"In essence, the statement is basically that we support the mandatory use of electronic logging devices," said TCA President Chris Burruss.
The association's former policy was to support e-logs only if they met a lengthy list of conditions. The new policy, which the association adopted at its annual meeting this week in San Diego, is one of unconditional support, Burruss said.
"The conditions now become the things we would like to see in implementation but are not required for support," he said.
TCA is now a step ahead of its larger affiliate, the American Trucking Associations, on this issue, but ATA is moving toward adopting a similar position soon, according to Burruss and other sources.
Both associations undertook the policy review to prepare for filing comments on FMCSA's e-log proposal by the April 4 deadline, but the change reflects the industry's evolutionary move toward adoption of this technology.
The TCA change was not difficult to do, Burruss said.
"I think everybody recognizes that (e-logging) is a reality, that one way or another these devices are going to be required," Burruss said.
Many TCA members have already adopted e-logs, and many who haven't are in the process of doing so or soon will be in that process. Also, Burruss added, the association is better off being in a position to comment on what the final rule looks like.
TCA members' biggest concern at this point is about the possibility that FMCSA will require a phase-in of the rule with larger carriers going first, rather than a universal start date. "Our members would prefer that this be applicable to everybody at the same time," Burruss said. "Our view is that there shouldn't be a phase-in."
The FMCSA's proposal vastly expands the rule the agency put out less than a year ago.
The FMCSA's Proposal
The current rule, which will go into effect June 4, 2012, says that carriers that violate hours of service rules 10 percent of the time, based on single compliance review, must use electronic onboard recorders to track driver hours. It will affect only 5,700 interstate carriers.
The rule the agency is now proposing, which will go into effect three years after it is made final, will cover all of the approximately 500,000 carriers now required to maintain driver logs. It will create a market for at least 2 million recorders by one estimate, although other estimates go as high as 3.4 million. It also covers requirements for documentation to prove compliance with the hours of service rule, and it would require carriers to monitor driver compliance with the rule.
Under the proposal, violators of the recorder requirement would face civil penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense. Noncompliance would also negatively impact a carrier's safety fitness rating and DOT operating authority, the agency said.
The proposal will not apply to short-haul interstate carriers that use timecards to document hours of service. In cases where drivers mainly use timecards but occasionally drive beyond the limits of their normal operations, the agency said it would permit continued use of timecards. The agency considered extending the recorder requirement to short-haul drivers of bulk hazmats, but decided to study the issue further and is looking for comments.
The agency also considered requiring recorders just for long-haul operations outside the 150 air-mile radius, but decided that would not address safety concerns associated with short-haul carriers that use driver logs. It is asking for comments on whether a long-haul option is feasible, however.
The agency does not expect to change the 2012 compliance date for the current rule, even though the final rule arising from this proposal should be done before then. It will enforce the current rule during the period between the 2012 compliance date and the compliance date of the new rule.