Every so often we like to update you on the latest changes coming out of Washington, especially where safety is concerned. No matter who makes what change – we take no sides – it is important to report on it and keep you, our loyal readers, up-to-date.
Part of your latest update from Washington comes from December 4, when around 3.5 million truck drivers showed up in Washington D.C. and statehouses across the country hoping to somehow stop or slow the impending ELD mandate that goes into effect on the 18th.
Many of the truckers were hoping the current administration would halt or delay the ELD mandate, but it doesn’t appear that will happen. The ELD mandate will replace paper logs, which have been in place as the trucking standard since shortly after the Great Depression.
While the argument remains from some corners that implementing electronic logging devices is expensive and not practical for small fleets, there doesn’t seem to be much appetite in Washington to roll it back, despite some moves to roll back other trucking regulations from the previous administration.
What Are the Arguments?
Many truckers say the hours of service rule – which mandates a workday must end 14 hours after it starts – does not factor in long wait times at the shipper or receiver or other road delays. Since most truck drivers are paid by the mile, those wait times (along with being forced to end the day at the time mandated) can eat into what a truck driver takes home.
Still, this view comes primarily from smaller trucking companies. Larger trucking companies stand on the other side of the argument citing safety and logistical reasons. This is where trucking safety advocates say the ELD mandate helps prevent accidents related to things like fatigue.
Under the Obama Administration, the FMCSA worked with trucking industry players and advocates to draft the ELD mandate as a way to help fleets screen and treat truck drivers for sleep apnea, but that particular regulation was reversed under the current administration.
Another regulation change that gave truck drivers against the ELD rule hope was the quiet shuttering of the motor carrier safety rating system overhaul. Another change came when the speed-limiting device rule was canceled. Rules governing underride guards and automatic emergency braking on trucks also appear to have been placed on the waiting list.
The turnaround on these regulations has trucking safety advocates wondering what the future of trucking safety will look like. They point to statistics that show trucking-related crashes and injuries are on the rise, with that number now going over 4,000.
The Timing is Wrong
Although some have looked to these rollbacks as a sign that the ELD mandate may be jettisoned, their timing may be off. The ELD mandate was well into being implemented by the majority of large trucking companies, many of whom had already spent the capital to outfit their fleet, so they were firmly on the other side.
Now the question is, will the ELD mandate be proven to have a significant impact on trucking safety outcomes? Perhaps. But at the same time, our government is still operating in an anti-regulatory environment. For how much longer the current regulations will stick, or whether others will be created, is all up in the air.
We should know more once President Trump’s new FMCSA administrator Ray Martinez is confirmed by the Senate, which will likely have happened by the time you are reading these words. Although the trucking safety landscape looks set for more change, one thing looks sure: The ELD mandate is here to stay.