The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in December 2015 issued a mandate requiring trucks to use electronic logging devices (ELDs). The mandate when announced received mixed reactions from those in the trucking industry. Now the deadline, which has a December 2017 compliance date, is right around the corner. Here we take a look at the ELD mandate and its impact.
In essence, The ELD mandate requires trucks to use a DOT-approved device hardwired to the vehicle’s engine in order to log a driver's Record of Duty Status (RoDS). This can ensure that drivers are complying with Hours of Service (HoS) requirements. The rule applies to nearly everyone in the trucking industry, with a few exceptions. The exceptions include drivers who use paper logs no more than 8 days during any 30-day period, driveaway-towaway drivers (transporting an empty vehicle for sale, lease, or repair) and drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000.
The fact is that many truckers have already abandoned traditional paper logs in favor of ELDs because of the safety advantages they offer. By tracking driver activities, fatigue and mistakes will be reduced. The National Highway Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving caused 72,000 accidents and 44,000 injuries in a recent year. An estimated 6,000 deaths are caused each year by drowsy drivers. Commercial drivers are among those who are most likely to fall asleep behind the wheel. If safety indeed improves and there are fewer accidents, there should be lower insurance rates. Electronic logging may also reduce or eliminate one avenue for tort claims in which plaintiffs allege that drivers were operating outside HoS limits, leading to fatigue.
Proponents of ELDs also say it’s a valuable management tool, helping trucking companies to improve productivity and better handle scheduling issues. ELDs can also reduce paperwork, aiding the environment and saving time.
However, opponents of the ELD mandate say the requirement will result in increased compliance costs for those companies that have not already implemented ELDs. According to one estimate, using an ELD will cost an average of about $500 per truck, per year.
Also, the mandate may result in a decrease in driving hours and therefore hurt productivity. It could also lead to discomfort for drivers. In fact, when the mandate was first announced, hundreds of owner-operators stated that electronic logs would have the effect of pushing drivers harder during their duty time. “I will have no choice but to drive in traffic, adverse weather conditions, and/or while fatigued because I can’t take a nap … because the clock is tick, tick, ticking away,” said one driver in an article in Trucking Info.
These concerns may be valid, especially given that there is already a shortage of qualified commercial drivers in many areas. If the existing drivers are held to extremely strict regulations, the industry as a whole could suffer. Eventually, the FMCSA may have to revisit the mandate and adjust it to strike a balance between safety and productivity.
In the meantime, it’s important for insurance agents and brokers to speak with their trucking customers to ensure they are in compliance prior to the December 2017 deadline.
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