March 21, 2011 3:45 AM, EDT

TCA Supports Electronic Logs

By Rip Watson, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the March 21 print edition of Transport Topics.

SAN DIEGO — An industry consensus appears to be emerging in support of electronic logging devices to monitor driver hours but not truck performance, as the Truckload Carriers Association endorsed that technology last week and American Trucking Associations moved in the same direction.

TCA’s board took its action March 13 at its convention here, during which the group also approved seeking an agreement with ATA to endorse higher truck weight limits.

TCA President Chris Burruss said the group’s policy on electronic recording “is reflective of today’s operating environment. We thought it was important to lead on this issue.”

During the same meeting, Barbara Windsor, chair of ATA, said her association’s Safety Policy Committee approves using electronic logging devices, or ELDs, to monitor drivers’ compliance with the federal hours-of-service regulation.

Speaking with TT March 15, Windsor praised ELDs as a method of assuring compliance with hours of service and said the two trucking groups’ views were consistent.

She also credited TCA for its leadership in setting the new policy statement, saying, “We have to have unity.”

The actions came in the wake of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s January proposal of a regulation to require electronic on-board recording devices for more than 500,000 motor carriers. The agency is accepting comments on that proposal until May 23.

The focus on the electronic compliance devices is intensifying because FMCSA is also considering hours-of-service changes that could shorten the allowable driving period and add restrictions to the 34-hour restart provision.

TCA’s action on ELDs represents a policy shift. The group previously was on record as opposing the use of electronic onboard units that record truck performance events such as hard braking and keep track of a tractor as it’s moving down the road, in addition to recording driver hours.

With its new policy stance, TCA currently has “no position” on EOBRs, Burruss said.

ATA’s official position on ELDs has yet to be voted on by the group’s executive committee, which will meet in May, Windsor said.

The terminology that is used to describe various logging devices is confusing, Dave Kraft, Qualcomm Inc. director of business development, told TT.

The phrase ELDs often is used interchangeably with EOBRs because both devices measure hours-of-service compliance, Kraft said.

TCA’s action drew praise from FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, who spoke at the meeting on March 15 and credited TCA “for the leadership they showed on a tough issue.”

Ferro also said that because the agency is still accepting public comments about the electronic devices that her remark should not be viewed as an endorsement of the group’s position or as an indication that adopting ELDs would be a form of compliance with the pending EOBR regulation.

TCA’s position statement said the information gathered by a logging device shouldn’t be admissible in court and that carriers should be relieved of the requirement to keep paper logs, which they must do now unless they voluntarily utilize electronic devices.

In addition to the electronic logging devices, a separate effort to build an industry consensus is occurring on the truck size-and-weight front, as TCA decided to ask ATA’s support for an 88,000 pound gross vehicle weight limit for five-axle trucks, a position that TCA took last year.

ATA’s policy currently supports raising the weight limit to 97,000 pounds by adding a sixth axle to the tractor-trailer combination. The current nationwide limit is 80,000 pounds.

Windsor told Transport Topics that ATA’s executive committee would discuss TCA’s proposal.

TCA also decided to support efforts to increase the bond that brokers must post to $100,000 from 10,000, said John Kaburick, outgoing chairman of the group and president of Earl L. Henderson Trucking, Salem, Ill.

The bond that brokers must post before opening their doors for business is intended to compensate carriers if a brokerage fails or doesn’t pay its bills.

“There is a recognition that so many carriers got burned by brokers and logistics companies that are not financially responsible,” Kaburick told TT in an interview.

The Transportation Intermediaries Association first called for increasing the bond two years ago to encourage a sounder financial footing for the industry, and backed legislation in the last Congress that would have accomplished that goal.

That legislation failed to pass, but TIA President Bob Voltmann told TT recently that he expected a new bill calling for that change was close to being introduced.