A new day brings a new slew of movements in Washington regarding the ELD mandate. Congress has been toying with the idea of doing away with it in committee for some time, but it still wasn’t clear whether the rule would survive or not.
The fact is, many trucking companies have already been preparing, partnering with ELD providers, and getting their fleets ready for the coming mandate. Still, all that could change depending on what happens in our nation’s capital.
We recently reported on an amendment sponsored by Rep. Brian Babin (R.-TX) which aimed to prevent funding of the electronic logging device (ELD) rule for almost one year. That amendment was voted down on September 6 by a House floor vote of 246-173.
Considering the House is the less deliberative and more unpredictable chamber of Congress, it could have gone either way. With only four months to go, measures are still being introduced to derail the rule.
The first rule under consideration was H.R. 3282, the ELD Extension Act of 2017. This measure was first put to table back in July and was initially designed to delay the full implementation of the ELD mandate for two years. While it attracted 45 co-sponsors, it was still voted down.
The next shot across the bow of the ELD rule came from Representative Babin in early September. This anti-ELD amendment was attached to an unrelated bill, H.R. 3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018.
This measure would defund the ELD mandate, thus delaying its rollout through September 30 of 2018. The rider specifically mentions prohibiting funds from implementing or enforcing the rule during the time.
Since the amendment has been cleared by the House Rules Committee, it will be scheduled for consideration in mid-September.
Trucking Groups Weigh In
What is notable about these attempts is that nearly every stakeholder group is in favor of the ELD rule. The only outlier is the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association. What does this mean? There is likely to be a lot of lobbying to keep the effective date where it currently stands, at December 18.
A representative from the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) recently stated that delaying the ELD mandate would “further interrupt the actions of a progressive trucking industry that continually places safety at its forefront and stresses continued compliance with its daily operations. The truckload industry does not support this bill or any delay in ELD implementation.”
The Trucking Alliance also sent a letter to Congress, arguing that the Babin amendment “ignores federal court rulings (all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court) upholding the ELD mandate and ignores thousands of comments in support of this new technology. These ELDs accurately track the number of hours that drivers operate their trucks, replacing the paper logbooks that are easily falsified.”
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) bluntly came out and said that the “ATA strongly opposes efforts to delay this important rule.” The President of the ATA even went so far as to pen an op-ed on the website of the Huffington Post arguing that the rule should be implemented as planned without further delay to the present implementation date in December.
In the op-ed ATA President and CEO Chris Spear stated that the ELD rule has been “debated for nearly a decade. It has been approved by Congress three times, and upheld by federal courts. Any attempt to mislabel this as a ‘bad regulation’ in the final weeks before implementation is intentionally misleading.”
The article goes on to say that delaying or squashing the rule could “create more uncertainty for the trucking industry as we seek to plan and make investments in this important new technology.”
Most trucking advocacy groups expect to see bipartisan opposition to any major changes to the ELD mandate as it currently exists.
More notable is that there has been no companion legislation or attempts to delay or defund the mandate in the Senate. So even if the House does pass a measure, it will have to carry through reconciliation and make it through the Senate, which is not guaranteed.
As it stands, it looks like the ELD mandate will go into effect as planned in December. Now the question is how will the mandate be enforced. Trucking companies need to know that enforcement will be fair across the board. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Looking at the ELD Mandate Enforcement
Whether you already have ELD devices installed, they are on order or you are still considering the different options available on the market, you likely still have plenty of questions regarding what exactly will happen once the mandate drops on December 18.
According to Joe DeLorenzo, director of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance, the government is ready to start enforcing the rule once it goes into effect.
There is a misconception out there that the government may not be ready to fully enforce the amendment. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVFA) and the FMCSA have been working together on announcing how they will approach truck drivers who are running without an ELD.
Each jurisdiction will have a say on how strictly they will enforce the rule and how they will enforce it, whether they are put out of service or simply fined or cited. The FMCSA recognizes that this is a big change and has allowed time for organizations to get up to speed before doing any major enforcement operations.
Of course, the FMCSA will be looking to see if motor carriers are showing persistent violations, in which case it is up to them on whether they will leverage penalties or open an investigation. This doesn’t mean motor carriers should be taking advantage of the FMCSA’s initial easygoing approach.
Looking at State Rules and eRODS
When the OOIDA filed a petition asking the FMCSA to delay implementing the rule, they specifically stated that “26 states have not yet incorporated an electronic logging regulation into state law and are not authorized to enforce the rule until they do so.”
According to the FMCSA, in response to that petition, states have rules by which they must operate under the program. With every new rulemaking, states must work closely with the government on enforcement.
Still, that isn’t the only concern. Some have openly wondered if roadside inspection officials will have the electronic records of duty status (eRODS) in place to interpret the data from the ELDs. While ELD providers have been testing to make sure their data files can communicate with roadside inspection systems, it looks as though full integration is cutting it close.
According to the FMCSA, they are working on the final issues of deployment. States are currently working on training plans that the FMCSA expects to be in place by November and fully ready for the December 18 deadline.
The FMCSA has stated that they recognized the use of data transfer may not work every time, so the ELD specification should always contain a backup, whether it can be printed out or displayed on the ELD itself. Either way, if data transfer fails, there should always be a secondary way of delivering the necessary information.
Since the ELD rule is primarily meant to address hours of service compliance, the electronic data transfer will make it easy to enforce, but will not be necessary should there be a complication.
What’s more important to consider is that there are exemptions to the ELD rule. In some circumstances, your fleet may not be required to adhere to them. Let’s look at when those circumstances are.
When You’re Exempt
There are many different exemptions to the ELD rule, all you need to do is know them. Generally, the ELD exemptions fall under two categories:
- Existing rule exemptions: The 100-air-mile radius and agricultural exemptions.
- New rule exemptions: The eight-in-30 rule and older engine exemption.
The new rule exemption category is unique to the ELD rule. The agency placed a pre-2000 exemption into the mandate because there are a number of older engines and vehicle types that may not have the onboard technology necessary to support ELD installation.
The exemption refers to the engine model year, as opposed to the vehicle model year. So if you are running an older engine on a newer chassis, you still may qualify for the exemption, depending on the age of the engine.
The 8-in-30 rule refers to the fact that some operators are only required to prepare paper logs fewer than 8 days out of every 30. In this case, due to the limited nature of reporting, the operator will not be required to have an ELD. It is important that operators pay very close attention to this exemption. It is easy to think you may qualify for it, but perhaps you don’t. It requires preparation to be sure.
In the end, the ELD mandate looks to be landing on December 18, regardless of what representatives in the House try to do. Fleets must be prepared and aware of exemptions they may or may not be qualified for.