Is there such a thing as granting too big an exemption to the electronic logging rule? That’s the gist of joint comments submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by a safety advocacy group composed of motor carriers and a highway-safety lobby.
The joint comments pertain to a request filed with the agency back in November by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association for a five-year exemption to the electronic-logging device rule for motor carriers “considered to be a small transportation trucking business.”
OOIDA’s request “would gut the long-settled electronic logging device rule by allowing nearly all trucking companies to delay compliance,” said the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security (aka the Trucking Alliance) and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (“Advocates”) in a Feb. 1 press release.
Their statement goes on to characterize OOIDA’s request as “a transparent attempt to bypass Congress and the courts by regurgitating discredited arguments which seek to advance special interests at the expense of road safety for all motorists.”
While the five-year exemption request was filed over two months ago, it is but one of several exemptions either issued by FMCSA or requested of the agency since the ELD mandate kicked in on Dec. 18. For example, just two days before word of these joint comments was released, the agency said it is considering a request by one motor carrier for a one-year exemption from electronic logging rules as having been made “on behalf of all motor carriers in similar situations…”
According to the OOIDA request, filed with FMCSA on Nov. 21, the self-certification of ELD vendors is discussed as a key issue for OOIDA: “FMCSA has stated that they do not know if the self-certified ELDs listed on their website fulfill regulatory requirements in the mandate. At present, none of the 193 devices listed have been validated by the agency or any unbiased, third-party testing program.”
It is OOIDA’s contention that a five-year exemption would provide “necessary time for ELD manufacturers to be fully vetted by the agency, which would alleviate small-business motor carriers from learning that they purchased a device that could damage their vehicle’s electronic control module or be hacked.”
Is the Rule a Matter of Settled Law?
Nonetheless, the Trucking Alliance and the Advocates essentially argue that the ELD rule is settled law: “In addition to being mandated by Congress as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) the rule was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2016. It also has the support of law enforcement, public health and safety groups, truck drivers, and trucking companies.”
The two groups also hold that ELDs are “a proven technological fix to the rampant problem of falsified paper log books, also known as ‘comic books’ in the trucking industry because of how easily they can be manipulated and falsified… [and] are a known remedy for the well-documented public safety hazard of driver fatigue.”
Advocates and the Trucking Alliance went on to state they have been “strong, early supporters” of the ELD rule and that “OOIDA’s exemption application, as well as the seven others submitted to the FMCSA, are largely based on debunked claims that have been previously rejected during the legislative and rulemaking processes.”
One Rule for Every Truck?
“When it comes down to whether this or that segment of the trucking industry should abide by rules that can reduce large truck crashes, the government should have one standard and that is ‘a truck is a truck is a truck,’” said Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance.
“We shouldn’t allow outliers to skirt public safety regulations,” he continued. “Trucking companies have a moral and ethical responsibility to keep the public’s trust, that they are operating as safely as possible, and ELDs are a huge step in achieving that objective.”
“Especially with truck crash deaths rising, this minimal, proven, effective technology should be in use in every truck immediately,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “OOIDA’s exemption request is just a smokescreen that attempts to re-litigate a closed case and undermine the effectiveness of the ELD rule.”