Differing opinions on pending ELD implementation are firmly intact

In recent days, there have been movements, both pro and con, relating to the December implementation of Electronic Logging Devices (ELD).

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In recent days, there have been movements, both pro and con, relating to the December implementation of Electronic Logging Devices (ELD).

As a brief backgrounder, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (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.

For more than a while, it seemed like the ELD mandate coming to fruition in December was a foregone conclusion, and it sill may very well be. But people lately are speaking out about why they either want to delay the implementation date or keep in on schedule.

A recent timeline shows that 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, 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 Deputy Administrator Daphne 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 firm Stephens Inc. explained that based on FMCSA estimates, average costs of an ELD are around $495 per truck, coupled with a total range of $165-$800 per truck on an annualized basis. The firm said it believes ELD benefits could potentially outweigh the costs, with time spent on paperwork alone potentially being reduced by around 20 hours per year. And as ELD becomes commoditized, Stephens said that related costs of owning and operating an ELD will continue to head down.  

And the firm added that by its own estimates around 70 percent of the industry is without ELDs, explaining that the falsifying of logbooks is prevalent, with the ELD mandate expected to reduce capacity by up to 10 percent in utilization, and will have a positive impact on supply/demand dynamics for the entire TL industry.

As of now, the ELD mandate remains on track to take effect in December, but clearly not all industry stakeholders are happy about it. The December implementation date has been intact for a while now and not catching anyone by surprise. But now it seems that opposition to the mandate has kicked in with full force. What happens between now and December 18 bears watching, but it goes without saying it will be worth following. 


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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Article Topics

ELD · FMCSA · Regulations · Trucking · All Topics
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