Transport Watch: Electronic Logging Device Requirement Proposed
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a rule that would require all commercial truck and bus drivers currently to adopt and use electronic logging devices (ELDs)
Date Posted: 5/6/2014
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a rule that would require all commercial truck and bus drivers currently to adopt and use electronic logging devices (ELDs). Currently, they are who are required to complete paper records of duty status (logs) that help ensure drivers get enough rest between shifts.
This proposal is the first step toward fulfilling the congressional requirement included in the July 2012 highway reauthorization bill that FMCSA mandate the use of ELDs. According to the FMCSA, the proposed rule would significantly reduce the paperwork burden associated with hours-of-service recordkeeping for drivers and improve the quality of logbook data.
“Today’s proposal will improve safety while helping businesses by cutting unnecessary paperwork – exactly the type of government streamlining President Obama called for in his State of the Union address,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “By leveraging innovative technology with ELDs, we have the opportunity to save lives and boost efficiency for both motor carriers and safety inspectors.”
As proposed, the mandate will take effect two years after the final rule is published. Since the final rule is not expected for at least another year, it will probably be 2017 before any trucks have to install new ELDs. The proposal also includes a grandfather clause for carriers and drivers already using electronic logs that would allow devices that meet current standards two additional years before having to be replaced. Also, FMCSA expects that many devices already in use can be modified to meet the new standards by upgrading the software.
The proposal has garnered mixed reviews from the trucking industry. While some believe that ELD requirements are a good way to increase safety, others are concerned that it is a costly mandate that opens the door to harassment of drivers by trucking companies with only a minimal benefit to public safety.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) leads the part of the industry that supports ELDs being required.
“ATA supports FMCSA’s efforts to mandate these devices in commercial vehicles as a way to improve safety and compliance in the trucking industry and to level the playing field with thousands for fleets that have already voluntarily moved to this technology,” said Bill Graves, president and CEO of ATA.
The concern that ELDs could be used to harass drivers is something that FMCSA has to address. A previously proposed rule was shot down by a federal court that determined that the FMCSA did not consider the possibility of ELDs being used to harass or coerce drivers to operate in unsafe conditions. Some parameters that FMCSA must meet were also set by Congress in the highway bill. The proposed rule includes some measures that address this issue, such as limited location monitoring and requiring mute capabilities on ELDs while the driver is sleeping. But some industry members say this is not enough.
“No, the FMCSA has not addressed the issue of harassment,” said Norita Taylor, the media spokesperson for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). “Companies pressure drivers to use all available driving time regardless of driving conditions such as weather, congestion, parking, accidents and other related issues.”
It seems that the FMCSA agrees that it has not fully addressed the issue either. In the proposed rule it said, “FMCSA intends to further address the issue of driver coercion in a separate rulemaking.”
Concern exists that one of the requirements put in place by Congress is that any ELD must be capable of automatically recording a driver’s changes in duty status throughout a work day, not just when they are driving. How exactly this requirement is going to be fulfilled is another big question for many in the trucking industry. The reason is that no technology exists that can automatically differentiate between a driver’s on-duty not driving status compared to the off-duty or sleeper berth status.
To read the full proposed rule or to submit comments, go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for “RIN: 2126-AB20”. FMCSA will be accepting comments on the proposal until May 27, 2014.
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Transport Watch: Electronic Logging Device Requirement