In recent months companies like Saucon Technologies have been warning customers with electronic logging devices (ELDs) that time is running out for equipment on a 3G network.
Telecom companies are sunsetting their 3G networks to make room for their 5G networks that provide faster service.
After a pandemic that nearly decimated the motorcoach and private bus industry, the timing is terrible for upgrading ELD equipment on the 3G network, acknowledges Richard Shelley, Saucon’s Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
“We feel our customers’ pain with this 3G shutdown,” Shelley said. “It’s put us and our customers in a tough position.. We’re working through an aggressive upgrade plan with all of them. We’ve been sending out notifications and letting our customers know for some time now.”
ELDs used by drivers of commercial motor vehicles to automatically record driving time and Hours of Service records, as well as to capture data on the vehicle’s engine, movement and miles driven, have been mandated by Congress since 2012.
Check with providers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which enforces the ELD requirement, has more than 300 ELD providers on its approved list. FMCSA is warning operators that ELDs on the 3G network could become obsolete as early as February.
While some of the ELDs tied to 3G platform date back 10 to 15 years, some may be just three or four years old.
“Don’t take it for granted just because you have a new system that it’s 4G,” said Mike McDonal, Saucon’s Director of Regulatory Compliance and Industry Relations. “Contact your provider and then have them send you a document that says what platform they’re on.”
Because ELDs are congressionally mandated, the only potential wiggle room in this deadline scenario is with the telecom providers, not with the regulatory agencies.
“We don’t know if the 3G networks will shut down immediately, over time, or will be in different parts of the country before others,” Shelley said. “We just don’t have a definitive answer to that question. The cell companies are not being very forthcoming.”
Have a plan for your ELDs
McDonal recommends operators reach out to their ELD providers and ask them to verify what platform their equipment is on.
“Basically, find out what it is and find out what action that you need to take and make a plan to have that action fulfilled by the deadlines for each one of the telecom providers that FMCSA listed on their publication,” McDonal said.
McDonal urges operators not to delay in addressing the upgrade because supply chain issues could delay availability of equipment.
“We have a large amount of our customers’ equipment available now. But what’s to say that the supply chain is going to get any better, or could possibly get any worse?’ McDonal said. “So the thing to do is commit to the upgrade in technology as soon as possible and get on the list to develop and implement your plan.”
He recommends that operators also take advantage of the traditional slow time from mid-December through January to swap out the equipment.
“Have a plan with your provider,” McDonal said. “There are different aspects of a plan that you should look at, such as, what’s my flexibility? Can I only do my active buses now and do some later? What is the absolute last drop-dead date that I need to have this done? And then take into account the availability of your equipment to be able to execute the required upgrade.”