"Psst, hey fleets: I've got a compliant ELD for you." How far should you trust self-certified electronic logging device (ELD) vendors in their claim their products are compliant?

ELD companies have been able to register and self-certify their products as meeting the requirements of the ELD mandate for a little over 10 weeks since Feb. 16. So far, though, only a handful have registered, and the head of marketing at one ELD provider says he's already hearing about this from customers.

"People check out our product and you'll hear, 'Okay, looks great, but I'm not going to buy you until you're on the list,'" says Jon Sockell of KeepTruckin, one of the newer ELD players in the market. "Alright, so does that mean they're going to go buy from someone on the list?"

There's been talk among the forthcoming ELD vendors of being first out of the gate, essentially, to certify that their products meet the guidelines. But two-and-a half months after early bird bragging rights have been available, there are three devices registered on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) list — where are all the well-established providers of electronic logging-type devices with their stuff?

Dotting their i's and crossing their t's, essentially. Sockell says many ELD manufacturers including KeepTruckin have been poring through the lengthy, significant new mandate to be sure their products do what they'll need to do. His concern is that less-than-reputable companies or those rushing products to market could pop up on the list, especially in these earlier months.

He notes that regulators and others have advised not waiting till the last minute to select and get using an ELD for commercial drivers who presently are required to keep paper logs, and there will be fleets and trucking companies looking to get ahead of the Dec. 2017 deadline. 

"Whether fleets choose us or whoever else, that's fine — we just don't want them to choose some guys who aren't real at all" or whose products may not be fully compliant with the nuances of the extensive ELD rule, Sockell tells Fleet Owner.

He suggests at least four main areas he says fleets should know about when they compare and move to buy an ELD product:

• Unidentified driving events. "This is a big one, and it's something that we've had to address. Say the driver goes home for the night, and then somebody moves the truck across the yard. The next morning when the driver starts his or her shift, the interface that they're using should prompt them, 'Hey, was that you that was driving last night or someone else?'" Sockell says.

"Those yard duty-type movements and personal conveyance movements need to be classified appropriately. Basically, in the ELD world, you're not picking and choosing what driving event happened — it's every driving event."

• Ability to store information. "The ELD device has to be able to store driving data basically in the ELD itself. If a vendor's device can't store data when there's no mobile device that's connected to it, then there's no way it can be complaint," Sockell contends. "Otherwise, you could have these unidentified driving events, and you wouldn't even know whether they happened or not."

He claims he's run across purported ELD offerings that cannot store data locally. "You have to have the ELD plugged in, and whenever that vehicle moves, that ELD needs to be able to remember that it moved. So at least temporarily, that ELD needs to be able to store data locally — at least until it re-synchs with the company's system" or via a wireless device.

• Log events can be edited by the carrier but need to be approved by drivers. "Under the ELD rule, this is part of the whole 'driver coercion' section that had to be added," Sockell notes, pointing to the considerable time it took to publish the final ELD mandate.

"The driver has to be able ultimately to approve that change. What we did in our system is that if you want to edit the log as a carrier, it automatically prompts the driver to approve or deny that. This is all ultimately to protect the driver under all the driver coercion elements" of the mandate, he says.

• ELDs must capture certain vehicle data and include it in output files. "Namely, you'll need VIN, odometer and engine hours — those are probably the most important ones," Sockell explains. And those parameters must be synched with driver log data. "When someone makes a duty status change, that needs to be captured," he notes.

He recommends that fleets ask an ELD vendor to demonstrate how its product complies with the upcoming mandate. "Ask them if their ELD can store data locally. Ask if it can capture parameters like VIN, odometer readings and engine hours and associate them with duty status changes. That's a critical point of it, because if you can't do that, you can't produce the output file that's required.

"Because this is a self-certified process, you the buyer need to take some responsibility to conduct due diligence with any vendor," Sockell advises. "You'll want to come in with some of these questions."