Updated - New legislation brought to the U.S. House of Representatives by congressmen from Montana and Minnesota proposes an exemption from the electronic logging device mandate for small carriers and agricultural haulers.
The two bipartisan bills, proposed by Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), are aimed at alleviating the burden of ELDs from certain sectors of trucking that they say threatens business in these sectors by adding an unnecessary layer of red tape. The Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2018 will exempt carriers with 10 or fewer trucks from the ELD mandate and the Agricultural Business Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2018 would completely exempt agricultural businesses.
“This legislation will eliminate costly and time-consuming regulations for small trucking companies and individual owner-operators, which constitute much of the rural trucking industry,” said Peterson. “In addition, it will help reduce unnecessary stops and delays which threaten the quality of agricultural products on their way to market.”
The proposed legislation received support from groups that represent many small trucking companies. Both the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Small Business Transportation Coalition have endorsed the Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2018.
“The ELD mandate currently in place continues to frustrate drivers and small businesses,” said Collin Long, OOIDA director of government affairs in a statement. “Our economy cannot afford to lose more of either. Technology that is truly beneficial doesn’t have to be mandated – it is eagerly embraced!”
It is just the latest attempt to modify the ELD mandate since it was made into a rule and implemented late last year. The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association has stated that it is fundamentally opposed to the ELD mandate and has been one of the most active voices against electronic logs, attacking the rule from every conceivable angle. In November last year, the group filed a petition with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to grant a 5-year exemption from the rule for small carriers that have a good safety rating.
SBTC stated that it endorsed the legislation as well, adding in that the group’s own ELD exemption application has ignored by the FMCSA for six months. The group recently submitted written testimony to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, laying out what it says are the fundamental problems with the ELD mandate and current hours of service rules.
In the past, trucking safety groups have come out against these exemptions saying that they would, in effect, gut the rule by allowing fleets to circumvent it.
The Trucking Alliance has once again come out against the latest proposed legislation, telling HDT that the bill is unlikely to become law and sends a false message about the purpose of ELDs.
“ELDs do nothing more than record the hours a truck driver is behind the wheel. Now if a segment of the supply chain doesn’t care how many hours a truck driver is out on the highway, that’s a problem of a different kind, and that’s why ELDs are such an important tool in preventing drivers from being coerced into exceeding their hours and risking an accident,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance.
American Trucking Associations has also opposed the proposed legislation saying that the bill is a "solution in search of a problem."
“This legislation threatens to impede highway safety and runs in direct conflict with adherence to the hours of service rules that govern the operation of commercial motor vehicles," said Bill Sullivan, ATA executive vice president for advocacy. "Rolling these rules back will punish motor carriers and drivers who have followed the rules and will diminish compliance. ATA and our members are currently evaluating safe, narrow adjustments to hours of service rules to ensure flexibility for drivers, but legislation this broad will unfairly punish those who follow the rules and degrade safety.”
"Opponents of electronic logging predicted disasters with compliance – weigh stations packed with trucks out of service, drivers quitting in droves and freight languishing on loading docks with no carriers or drivers to haul it. In fact, the rules for hours of service didn’t change whatsoever, and compliance has been smooth," he added.
Updated 5/30 to include comments from American Trucking Associations.