Why FMCSA keeps revoking ELDs, and how to tell if yours is next

Jul 2, 2024 | Reports

Alex Lockie

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently revoked three electronic logging devices in a two-week span (One Plus ELDELD ONE and Nationwide ELD). Now, an ELD service provider is speaking up about what he feels has changed — and possible signs your ELD could be next on the chopping block.

Mike Riegel, who owns Blue Ink Tech (provider of the BIT ELD)recently wrote this story outlining how the FMCSA goes about reviewing and revoking ELDs. Riegel believes the agency is currently “cracking down on ELD providers who sell products that don’t 100% align with the ELD mandate,” and notes that any time a driver is transferring their hours data to an inspector, the inspector is checking that not just the driver, but the ELD itself, is compliant.

If the inspection does find issues with the ELD provider’s data, that provider gets an email like the one below, received by Riegel.

Messages like this from the FMCSA go out to ELD providers citing issues in the technical parameters, and requesting fixes.Courtesy of Mike Riegel

It’s important to note that Blue Ink Tech itself isn’t at risk of falling out of compliance and having its ELD revoked. “When an ELD data transfer is found to have errors, the FMCSA technical team will highlight the errors and request a plan of action to fix the issues within 72 hours,” Riegel wrote. “If there is no reply to the email, it is likely that more attempts will be made to get a plan of action, and if nothing comes back the provider will be revoked.”

But if the ELD provider does get back with a plan of action, he added he feels “the FMCSA will be pretty lenient and allow the provider the time they need to take the corrective action.”

Riegel provided context for the email above in response to Overdrive queries. It directly followed a roadside inspection of “one of our ELD customers,” he said. “It looks like their system is getting more advanced at picking out items that do not align 100% with the mandate. Our issues were small, and about the length of notations for [records of duty status] and the resolution of the GPS data while on Personal Conveyance. I think this advancement of finding issues during roadside inspections could be why the FMCSA is able to crack down on more of the ELD providers that are not following the mandate.”

The FMCSA wouldn’t say outright if there’s any new crackdown underway, or some new methodology, but didn’t deny it either.

“FMCSA has been actively monitoring compliance of ELDs since the implementation of the rule,” said an FMCSA spokesperson. “Our investigative process has certainly evolved, resulting in more efficient and sophisticated methods of identifying ELD vendor compliance issues, as well as ELD misuse.”

Riegel is also correct that roadside stops play a role in finding issues with ELDs, but FMCSA Compliance Investigations staff’s in-person carrier audits and other reviews “also play a vitally important role in identifying potential ELD issues,” the FMCSA spokesperson added.

How to tell if your ELD will be revoked

The FMCSA’s complete technical standards, with which ELD providers must comply, are laid out in voluminous detail in regulation. The revocation process is laid out there, too, and it includes required notice by the agency to the provider, a time frame for response, and consequences that follow. You can find that process in the “Removal of Listed Certification” section at the previous link. For an owner-operator, determining whether or not a provider is 100% complying with technical standards might seem an impenetrable task, but Riegel laid out what he felt could be common signs that an ELD isn’t long meant for the FMCSA’s certified-device registry.

His first recommendation boils down to this: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If your ELD allows you to edit automatically recorded drive time, that’s never going to be compliant. “A common example of drive time editing is when a driver forgets to indicate Personal Use before moving their truck to a different parking spot. If you are able to edit that Driving status to PC or Off Duty, or if you are able to delete the status altogether, this should be cause for concern,” he wrote.

During the early days of the ELD mandate, the prior Automatic Onboard Recording Device standard did allow for editing automatically recorded drive time, though not by the driver. Under the AOBRD standard, those “back office” or administrator-account edits weren’t visible to roadside inspectors, either. The AOBRD grandfather period ended in late 2019, however, and under the current ELD standard, such drive-time edits are impossible. All edits otherwise, too, are visible at roadside with data transfer.

Other issues center around customer service and staying updated, in Riegel’s view. Poor technical support and customer issue resolution? Don’t expect that provider to be very responsive with timely communication to the FMCSA, either, in the event their compliance checks flag an issue. The ELD isn’t compatible with other APIs? Could be another bad sign that the ELD doesn’t play well with others, or might not be keeping up with the latest updates, wrote Riegel.

He also felt that “white-labeling,” when one company sells an ELD supported by another company’s technology, held potential to create barriers to timely updates. There’s nothing illegal about the practice of white labeling, of course. But if for instance the FMCSA reaches out to the original provider with an email like the one shown above, he felt the white-label version might miss the necessary updates to the original — opportunity for it, thus, to pop out of compliance.

Finally, he advised, it’s good practice to occasionally check in at the provider’s website for updates and timeliness. The FMCSA frequently reaches out to ELD providers to make updates. If the website feels like the lights are on but nobody’s home, it could be a sign that noncompliance looms just behind the next update.

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