FMCSA issues ELD notice of proposed rulemaking in Federal Register

By John Schulz · March 28, 2014

Following its mid-March proposal to mandate usage of electronic logging devices (ELDs) in commercial trucks, which was largely endorsed by large carrier companies and shippers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today issued a notice of proposed rulemaking, entitled “Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents” in the Federal Register.

The notice of proposed rulemaking cited the FMCSA as indicating the comment period for the proposed rule will run for 60 days until May 27.

As previously reported by LM, the FMCSA’s ELD proposal is expected to cost the industry $1.6 billion, but the mandated use of ELDs in commercial trucks was hailed by the FMCSA as a potential improvement for highway safety.

Trucking-related crash fatalities are on the rise, despite a decades-long crackdown on unsafe drivers through greater use of accident data, mandatory drug and alcohol testing, and other measures. In 2012, the last full year for government statistics on the issue, 3,921 people died in trucking accidents, a 3.7 percent rise from the 3,781 fatalities in 2011.That was the third straight year of increases in trucking-related fatalities.
 
“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,” American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement on March 13.

And there could likely be economic tradeoffs. The mandated use of ELDs could likely reduce the effective number of miles a driver could log, further tightening trucking industry capacity at a time of limited truck driver supply, rising pay and higher overall costs for fleets.
 
“In the interest of public safety, I support these efforts as that it will reduce subpar carriers from the industry, which is a good thing,” Brady explained. “Where it is a negative however, is that it adds to further shrinkage within the industry in terms of available capacity. It also adds expense as carriers will look to recoup the costs associated with the acquiring and implementing the technology.”
 
Brady describe the proposal as a classic tradeoff—safety vs. costs—that may have unintended consequences in driver supply and productivity for fleets.
 
“This is another classic example of where the industry will be further regulated, for seemingly the right reasons,” Brady added. “But the true economic impacts of the subsequent ripple effects of the changes are not well thought out.”
 
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates the mandate for electronic logs would prevent between 1,400 and 1,700 crashes and save 20 to 24 lives per year. That would lead to a net benefit to the country of $394.8 million annually, according to FMCSA.

Kevin Fletcher, senior vice president at Chattanooga, Tenn.-based 3PL Kenco, said that the goal of this initiative is improving safety on our nation’s roads, replacing outdated manual processes that can be subject to error with current technology, and standardizing the means of compliance across small and large fleets alike. 

“For carriers and drivers that are already compliant and running legally within HOS guidelines, this proposal is probably viewed more in terms of the technology cost and reporting or administrative processes,” he said. “For those who are less compliant, this proposal may cause them greater concern than just the cost of the units and reporting. If this proposal is approved, it will be interesting to see what the requirements of the final rule will be.  The actual impact of this proposal will take some time as it does not go into effect until 2 years after the final rule has been issued.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is actively encouraging its members to post comments on the proposed rule during the 60-day period it in the Federal Register.

OOIDA officials maintain that the proposed rule in its current form will not improve highway safety, nor address the issue of driver harassment and fulfill Congressional requirements as per MAP-21, the current surface transportation bill.

“The agency must address the serious safety issue of how EOBRs are used to harass and coerce truck drivers into continuing to drive regardless of driving conditions, such as bad weather, congested traffic or simply if the driver is too tired to drive,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, in a statement. “FMCSA has yet to show any direct correlation between ELD use and reduced crashes or any other kind of safety benefit.”


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