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ELD Lessons Learned And Hour Of Service In The News

Have you heard? The Trucking Alliance has come out calling for states to begin mandating intrastate ELD use. Also known as the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, the Trucking Alliance is known for taking interesting stands on particular issues.

In this case, they are getting specific about what they think states should do regarding ELDs. Sure, the mandate covers truck drivers operating on interstate highways, but what about those driving within states themselves? What many may not know is that ELD devices are currently not required for extensive segments of the transportation sector. Operators driving within state lines and those operating within a 100-air-mile radius of their headquarters do not have to have ELD devices installed in their vehicles.

The reasoning behind the Trucking Alliance’s push stems from the results gleaned from over a year using the ELD for interstate truck driving. Citing some evidence that the ELD has worked in reducing safety issues, the Trucking Alliance’s managing director has come out saying that further ELD mandates within the states may further reduce truck accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

They pointed out this past summer that since the ELD mandate went into effect, and hours of service began being logged electronically, violations incurred by those truck drivers have made dramatic drops. Finally, they specifically mentioned “manipulating and falsification” as now being things of the past.

In their statement, they went on to say that insofar as the ELD mandate has been enacted at the federal level, to their knowledge, there are currently no states mandating ELDs on commercial trucks that operate intrastate commerce. They are first taking aim at state trucking organizations to help fuel the push.

State legislatures are being lobbied by interests on behalf of the Trucking Alliance, with the lobbying efforts aimed exclusively at requiring all large trucks to install the ELD devices and, as they put it, ensure truck “drivers are obeying the law.” They go on to state in several state filing forms that electronic logging devices should eventually become as ubiquitous in a large commercial motor vehicle cab as seat belts.

The Trucking Alliance’s policy statement regarding their lobbying efforts covers two bases.

  1. First, the Trucking Alliance is encouraging the FMCSA to expand statutory authority allowing state legislatures to mandate ELD usage for all interstate commercial trucks, regardless of the commodity they carry or the length of their haul.
  2. Second, the Trucking Alliance is urging state legislatures to require ELDs on commercial trucks operating exclusively within their state.

What is important here is the verbiage being used. Whereas the group is merely “encouraging” the FMCSA, they are actively “urging,” second-hand for lobbying, state legislatures to get in on the game. The fact is, the Trucking Alliance is not new to this game.

As hardcore supporters of ELD installation in large commercial motor vehicles since 2010, that the alliance is taking this stand should be of no surprise. Their support for continued measures rest on three separate principles related to the mandate.

  • It’s the Law: They note that in 2012, the vote to require commercial trucks engaged in interstate commerce to install ELDs was a bipartisan vote. Additionally, there was an extensive rulemaking process, started at the direction of Congress, that ended with the Department of Transportation making the final recommendation.
  • It’s Working: Tracking data since the ELD mandate went into effect in December of 2017, HOS violations are down by nearly half. ELD devices are better at reducing truck driver fatigue. The FMCSA has also released research data estimating that ELD usage will result in a net positive economic benefit of over $1 billion. They also propose that if more trucks are outfitted with the ELD device.
  • It’s Safer: Since ELDs accurately report a truck driver’s actual on-duty time, they are able to portray a better picture of how HOS and other aspects of a truck driver’s job impacts them while they are behind the wheel.

Beyond the factors mentioned above, the Trucking Alliance posits that ELD usage across all commercial motor vehicles will make it easier for lawmakers to make substantiated changes to HOS in ways that will benefit truck drivers. This holds true especially since rules were previously set up based on data pulled from logbooks, which themselves can be prone to human error or falsified.

With ELDs tracking the data, they hope that an accurate number of hours can be reported, including how much time truck drivers spend detained at a shipper or receiver. They can also track slow transit time and how long certain commodities are spending on particular routes. Data can be correlated between the number of hours driven, when an accident happens, and where the truck driver was at within their allotment of hours when the accident happened.

The question now is this: With the federal government having already made the big decision on ELDs, will state legislatures really set aside everything else they are dealing with to take up the Trucking Alliance’s cause? At this point that answer is anyone’s guess.

What Others Are Saying

The conversation now turns to other transportation industry advocates and organizations. First, many point out who makes up the Trucking Alliance – primarily large interstate trucking companies. Some openly wonder how these companies came up with the idea to mandate intrastate ELD usage.

Consider the organizations that came together to get the ELD mandate passed at the federal level, which includes the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the AAA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and individual insurance carriers both large and small.

Pointing out that these groups are doing things at the right pace, the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association and other small trucking company advocacy groups are pointing out that it is more likely the large trucking companies that make up the bulk of the Trucking Alliance want to even the playing field between larger interstate carriers and the small carriers who operate within states.

Smaller trucking companies have been complaining for a long time that Trucking Alliance decisions disproportionately target small carrier operations. They say that to implement an ELD mandate on an intrastate basis would puts undue burden and expense on small operators. Is this true?

Of course, the Trucking Alliance would continually point to safety as their primary motivating factor. It is another case of pointing the finger within yet another industry. At this point it all comes down to who lawmakers listen to, and how badly they want to use the safety issue to push a mandate on operators within their state. The game is still afoot.

FMCSA Proposes HOS Changes

Meanwhile, while motor carriers both large and small fight over who should be forced to have an ELD installed on their vehicles, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced on August 21 that they will begin a rulemaking process that could potentially reform four areas within the current HOS regulations.

They are publishing out an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (otherwise known as a pre-rule) to request public comment on the following hours of service factors:

  1. Should they expand the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty. This would make the rule consistent with what long-haul truck drivers have to deal with.
  2. Should they extend the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to 2 hours whenever a truck driver encounters an adverse or delaying driving condition.
  3. Revise the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after they have been driving continuously for 8 hours.
  4. Reinstate the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for truck drivers when said truck divers are running on a commercial motor vehicle that has a sleeper-berth compartment.

The FMCSA said in a statement that this pre-rule has been put out as a response to congressional, industry, and citizen concerns regarding HOS rules and potential revisions. They want to ensure they get enough public comment to better inform on what the final rule would look like.

The agency went on to note that since ELD compliance within the trucking industry is nearly 99%, it has brought the inadequate HOS rules back into focus. Whereas problems with HOS could be, quite literally, “papered over” prior to the ELD rule, now the major deficiencies are appearing right out in the open. These problems acutely impact industries hauling specific commodities, such as agriculture haulers.

For information on how to submit comments on the Federal Register docket, simply follow this link. The time for public comment is still open, so why not leave your thoughts? With so much regulatory change happening within our industry, ensuring truck drivers’ voices are heard is important to shaping how lawmakers regulate our industry.

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