The ELD Mandate: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By now, you’re probably aware of the Congressional mandate regarding electronic logging devices, or ELDs. As stated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, the ELD rule “is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status (RODS) data. An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording.” Congress mandated that all carriers and owner operators be compliant with the ELD rule by December 18th, 2017.

A Possible Delay in ELD Mandate

However, two recent legislative actions in Congress may cause a delay in the forced implementation date for electronic logging devices or ELDs. On July 17th, 2017, verbiage inserted into the report which accompanied the transportation funding bill calls on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, to “analyze whether a full or targeted delay in ELD implementation and enforcement would be appropriate and, if so, what options (the Department of Transportation) has within its statutory authority to provide temporary regulatory relief until all ELD implementation challenges can be resolved.”

Additionally, what is known as a stand-alone bill has been drafted and submitted to the committee chair calling for a two-year delay on the ELD mandate. However, stand-alone bills seldom make it to a vote in this manner. Typically, the only hope a bill of such limited scope stands is to be tacked on as an amendment to a much larger bill which will have to be put to a vote, such as an appropriations bill.

Industry experts stress that, in the unlikely event that a delay was to make its way through Congress, it would still be just that: a delay. ELDs are seen as an inevitable enforcement measure for hours-of-service laws and many influential industry organizations are in favor of the technology, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA). Adding further fuel to speculation on whether or not the mandate can realistically be halted, the Supreme Court recently declined to hear a case on the legality of the mandate due to privacy concerns, and President Donald Trump did not include the mandate in a sweeping stoppage of all new regulations.

The Other Side

Opponents of the ELD mandate believe that smaller carriers and owner-operators just don’t have the capital or, in some cases, the technical know-how to purchase the devices and smoothly implement their use into their daily activities. Apart from the one-time acquisition and installation cost, the devices require monthly service fees that could potentially force a carrier or owner-operator to increase their rates and potentially lose out on lucrative contracts, or accept a smaller profit margin just to maintain their current business.

According to ELDFacts.com, the FMSCA is well aware of the cost burden they’re potentially putting on especially smaller fleets. To help ease that burden, they’ve written into the ELD Rule that “smartphones, tablets, and rugged handhelds can be used as long as the system as a whole meets ELD requirements – including a hardwired connection to the truck’s engine.”

Making ELDs Work For You

Jeremy Feucht, an analyst of regulatory affairs for Truckstop.com, sees the ELD mandate as an opportunity for savvy carriers and owner-operators to get ahead of the game. In a piece for Trucker.com, he praised the virtues of early acceptance and implementation of ELDs: “By preparing now, you can help make the ELD mandate work for you and gain an advantage over those who procrastinate. …Get used to the ins and outs of the mandate now so you don’t run the risk of getting placed out of service, simply because you didn’t know a rule or how to work the system and equipment. By doing these few simple things, you can effectively turn the ELD mandate into something that works for you instead of against you.”

ELDs and the mandatory implementation of their use have been a hot-button topic from the start. From privacy to cost concerns, nearly everyone in or around the industry has an opinion on the issue. Now all of those voices will have to wait and see if Congress and the FMCSA will put the brakes on the mandate with these last-ditch efforts.

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