Dear ELD providers: You should have planned better

September 18, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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First, the electronic logging device mandate prompted the need for hours-of-service reform. Now, if some ELD providers have their way, the mandate could be what delays truck drivers from getting the flexibility they need within the hours-of-service rules.

It’s a possible delay that truck drivers simply cannot afford.

During FMCSA’s second hours-of-service public listening session on Tuesday, Sept. 17, in Washington, D.C., an ELD provider told the agency that it will take at least six months to a year after a final rule is in place to make the necessary changes to the device.

“(We understand) that the industry wants to get these implemented as soon as possible, but as an ELD provider we just wanted to let you know that it does take time,” said Susan Reszczynski, a lead training specialist at EROAD, an ELD company based in Oregon. “The ELD mandate took us a lot to build all that out. So, minimal, a six-month period and that’s depending on some of the complexities you may have … Minimum six months. A year would be fantastic.”

Any delay would, of course, be at the expense of the truck driver, as well as safety.

As you know, the ELD mandate was another expensive regulation handed down from Congress in the name of safety, although it has not delivered any quantifiable safety benefits.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and truck drivers opposed the mandate, saying that not only would an ELD mandate not improve safety but it would likely be a detriment as it would place truckers feeling like they were in a race against the clock.

The early returns point to OOIDA and truckers being right on the money. in the first year of the ELD mandate. Soon after the mandate went into effect in December 2017, truckers also reported trucks speeding through parking lots in order to get stopped on time.

Markcus Davis, an OOIDA member from South Carolina, emphasized the negative effects from the ELD mandate.

“Do you all know that drivers are driving tired more now than ever now since elogs have been instituted? Ask the truck drivers, they will tell you,” Davis said at the listening session. “I’m not talking about a study. I’m talking about facts. I hear about all of your data and everything, but I’m coming from truth. Drivers are driving tired on these elogs more now than ever.”

If any good at all came out the ELD mandate it’s that it shined a light on the lack of flexibility within the hours of service.

In February 2018, OOIDA submitted a petition for hours-of-service reform that would put more control in the hands of the drivers. Simply, OOIDA says the best way to combat driver fatigue is by giving truckers more control of driving when they are rested and to pull over when they are tired.

FMCSA appeared to receive the message and has said they have been working to get drivers more flexibility as quickly as possible.

A few months after OOIDA’s petition, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking about hours of service. The agency hosted five public listening sessions on the topic and received more than 5,200 comments. Truckers echoed OOIDA’s sentiment from the petition, saying the current regulations lack the flexibility drivers need to maintain safety.

FMCSA then sent its notice of proposed rulemaking to the White House in March, but it sat at the Office of Management and Budget for months. Finally, the plan cleared OMB in August and was announced to the public. The plan for hours-of-service reform includes five changes aimed at providing drivers more opportunities to stop when they need to and to avoid driving in such poor conditions as inclement weather or rush-hour traffic.

The agency continued to show its intentions to move as quickly as possible by issuing only a 45-day comment period on the notice. CVSA requested an additional 45-day extension, but FMCSA opted to extend the comment period by only two weeks to Oct. 21.

Now, ELD providers might prevent truck drivers from getting the relief they need for even longer.

The FMCSA cannot allow this to happen.

To be fair, FMCSA and ELD providers both share some of the blame on this one.

The agency allowed ELD providers to self-certify, and the providers created the devices in a way aimed at “flagging” any violations a trucker may have made rather than just recording the information.

Larry Minor, FMCSA associate administrator, discussed this issue at the agency’s first hours-of-service public listening session on Aug. 23 in Dallas.

“That’s one of the things that we’re continuing to work with the ELD vendors on,” Minor said. “That is that we don’t require the ELDs to designate whether something is or is not a violation, rather than just capturing what actually happened.”

Considering that FMCSA says the goal of ELDs should be to record a truck driver’s hours and not to flag a violation, ELD providers should not need another year to put the proposal into effect.

Drivers need more flexibility, and they need it now.

They certainly don’t need ELDs getting in the way any more than they already have.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh encouraged FMCSA leaders to put the proposal into effect as quickly as possible.

“We know the agency has been trying to get this rule passed as quickly as possible, and you’ve been moving at an expedited pace for D.C., and I commend you for that,” Pugh said. “Moving forward from here, let’s not delay this any longer than we have to. In the realm of highway safety, which is why this is all being done, why not make things better for the American truck driver and safer for general highway users sooner rather than later?”

And if ELD providers want to complain about the lack of time to implement the new rules, we can tell them what authority figures tell truck drivers all of the time when they run out of hours. They should have planned better.

 

Truck-involved fatalities up during first year of ELD mandate

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, staff writer, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.