A federal mandate that would require all commercial vehicles to be equipped with electronic logging devices has been tangled up in the courts for years — but that could soon change, according to the new president of the American Trucking Associations.

Chris Spear, who assumed leadership of the trade group in July, told Trucks.com he feels confident that judges will hand down a ruling within the next two months that will allow the mandate to be implemented.

His trade group, along with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is pushing to put electronic logging devices, or ELDs, on all heavy-duty trucks. The technology helps monitor how long drivers stay behind the wheel.

“I think, if you canvas our members, you are going to find that the lion’s share of them are already using them,” Spear said of the devices. “So whether the federal government tells them to do it or not, it’s already happening.”

In 2012, Congress asked the motor carrier safety agency to develop an electronic logging mandate that would help enforce existing hours-of-service limits. The final rule was published in December 2015.

Commercial carriers and drivers using paper logs or logging software must comply with the new regulation by December 2017, while those relying on automated onboard recording devices have until December 2019.

In March, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association – an alliance of small carriers – sued to block the mandate. In September, a three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit heard oral arguments from both the group as well as the trucking regulation agency.

Spear said he followed the Sept. 13 session and found that it “wasn’t very favorable” to the small carriers’ complaint, based on one of the judge’s questions. Judges are currently considering oral and written arguments.

Owner-operators and small fleets are concerned that electronic logging devices will cut into their profit margins while also threatening privacy. But Spear said the technology leads to performance efficiencies that benefit the bottom line.

Transitioning from paper to electronic logs will allow fleets to better manage their drivers and loads, he said. Also, “from when the ELDs initially came out, they have come down in cost considerably,” he said.

“I think the benefits are clearly tested now, so I don’t see a lot of pushback from our members,” he said.

Spear spoke at his group’s annual Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas last weekend. At the event, mapping company Rand McNally debuted a new electronic logging and fleet management system that is equipped with cellular connectivity and is targeted at small and medium-size fleets.

The $400 DC200 device, which is designed to be easy to use, sits on the dash of commercial vehicles and enables fleet managers to track their trucks and message drivers nearly in real-time.

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