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Late push to extend ELD implementation date nixed by House vote

A late push for a legislative delay for implementing the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate for motor carriers, which is set to take effect on December 18, was turned down by the United States House… By Jeff Berman

A late push for a legislative delay for implementing the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate for motor carriers, which is set to take effect on December 18, was turned down by the United States House of Representatives this week.

This stemmed from a proposal by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) that was part of a Fiscal Year 2018 funding bill and called for more time for motor carriers to be in compliance with the ELD mandate. Specifically, Babin requested that no funds issued to the DOT would be used to implement or enforce the ELD mandate until September 30, 2018. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) formally announced in late 2016 that the federal mandate for electronic logging devices (ELD) for commercial motor carriers was official and would take effect in December 2017, basically confirming the inevitable in some ways within the freight transportation and logistics sectors. The objective of the rule, according to FMCSA, is to strengthen commercial truck and bus drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that combat fatigue. The rule will take full effect on December 10, 2017, two years after the date of the final rule being issued. ELDs automatically record driving time and monitor engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information.

Many trucking observers maintain that the need for ELDs is obvious, with most explaining that the industry has been reliant on paper logs for far too long. And there could likely be economic benefits through ELD usage, as observers say it could likely reduce the effective number of miles a driver could log, further tightening trucking capacity at a time of ongoing limited truck driver supply, rising pay, and higher overall fleet costs.

Earlier this summer, Rep. Babin, whom is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, proposed legislation calling for the ELD implementation to be delayed for two more years, as opposed to the scheduled 2017 ELD mandate takes effect on December 18.  

“While technology like ELD’s have great promise, I didn’t come to Washington to force those ideas on small businesses – and neither did President Trump,” said Rep. Babin in late July.  “If trucking companies want to continue implementing and using ELD’s, they should go right ahead.  But for those who don’t want the burden, expense and uncertainty of putting one of these devices into every truck they own by the end of the year, we can and should offer relief.”

Babin added at the time that even though the ELD mandate was crafted with the good intention of modernizing America’s freight truck network, as well as helping truckers comply with Hours-of-Service and other regulations, it is “abundantly clear” more time is needed, especially for small trucking companies and independent drivers that will be affected by the cost of compliance with the ELD mandate.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) applauded the House's 246-173 vote to not move forward with an ELD implementation date being delayed.

“ATA has supported, and will support, this important regulation,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “Congress has now voted a fourth time to move forward with electronic logging of the existing hours of service information required for decades. Make no mistake, the time for debate about electronic logging is over, and we’re pleased that Congress has rejected this ill-conceived effort to delay their implementation. For a decade, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has repeatedly spoken, the Courts have spoken, law enforcement has spoken, the industry has spoken and Congress has spoken in favor of the benefits of electronic logging devices,” he said, “all the while, opponents of electronic logging have delayed, dissembled and deceived about this technology. Tonight’s vote should end what is left of this debate so our industry can carry on with the business of complying with this regulation.”

And FMCSA Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson wrote in a letter to Bill Sullivan, Executive Vice President Advocacy, FMCSA supports the ATA’s support of the ELD mandate.

Jefferson added that based on FMCSA research, it is estimated that ELDs will eliminate 1,844 crashes and save 26 lives and 562 injuries annually, coupled with an estimated $2.4 billion in paperwork savings through ELD usage.

“ELDs will improve the accuracy of HOS logs, improve compliance, reduce falsification that occurs with paper log books, and reduce crashes,” wrote Jefferson. “Any delay in implementation will diminish rather than enhance highway safety.”

Stifel analyst John Larkin said that the House vote makes ELD that much more of a certainty in the trucking sector, adding that it will have the semblance of a net capacity reduction somewhere between 2%-5%, if not more.

“A lot of it depends on the extent to which the rule is enforced by the police, insurance companies, shippers or brokers,” he said. “There is a lot of cheating that goes on to the extent that if drivers caught cheating are eliminated by this mandate it will have a net effect of reducing capacity.”

About the author
Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman
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