While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) electronic logging device mandate deadline remains intact for December 18, it comes with a caveat based on an announcement issued by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance earlier this week.
Effective December 18, CVSA said that inspectors and roadside personnel will start to document violations on roadside inspection reports and, based on the jurisdiction’s discretion, issue citations to commercial motor vehicle drivers operating without a compliant ELD. And effective April 1, 2018, it said inspectors will begin placing commercial motor vehicle drivers out of service based on its out of service criteria (OOSC) if their vehicles are not equipped with an ELD, but motor carriers will be permitted to use a grandfathered automatic onboard recording device until December 16, 2019.
The April 1, 2018 date for the ELD OOSC, said CVSA, provides carriers, shippers, and roadside enforcement with needed time to adjust prior to vehicles being placed out of service for ELD violations.
The FMCSA formally announced in late 2016 that the federal mandate for electronic logging devices (ELD) for commercial motor carriers was official and would take effect in December 2017, basically confirming the inevitable in some ways within the freight transportation and logistics sectors. The objective of the rule, according to FMCSA, is to strengthen commercial truck and bus drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that combat fatigue. The rule will take full effect on December 10, 2017, two years after the date of the final rule being issued. ELDs automatically record driving time and monitor engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information.
Many trucking observers maintain that the need for ELDs is obvious, with most explaining that the industry has been reliant on paper logs for far too long. And there could likely be economic benefits through ELD usage, as observers say it could likely reduce the effective number of miles a driver could log, further tightening trucking capacity at a time of ongoing limited truck driver supply, rising pay, and higher overall fleet costs.
In a letter sent to the FMCSA Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson, CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney stressed his organization’s “opposition to any effort to delay the implementation” of the ELD mandate, noting that carriers have had two full years to prepare for it and obtain device for their vehicles.
“FMCSA’s own research has found that the use of ELDs results in a reduction in a motor carrier’s crash rate and hours-of-service violations. It is time to move forward with this regulation,” Mooney wrote.
And he also explained that CVSA member jurisdictions have previously used the aforementioned phased in approach when implementing a significant change in regulatory requirements, as CVSA’s Board of Directors, coupled with FMCSA and the motor carrier industry all agreed that this phased in OOSC approach “will help promote a smoother transition to the new ELD requirement.”
In recent months, there have been mixed opinions from various groups regarding ELD implementation.
In late July, the House Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing & Urban Development and Related Agencies issued a report directing the FMCSA to consider delaying the implementation of ELD (Electronic Logging Devices).
As previously reported by LM, the report, which is part of the House committee’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget, focuses on the regulatory compliance burdens on small carriers while directing the FMCSA to consider delaying ELD implementation.
“In light of the heavy burden of this mandate, especially on small carriers, the Committee directs the Department to analyze whether a full or targeted delay in ELD implementation and enforcement would be appropriate and, if so, what options DOT has within it statutory authority to provide temporary regulatory relief until all ELD implementation challenges can be resolved,” the House committee said. “FMCSA shall provide a report on its findings to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 60 days of enactment of this Act.”
Not long after that report was issued, the American Trucking Associations penned a letter to the FMCSA, explaining that it opposes any effort that would delay the implementation of ELD.
In its letter to FMCSA’s Jefferson, ATA Vice President of Advocacy Bill Sullivan explained that ATA members are vehemently opposed to attempts, like the one by the House committee to delay the ELD roll out.
“With the December deadline approaching, opponents of electronic logging are making one last attempt to influence policymakers to reconsider the impending implementation deadline,” wrote Sullivan. “These efforts are misguided, are supported by misinformation, and are simply an attempt to evade compliance with the existing laws and regulations governing duty hours and driver fatigue.”
The ATA executive also pointed out that ELD technology has proven effective in improving safety and increasing compliance many times, citing a 2014 FMCSA report, entitled “Evaluating the Potential Safety Benefits of Electronic Hours-of-Service (HOS) Recorders,” which cited that carriers with ELD experienced an 11.7 percent reduction in crash rate and a 50 percent drop in hours-of-service violations compared to carriers using traditional paper logs.
While these represent differing opinions, legislation proposed by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, firmly rests with the former, with H.R. 3282, the ELD Extension Act of 2017.
This bill calls for the ELD implementation to be delayed for two more years, as opposed to the scheduled 2017 ELD mandate takes effect on December 18.
“While technology like ELD’s have great promise, I didn’t come to Washington to force those ideas on small businesses – and neither did President Trump,” said Rep. Babin in a statement. “If trucking companies want to continue implementing and using ELD’s, they should go right ahead. But for those who don’t want the burden, expense and uncertainty of putting one of these devices into every truck they own by the end of the year, we can and should offer relief.”
Babin added that even though the ELD mandate was crafted with the good intention of modernizing America’s freight truck network, as well as helping truckers comply with Hours-of-Service and other regulations, it is “abundantly clear” more time is needed, especially for small trucking companies and independent drivers that will be affected by the cost of compliance with the ELD mandate.
A research note from investment bank Stephens Inc. said that CVSA’s actions represent a form of soft enforcement.
“[This] announcement is prudent…as it 1) prevents the “hard enforcement” coming in the midst of the holiday peak season rush and 2) also prevents any public safety concerns regarding additional congestion around weigh stations,” wrote Stephens. “Clearly, there are already concerns about the number of trucks that will be out of compliance given this announcement, which supports our view that capacity in the industry will be taken out. We also point out that the new time frame for “hard enforcement” on April 1 comes at the start of spring peak season, one of the seasonally tightest periods for TL capacity. Bottom line, supply / demand dynamics in the trucking industry are already tight now.”
About the Author
Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman
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