As time runs out for most truckers to install a digital device that tracks their driving time ahead of the April 1 deadline, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted agriculture industry truckers a second 90-day reprieve from complying with the new rule.
“We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from,” said Ray Martinez, FMCSA administrator.
The new rule requires truckers to switch from the paper logs the industry has used since the 1930s to electronic logging devices, or ELDs. FMCSA enacted the regulation in December but has provided a phase-in period through April 1. The soft launch gives truckers more time to comply with the regulation.
The rule is intended to make sure truckers comply with a federal hours-of-service rule that 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.
The agency will use the 90-day pause to publish the final rules for exempting food haulers who travel in a 150-mile radius measured by air, rather than roads, from a central point daily. The agency is also proposing to remove the requirement that truckers must unload their freight before they can drive their trucks home.
The FMCSA said the ELD compliance rate is now as high as 96 percent, up from around 90 percent in early March.
There are more than 330 separate self-certified ELD devices listed on the registration list, according to the FMCSA.
Some state enforcement officers began documenting ELD violations on roadside inspection reports in mid-December. But most have not levied fines. In some states, it’s up to an officer’s discretion whether to write a ticket for not having an ELD.
Some drivers have protested the regulation, saying that digital monitoring violates their privacy. But multiple efforts to overturn the regulation have failed.
Truckers now have until April 1 before state commercial vehicle inspectors start full enforcement of the rule. Those found in violation could be pulled off the road, according to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, or CVSA, an agency of approximately 13,000 inspectors in North America charged with enforcing the mandate.
The driver will remain out-of-service for 10 hours in accordance with the CVSA criteria.
“At that point, to facilitate compliance, the driver will be allowed to travel to the next scheduled stop and should not be dispatched again without an ELD,” the agency said.
If the driver is dispatched again without an ELD, the motor carrier will be subject to further enforcement action, but the agency didn’t outline what that might be.
While truckers claimed that inspectors were out in full force in December and January checking for ELD compliance, the total number of roadside inspections actually dropped 14.9 percent to 415,189 in the U.S. This is down from 488,070 inspections conducted during the same two months the prior fiscal year, according to the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System, or MCMIS, database.
The number of inspections dropped in 39 states during December and January compared with the same two months a year earlier.