ELD Regulations: Why Compliance Could Actually Expose You to Legal Action—and How to Fight Back
Electronic logging device (ELD) regulations are a curious thing. As soon as you achieve compliance, it’s tempting to assume that your data-related challenges are behind you.
As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.
Once you’ve complied with ELD regulations, all your hours of service (HOS) data will be available digitally in one place. That can be a good thing for your business because it helps you determine how consistent you’ve been about enforcing HOS policies with your drivers.
But keep in mind that you’re not the only one who can access this data. Plaintiff attorneys can, too—and they’re taking advantage of this fact in court as they pursue damages for accidents.
You can expect to see much more ambulance-chasing activity now that ELD regulations are in effect. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. Here’s how to avoid having your own data used against you.
Don’t Put Your Safety Director Through This Nightmare
Here’s a scenario that will become more and more common in the near future: a truck driver gets into an accident. His company immediately examines the case and meets with the truck driver to provide corrective safety training.
The trucking company is in full compliance with ELD regulations, so the ELD system collected data on the accident. But since the company hasn’t gotten around to digitizing its safety processes, the only documentation of the safety training is on a form filled out by hand.
A few weeks later, an attorney representing a motorist who was injured in the accident comes calling. During the discovery phase of his case, he finds that there are inaccuracies in the paper form regarding the exact time and place of the accident.
When the case goes to trial, the attorney presents evidence of other safety violations by this driver—data that was easy to gather from the ELD system—and grills the safety director about corrective actions taken. Because all of these actions were only documented on paper, the safety director endures a nightmare scenario of having to explain minor inconsistencies. And because several paper forms have gone missing over the years, there’s no way to prove that the company’s safety processes are consistent.
The attorney establishes a pattern of apparent negligence by the trucking company. He succeeds in convincing the jury that the trucking company is a heartless, profit-driven company that’s putting ordinary citizens’ lives at risk.
The irony here is that the trucking company complied with ELD regulations to the letter, but still found itself in costly legal trouble.
This is just one way that your company could get bitten even after following the rules. Many ELD systems track a far greater breadth of data than the regulations require, which makes it easy for attorneys to go digging for evidence that your company isn’t taking safety seriously.
For example, ELD systems may track speed, hard brakes, and other data points that can be manipulated to paint a picture of a reckless driver—and a company that has failed to train and discipline him.
Here’s the Critical Next Step After ELD Compliance
Amidst all the talk about ELD regulations, here’s what many trucking companies are missing: running an ELD system will keep the Department of Transportation happy, but it won’t protect you from legal action by aggressive plaintiff attorneys.
Attorneys are digging into driver data like never before. They’re finding plenty of ammunition to build cases against companies like yours. And even if you’ve been doing everything right in terms of warnings, reprimands, and corrective safety training, you can end up looking sloppy if you’re not documenting these actions the right way.
Keeping track of safety training on paper or in spreadsheets? There are bound to be inconsistencies somewhere—and those attorneys will find them. Surely, someone along the line forgot to forward a notice or sign a form, and that one little oversight could cost you millions.
Compliance with ELD regulations isn’t an end-goal—it’s the bare minimum you should be doing to protect your company from legal action. To learn how Gridline can help you document your safety programs and prove that you’re taking every reasonable step to prevent accidents,
contact us today.