With just five months to a Dec. 18 federal mandate that requires truckers to adopt electronic logging devices to track how much time they spend driving their vehicles, drivers and others are starting to ask how the program will be enforced.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which is expected to provide training for roadside inspectors, said it has not received instructions from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on how to enforce the regulation.
“It is likely that the information will be given to the states, who will then be responsible for training their inspectors. But the details have not been finalized at this point,” said Adrienne Gildea, deputy executive director for CVSA.
There are roughly 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. While many of the large motor carriers are already complying with the mandate, some smaller carriers and independent truckers have yet to make the switch from paper to e-logs.
“We’ve not seen any indication from law enforcement that they are ready,” said Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which counts more than 150,000 drivers as members.
Taylor said truckers are already asking the trade group how the ELD mandate will be enforced but that the organization doesn’t have any information to pass along.
However, the program and enforcement training for roadside personnel “is precisely on track,” said Duane DeBruyne, spokesman for the FMCSA.
“The training will commence in the fall,” DeBruyne told Trucks.com. “The training materials will simultaneously be posted online.”
The training will consist of a train-the-trainer format in which some safety officials will be trained and then will be responsible for training other inspectors in the field, the FMCSA said.
The rule states that carriers and drivers who are using paper logs must transition to ELDs no later than Dec. 18, while truckers using Automatic On-Board Recording Devices, or AOBRDS, prior to the compliance date must transition to ELDs no later than Dec. 16, 2019.
The FMSCA is facing increasing criticism for letting issues lag. Last week, the Government Accountability Office — the watchdog agency of Congress — criticized the safety agency for failing to modernize its information technology systems.
The GAO, for example, said the governance boards tasked with overseeing the FMCSA’s information technology systems don’t exhibit “a sound governance approach, such as ensuring corrective actions are executed and tracked to closure.”
Such issues are mounting while the safety agency operates without an administrator, a position that has been left unfilled by the Trump administration.
The FMCSA has pushed for electronic logging to prevent driver cheating on paper logs. The devices link to a semi-truck’s engine, capturing the movement of the truck and recording how much time a trucker is at the wheel. By law, drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving daily.
The FMCSA estimates that ELDs will prevent 1,844 crashes, 562 injuries and save 26 lives annually by keeping exhausted drivers off the road.
Switching to electronic logs is expected to eliminate more than $1.6 billion in paperwork costs for motor carriers and law enforcement agencies reviewing drivers’ logs, according to the federal agency.
Prior to the mandate going into effect, the FMCSA is hosting an ELD Implementation National Tour, which is a public education and outreach effort geared toward helping truckers transition to electronic logging devices.
Many truckers are still on the fence about purchasing an ELD even though the U.S. Supreme Court decided last month not to hear a challenge to the mandate by the OOIDA.
“A lot of members have not decided yet to buy a device because they are unsure of which one to get,” Taylor said.
There are now more than 83 different ELDs on the market, up from 15 at the end of 2016. Regardless of who make the device, all will conform to a standard inspection protocol, DeBruyne.
Prices vary depending on the type of device truckers want in their cabs, but generally run $500 to $700.
“Service fees are all over the board, but for basic E-log compliance I’ve seen monthly service fees range from $7.95 per driver per month, to $20 per driver per month. Some vendors include the hardware at no extra charge, some do not,” Reader said.
ELD vendors are still guessing as to what the volume is going to be like in November or December and whether they will need to ramp up production or scale down based on demand, said Tom Reader, director of ELD marketing for J.J. Keller, a trucking regulation compliance consulting firm.
Approximately 50 percent of small carriers with less than five trucks and independent truckers are expected to wait until the mandate takes effect before complying with the final rule, Reader said.
“There is really no time now to look at and test various ELD options because it takes a few months to work through a vender and understand how the system works,” Reader told Trucks.com.
“Some drivers say they are expecting weak enforcement with the implementation of ELDs, but FMCSA has been rigid on the date,” he said.
Truck driver James Maxwell of Chillicothe, Mo., said he has used e-logs for more than a year. Maxwell plans to leave long-haul trucking and find a local job that doesn’t require him to run electronic logs.
His earning fell from $67,000 annually to $50,000 following his adoption of the electronic logs.
“I have been in this industry for nearly 25 years and I find myself working more days on the road for less money. We need a little more flexibility,” Maxwell told Trucks.com. “ELDs force me to miss appointment times because I run out of hours, then my next day’s appointments are messed up as well.”