Congress is losing its appetite for ELD exemption requests

(SOURCE: SHUTTERSTOCK)

(SOURCE: SHUTTERSTOCK)

With less than nine months to go before the ELD mandate’s full compliance phase kicks in, TCA Vice President of Government Affairs Dave Heller is urging fleets still utilizing AOBRDs to start making the transition sooner rather than later.

During phase two of ELD mandate enforcement, fleets that installed AOBRDs before December 2017 were permitted to keep using those devices and delay ELD installment until December 2019. This applied to many early adopters of telematics solutions.

Multiple recent studies have found that approximately half of all carriers are still using AOBRD technology, and over 80 percent of those carriers plan to delay the switch to ELDs until the third or fourth quarter of 2019.

“There really probably will not be any appetite for an extension right now,” Heller said. “If you haven’t begun the transition and you’re currently operating with AOBRD technology, the time is now to start planning and making that transition.”

A large part of the reason Heller encouraged fleets to make the transition now is to allow for time to work out any kinks in the transition process. While everyone hopes for a smooth switch, he encouraged leaders to plan for hiccups like software or hardware glitches.

Heller’s encouragement came as part of a recent TCA webinar, “U.S. Regulatory Updates for Today’s Trucking Industry.” The webinar hit on several safety and regulatory issues, including the true crash reduction impact of the ELD mandate.

Researchers from three different universities, including Northeastern University, University of Arkansas and Michigan State University, completed a study in January about whether or not the ELD mandate reduced crashes.

The answer was a resounding “no.” This did not take Heller by surprise.

“The ELD mandate is a tool,” Heller said. “It is a tool to improve compliance, not a tool to improve safety.”

The ELD mandate has, indeed, improved compliance. Overall, the percentage of truck inspections with intentional violations dropped from 6 percent before the mandate to 3.8 percent during light enforcement, a 37 percent reduction, and then to 2.9 percent during strict enforcement, a 52 percent reduction.

Increased compliance did not lead to reduced crashes. In fact, it seems to have led to an uptick in unsafe driving behavior.

Researchers at the universities drew the following conclusions about crash rates and driver behavior changes:

Findings: Crashes

  • The mandate has had no significant effect on crash counts.

  • Weekly crashes prior to mandate averaged 1,717.

  • During the light enforcement period, weekly crashes increased to 1,912, or 11.4 percent.

  • During the strict enforcement period, weekly crashes dropped to 1,703, or 0.8 percent.

Findings: Driver behaviors

  • Owner-operators and drivers for small carriers were cited much more frequently for unsafe driving behaviors after the mandate.

  • During the light enforcement period, owner-operators committed 22.7 percent more unsafe driving violations.

  • During the strict enforcement period, owner-operators committed 35.3 percent more unsafe driving violations.

  • Comparatively, drivers for large carriers saw a 1.8 percent decrease in these violations during light enforcement and a 5.5 percent increase during strict enforcement.

Despite the mandate’s inability to bring down crash rates, and its demonstrated negative impact on driver behavior, ELD exemption requests are decreasing. Members of Congress do not seem enthusiastic about the few requests that are still being made.

In December 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) denied 10 exemption requests.

There are a couple requests still circulating, including H.R. 1697, The Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act, and H.R. 1698, The Agricultural Business Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act.

H.R. 1697 aims to exempt motor carriers that own or operate 10 or fewer commercial vehicles from the electronic logging device mandate, while H.R. 1698 hopes to eliminate ELD requirements for certain agricultural businesses.

“Last year, roughly the same two bills were entered into Congress. In 2018, the first bill had 36 cosponsors. Now, the same bill in 2019 only has one cosponsor,” Heller said. “To that same extent, the ag exemption had 34 cosponsors last year. Now, again, one cosponsor. So, you just know that the appetite for these things is waning, and the support for any exemption process is also waning.”