December 2017 Federal ELD Rule and Fatal Truck Crashes

December 2017 Federal ELD Rule and Fatal Truck Crashes

On December 18, 2017, the federal electronic logging device (ELD) rule will start impacting the trucking industry here in Indiana and Illinois as well as the rest of the country.

The “ELD Rule” is a major development for commercial trucking.  It’s a very big deal.  In fact, it’s been hailed as the biggest event for truckers since commercial driver’s licenses became a legal requirement.  See, e.g., “US Trucking 2018 – A Pivotal Year,” written by Senior Editor William B. Cassidy and published by on December 31, 2017. 

What is the ELD Rule?

The ELD Rule is part of Congressional legislation passed several years ago as the “2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (“MAP-21”).   It is a federal law designed to make the roads safer for commercial bus and truck drivers, as well as the traffic that shares the roads with these big commercial vehicles.

The ELD Rule contributes to this goal by regulating how hours of service (HOS) are recorded by truck drivers to assist in their compliance with the new federal HOS rules.

We’ve discussed the HOS Rules before.  For details, read:

What is this Device?

The federal regulation requires a gizmo (called an electronic logging device, or ELD) to be attached to the engine of the commercial truck.  This gizmo then records the driving time of that truck (big rig, semi, tractor-trailer, etc.).

The ELD records the data (called “records of duty status” or RODS) automatically.  ELDs replace pen and paper systems where the trucker personally keeps track of the hours he or she has driven.

The gizmo has to be certified as compliant with regulatory specifications.  It has to be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

There are standard displays for the RODS and uniform procedures for transferring the data from the big rig or semi-truck to the appropriate safety authorities.

The ELD Rule doesn’t change the current HOS regulations.  It is designed to help make sure that the trucking industry and commercial truck drivers comply with those Hour of Service rules. 

Citations and Fines Start on December 18, 2017

Earlier this month, the non-profit Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) issued a news release confirming that as of December 18, 2017, inspectors will be issuing citations for failure to comply with the ELD Rule.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration confirmed December 18, 2017, as the first day of official enforcement of the ELD Rule. FMCSA explained that as of December 2017, truckers and trucking companies can be cited for not having the gizmo installed on their trucks.  The truck driver can be fined for failure to have the ELD installed on his rig.

Citations for failure to follow and comply with the new HOS Rules themselves will begin in April 2018.

From the CVSA release:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) congressionally mandated ELD compliance deadline is still set for Dec. 18, 2017.

On that date, inspectors and roadside enforcement personnel will begin documenting violations on roadside inspection reports and, at the jurisdiction’s discretion, will issue citations to commercial motor vehicle drivers operating vehicles without a compliant ELD.

Beginning April 1, 2018, inspectors will start placing commercial motor vehicle drivers out of service if their vehicle is not equipped with the required device.

Please note, a motor carrier may continue to use a grandfathered automatic onboard recording device (AOBRD) no later than Dec. 16, 2019. The AOBRD must meet the requirements of 49 C.F.R. 395.15.

Exceptions to the ELD Rule

Not all truck drivers must comply with this new federal law.  There are some truckers who do not have to purchase one of these gizmos and have them installed on their trucks.

The following are exceptions to the new automatic logging technology regulation:

  1. Drivers Not On the Road That Much. Commercial drivers who use paper logs no more than 8 days during any 30-day period.
  2. Tow or Transport / RVs. Commercial drivers who are transporting a vehicle for sale, lease, or repair as a drive-away or tow if (1) they are transporting or towing a vehicle which is part of a shipment ; or (2) they are transporting or towing a motor home or recreational vehicle (RV).
  3. Older Truck Models. Commercial truck drivers who are driving a commercial vehicle that was manufactured before model year 2000.
  4. Short-haul drivers. These are truck drivers who (1) operate within a 100 air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location; (2) return to the work reporting location and are released from work within 12 consecutive hours; (3) drive no more than 11 hours; (4) have 10 consecutive hours off between shifts; and (5) maintain and retain accurate and true time records.

Indiana Attorney General Requested Delay of ELD Rule Enforcement

On November 29, 2017, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, Jr. wrote FMCSA and asked that the ELD Rule compliance date of December 18, 2017, be moved back.  You can read his entire letter here.

Explaining that (1) one in 14 jobs in the State of Indiana involves the trucking industry and that (2) around 200,000 of the country’s 3.5 million truckers live in Indiana, Attorney General Hill asked for a delay in the implementation of the new rule for a number of reasons, including the reporting web site for data transfers not being up and running and confusion over which devices will be compliant with the federal guidelines, because not all ELDs on the market meet the federal requirements.

From AG Hill:

However, at present, too many questions surround the mandates with which drivers and operators will be expected to comply. As the deadline for compliance quickly nears, even a cursory perusal of industry trade publications provides clear evidence that many drivers and operators are completely unprepared for the proposed changes. 

I urge your agency to put on hold the new requirements until you are able to develop guidelines that offer greater clarity to the individuals you expect to follow them.  


More Challenges despite the Goal of Saving Lives in Fatal Truck Crashes

The Attorney General’s complaint about having the new ELD Rule enforcement starting a couple of weeks ago is far from the only voice challenging this new regulation.   Many concerns are being raised, and there’s been litigation (of course).

In our next post, we’ll discuss some of these concerns and who is making them.  Key here:  these gizmos work to make truck drivers (and the trucking companies) conform to rules that demand the driver take breaks from driving. 

These breaks are necessary to make sure that truck drivers get some rest and time away from the steering wheel.   Truckers who are weary, sluggish, drowsy, or sleepy are dangerous.  Fatal truck crashes can result from a drowsy truck driver where he or she is killed as well as third party victims of the accident.

The roads of Indiana and Illinois have more commercial truck traffic than most any other state in the country.  Making sure those truckers are driving safely is vital for all of us.  Let’s be careful out there.

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