Do ELD Exemptions And Uneven Enforcement Gut The Rule?

The ELD Mandate, which went into effect on December 18, requires that the majority of interstate commercial truck drivers use ELD devices to ensure they are properly tracking their hours of service so as not to exceed the federal limits. Yet, that majority has been steadily shrinking as exemptions and uneven enforcement potentially neuters the mandate’s effectiveness.

OOIDA Requests A Major Exemption

There are currently many petitions sitting with the FMCSA, from a technical exemption for UPS to petitions from power and communications contractors. Yet, there is one petition that represents a huge question mark in the future and effectiveness of the ELD mandate.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has petitioned the FMCSA to exempt small business trucking companies with operations under $27.5 million in annual revenue. Should this petition be approved, the exemption would in effect exempt 95 percent of all trucking companies.

To be fair, the OOIDA did include some qualifiers in their petition request. One such exemption was for motor carriers who have an unsatisfactory safety rating. The other was that exempt fleets would be required to document and present a proven history of safety performance that includes no at-fault crashes.

Those opposed to this line of reasoning say that there is no specific definition of what constitutes an at-fault crash. With nearly 93 percent of OTR trucking companies currently reporting no DOT-reportable crashes, the number of trucking companies removed from potential exemption is negligible. Should the OOIDA’s request be approved, the number of motor carriers looking at an exemption could stand in the tens of thousands.

While many do not expect the petition to wind up being passed by the FMCSA, it should be noted that 25 members of Congress sent a letter to the FMCSA supporting the petition. On the other side, the Trucking Alliance filed comments opposing the exemption.

What both sides acknowledge is that even if the FMCSA were to approve the petition, the inevitable result would be a trip to court and a legal battle. Why? The ELD Mandate is a Congressional imperative, so any major changes granted by the FMCSA would be subject to lawsuit by either side.

Will the ELD Mandate Have Any Teeth?

With the ELD Mandate suffering under the burden of enforcement issues and constant questions, some wonder if it will have any major impact on trucking safety. Consider that 17 states are waiting for April 1 to begin enforcement, with another 12 allowing the enforcement officer to decide. With the resulting 10 states writing ELD tickets, enforcement has been spotty across the board.

Currently, most of tickets being written are not for specific safety concern but are instead related to either no logs available or spec problems with the device being used. With the ELD enforcement picture so cloudy, is it even possible to determine whether their use is having a positive impact on trucking safety? With the jury still out on the effectiveness of the current HOS rules, no one knows.

Although December was the intended start of enforcement, many operators are waiting until April 1 to get compliant. With enforcement uneven across the board, trucking operators are betting that low enforcement levels will mean they won’t get a ticket, or even if they do, they won’t be put out of service or get a CSA ding. With the incentive to get compliant now taken away, the time between December and January provides a nebulous picture of the mandate’s effectiveness. How this will all play out as trucking advocates and fleets attempt to evaluate crash rates and safety levels is anybody’s guess.