The new electronic logging device (ELD)  rule is finally here—now what? For starters, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has built in a transition window to make sure everyone involved is on the same page. And for the time being, FMCSA, roadside enforcement, and ELD providers are still working out exactly how the policy specifics will be converted to day-to-day operational reality.

“Roadside enforcement is a wild card. I don’t think even FMCSA knows what that’s going to look like for the next two years,” says Annette Sandberg, CEO of TransSafe Consulting and a former FMCSA administrator. “It’s hugely problematic because they don’t know how quickly the state enforcement agencies are going to adopt—I’m told they don’t even have the e-ROD (electronic records of duty) software going. It’s a very heavy lift that FMCSA has to do in the next several months to address the technical considerations.”

Along with official policy and guidance on the FMCSA website and upcoming informational sessions, ELD providers have rolled out numerous white papers and presentations.

“It really is top of mind for our customers,” says Tom Reader, director of marketing—ELDs, forms, & services, for J.J. Keller. “Inevitably, the big deal is about how these fleets are going to implement this big change with their drivers. They’re going from paper-based recordkeeping to electronic—and that’s a huge change. You’re putting drivers in the middle of this where they have to adapt to a new method of work.”

With an estimated 3 million drivers who fall under HOS limits, Reader suggests that more than half have used some sort of electronic logging technology. But that still means more than a million drivers, or their companies, will now be actively looking for ELD solutions for the first time.

But even drivers new to e-logs shouldn’t sweat the change, says CalArk driver Pat Dunn. He’s been trucking for 16 years—including several as an owner-operator—and made the transition two years ago.

“It’s been amazing,” Dunn says. “It was easy because it’s actually better with an e-log. You can get your rest because you don’t have anyone pushing you. Your time is right there for everyone to see. I still make my money and get my miles.”

Dunn does acknowledge that the clock stops for nothing, so drivers accustomed to fudging a paper log now and again to make up for unexpected delays will have to get used to working a little differently.

“You have to plan,” he says. “You can’t stop at every truck stop and mess around. You’ve got to get down the road and do what you’re supposed to.”

For company drivers, Dunn emphasizes the importance of communication—of letting dispatch know if anything unexpected has come up.

Indeed, being proactive will save a driver a possibly unpleasant chat later.

“They know we manage the program,” explains CalArk vice president of safety and compliance Dennis Hilton, who reports the 250-truck fleet has an HOS compliance score near the top 10%. “If there is a violation, we’re going to call and ask the driver about it.”

CalArk advises drivers to enter a note in the system if a situation forces them to push the driving time limits. Hilton emphasizes the importance of the new driver coercion rule and suggests shippers will now have to get on board with the efficient management of truckers’ time at the dock.

“Planning is the whole deal,” he says. “Murphy always raises his ugly head. What you have to do is just regroup  and redesign your plan.”

Simply, ELDs will make drivers “more conscientious,” Hilton believes. And good drivers should appreciate the precise recordkeeping.

“You could be as honest as can be and keep your paper log just like you would an electronic log—and nobody would believe it,” he says. “Just overcoming that hurdle is a big relief.”

Still, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA) is no fan of the new rule, even with the procedural and technical provisions to prevent harassment resulting from ELD-generated information. OOIDA argues that use of an ELD should be an option, not a requirement. And the association once again has filed suit to block the rule, saying it has the potential to have “the largest, most negative impact on the industry” of any regulation FMCSA has imposed.

While OOIDA successfully argued that FMCSA had not addressed driver harassment in the 2010 rule, that argument will be tougher to make this time, suggests Tim Wiseman, managing partner of Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, a law firm that focuses on regulatory compliance.

“I think the agency has done a pretty good job of considering and taking into account driver harassment and driver privacy,” Wiseman says, and he notes numerous other groups, including the American Trucking Assns., will be filing briefs in support of the rule. “I think the odds of the 7th Circuit sending FMCSA back to the drawing board this time, given the breadth of research and analysis, is unlikely. It’ll be interesting to see how the litigation goes.”

And even the doubters will come around, adds Sandberg. “The reality is, once we get these things installed and the technology evolves, it’s going to be fine,” Sandberg says. “There are still a lot of folks who aren’t using them and I think they’re leery. That’s what led to some of the concerns.”

To kick off the transition to ELDs, below is a basic Q&A.