Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

The trucking industry has had nearly two years to prepare for the mandate requiring electronic logging devices to track driver hours, which goes into effect Dec. 18. Yet a surprising number of fleets have not yet adopted them.

Morgan Stanley, which has been conducting quarterly ELD surveys of fleets since May 2015, in August reported that nearly 30% of carriers were not yet in full compliance. And 15% of the carriers surveyed did not expect to be fully compliant when Dec. 18 rolls around.

It’s likely some smaller carriers have been waiting in hopes that the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s quest to derail the mandate (see the latest on page 14) will bear fruit. But not taking action on the electronic logging device mandate because you’re hoping for a last-minute reprieve from the government is a bit like refusing to prepare for a hurricane because you’re hoping for a last-minute change in the storm track.

In fact, given our recent experience with Hurricane Irma, I’d say your chances are better for missing the hurricane.

After the Supreme Court declined to hear OOIDA’s appeal in its case to block ELDs this summer, the association turned to lobbying tactics to try to get Congress to step in. So far, legislation has been proposed but is going nowhere fast.

OOIDA also filed a petition with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration claiming that it wasn’t even legal for many states to enforce the mandate because they needed to incorporate it into state law. But it appears that most of those states have in place laws that make adoption of federal rules for interstate haulers automatic.

When I talked to FMCSA’s chief enforcement guru last month, Joe DeLorenzo, he emphasized that the government is ready and able to start enforcing the new rule.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and FMCSA together decided to use a phased-in approach in the first few months, where drivers will not be put out of service if they don’t have an ELD. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be enforcement of the rule; they can still be cited and fined. Each jurisdiction will decide on its own how strict that initial enforcement will be.

So you’d better be ready.

Still, there are plenty of things about the mandate that could have been done better. There are problematic issues with interoperability affecting rental trucks and drivers who work for more than one carrier. Provisions put in place to address concerns about driver harassment and coercion (the result of an OOIDA lawsuit) are going to cause headaches as drivers and back-office personnel adjust to new procedures. There’s the question of how many devices on the FMCSA’s “self-certification” list actually will be compliant; former FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg, now a safety and compliance consultant, contends that the self-certification process has allowed non-compliant devices into the marketplace.

And there’s the concern about whether roadside officials will have in place the eRODS (electronic records of duty status) software that is needed to interpret the data file transfer from ELDs. While FMCSA believes it will have the eRODS program in place before the deadline, even if it’s not, officers can still enforce the rules, because ELDs must be able to print out a paper copy of the log or display it to an enforcement officer on a screen.

“It’s important to remember that the ELD rule is about hours of service compliance,” DeLorenzo told me. And those rules aren’t changing.

No doubt, there will be some storm damage in the ELD transition. But the more prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be to weather the storm.

Originally posted on Trucking Info