FMCSA changes ELD rule to allow for new installs of AOBRDs

November 30, -0001 Aaron Huff

On March 9, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration added a FAQ to its website. Its answer to the following question shows the agency has made a significant change to the ELD rule.

Q. May a motor carrier that installed and required its drivers to use an AOBRD before December 18, 2017, install and use a new ELD-capable device that runs compliant AOBRD software after that date?

The ELD rule (FMCSA 395.16) originally stated that any and all electronic logging devices motor carriers purchase after Dec. 18, 2017 have to comply with the ELD specifications.

Motor carriers that voluntarily outfitted their fleets with e-logs prior to Dec. 2017 used what the agency referred to as Automatic Onboard Recording Devices (AOBRDs) in its previous rule, FMCSA 395.15.

In effect, the new ELD rule created a scenario where fleets already using AOBRDs would use two versions of software in their fleets: one for AOBRDs and another for ELDs for new devices purchased in 2018.

In the first few months of 2018, news surfaced that some fleets were experiencing difficulties from running two versions. In February, for instance, Old Dominion Freight Lines requested a waiver from the FMCSA to run AOBRDs in newly acquired trucks after Dec. 2017.

ODFL filed the petition on behalf of all carriers running PeopleNet systems, as ODFL was experiencing problems integrating the ELD-compliant software update from PeopleNet into its fleet management system. The FMCSA effectively granted the waiver by answering the above question on its website:

A: Yes, until December 16, 2019.

The FMCSA is therefore allowing fleets that currently use AOBRDs to continue with newly purchased (or previously uninstalled) devices as AOBRDs as long as those devices can be upgraded over-the-air to become mandate-compliant ELDs by December 16, 2019.

This “exception” is meant to allow greater flexibility so that fleets can continue to run compatible AOBRDs as the fleet expands, instead of needing to bring ELDs into the mix, explains Tom Reader, director of marketing for J.J. Keller’s ELD solutions.

J.J. Keller put together the following Q&As to further clarify the change in the ELD rule:

Q: If I bought AOBRDs before December 18, 2017, but did not install them, can I still install and use them today?

A: No, not if you never installed a single device.

Q: If a motor carrier is using AOBRDs, can it install and use a new ELD-capable device that runs compliant AOBRD software today?

A: Yes, until December 16, 2019. The new devices must be designed in compliance with the ELD standards even though they are running AOBRD software. The software must comply with the AOBRD standards in §395.15.

J.J. Keller’s product, like some others in the market, can be updated over-the-air from an AOBRD to an ELD. The majority of fleets using J.J. Keller ELD prior to Dec. 2017 have decided to not migrate to the full ELD mandate compliant solution, he says.

Using both AOBRDs and ELDs can make it difficult for carriers and drivers to manage the different nuances in both versions such as log editing in the office and in the driver’s seat, and the data transfer process at roadside inspections, Reader says.

Some products in the market do not give fleets a choice to use both versions. After Dec. 2017, some ELD suppliers updated all of their software to the new ELD version.

For fleets that use AOBRDs, Reader anticipates most will continue to install AOBRD versions in anticipation of an over-the-air update to convert their fleets to the ELD version on or before Dec. 16, 2019.

“If fleets are already on ABORDs we suggest they stay,” says Reader about J.J. Keller customers. “We will continue to train them on the nuances between now and the end of next year when they make the switch.”

As for how the FMCSA will be handling roadside inspections when fleets are using AOBRDs, ELDs or a mixture of both, Reader says it really shouldn’t make a difference as “the proof will be in the driver’s hands.”

On the driver display, J.J. Keller’s ELD specifies if the driver is using an AOBRD or ELD version. J.J. Keller also provides its customers with driver instruction cards and a roadside hotline.

Looking at the overall market, Reader believes the rule change that allows carriers to continue installing and using AOBRD versions will, in the end, still allow for a fairly seamless transition to ELDs by the end of next year.

“There are still kinks that need to be worked out,” he says. “Drivers, vendors and carriers will be able to figure that out.”

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