Electronic logging device manufacturers have been working quickly and diligently to ensure their technology aligns with the changes recently made to hours-of-service regulations–specifically, the rules affecting the number of operating hours a truck driver is allowed to work.
In addition, ELD software changes have been made to boost a commercial drivers’ ability to take advantage of the added flexibility that came with the new HOS regulations. After the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published its final rules in mid-May, ELD vendors had to finish and install all necessary software changes before the September effective date–even beginning to make updates as early as the spring.
“I think it went just about as smooth as you could expect, since there wasn’t any grace period in this regulation.” said National Oilwell Varco transportation compliance manager, James Victory, of the software updates. He noted that NOV’s ELD supplier helped the company in its preparation for the HOS changes. “They just went live with it on [September 29th]. This was an anomaly as far as regulations go, because they were less restrictive instead of more restrictive. So, it wasn’t a big problem adapting to that.”
With the new hours-of-service revisions, a driver can operate for eight hours of driving time with just a 30-minute rest period, as opposed to having eight hours of on-duty time with an off-duty time requirement. “On-duty, not driving” periods now qualify as rest breaks. Additionally, drivers are now able to split their required sleeper berth time by dividing the 10-hour requirement into either an eight- and two-hour period or a seven- and three-hour period.
The new regulations also allow for an extension of the maximum on-duty time period and distance limit under the shorthaul exception, and allow drivers to extend the 11-hour driving limit and 14-hour driving window in adverse or challenging driving conditions by up to two hours.
“It was a tight timeline,” said Teletrac Navman’s safety and compliance product manager, Oswaldo Flores. Teletrac Navman provides its ELDS to companies like National Oilwell Varco. “Fortunately for us and for the industry as a whole, there weren’t many changes” [between the time of the proposed changes and the final rule].
Things looked a little different for Trimble Transportation, though, whose vice president of product management, Glenn Williams, said that once the regulation updates were announced, “our teams worked diligently to deliver software code that accounted for these changes.”
Williams noted that due to his team’s quick work, the company’s software updates became available to its customers in August.
“Since any new rule like this can impact a driver’s workflow, we made a consistent effort to educate customers on what these changes entailed,” Williams explained.
The bulk of software updates during this time were made over-the-air, according to Trimble and many other software vendors. For those who wanted to manually update their ELDs, Trimble created a code for USB sticks.
“To ensure a smooth transition, the new rules were already in the latest version of the software and ready to be activated,” said Verizon Connect’s head of compliance products, Ray Sweeney. “We had teams all over the world on standby at midnight to make sure that the switchover went smoothly and the software was working to the new rules.”
Vendors said the overall appearance of their software didn’t typically change much with these updates, so many users didn’t notice the changes that were made.
“The majority of the work is hidden beneath the surface in the rules engine that is constantly monitoring activity,” said Sweeney.
Software updates for Samsara Fleet Management included “updating our cloud dashboard so that fleet managers would be able to see what drivers’ logs looked like under the rules,” according to the company’s director of product management, Sean McGee.
Over-the-air updates for ELDs are meant to be as user-friendly as possible, said Zonar Systems’ vice president of safety and compliance, Fred Fakkema, who said the user accepting an update is similar to someone allowing an update on his or her smartphone.
Still, the timing of the update is vital, especially considering time zone differences.
“The time was 12:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, which was 9:01 here on the West Coast,” said Fakkema. “A lot of trucks aren’t moving at that time, so you can get the update done, and when the driver comes into work, the update is there once they log on.”
Samsara also sent an update over-the-air, which was convenient for drivers because “when they logged in on September 29th, they would see their clocks reflect the new rules without them having to do anything,” McGee explained.