic logging device mandate should he be confirmed to run the agency.

However, Martinez did say he intends to examine how the rule could affect small business truckers, if confirmed. “I have heard this rule could cause serious hardship to some small independent truckers, particularly those in the agriculture sector,” he said. “I want to meet with those involved who oppose the rule to learn more about those concerns.”

Martinez testified Tuesday in front of the Senate’s Commerce Committee as part of his confirmation process. He joined three other nominees picked by Trump to run DOT agencies. The Senate must confirm Martinez via a simple majority for him to take the reins of Washington’s trucking regulatory body. Trump tapped Martinez in September to head FMCSA. Martinez has served as head of New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission under Gov. Chris Christie since 2010, having served in other motor vehicle-related roles most of his career.

He was asked only a handful of questions, two of which pertained to the ELD mandate. “Our goal is not to cripple commerce, but to make our roadways safer,” Martinez said in response to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Cruz asked Martinez that, given the estimated $2 billion price tag associated with industry-wide compliance with the mandate, whether he’d consider delaying the Dec. 18 deadline.

Martinez said he believes “regulatory reform should be an ongoing process,” but that “it’s my understanding with regards to ELDs that they are legally required” ahead of the December deadline.

“In the past, it was paper-based,” he said in response to another question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), “which means [logs were] very susceptible to fraudulent entries and altered entries.”

Martinez also said he intends to make the agency more data driven, particularly when it comes to targeting high-risk carriers within the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. CSA’s BASIC ratings were pulled from public view by Congress in 2015, and the National Academies of Science this year issued a report to Congress and FMCSA with recommendations on how the agency can reform the program to make it more equitable to carriers and accurate in its assessment of safety risk.

Martinez told Senators he intends to review the report and “make appropriate changes [and] evaluate how best we can move forward” with the program.

“We need to be using sound science,” he said. “The key thing is whether the data we use to compile these assessments are accurate, reliable and fair. If the data is unreliable, we lose credibility with stakeholders and the entities we regulate. And we do a disservice to the public,” he said.

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