ELD Providers Update Software to Comply with Changing HOS Rules | traffic issues (2023)

Stefan Bennett

| Especially for traffic issues

ELD Providers Update Software to Comply with Changing HOS Rules | traffic issues (1) Software vendors worked to ensure a smooth transition to the FMCSA's revised hours of operation rules by providing updates. (MiX telematics)

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Before the federal government's revised hours of operation rules went into effect on September 29, electronic logging device vendors were busy updating their software to reflect changes to the ordinance that sets acceptable hours of operation for commercial drivers.

These software updates are designed not only to ensure regulatory compliance, but also to help network operators take full advantage of the greater flexibility offered by the new rule set, ELD vendors said.

James Victory, transportation compliance manager at oilfield equipment supplier National Oilwell Varco, said the company's ELD supplier helped prepare for regulatory changes.

"I think it was as smooth as you could hope for as there was no grace period in this regulation. They just left on [Sept. 29],” Victoria said. “That was an anomaly in terms of the regulations because they were less restrictive than more restrictive. So it wasn't a big problem to adjust to that.”

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration formulated and implemented the changes to the HOS rule after receiving industry feedback. Between FMCSA timepublished the final rule on May 14and yourDeadline September 29thELD vendors needed to finalize, validate, and implement their software changes. Some started work in spring or early summer.

"It's been a tight schedule," said Oswaldo Flores, product manager for safety and compliance at Teletrac Navman, which supplies its ELDs to National Oilwell Varco, among others.

"Luckily for us and the industry as a whole, there haven't been many changes" between the proposal and the final rule, Flores said.

Under the new HOS rule, after eight hours of driving, a 30-minute rest break is required instead of duty time; in addition, "off-duty periods" count as rest breaks. The revised rule also adds flexibility to the split berth exception by allowing drivers to freely split their required 10 hours into eight and two hour periods, or seven and three hour periods. In adverse driving conditions, drivers can now extend the 11-hour driving limit and 14-hour driving window by up to two hours. The new rule also expands the maximum duty time and distance limit under the short-distance exemption available to certain local drivers.

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After the rule changes were announced, "our teams worked tirelessly to deliver software code that reflects these changes," said Glenn Williams, vice president of product management at Trimble Transportation.

Trimble's software updates were made available to customers starting in August, he said.

"As each new rule like this can impact a driver's workflow, we have made a consistent effort to educate customers on what these changes entail," Williams added.

Trimble and other vendors say they deliver most software changes through over-the-air updates. Trimble also made a new code available via USB stick for customers who preferred to update their devices manually.

The timing of software updates is an important factor, vendors said.

"To ensure a smooth transition, the new rules were included and ready to go in the latest version of the software," said Ray Sweeney, Verizon Connect's head of compliance products. "We had teams around the world on standby at midnight to ensure the transition went smoothly and the software was working under the new rules."

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Fred Fakkema, Zonar Systems' vice president of security and compliance, said the company's over-the-air upgrades for its ELDs are easy to use. He compared driver interaction to accepting an update on a cell phone.

Zonar also carefully considered the timing of the software update, including time zone differences.

"It was 12:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, which is 9:01 a.m. here on the West Coast," Fakkema said. "A lot of trucks aren't moving at that time, so you can do the update, and when the driver goes to work, the update is there when they log in."

The "look" or on-screen appearance of HOS software hasn't changed drastically, vendors said, and users may not notice even small changes to the software itself, Sweeney said. "Most of the work is hidden beneath the surface in the rules engine, which constantly monitors activity."

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Suppliers have updated their dashboards to allow for better communication between managers and drivers. (samsara)

At Samsara, the software changes included "updating our cloud dashboard so fleet managers can see what driver records look like under the new rules," said Sean McGee, director of product management.

For drivers, Samsara has aired an update "so when they log in on September 29, they can see their watches reflect the new rules without them having to do anything," he said.

Samsara began communicating with customers via email and "banners" -- updates to the product itself -- well before the September deadline, announcing that changes were coming, McGee said.

The company also provided FAQs and other documents to guide customers through the changes and hosted a webinar on the topic.

It took MiX Telematics seven weeks to prepare the software changes and reach "readiness," including a testing cycle, said Jonathan Bates, executive vice president of marketing.

Uploads to customers' fleet vehicles could be done wirelessly, he said. When drivers restarted their vehicles, their ELD units booted up with the new software automatically installed, with the driver interface looking the same, he said.

ELD provider Geotab has created a separate set of rules in its Geotab Drive app for drivers who want to use the more flexible split-bed option.

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“It was a big decision,” said Scott Sutarik, Geotab's vice president of commercial vehicle solutions. “But we did this to maximize travel time. ... We didn't want to make any assumptions about what the driver is up to. When a driver switches to the shared berth rule rate, this instructs the system to calculate the driver's hours accordingly.”

Drivers and administrative staff also had to learn and master the HOS rule changes and ELD software. National Oilwell Varco sent messages to ELDs, notifying drivers of the changes.

"They all have our numbers, so they call our administrators if they have any questions," Victory said.

National Oilwell Compliance Coordinators answer drivers' questions about regulations.

"They work side by side with the drivers every day," said Victory. "They watch the ELDs, they watch the data coming back from the field, they let drivers know if they're using something right or wrong."

Bryce Wilson, marketing manager for Teletrac Navman, said the provider maintains a driver support hotline.

"If drivers aren't getting the [required] information and don't understand how to use software updates, they can call support agents who are specifically trained to help people on the road," he said.

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Longtime vendors have likely gained experience optimizing their software to keep up with regulatory changes.

“Since the introduction of our ELD solution, HOS has seen other regulatory changes, each with their own unique implications,” said Frances Yuronich Crowley, Encompass Senior Product Manager at J.J. Keller & Partners.

Regarding the recent revisions to the HOS rules, she said, "The changes offered more flexibility and productivity opportunities, so customers saw them as a positive change."

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ELD providers have also taken steps to clarify details in the amended HOS regulations.

“The verbiage that the FMCSA [usually] used confused some people. It wasn't resolved until the FMCSA spoke about it in their webinars and in their FAQ," said Fakkema of Zonar, citing the 30-minute break as an example.

"It doesn't take up to eight hours of continuous driving," he continued. “When you think of 'continuous', most people think of it as 'always driving', and it's not. It's only an eight hour drive [before] you have to take a break. ... [confusion of this kind] slows down your development process because you have to make sure you're doing it right.

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