There are no opt-outs for the ELD mandate

PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

As we inch closer to the December 16, 2019 full compliance deadline for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, the need to transition to these devices is becoming more urgent.

Members of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), and the wider trucking industry, have been urged to start the shift as soon as possible to ensure that their devices are compliant and fully functioning by that December date. FMCSA has made clear that this is a hard deadline which will not be extended and that a grace period is unlikely. We are confident that truckload carriers will meet this deadline but, as is always the case when a mandate is set, some groups want to ensure that they can opt-out of these industry-wide rules.

During this session of Congress, two bills of note have been introduced in the House to exempt certain segments of the industry from having to use ELDs. The first, the Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2019, would exempt motor carriers that own or operate 10 or fewer commercial vehicles from the ELD mandate. The second, the Agricultural Business Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2019, would exempt all motor carriers engaged in agricultural business from the ELD mandate. Both bills were introduced by Rep. Collin Peterson, (D-MN-7) and have fewer than a dozen co-sponsors, indicating that they are not likely to move this year.

Additionally, groups have petitioned FMCSA to provide modifications to the ELD mandate. On March 15, 24 fruit and vegetable industry associations sent a letter to FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez requesting to:

  1. Allow drivers to “pause” their hours-of-service (HOS) clock for as long as they want, as often as they want, during non-driving periods;

  2. Exclude loading and unloading times from 14-hour HOS calculations entirely;

  3. Allow split-sleeper time of 5/5, 6/4, and 7/3 blocks in addition to the current 8/2 split which is required in order to count for 10-hours of off-duty time; and

  4. Add a 150 air-mile buffer at the end of trips as well. This would allow drivers to complete their trip if they come within 150 air-miles of their destination without needing to stay within their allowable hours.

FMCSA has not yet published this letter on its Petitions for Rulemaking website. While TCA agrees that drivers must be able to stop the clock and rest when they are feeling fatigued and that a split-sleeper berth provision must be added back into the HOS regulations, we oppose the request to add a 150 air-mile buffer to the end of trips. Because drivers of agricultural commodities operating within the 150 air-mile radius are already exempted from using an ELD and from the broader HOS regulations, adding 150 miles on the back end of trips to the exemption would essentially give these drivers 300 miles in which they do not need to operate using an ELD.

All three of these proposals would only serve to undermine the ELD mandate’s goal of full, industry-wide compliance with HOS regulations to minimize fatigued drivers and eliminate cheating on logbooks. TCA cannot support ELD exemption requests, and we urge our lawmakers and regulators to do the same.