October 2017

Fact: ELDs Are Here To Stay

Ready or not, Electric Logging Devices [ELDs] are coming our way beginning Dec. 18. There has been some loud noise by various groups – mainly independent drivers and small trucking companies – hoping to delay the inevitable. But that’s not happening.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is charged with enforcing the ELD requirement, which electronically logs driver hours compared to the paper log books drivers have kept for years. CVSA officials have repeatedly said the December phasing in enforcement date will hold firm.

Here’s the most important piece of information: CVSA says it will give the trucking industry until April 1, 2018 to make sure ELDs are installed on all their rigs before they will begin taking trucks out of service for non-compliance.

Enforcement will be carried out by about 13,000 commercial vehicle inspectors who will begin their ELD training later this month and into November. Those inspectors receiving hands on training from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials will then train other inspectors in their jurisdictions.

Help is available. Training activities include online materials posted on the FMCSA website and there are specific events aimed at helping drivers transition to ELDs.

Two-years in the making

The December ELD enforcement date should not be a surprise to any trucking company or independent driver. The final ruling, based on a congressional mandate, came in December, 2015.

Some drivers thought the mandate changed the hours-of-service regulations. Not true. Drivers remain limited to 11 hours of daily driving. The ELD device merely tracks driving time in a way that is pretty much impossible to tinker with, as could happen with paper logs.

With around 3.5 million truckers on the road you can imagine the jockeying for ELD sales market share. Some trucking industry companies are offering discounts to motor carriers who buy a specific brand of ELD. Total Quality Logistics, a Cincinnati-based freight brokerage firm, has offered its network of more than 60,000 motor carriers a 20 percent discount if they choose KeepTruckin as their ELD provider. The company said it’s trying to help its customers save time as the learning curve for the different ELD units is significant. There are more than 100 ELD providers that have self-certified their products on the FMCSA website, so the choices are many. All self-certified devices have to meet specific technical requirements.

Non-compliance penalties

Although drivers have until April 1 before their rigs can be taken out of service, violation points will be assessed to truckers caught without an ELD between Dec. 18 and April 1. These violation points will be added to a scoring system CSA has developed to measure drivers’ ELD compliance.

Some states will levy fines to truckers after Dec. 18 who are not in compliance if caught at a roadside inspection. The fines will vary from state-to-state. A sample of some already published fines: Missouri $172, Delaware $110, Colorado $67.

Resistance from independents, trade groups

While large trucking companies have supported the ELD mandate, many independent drivers and numerous trade groups feel otherwise. The biggest complaints center on invasion of privacy, harassment over driving hours and expense.

A last ditch bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin of Texas aimed at delaying ELD implementation until December 2019 has languished in the House since July. Support for the bill has been tepid at best although at least 14 industry trade associations have written letters supporting Babin’s bill.

Other efforts to stop the mandate have failed as well. The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to consider a petition to overturn the ELD mandate. And in October, 2016, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected an argument by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association that ELDs would violate truckers’ privacy and foster carrier harassment over driving hours.

Speaking for a number of independent drivers who oppose the ELD mandate, Devin Combs of Bloomington, Ind. wrote in a recent article in Overdrive, “I’m not against keeping a log book, but I think it should be my choice as to how I do it and how I keep my records.”

Supporters say the ELD mandate could improve safety on the roads. While the cost is around $2 billion, FMCSA has released data that claims ELDs will prevent 1,844 crashes, 562 injuries and save 26 lives annually by keeping tired truckers off the road.

Also, FMCSA predicts that moving to electronic logs will eliminate more than $1.6 billion in paperwork costs for motor carriers and law enforcement agencies that review drivers’ logs.

Sources: Trucks.com and Overdrive