Before Netflix and a thousand cable channels existed, there wasn’t a kid on the street whenever the “Bugs Bunny Show” came on TV.
Who doesn’t remember poor old Wile E. Coyote thinking he had a great idea with his newest Acme Company gadget?
He’d spend hours putting it all together. Only after it all went horribly wrong, and the Road Runner got away, did he read the fine print.
Carriers are trying to put it all together right now when it comes to electronic logging devices, which you’re required to have by Dec. 18 in order to operate in the United States.
There’s so much fine print involved that you need a giant Acme magnifying glass to read it, especially when it comes to e-logs and distance-based taxes. So here are six things you should know:
- Neither the jurisdictions nor the organizations that manage IFTA and IRP certify, endorse or approve of any one specific ELD product or system. When a vendor says its product is “IFTA certified” or “IRP certified,” ask for the official certificate from IFTA Inc. or IRP Inc. Or go to the IFTA and IRP websites and search for a list of certified e-logs. But save yourself some time, you won’t find any. The minute you hear the word “certified,” run like the Road Runner in the opposite direction.
- Most vendors are not IFTA or IRP experts. I saw one vendor’s video that claimed you could just print off a report, stuff it in an envelope and send it to the government. Voila! IFTA reporting is so, so easy. My dad had a saying when something didn’t work that it didn’t cut the mustard. Word on the street is that there is a bunch of hot-dog ELD startups that are over-promising what their systems can do.
- Even though GPS has been around for a while in the commercial motor vehicle industry, it is still in its infancy with the IFTA and IRP audit community. Many auditors have never done an audit using GPS data! In some jurisdictions, they will not accept GPS data and want your paper records.
- If you have questions about GPS records or reporting requirements, go to the source. Talk to your jurisdiction’s IFTA and/or IRP office. Ask to speak with an auditor to see what is acceptable to them and their jurisdiction. It’s your name on the return, not the vendor’s.
- GPS overall is accurate and reliable, but it’s not perfect. A bunch of things have to happen before GPS data can be used for IFTA/IRP reporting, like checking it for missing points and making sure the distance is attributed to the right jurisdiction. The jurisdiction will expect that you have done this before submitting your return.
- Do not—I repeat, do not—rely solely on a summary of the distance-by-jurisdiction report from your GPS vendor. An auditor will expect you to produce the original GPS in the event of an audit.
You may not realize it, but that is a huge amount of data to store and manage. If your vendor tells you they will store it for you, make sure they are storing it according to the IFTA/IRP rules and not FMCSA requirements for hours-of-service data. And be sure to ask them if there is a charge for storage and/or retrieval in the event of an audit.
The U.S. ELD mandate is only seven months away. If you’re looking at ELD vendors now, ask about IFTA, IRP and other distance-based reports in addition to hours-of-service compliance.
And if you’re waiting on Acme to deliver a crate full of gadgets, good luck. Be sure to read the fine print before you put it all together.
Sandy Johnson has been managing IFTA, IRP, and other fleet taxes for more than 25 years. She is the author of the free book, “7 Things You Need to Know About Fleet Taxes,” and operates northstarfleet.com, which provides vehicle tax and license compliance services for trucking operations. She can be reached at 877-860-8025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.