After two years of debate and preparations, new federal regulations that require most interstate commercial truck drivers to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) or automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) to track their hours of service is on the verge of becoming an industry reality. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the specifics of the rules in December 2015, giving drivers and carriers until December 2017 to prepare. Despite an organized attempt to delay the regulations this year, the mandate remains set to go into effect on Dec. 18.
The regulations, which originated with 2012’s “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” federal legislation, require truck drivers to use ELDs or AOBRDs to maintain their record of duty status and demonstrate their compliance with hours of service requirements. The paper logbooks many drivers have used for years will no longer cut it. Those drivers and fleets that already use ELDs will have until 2019 to demonstrate that the technology they use meets federal guidelines. Following Dec. 16, 2019, drivers and carriers who fall under the mandate will need to use ELDs – AOBRDs will no longer be grandfathered in – that are registered with the FMCSA. Exemptions exist for some drivers, such as those driving vehicles manufactured before 2000 or those conducting tow-away, drive-away operations.
Norita Taylor, director of public relations for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a trade organization representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers, said it was clear who will feel the largest impact of the regulations. She said it will be “owner-operators and small business truckers because of the added costs and the potential consequences if [the ELDs] they purchase are found to be noncompliant.”
OOIDA, which has more than 150,000 members nationwide, is part of a coalition that supports a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) to delay the ELD mandate for another two years. The coalition, which includes 31 organizations, has argued that the ELD regulations carry both technological and real-work concerns that have not been addressed, such as inadequate certification of devices, connectivity problems in remote areas of the country, cybersecurity vulnerabilities and the ability of law enforcement to access data.
In addition, the coalition has estimated the mandate would cost stakeholders more than $2 billion.
“This is a massive unfunded mandate that provides no safety, economic or productivity benefits for most ensnared by the mandate,” OOIDA said in a Sept. 27 press release expressing its support for Babin’s bill.
OOIDA has argued that FMCSA has made faulty arguments for its regulations by suggesting it will create cost savings for carriers and improve safety. In a brief drafted to dispute the benefit of the regulations, OOIDA argued that the mandatory use of ELDs will cost, rather than save money, because the investment in the technology will far outpace any savings it creates. The organization also says there is insufficient evidence the regulations will improve safety.
In contrast, the American Trucking Association, which is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry, has been a full-throated supporter of the mandate. In response to the attempt to delay the enactment of the regulations this summer, Bill Sullivan, executive vice president, advocacy, for the ATA, said in a statement that “using an electronic logging device to record hours-of-service is the right thing to do. It is using more accurate, easier-to-access and, most important, more-difficult-to-falsify 21st-century technology to demonstrate compliance with the hours of service rather than an easy-to-falsify, error-prone and 18th-century technology of a paper and pencil. At the end of the day, I believe the implicit reason opponents of electronic logging oppose this regulation is because they intend to cheat on their hours-of-service.”
With December looming, Taylor said OOIDA is preparing information and resources for its members to help prepare for the regulations and to navigate them once they go into effect. Similarly, Tom Reader, director of marketing at J.J. Keller & Associates, which provides products and services for workplace compliance, said his company is emphasizing outreach and education for its customers on the issue.
“We’re providing a significant amount of education about the mandate, various exemptions and change management,” Reader said. “We hold multiple webcasts monthly and have developed many papers to help fleets prepare and work through change.”
J.J. Keller is among many companies offering ELD solutions, including an application for smartphones and tablets that is compatible with its ELD product.
“The use of driver or company-issued smart devices is a significant convenience to fleets,” Reader said.
Reader said the technology that drivers will use should be straightforward to understand, and he believes most independent drivers will use smart devices and related apps that resemble other apps many drivers already use – “the learning curve is not significant,” he said. However, that does not necessarily translate to a simple adoption process. Reader believes change management is the toughest challenge associated with the regulations, particularly for those who have been using paper-based recording.
“The use of the technology is not difficult, but changing how drivers complete daily logs and track their time is time-consuming, particularly for larger fleets,” Reader said.
After initial implementation, though, Reader believes the regulations ultimately will save time.
“A primary benefit is the ease of completing a daily record of duty status – this is now automatically created from the electronic log,” Reader said. “The driver doesn’t have to manually fill out a daily log. Another benefit commonly expressed is more driving time; an ELD creates efficiency and tracks driver time to the minute, whereas a paper log tracks in 15-minute increments. Drivers more accurately capture drive time.”
For operators, choosing the right technology fit for their company will be a crucial task. Reader said the decision deserves careful study from carriers.
“There are now many, many vendors on the FMCSA list of ELD certified vendors,” Reader said. “It’s important for drivers and fleets to be cautious about choosing a fly-by-night vendor that has no experience in the transportation industry or with transportation regulations. Review vendor history and reputation. Also, be careful to not be fooled by ‘free’ ELD offers; review your costs over three years to understand total expenses for your organization.”
A list of approved ELDs can be found at https://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/ELD/List.