FMCSA to Interview Drivers, Carriers Over Potential E-Logging Harassment

By Eric Miller, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the June 3 print edition of Transport Topics.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said last week it plans in upcoming months to survey more than 1,000 truck drivers and motor carriers on ways carriers could use electronic logging devices to harass drivers.

Survey plans call for driver “intercept interviews” to be conducted randomly at truck stops in order to encourage candid answers and avoid employer intimidation, the agency said in a May 28 Federal Register announcement.

The agency said it hoped the survey would help “determine the extent to which electronic on-board recorders used to document drivers’ hours of service could be used by motor carriers or enforcement personnel to harass drivers or monitor driver productivity.”

FMCSA said the survey — which stems from a prior court ruling that raised the specter of harassment and electronic devices — will be intended to gain insight into what extent respondents believe that the use of electronic logging devices may result in coercion of drivers by motor carriers, shippers, receivers and transportation intermediaries.

The survey also will be designed to elicit suggested countermeasures or best practices to ensure that electronic logging devices are not used by carriers to harass or coerce drivers, the agency said.

FMCSA said it will accept public comment on its survey plan through June 27 and afterward will submit the survey for White House review and approval.

“The Federal Register notice is to inform the public of our intention for the survey and to solicit public comment,” FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne said. “Following the closing of the public comment period, the intention is to have the survey completed in order to inform the electronic logging devices final rule.”

The agency decided to conduct the survey after its 2010 rule was vacated by a federal appeals court in 2011 because the rule had not addressed the issue of possible driver harassment.

Despite an October congressional mandate for a final rule on electronic logging devices, FMCSA said it will not publish a revised supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking until November.

DeBruyne said the survey results will not be completed in time for the supplemental rule, but will be used in formulating the agency’s final rule, which is not expected until late 2014.

American Trucking Associations wrote a letter backing the survey’s goals.

“ATA supports laws and regulations mandating the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) — often called electronic onboard recorders or EOBRs — for recording drivers’ compliance with federal hours-of-service regulations,” the federation stated. “ATA also supports the FMCSA plan to survey drivers and carriers on how ELDs can be used to monitor productivity and their potential use as a tool to harass drivers.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has raised concerns about the composition of the research team and questioned whether drivers would be adequately represented.

In response, FMCSA said that “given the contentious nature of this issue,” it had selected a team of consultants and academic researchers with expertise in the motor carrier industry and survey design.

The agency said a December Federal Register posting about the survey drew mixed comments from a few carriers, but that 26 drivers said they generally opposed the use of EOBRs in truck operations.

However, none of those commenting provided substantive information resulting in changes to the proposed survey or its associated documents provided in last week’s posting, the agency said.