Non-English Speaking Driver and ELD Enforcement
There are many quality commercial drivers on the roads today where English is not their first language. Most possess the language skills required to operate a commercial motor vehicle in the US as outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Part 391.11.
The rule says that a driver must be able to read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records.
There are some drivers who don’t possess the language skill required but have learned just enough to get by and/or have been given political or social correctness latitude by enforcement.
However, the upcoming ELD mandate may put additional pressure on drivers to have increased skill in the English language.
How ELDs will affect non-English speaking drivers
For the current process of auditing driver logs at roadside, the driver simply needs to hand over his/her paper logs for inspection. Not a lot of language skill is required on the drivers’ part and the enforcement officers know what they need to do to audit the paper logs.
For drivers to be in compliance with the upcoming ELD mandate, they must know how their ELD device works, be able to explain what is being shown, and demonstrate the data to enforcement.
How auditors may face ELDs and non-English speaking drivers
For enforcement officers, unlike their familiarity of dealing with a single paper log format, they will now be tasked with auditing a vast array of unfamiliar electronic devices on the market today.
According to Tony Hugo, Glostone Director of Safety Services and former DOT enforcement officer, “many in enforcement will not have the technology skill to understand, download, and audit ELD data without the assistance of the driver.”
“A more typical audit will be a communication between the enforcement officer and driver to test the drivers’ knowledge and his/her ability to demonstrate their current hours status. Audits may become more of a spot check process than actually auditing the electronic log grids. The end result is that an ELD audit process will require much more dialog between officer and driver.”
Communication will be the key to a successful ELD audit. The inability of a driver to participate in that communication will probably be documented as an ELD violation rather than a violation of the English language rule putting more stress on the CSA Basic Hours of Service safety score.
What should carriers do?
No matter whether language skill or simply the ability to understand an ELD system, carriers will need to have a very effective driver training program to ensure all drivers are capable of having these ELD conversations with enforcement.