ELD Mandate Compliance Disrupts Trucking Industry. Is Program’s Future Murky?

by Terry Bryant

The law requiring the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) on all over-the-road trucks is now in effect. Federal regulators say it will ensure that truckers comply with a federal hours-of-service rule. The mandate limits driving to no more than 11 hours a day within a 14-hour workday. Drivers must then be off duty for 10 consecutive hours.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandate requiring that most commercial trucks use ELDs to record driver work time went into effect just before Christmas 2017. And a new survey of truck drivers/owner-operators and fleet owners shortly before the mandate went into effect showed a bumpy transition, with many fleets unprepared. Both individual truckers and transport companies still scramble to comply with the federal rule requiring them to install these digital devices in their semi-tractors to track their driving time.

An online poll conducted between November 30 and December 5 by HELP Inc., which provides PrePass weigh station bypass and other technology services, revealed that nearly half of the 1,620 respondents said they had not yet selected an ELD ahead of the December 18 deadline. Exactly one-third of all respondents said they have selected and installed an ELD, and 18% said they had selected, but had yet to install, their device(s).

The research also divulged that some trucking professionals are more prepared to assimilate ELD than others. More than half of the respondents who are fleet managers report having ELD devices installed and in operation, while 28% of driver/owner-operators said the same thing. 68% of those who have not installed an ELD say they did not plan to do so by the December 18 deadline, but they probably will in 2018. And 31% don’t plan to install an ELD at all.

Other surveys on how truckers are complying with the new rule reveal similar turmoil over the issue, and the depth of truck drivers’ (and motor carrier companies’) misgivings of the entire ELD program.

“It is surprising to see that such a large share of both owner-operators and drivers as well as fleet professionals see no need or rush to comply with the upcoming ELD mandate,” says HELP Inc’s CEO Karen Rasmussen. “Whether they are in favor of ELDs or not, there is every indication that the FMCSA intends to follow through with its plans to require the devices without delay.”

A perception by many in the industry that ELDs are expensive is one reason many driver/owner-operators and fleet managers hesitate to install them. According to the poll, one in five said they had not selected an ELD due to high costs.

“We firmly believe that America’s truck drivers – if they were operating legally within the hours-of-service rules before today – will see tremendous benefits in using an ELD. Whether in reduced crashes, less time spent on paperwork, or in fewer errors in their logbooks,” says Chris Spear, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

But although the ATA supports the new rule, others in the industry, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, aggressively oppose the regulation. Many of them complain that being digitally tracked is an invasion of their privacy. They said the rule doesn’t take into account the delays drivers experience at loading docks and being stuck in traffic. Some are even threatening to leave the industry rather than comply with the regulations.

One independent trucker spent most of his (off-time) Sunday evening attempting to hook his tablet to his new ELD device via Bluetooth. He said he experienced technical problems shortly after heading out Monday to make a cross-country delivery several states away. As of late Monday, he said he had yet to talk to an ELD customer service representative, and his device still wasn’t working.

Public safety officials will cite motor carriers who are not using ELDs properly. But there is a grace period that lasts until April 1, 2018, according to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the agency charged with enforcing the ELD mandate.

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