This story appears in the March 17 print edition of Transport Topics.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published its long-awaited proposal that will require all interstate truck drivers to use electronic logging devices two years after the rule becomes final.
FMCSA said the proposal will enforce hours-of-service rules, eliminate driver harassment and diminish paperwork burdens. It will allow carriers to better track the number of hours that drivers have been behind the wheel and mitigate fatigue.
“By implementing electronic logging devices, we will advance our mission to increase safety and prevent fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel,” FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said.
Fleets that already have logging devices on their trucks would have two additional years from the compliance date to install new devices if theirs do not meet the technological specifications contained in the proposed rule.
The proposal said that most HOS recording devices and systems manufactured on or after 2010 will be able to comply with the rule with relatively inexpensive software.
“By leveraging innovative technology with electronic logging devices, we have the opportunity to save lives and boost efficiency for both motor carriers and safety inspectors,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
Before the final measure is adopted, however, FMCSA must hold a 60-day commentary period that ends May 16. The agency could rewrite the rule after taking comments.
FMCSA’s existing standard for logging — Automatic On Board Recording Devices — that can replace paper driver logs dates to 1988.
American Trucking Associations leaders were satisfied by the ELD proposal overall, but raised concerns about document retention and “grandfathering” existing devices that it said it would address with FMCSA as the rulemaking process continues.
“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 of fleets that have already voluntarily moved to this technology,” President Bill Graves said.
Dave Osiecki, who steers national policy issues for ATA, added: “We especially appreciate FMCSA proposing that paper printouts of ELD data be an acceptable means of demonstrating hours-of-service compliance, but not requiring all ELDs to be printer-equipped.”
Requiring the ELD to have a printer would have increased the cost. It would also add a paperwork burden for the driver.
The proposed rule requires that all ELDs display information in a uniform fashion.
Henry Jasny, general counsel to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said his organization is “pretty hopeful” that having an ELD rule to help monitor driver hours will save lives and improve overall highway safety.
Stephen Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance said:
“I’m glad they finally got it out there so we can get this thing moving.”
CVSA represents the state and local police agencies around the country responsible for enforcing federal truck safety laws.
But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has opposed such an ELD mandate. It said it will examine the proposal to determine whether it addresses safety issues.
OOIDA also said it wants to see whether the proposal addresses the cost to truckers and “what specific technical requirements are called for, especially when FMCSA has yet to show any direct safety benefit between [ELD] use and reduced crashes.”
The proposal specifies what “edits” motor carriers can make to their drivers’ ELD data. And any edits must note the names of who made them. The proposal also allows drivers to mute the ELDs when the drivers are off duty or on sleep status.
OOIDA also will study whether the devices can be “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.”
FMCSA already has a process that protects drivers from harassment or coercion to violate HOS rules.
The issue of driver harassment and coercion sank previous attempts by the agency to promulgate an ELD rule that would help enforce HOS regulations.
In 2010, FMCSA published a proposed ELD rule and again in 2011, but the federal courts rejected the 2010 rule because it did not contain driver protection.
The transportation reauthorization law passed in 2012, MAP-21, mandated that FMCSA write an ELD rule. MAP-21 also mandated that FMCSA write a second rule that protects drivers from coercion.
That rule, which will address coercion by shippers, receivers and brokers — as well as by carriers — is due out in April, according to FMCSA’s latest rulemaking update.
Associate News Editor Jonathan S. Reiskin contributed to this story.