Although the ELD mandate went into effect on December 18, 2017 fleets still using automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs) to track hours-of-service (HOS) may delay implementing ELDs until the December 16, 2019 final deadline. Understandably, many fleet managers want to stay with a familiar system for as long as possible. However, there are significant advantages to switching to an ELD now – instead of putting it off for months – that you should keep in mind.
AOBRDs vs. ELDs: What’s the difference?
Let’s take a look at the key differences between AOBRDs and ELDs. AOBRDs were designed to meet FMCSA regulations put into place in the late 1980s. They record a vehicle’s engine use, speed, miles driven and dates/times to track a driver’s duty status information to comply with HOS rules.
ELDs reflect updated FMCSA guidelines. While they also automatically record a driver’s driving time and speed to ensure compliance with HOS, ELDs are additionally required to have integral synchronization into a vehicle’s diagnostic port (like a JBUS or OBD-II port) to accurately record vehicle motion activity, engine hours, power status, vehicle motion status and location. While both AOBRDs and ELDs capture record of duty status (RODS) data automatically at each duty status change, ELDs also capture RODS every 60 minutes while the vehicle is in motion, whenever the engine is powered on or off and at the beginning and end of personal use and yard moves. The ELD Mandate also requires that any time there is a driving event – i.e. any time the vehicle moves – an electronic log is created. Each log must be assigned to a driver or annotated, which is another major difference between AOBRDs and ELDs. This accounts for all times a vehicle is in motion and unassigned driving events; this prevents the tampering of driver hours data that sometimes occurs with AOBRD systems.
Why switch now?
The AOBRD grace period lasts through December 16, 2019. Previously, the FMCSA had said that ELDs would have to be purchased for any new trucks added to fleets, but they recently revised their guidelines to permit fleets to continue using AOBRD software on any truck in their fleets, including new ones, as long as they’re running it with ELD-capable devices. However, there’s still good reason to switch to ELDs now.
Here’s why: at roadside inspections, there are different procedures for how drivers share information depending on whether they’re using ELDs or AOBRDs (information is shared via electronic file transfer on ELDs; on AOBRDs, drivers show the AOBRD display itself), and if drivers provide DOT officers with the wrong system information, there’s a chance a citation will be given due to the incompatibility. Using a mix of systems also means managers will need to monitor data on two separate interfaces, which could lead to back-office errors and duplication. Support for AOBRDs and their software will likely decline as ELDs become more prominent making troubleshooting increasingly difficult.
Making the switch to ELDs now gives fleet owners an advantage: not only will they start seeing the benefits of ELDs (like lower fuel costs and fewer accidents) sooner, they will also ensure a smoother implementation process than waiting until the last minute. Any new adjustment is bound to bring some minor kinks along the way, but transitioning to ELDs now gives fleet owners the freedom to address any issues and thoroughly train their drivers while still in the AOBRD grace period. This means they’ll be ahead of the curve and better equipped to use ELDs to benefit their business.