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January 11, 2016 4:00 AM, EST

Letter: Get the Language Straight for ELDs

This Letter to the Editor appears in the Jan. 11 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration needs to suspend promulgation of electronic logging devices, or ELDs, and reopen the comment period due to fatal flaws stemming from contradicting language in the rule’s wording.

To wit: In the exemption section, the rule says, “Exemptions — Two optional exceptions are added from the required use of ELDs: (1) Driveaway-towaway operations are not required to use an ELD, provided the vehicle driven is part of the shipment.” And (2) ELDs are not required on CMVs [commercial motor vehicles] older than model year 2000.

But the Overview section contradicts that wording: The rule applies to “Drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000.” So, which is it? Manufacture date or model year? It can’t be both, contrary to the “Overview” verbiage, which mixes model year and manufacture year together.

There is ongoing confusion about the affected years, making enforcement impossible. The rule states that it applies to “Drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000.” Most, if not all, 2000 model-year trucks were actually built in 1999. So the crafters mixed two issues — model year and manufacture date — in the same breath. If they meant the rule to apply to pre-2000 model trucks, they would or should have excised the word “manufactured.”

If they meant the rule to apply to pre-2000 manufactured trucks, they would or should have excised the word “model.”

The lack of clarity in the rule is going to be a nightmare for enforcement and will saddle FMCSA with untold lawsuits challenging the rule’s contradictory language.

What the rule needs to say is that it applies to trucks “manufactured in 1999 or before.” FMCSA needs to delete any reference to model year — especially due to conflict with the manufacture language — because the intent of the rule clearly applies to when the vehicle was made, as is imprinted on the door-pillar plate/sticker, not the so-called “model year.”

Theodore Cohen

Journalist/Driver

Burlington, Vermont