Per FMCSA regulations, all Electronic Logging Device (ELD) solutions must detect and log all vehicle movement, and must associate any non-authenticated operating of a commercial motor vehicle with an unidentified driver. That means anytime the wheels move – at all – and a user is not logged in to the ELD system, it is classified as unassigned drive time or as unassigned driving events.
This regulation, meant to stop drivers from operating despite being out of hours, has caused confusion and strain across the industry. Most unassigned driving time in a system can be prevented and there are steps fleet managers, owners and owner-operators can take to reconcile those records that do occur.
What are the most common cases of unassigned drive time?
As drivers get used to ELDs, they must get used to the requirements and create new habits. Often, unassigned drive time is a result of a driver forgetting to log in to the system with his or her credentials before they begin driving. Another common cause is not having the device in the truck or vehicle – whether it was left in the office, a driver’s personal vehicle, or elsewhere. A third is the device battery dying.
Support staff are another big source of unassigned driving time. This includes mechanics, maintenance staff, technicians and other non-drivers who use the vehicle without logging in. The FMCSA requires anyone who has access to a vehicle or moves a piece of equipment to have their own login credentials and be accountable for that time.
How can I avoid unassigned driving events?
Whether an administrator or driver, training and familiarity with the ELD can prevent non-authenticated use of a vehicle. Before beginning to drive, drivers should:
- Log into the ELD
- Ensure the ELD is docked in the cradle and plugged into a power source
- Review any unassigned driving events from the previous session; accept them if they belong to them or alert their fleet manager/indicate it in the ELD if not
Fleet owners and managers can reduce unassigned drive time with thorough training for anyone who uses an ELD to do their own job or help someone do theirs. Even before it’s installed, fleets should already be training drivers so they know how to log into the ELD. Drivers, administrative staff, dispatchers and dispatch managers, fleet managers and compliance managers should all have strong working knowledge of the ELD, how to operate it, what it tracks and how to review and reconcile unassigned driving time. Targeted one-on-one training, if the same user is accumulating unassigned drive time consistently, will also help.
How do I reconcile unassigned drive time?
In any instances of unassigned drive use, a motor carrier’s fleet manager or administrator should try to figure out who the likely driver or support staff was and confirm it with that user. They can look at the time and location that the unassigned drive time occurred and use that to inform who the user may be.
In instances where drive time cannot be associated with someone in an organization, the FMCSA requires motor carriers to add notes or comments into the ELD solution. For example, perhaps there was movement in a truck over the weekend within the yard that can only be associated with a cleaner that was contracted for a single job. That should be noted, with all possible details, to prevent issues in the case of an audit.
What are the repercussions of unassigned driving time?
Per FMCSA regulations, when a driver goes into a roadside inspection the Department of Transportation (DOT), highway patrol and/or other safety officials can review both the driver logs and unassigned drive time. They’ll be looking for long amounts of unassigned drive time that looks like the driver or carrier are purposely attempting to defraud the hours of service (HOS) limitations.
Any red flags could spur further audits, requiring fleets to provide all unassigned driving time for up to the six months they’re required to retain unidentified records by the FMCSA as part of their hours of service (HOS) ELD records. To avoid this and potential fines, carriers should familiarize themselves with the requirements around unassigned drive time and how their ELD system helps prevent and manage, and they should put in effort into ongoing training for drivers and others who use the system.