ELDs require new policies and procedures
By: Tom Bray
Publication: Transportation Safety Management Today
Date Posted: 02/16/2017
The deadline to have most drivers switched to an electronic log is December 18, 2017. As of that date, unless one of the exceptions applies, the driver will need to be using either an automatic onboard recording device (an AOBRD, which is what the current devices being sold and installed are) or an electronic logging device (an ELD, which is the next-generation electronic logging system).
After December 18, 2017, all devices placed into service must be ELDs that are listed on the “ELD Registry,” which is managed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). AOBRDs that were installed before December 18, 2017, can continue to operate as AOBRDs until December 16, 2019, at which time they must be updated to meet the ELD performance standards (or be replaced with an ELD if not updateable).
While December 18, 2017, sound like it is a long way off, it is not. When you consider everything that needs to be done to get the company transitioned and operating effectively and efficiently on electronic logs, suddenly it does not sound like much time. To get the process started you need to:
- Improving driver and supervisor training on hours of service to make sure misunderstandings and misconceptions when it comes to the limits and rules are eliminated.
- Improving auditing to get drivers into the habit of “running legal.”
- Selecting a device that fits your operation.
Policies and procedures
Once you have selected an electronic logging system, the next step is developing the policies and procedures necessary to operate in the electronic logging environment. The best policies are ones that are simple, to the point, provide a measurement mechanism, and have “teeth.” An easy way to write a policy is to use the ABCDE method. This reminds you to include:
- The audience (A). This is who the policy applies to.
- The action, or behavior (B) that you want or require.
- The conditions (C) under which the policy applies.
- The discipline (D) that will be taken if the policy is not complied with (the “teeth”).
- The exceptions (E) that might apply.
When writing the policy, remember that you are not explaining every possible situation. You are simply stating what you expect and what you will and will not allow. The details on how you are going to comply, what you are going to do to make sure everyone is complying, and all the other details will be in the procedures that back up the policy. Simply stated, the policy needs to be something that is easily remembered and the procedures are where all of the details reside.
The one to start with
If you do not have one already, the place to start is having a clear and concise policy on hours-of-service compliance. Here is a sample that should provoke some ideas: It is the responsibility of all employees, supervisors, managers, and drivers (A-audience) to assure that all drivers are operating in compliance with all hoursof- service regulations (B-behavior) under all circumstances (C-conditions). Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment (D-discipline). This policy has no exceptions (E-exceptions).
If you wish to make the policy more detailed and provide additional behaviors and conditions, that is up to you. Here is an example of a policy with these extra hours-of-service components built in: It is the responsibility of all employees, supervisors, managers, and drivers (A) to assure that all drivers are operating in compliance with all hours-of-service regulations (B) under all circumstances (C), including:
- Recording all duty time (driving and on duty not driving) in accordance with the regulations, specifically the appropriate definitions in §395.2.
- Complying with the 8, 11, 14, 60/70 hour limits in §395.3 (or the 10, 15, 60/70 hour limits in §395.5).
- Meeting the 30-minute and 10-hour break requirements detailed in §395.3 (or 8-hour in §395.5).
- Recording all time on the record of duty status in accordance with the requirements in §395.8, including maintaining a current, accurate, and truthful log at all times.
- Getting pre-authorization and noting on the log any time an exception listed in §395.1 is used.
Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment (D). This policy has no exceptions (E).
One key is to make sure that this policy does not have any ambiguity or wiggle room. Everyone at the company should have a clear understanding after reading this policy that absolute compliance with the hours-of-service regulations is a condition of employment. That is how serious you take this issue.
Procedures to back it up
The next step, once any policy is written, is to write the procedures that create the mechanisms necessary to make sure everyone knows the policy and is following it. In the case of the hours-of-service policy, here is a short list of the procedures you would want:
- Drivers are to be fully trained on the HOS requirements (followed by training instructions).
- All logs will be audited (followed by detailed auditing steps and standards).
- Drivers are to be counseled, corrected, or disciplined when any violations are discovered (followed by details on what violation will trigger what steps).
- Supervisors are to take driver’s hours into consideration when assigning movements (including details on how to access the information, when it is to be accessed, and what is to be done if the driver does not have enough hours available, such as relaying the load, shuttling the driver home, rescheduling the pickup or delivery, etc.).
Once the overall hours-of-service policy and procedures are taken care of, the next step is writing policies related to the electronic logging system. There is a lot here, so rather than include it in the general hours-of-service policy, it is better to break the ELD system policies into one or several separate policies. Here are the topics (behaviors and conditions if you think of the ABCDE process) you will need to cover related to the electronic logging policy or policies:
- Dealing with unassigned driving events and edits.
- Logging in and out at the appropriate times.
- Logging in using only your own credentials.
- Editing only to correct an error or omission, not to create a false record to “get more hours available” or to “try to hide a violation.”
- Dealing with a driver that has deliberately falsified a record or damaged a device.
- Requiring the driver to set the device up for a roadside inspection and present it to the officer.
Of course, for any policies you develop you will need to have procedures backing them up. Several will involve auditing the electronic logs and the unassigned driving events to locate falsifications.
Keep them current
Once the policies and procedures are developed (and hopefully written down), the process is not over. You need to build in an “automatic review” process. The process should force someone to look at the policies and procedures at regular intervals and whenever there is a change in the underlying regulations or technology (such as a large system upgrade).
Written or unwritten?
One question that is asked when it comes to policies is, “Am I better off to have them written?” One reason for this question is the fear that by writing them down, the company is somehow exposing itself to additional liability. The only time this is true is if you have policies, written or unwritten, that you are not following. The secret to avoiding the “liability pitfall” related to policies is to make sure they are concise, clear, followed, and enforced. If you chose to not write them down and only circulate them verbally, you will need to verify, in person, that the drivers know and understand what is expected of them. This approach is possible if you only have a few drivers. If you have a lot of drivers, the only way to make sure they all know the policy is to write it down and circulate it, including requiring a “signed receipt” for the policy.
These will be the basis for training
One key point about these policies and procedures, whether written or unwritten, is that they will lay the foundation for your training program. Part of the training needs to include explaining the policies and related procedures. Also, the policies and procedures will lay the groundwork for the topics the drivers will need to be trained on. In our next article in this series, we will be discussing the training that will be necessary to get the drivers prepared for the electronic logging system you have chosen.
This article was featured in the Transportation Safety Management Today newsletter.
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