After several years of debate and courtroom challenges, it appears that electronic logging devices (ELDs) will be standard trucking equipment by the end of the year. The final regulation, which was initiated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and mandated by Congress in the 2012 Map-21 highway funding bill, will become effective on December 18, 2017. ELDs have been strongly supported by the American Trucking Associations and just as vigorously opposed by the Owner – Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). OOIDA pursued their efforts all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear their appeal.
Under the pending rule, every driver required to keep a Record of Duty Status must use an ELD to record his or her compliance with hours of service regulations. Currently, most use paper logs. ELDs are advocated to aid drivers and improve accuracy and efficiency. Many advocates have suggested they will improve safety as well, by forcing compliance with hours of service rules. In 2014, the FMCSA reported that carriers using ELDs had about 12% fewer crashes, and hours of service violations were reduced by 50%.
For drivers employed by regulated carriers, the major inconvenience will be learning to use a new system for recording their hours of service. (For that small percentage that may fudge a little on their logbooks, the ELDs will keep them on the “straight and narrow”) The monetary expense will be borne by the carriers. Critics of the rule see it as a violation of drivers’ privacy and do not believe that safety will be improved. Personally, I do not see how an accurate record of hours of service should be private unless the driver is guilty of some violation, but I know that some drivers and others for that matter, object to another “Big Brother is watching you” implication.
For the small carriers and particularly the owner operators, there will be a financial burden. ELDs will cost from $200 to $800 per truck which will be an issue for small carriers – even those with only a few trucks. For owner operators, it will be another expense for those who already are struggling to make a decent living.
Eventually, I believe everyone will benefit from the ELDs once the learning curve is completed, but some opponents are not giving up without a fight. Representative Brian Babin (R-Texas) has proposed legislation that would postpone the effective date of the ELD mandate by two years. So far, the bill has about 50 supporters in the House, but the Senate is not expected to take similar action.
Notwithstanding the continuing concern and efforts by opponents, I believe we will see the rule become effective as planned – on December 18, 2017.