How & Why Trucking Companies Tamper with Electronic Logging Devices

Tanker Truck Texas Highway

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) are integral tools mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as part of their Hours of Service (HOS) regulations within the trucking industry. These devices synchronize with truck engines to automatically record driving time, thus providing a more accurate account of HOS for the truck drivers. Despite the clear intent to create a safer work environment, the practice of manipulating ELDs is unfortunately common within the industry.

The FMCSA specifically requires that a commercial motor vehicle operator must install and mandate the use of an Electronic Logging Device by each driver to record the driver’s duty status. This requirement was to be implemented no later than December 18, 2017.

49 CFR 395.8(a)(1)(i)
A driver must submit the information required by the ELD as indicated by the ELD and as demanded by the motor carrier.

Why Does ELD Manipulation Occur?

The primary motivation for truck drivers and companies to manipulate ELD data is profit maximization. The HOS regulations limit the hours a driver can work in a day, thereby potentially reducing the number of deliveries that can be made. By manipulating Electronic Logging Devices, drivers and companies can present a false picture of compliance with HOS regulations while actually working beyond the legal limit.

How is ELD Manipulation Executed?

Manipulating ELDs involves a variety of methods. The most common is the inputting of false data into the device. This could be done by logging travel time as something else, such as off-duty or sleeper berth time. Another method involves using someone else’s login details to record driving hours under a different driver’s profile. Some drivers even resort to physically disconnecting the ELDs to stop them from recording data.

What commercial motor vehicle companies do (or fail to do) with a truck driver’s reports is also a serious concern. As per the FMCSA, a frequent violation by motor carriers is the failure to ensure a driver’s Electronic Logging Device record is accurate. This verification is required by law. Some employer truck companies neglect to review or correctly maintain records of unidentified or unassigned driving time, and in some instances, ELD software has been reprogrammed by the company which allows them to control and manipulate what is reported in the logs.

Impacts of ELD Manipulation

While ELD manipulation may yield short-term profits, the long-term impacts are detrimental and far-reaching. The primary concern is road safety. The HOS regulations are in place to ensure that drivers are adequately rested and thus capable of operating their trucks safely. When these regulations are bypassed through Electronic Logging Device manipulation, fatigued drivers remain on the road, creating a significant risk of accidents.

Moreover, manipulation of ELDs undermines the integrity of the entire regulatory system. It creates an uneven playing field where some companies adhere to the regulations and others do not. This could lead to unfair competition, with compliant companies potentially losing out to those who choose to break the rules.

In conclusion, while the temptation to maximize profits by manipulating ELDs might be strong, the risks and potential repercussions far outweigh the benefits. The FMCSA and other regulatory bodies must continue to work towards closing loopholes and ensuring that all stakeholders in the trucking industry adhere strictly to HOS regulations for the safety of everyone on the road.