Although you may not have read about it in your local newspaper, we should soon find out whether the federal government will approve a new rule that will make our highways safer for everyone.
On or around Sept. 30, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is expected to adopt a new rule proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to mandate the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) in tractor-trailers, semis and other big rigs. Most trucking companies will have two years from the date when the new rule is enacted to bring their trucks into compliance, so we can expect to see widespread use of ELDs beginning in the fall of 2017.
ELDs will replace Electronic Onboard Recorders (EOBR) as the method by which truck drivers and trucking companies must record the amount of time that drivers spend behind the wheel, in addition to other information. The new ELD model essentially will replace EOBRs and eliminate the paper-and-pen method of recording a driver’s hours of service.
In addition to requiring ELDs to record engine hours, road speed, miles driven and the time and date, the proposed rule also would mandate that such devices keep tabs on whether a driver is on duty or off duty; the location of the tractor-trailer when a driver’s duty status changes; total miles driven on a given day; and other important information that previously was never recorded or had to be input manually.
In addition to the ELD requirement, the FMCSA also has proposed a new rule for Prohibition of Driver Coercion for the White House’s approval. In short the coercion rule prohibits trucking companies and others from pressuring drivers to exceed the amount of time they spend behind the wheel than allowed by law; to violate drug or alcohol testing protocols; or to ignore hazmat regulations.
The new ELD requirement will make it more difficult for trucking companies to coerce drivers to violate their hours of service requirements since that information will be available in real time. Said differently, trucking companies no longer will be able to claim that they didn’t know a driver was getting close to exceeding their hours of service when the number of hours they’ve worked is readily available through their ELD system.
While two years is certainly too long to wait in my view, the new ELD and coercion rules will go a long way toward improving safety on our roadways. And while the proposed $11,000-per-offense penalty for those who violate the coercion rule seems a little low, it at least represents a start.