5-Year Exemption Would Cripple Electronic Logging Rule for Trucks

5-Year Exemption Would Cripple Electronic Logging Rule for Trucks

After losing a lawsuit that would have overturned a federal mandate requiring electronic logging devices (ELDs) on all commercial trucks, the trucking industry is fighting against this important safety regulation in a different way: by trying to delay it to death.

In November 2017, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), a trucking industry lobbying group, filed a request with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) asking for a five-year exemption to the ELD rule for some trucking companies. The exemption would cover companies classified as “small transportation trucking businesses, meaning those that have less than $27.5 million in annual receipts. This classification includes the vast majority of trucking companies in the United States.

Unfortunately, exempting small trucking companies from the ELD regulation would effectively cripple the rule for at least five years by preventing it from applying to the companies that need this type of oversight the most: small, fly-by-night trucking companies that routinely commit the types of safety violations that lead to deadly trucking accidents.

Why Do ELDs Matter?

Electronic logging devices are one of the most important weapons against employer coercion and truck driver fatigue because they allow for easier and more effective enforcement of hours-of-service regulations. Those are the rules about how long truckers can drive without a rest break. By creating an electronic log of a truck driver’s activity, ELDs increase accountability for individual drivers and prevent their employers from pressuring them to drive longer hours in violation of hours-of-service regulations.

Since ELDs are a relatively new technology and have never been mandatory on large trucks, data about their effectiveness is limited. (And, after all, trucking companies who were already violating hours-of-service regulations won’t report that they stopped after installing ELDs.) However, one anonymous survey of more than 2,000 trucking carriers showed that 84% of respondents who had implemented ELDs had fewer hours-of-service and logging violations.

Trucking Safety Advocates Fight Back Against Delay Request

Advocates for trucking industry reform have roundly condemned OOIDA’s request for the 5-year exemption. Two prominent highway safety advocacy organizations, the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security (also known as the Trucking Alliance) and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), put out a joint press release in February arguing that the five-year exemption “would gut the long-settled electronic logging device rule by allowing nearly all trucking companies to delay compliance.”

“[OOIDA’s request is] a transparent attempt to bypass Congress and the courts by regurgitating discredited arguments which seek to advance special interests at the expense of road safety for all motorists,” the press release said.

In a statement accompanying the press release, AHAS President Cathy Chase argued there was no excuse for the FMCSA not to implement the ELD rule immediately given the troubling year-after-year increases in annual fatalities resulting from truck wrecks and the potential for ELDs to save lives by reducing driver fatigue.

“Especially with truck crash deaths rising, this minimal, proven, effective technology should be in use in every truck immediately,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “OOIDA’s exemption request is just a smokescreen that attempts to re-litigate a closed case and undermine the effectiveness of the ELD rule.”

News Outlets Fail to Report on ELD Mandate Accurately

Besides the expected backlash from trucking companies, news media outlets have made the situation worse by publishing inaccurate and incomplete reporting about the effects of the ELD rule. As an example, an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal in January 2018 pointed to mandatory ELDs as one of several factors causing a nationwide shortage of available trucks.

“A new federal safety rule in December requiring drivers to track their hours behind the wheel with electronic logging devices, or ELDs, has exacerbated [the truck shortage],” the Journal reported. “Prices shot up for some routes that now might take two days instead of one because of stricter timekeeping.”

This irresponsible statement fails to mention that ELDs only serve to enforce existing regulations. If they cause a shipping run to take two days instead of one, it’s because truckers previously completed the run faster by breaking hours-of-service regulations that they now have to comply with.

Violating hours-of-service regulations is no trivial matter. Chronic fatigue and drowsiness are epidemic-level problems in the trucking industry, and widespread violations of hours-of-service regulations are the primary reason. In fact, fatigue and drowsy driving are themselves some of the most common factors that lead to deadly truck wrecks.

Unfortunately, innocent drivers will continue to suffer until trucking companies agree to implement ELDs on every large truck and until news outlets report the real reasons why trucking companies keep fighting against the ELD rule — like valuing short-term profits over human lives.

Contact Seattle Truck Law if You’ve Been Hurt in a Trucking Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving a large truck or bus, Seattle Truck Law Attorney Morgan Adams is here to help. With years of experience and a sole focus on cases involving large vehicles, Mr. Adams is a powerful advocate for trucking accident victims and an experienced litigator who won’t hesitate to fight for your rights in court.

Please contact Seattle Truck Law at (866) 580-4878 or fill out our online contact form if you need legal representation or assistance. We offer free consultations to help you understand your legal options, and we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you’ll only pay fees or case expenses if and when we achieve a verdict or settlement on your behalf.

References

Cubitt, B. (2016, September 22). ELD survey: The data, the facts, and how ELDs affect carriers. Logistics Viewpoints. Retrieved from https://logisticsviewpoints.com/2016/09/22/eld-survey-the-data-the-facts-and-how-elds-affect-carriers/

Cullen, D. (2018, February 1). 5-year exemption would “gut” ELD rule, truck safety groups say. Trucking Info. Retrieved from http://www.truckinginfo.com/channel/fleet-management/news/story/2018/02/truck-safety-groups-5-year-exemption-would-gut-eld-rule.aspx

Jaillet, J. (2017, June 27). Supreme Court declines to hear ELD lawsuit. Commercial Carrier Journal. Retrieved from https://www.ccjdigital.com/supreme-court-declines-to-hear-eld-lawsuit/

Smith, J. (2018, January 25). A shortage of trucks is forcing companies to cut shipments or pay up. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-shortage-of-trucks-is-forcing-companies-to-cut-shipments-or-pay-up-1516789800

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.