The end of paper logbooks may be just what the industry needs to make its case about unrealistic hours of service regulations. Photo: Jim Park.

The end of paper logbooks may be just what the industry needs to make its case about unrealistic hours of service regulations. Photo: Jim Park.

In my March editorial, I wrote about how the electronic logging device mandate could actually be the path to revising some of the problematic aspects of federal truck driver hours of service regulations.

David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association, contends that by digging in their heels and resisting the ELD mandate, fleets are only hurting their cause for revising the HOS regs to something that better reflects the day-to-day realities of trucking.

“They need to start embracing technology,” he told me. “If we want to fix hours of service — which believe me, we’re trying to do — arguing against ELDs is not the way to do it.

“As an industry, I can’t emphasize this enough, we can’t advocate non-compliance. Nobody can advocate for a change in the rules by saying we’re not going to follow the rules. The best way is to embrace the benefits of the technology and argue the [HOS] changes at a later time. We can emphasize problems with truck parking, with detention time, and ELDs will go a long way toward doing that, because we will have sound data and sound science behind us.”

After a reader wrote to ask me what he could do to help, I asked Heller for some more details.

He pointed out that the problems with the 34-hour restart, which the industry fought and managed to get rescinded because a study could not prove they improved safety, were just the tip of the iceberg.

“The issues that coincide with the current rule are long and problematic to say the least,” Heller said. “The 30-minute break has proven that this provision is not for everyone, with the list of exemptions that seem to grow more and more the longer you look at it. The reader is correct, the inability to stop the 14-hour clock when you are tired is not good for anyone. So yes, the problems continue with our hours of service rules, and they will not be fixed overnight, as everyone know that when it comes to government there is no quick fix. These changes take years.”

But there is some movement in that direction, he said.

Virginia Tech has plans in the works to begin studying the effects of a split sleeper berth scenario. It will collect roughly a year's worth of data. “It is worth noting that the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration] has plans to study this issue in an effort to truly discover the issue and the ramifications of it.”

And again, he said, ELDs may help provide the data the industry needs to make its case. The government loves to use data in formulating its regulations, and with the mandate for all federally regulated trucking operations to use ELDs come December, “We are eight months from a virtual data explosion the likes in which this industry has not truly seen,” Heller said.

“Arguments against detention time, truck parking problems and even Line 5 ‘personal conveyance’ will no longer be anecdotal – there will be sound data which can support, or refute, arguments for or against aforementioned issues, which will all be done by devices designed with specifications put forth by the FMCSA.”

“So in essence, the good news is that the agency will begin looking at all of these issues, if only because our industry is quite persistent in our arguments. The bad news is that none of this happens in a timely manner, which is unfortunate. These changes do take time, and they take data.”

And ELDs will help provide that data.

Author

Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

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Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

View Bio
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