4 THINGS EVERY FLEET SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ELD DATA
It goes without saying that most electronic logging device (ELD) systems collect a lot of data. That's both good news and bad news. It's good news because more data allows you to better track Hours of Service compliance and other issues, such as detention time, equipment utilization, and driver availability and performance. The bad news is that the volume of data can be crushing.
To take advantage of the benefits of ELD data while avoiding the pitfalls, here are four things you should know about ELD data:
Audits Are Different with "Big Data"
When FMCSA investigates Hours of Service compliance at a carrier using an ELD system, the audit will be much different than the audit done at a carrier that uses paper logs. An auditor at a carrier using paper logs will spend a lot of time "looking at logs" and verifying that those logs were completed correctly, that the Hours of Service limits were complied with, and that the logs were not falsified.
To check for falsification, the investigator will ask for supporting documents to verify that a driver's log shows driving at the correct times and the driver being in the area indicated.
At a carrier using an ELD system, the investigation will be much different, because the records or data will accurately show when the driver was driving. This will reduce the number of supporting document checks the investigator will need to do. If the system meets the ELD mandate requirements, it will provide a "breadcrumb trail" showing where the driver was, reducing the number of support documents needed.
The investigator will also take advantage of the data the system retains in order to identify drivers who are falsifying or otherwise possibly cheating on their logs.
Some people believe that when an ELD system is used, "cheating" goes away. It doesn't. It simply gets more technical.
Unassigned Driving Events Create New Challenges
Unassigned driving events occur any time a vehicle with an ELD shows movement, but there's no driver logged into the ELD. This frequently occurs when drivers using an ELD forget to log in or log out of their device, creating the unassigned driving events.
Many carriers were unprepared for the volume of unassigned driving events that occur with ELDs. On a daily basis, someone within your organization should be determining which driver should receive the unassigned drive time, and correct it in the ELD system's back office.
Some risks associated with unassigned driving events include:
- The driver receiving a violation for not dealing with unassigned driving time on his/her device. When a driver logs in, the ELD will ask the driver if he or she wants to accept or decline any unassigned driving time on the device. If the driver does nothing (does not accept or decline), or declines unassigned driving time that is his or hers, an officer can cite the driver during a roadside inspection.
- The carrier receiving a violation during an audit for not dealing with the unassigned driving time. Unassigned driving time in the back-office system must be assigned to the correct driver or have a comment attached to it explaining why it could not be assigned. During an audit, any unassigned driving events discovered without an explanation attached to it will be cited as a violation.
- Triggering an additional investigation during an audit, including investigating drivers that were not initially selected for audit. Investigators will look into details surrounding unassigned drive time, because driving when logged out is a common method drivers use to falsify logs.
- Potential of a driver being over hours and you and the driver not knowing it.
ELD Data Impacts Litigation
When it comes to litigation, the key to remember is that the data you must provide to the plaintiff could either help you or hurt you. If your ELD data shows that you're a safe and compliant company, then you're going to be alright at the end of the day. You may still end up paying some damages, but they won't be excessive. However, if the data shows that you're not operating safely and compliantly, you could be in serious trouble.
In fact, if the plaintiff can prove that your practices contributed to the crash (you did not live up to your duty to act), then you could be held responsible for additional damages, up to and including "punitive damages."
As far as the "duty to act," the regulations make it abundantly clear that it's your responsibility to see to it that your drivers obey the safety regulations, including the Hours of Service regulations.
ELDs Don't Guarantee Compliance
The truth is, ELDs do not automatically make your drivers compliant. If used correctly, ELD systems can help you see trends in Hours of Service violations — as well as speed, idle time, hard braking and other driver behaviors — in advance of the driver getting into trouble (or worse, being involved in a crash). But, this assumes someone at your carrier is reviewing and acting on the information the ELDs provide.
Basically, ELDs will only make you compliant if you train drivers and supervisors, audit the electronic logs and associated data, and use the data to proactively identify drivers that aren't complying.