December 1, 2017

Indiana attorney general asks FMCSA for immediate delay of ELD implementation

Fleets, drivers "completely unprepared" for Dec. 18 deadline, Hill says.

By DC Velocity Staff

Indiana's attorney general has asked the federal government to immediately delay the Dec. 18 deadline for virtually all trucks to have electronic logging devices (ELDs) installed in their cabs, becoming the first state attorney general to request a delay in the ELD implementation date.

Curtis T. Hill Jr. told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) sub-agency that wrote the rules, that many drivers and fleets are "completely unprepared" for the changes about to occur. An immediate delay is needed for the agency to clarify the guidelines it expects drivers and fleet operators to comply with, Hill said in a letter to FMCSA.

Hill said drivers and fleets have no way of determining which brands and models will pass muster because, as the rule is written, ELD manufacturers are responsible for self-certifying their compliance with the government standards. As long as there are no effective oversight procedures to govern the compliance process, drivers and fleets must "fly blindly" into investing in products they are being required to purchase, Hill wrote.

Hill's comments echo those of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which has strongly opposed the rule from the start. Last week the group asked the FMCSA for a five-year compliance extension for a large class of small-business drivers, in part because of the same concerns.

Hill's opposition is significant in that the states are responsible for enforcing road safety and will be on the front lines in enforcing the ELD rule. Indiana is home to nearly 200,000 of the nation's 3.5 million licensed commercial truck drivers. An industry source said that other state attorneys general may support Hill's request, but that it is unlikely to alter the deadline, because there are powerful counterforces urging FMCSA to stick to its guns.

Agency officials have said publicly they have no plans to change the compliance deadline. However, in an effort to ease the transition, FMCSA and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, a consortium of U.S. and Canadian officials who conduct truck roadside inspections, have agreed not to place trucks and drivers out of service from Dec. 18, 2017, through April 1, 2018, for not having an ELD in place.

In addition, a driver operating a non-compliant vehicle will not have that violation count against their Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) scores. CSA measures a driver's safety performance across a variety of metrics, and infractions affecting a CSA score play a critical role in determining a driver's marketability, as well as the cost of a carrier's insurance coverage.

The ELD rule is designed to ensure strict compliance with federal regulations governing a driver's hours of service. Because an ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, drivers will be prevented from operating beyond the 11-hour maximum drive time in a 14-hour workday. Traditionally, drivers have manipulated their hours of service through the use of paper logbooks, which are expected to disappear once the mandate goes into effect.

The rule exempts operators of trucks built before the year 2000, drivers not operating more than 8 days out of every 30-day period, and drivers with commercial drivers licenses (CDLs) operating in interstate commerce within 100 air miles of their work location, among other criteria. Trucks already equipped with electronic on-board recorders, the forerunner of ELDs, have until December 2019 to update their equipment.

OOIDA has argued that the rules do not improve highway safety, violate 4th Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure because they require the installation of a warrantless tracking device, would increase carrier costs, and would require truckers to deploy equipment that hasn't been proven or certified. ELDs will only track a truck's status, not the driver's, meaning they provide no more accurate a reading of a driver's record-of-duty status than paper logs, OOIDA said.

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