Truckers scrambled to comply with a new federal rule requiring them to install digital devices in their semi-tractors to track their driving time.
The rule dictating the use of electronic logging devices, or ELDs, went into effect Monday.
Federal regulators say it will ensure that truckers comply with a federal hours-of-service rule. The rule limits driving to no more than 11 hours a day within a 14-hour workday. Drivers must then be off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
“We firmly believe that America’s truck drivers — if they were operating legally within the hours-of-service rules before today — will see tremendous benefits in using an ELD. Whether in reduced crashes, less time spent on paperwork or in fewer errors in their logbooks,” said Chris Spear, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations.
But although the ATA supports the new rule, others in the industry, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, have opposed the regulation. Truckers have complained that being digitally tracked is an invasion of their privacy. They said the rule doesn’t take into account the delays drivers experience at loading docks and in traffic. Some threatened to leave the industry rather than comply with the regulations.
But on Monday, many were just trying to figure out how to work their new devices.
Independent trucker Tim Philmon of Middleburg, Fla., spent most of Sunday evening attempting to pair his tablet and ELD device via a Bluetooth. The trucker said he started to experience technical problems shortly after heading out Monday to make a delivery in Sedalia, Mo. As of late Monday, Philmon said he had yet to talk to an ELD customer service representative, and his device still wasn’t working.
“I don’t mind using an ELD — I log legally anyway, but if I pull into a scale and get a ticket, it’s not going to be the device’s fault. It’s going to be my fault for not being able to produce an electronic log,” he told Trucks.com.
Public safety officials will cite motor carriers who are not using ELDs properly, but they won’t bar truckers in violation from driving until April 1, according to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The agency is charged with enforcing the ELD mandate.
As a stopgap, Philmon is using paper logs until the problem is fixed.
Under the new rule, truck operators have only eight days to repair or replace the device or risk fines.
“I know some are going to say it’s my fault that I should have had this in place before now, but I met the compliance date, but now the system is overloaded and I can’t get it fixed,” Philmon said.
Other truckers were reporting similar issues.
Lee Strebel of Gulf Breeze, Fla., started experiencing problems with his ELD on Friday. He said he hopes to have all of the bugs worked out before heading to Las Vegas later this week.
“I talked to my safety department, and they said we are having some issues right now,” Strebel told Trucks.com.
Strebel was among the many truckers hoping that the Trump administration would issue a last-minute delay in the rule’s implementation.
“I really didn’t want to use one, but now we don’t have a choice,” he said.
There are various estimates on how many truckers are complying with the new rule.
Motor carrier and driver surveys suggest that larger carriers have installed the devices on their trucks. However, smaller carriers and independent truckers were not prepared.
Approximately 75 percent of the 420 fleets surveyed by CarriersList and Kenco Group on Dec. 11 claimed to be ELD ready prior to the deadline.
However, an online survey by HELP Inc., the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and technology services, found that of 1,620 respondents, 33 percent had selected and installed an ELD by early December.
Of those who have not installed an ELD, 68 percent said they did not plan to do so prior to Dec. 18, according to the survey, and 31 percent said they didn’t plan to install an ELD at all.
Some drivers, mainly independent truckers and small carriers, have threatened to leave the industry rather than switch to ELDs from paper logs.
John Peters of Gonzalez, Mexico, who drives for a U.S. carrier, said he had originally planned to quit Monday rather than install an ELD in his truck.
Though he plans to take a hiatus until mid-January, Peters said he now plans to stay in the industry until at least April, when his lease with another motor carrier expires.
“Unfortunately, I am going forward and working,” Peters told Trucks.com. “I was hoping for changes up until the last minute, but that didn’t happen. Thousands of truckers fought against the mandate, but the government got what it wanted.”
Republican Rep. Brian Babin of Texas has introduced legislation to delay the regulation for two years. But the bill is stalled. He also unsuccessfully urged Trump to issue a 90-day waiver from the regulation, which didn’t happen.
Babin issued a statement Monday notifying truck drivers and others affected by the mandate “to assume that it will be in place for the foreseeable future.”
The estimated cost to implement ELDs is approximately $2 billion. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that ELDs will prevent 1,844 crashes, 562 injuries and save 26 lives annually by keeping tired truckers off the road. Switching to electronic logs also 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 FMCSA.