If a fleet waited until the last minute to buy an electronic logging device or their ELDs are on backorder it might be wondering what enforcement will look like on Dec. 18 when the ELD rule finally goes into effect.
Although the FMCSA and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance have already said that ELD enforcement will roll out with a "phased in" approach for the first few months, there's more to the enforcement angle than that.
While during an initial 3½-month period, vehicles will not be placed out of service for missing ELDs and no points will be assessed to CSA scores for ELD violations, state and local law enforcement agencies will still be able to cite and fine drivers or companies for driving without an ELD.
“On Monday, we’ll be conducting roadside inspections like we normally do all across the country. There’s no special enforcement initiative that day regarding ELDs,” Collin Mooney, executive director of CVSA told HDT.
“If we encounter a driver that does not yet have an ELD installed and they are not exempt then we will document that violation of no ELD on our roadside inspection report, provided that the driver still has hours of service documented somewhere in a log book, and the driver will then go down the road,” he added.
Drivers may be given a citation for not having an ELD in the vehicle, but that will be up to the jurisdiction and the individual inspector. Mooney said he suspects that citations will be handed out less frequently at first, but because it is up to the jurisdiction to decide how it will enforce the rule beginning on Dec. 18, there is really no way to definitely say if enforcement will be more lenient or not with regards to citations.
“Technically, because the law is on the books and it’s no different than any other rule that we enforce every day, it’s really up to the discretion of the officer for what they’re going to do,” he said.
No CSA points will be issued for violations through March 31 and no out-of-service conditions will be applied until April 1, but Mooney cautioned against thinking of this initial stretch as any sort of grace period. The ELD rule will be real and enforced on Dec. 18 and the temporary delay of the most extreme consequences is merely a tacit admission that this is a significant change.
“Some refer to it as soft enforcement or stepped up enforcement - my choice is to call it an implementation process because it is a significant change to the industry,” said Mooney. “As regulators, I think it’s a responsible approach, as opposed to having a hard enforcement -- meaning out-of-service violations, CSA points, and citations all on Monday [Dec. 18]. I think that’s not fair to anybody when you’re dealing with something so significant.”
And there's yet another enforcement wrinkle. John Seidl, transportation consultant with Integrated Risk Solutions and a former Wisconsin state trooper and FMCSA investigator, explained to HDT that any ELD violations will be noted in publicly available records and this could have consequences for drivers and fleets.
Insurance companies would likely look into these records to see if a driver or carrier is consistently in violation of the ELD rule, which could affect how their insurability regardless of any hit to their CSA scores, said Steidl. And for drivers, if they work for an employer who has not equipped them with an ELD during this period, these violations will be noted in places such as the FMCSA’s pre-employment screening (PSP) program. This could have an effect on a driver’s ability to be hired in the future by other fleets.
"A carrier may use the PSP to determine whether to hire or not hire a guy, so what if that guy has multiple violations for no ELDs or ELD-related issues?," said Steidl. "If a driver gets pulled over and gets violated for an ELD-related issue, even if he’s not placed out of service and does not affect the CSA points of his company, it will show up as an item on his PSP."
"There's people out there that think that this April is an extension, but it aint no damn extension," he added.
Law enforcement has been preparing for months leading up to the ELD deadline and FMCSA officials told HDT in November that its enforcement partners within CVSA are fully prepared for the mandate's implementation date.
In addition, FMCSA has held several educational sessions to teach law-enforcement trainers on how enforcement will work and they took that information back to their own jurisdictions to train officers.
For fleets that are already compliant, there will still be adjustments to the new rule but for them the deadline is less daunting. David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association, told HDT that the TCA's carrier members are close to 100% compliant.
He said that members were prepared because they paid attention to the news that their local associations and groups like TCA and the American Trucking Associations have shared with them since the rule was finalized.
“Quite honestly, I think as an industry we’re all looking forward to Monday [Dec. 18] and putting this behind us,” said Heller. “This is one of those issues that have been around for a while and we in the industry are looking to move the needle on this issue. Getting this behind us is one of those regulatory steps that will enable us to focus on things like ‘what is next?’”
CORRECTION: Story intially said phased-in enforcement period would be six months. It is in fact 3½ months long, ending on April 1.