Electronic Logging Device Ruling: What’s next?

Truck industry waits for final ruling on electronic logging devices

According to the most recent DOT report regarding the much anticipated final rule for electronic logging devices (ELD) has been pushed back one month from September 30 to October 30 because “additional coordination is necessary”. The extra time needed is a good thing because there is a lot to consider in this ruling.

The ruling would establish:

  1. Minimum performance and design standards for hours-of-service (HOS) electronic logging devices ( ELDs);
  2. Requirements for the mandatory use of these devices by drivers currently required to prepare HOS records of duty status (RODS);
  3. Requirements concerning HOS supporting documents; and (4) measures to address concerns about harassment resulting from the mandatory use of ELDs

Last March, the FMCSA proposed the rule requiring interstate commercial truck and bus companies to use electronic logging devices (ELD) in their vehicles to “improve compliance with the safety rules that govern the number of hours a driver can work.” In doing so, the new rule would improve the quality of log book data by significantly reducing the paperwork burden associated with hours-of-service recordkeeping for interstate truck and bus drivers.

The FMCSA noted that another potential benefit of ELD rulemaking, is that it would ultimately reduce HOS violations by making it more difficult for drivers to misrepresent their time on logbooks and avoid detection by FMCSA and law enforcement personnel. The FMCSA also claimed that their analysis showed that new rule would help reduce crashes by fatigued drivers and prevent approximately 20 fatalities and 434 injuries per year for an annual safety benefit of $394.8 million.

FMCSA Acting Administrator ,Scott Darling, stated “Although we cannot discuss the provisions of a Final Rule before it is made public, I can say that the rule is designed to benefit everyone by improving hours of service (HOS) compliance, which we estimate will prevent about 20 fatalities and over 400 injuries each year; helping businesses cut paperwork and save money; protecting drivers from harassment; and making it easier for law enforcement and safety inspectors to review driver HOS records,”

Many industry observers agree that the need for ELDs is obvious, with most explaining that the industry has been reliant on paper logs for far too long. But, there is still mixed opinion regarding the rule for the obvious tradeoff of safety vs. costs. Some support the ruling saying it will help with public safety concerns, while also reducing subpar carriers from the industry. On the flipside of the argument, it adds expense to carriers looking to recoup the costs associated with the acquiring and implementing the technology as well as adding to further shrinkage within the industry in terms of available capacity.
When the final rule is published, it is expected to require truck drivers / owner operators to be using ELDs within a two-year period.

How will they enforce the new mandate?

One aspect of the electronic logging devices mandate that remains to be seen is just how the FMCSA will enforce the rule? And what will the penalty be for not complying?

Former FMCSA Administrator, Annette Sandberg said, those concerns are still being worked out. Sandberg also noted, she could see the FMCSA enforcing it as “one strike and you’re out” policy.

“It’s a mandatory regulation,” she said, meaning enforcers likely will drop a carriers’ safety rating to Unsatisfactory, giving them 60 days to comply with the rule or be shut down. “A two-truck carrier might be able to do that,” she said. “But a fleet with 2,000? Not a chance. Some carriers will just throw up their hands and sell to somebody already on it. I suspect that’s what’s going to happen.”

Hopefully by the end of October we will get some more answers from the FMCSA regarding enforcement questions, implementation and timelines in the final ruling.