Oct. 17–A new federal rule requiring trucking companies to install electronic logging devices in each vehicle is scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 18 — unless Congress acts on a bill to delay the rule for two years.
That potential delay has a North Carolina trucking company that advocates for trucking safety concerned about sleepy drivers causing more accidents.
Some companies, such as Watsontown Trucking in Milton, already have installed the electronic devices that not only automatically log how many hours a driver has been on the road, but also keep track of fuel economy, provide driving directions and perform several other functions.
“We’ve been 100 percent compliant for five or six years now,” said Jared Brokenshire, Watsontown Trucking Co.’s director of operations.
Anthony Brooks, co-owner along with Andrew DeHart of Brooks-DeHart Furniture Xpress, a Hickory, N.C.-based trucking company, has been advocating for the electronic devices, and they want the public to pressure Congress into not delaying the rule’s implementation.
The ELDs would replace the paper logs on which many truck drivers still record their hours driving. Brooks and DeHart contend some drivers using paper logs have inaccurately reported how long they have been on the road if they have worked longer than the 14-hour limit. That allows sleep-deprived drivers to stay behind the wheel. The ELDs accurately monitor truck driver activity, so their companies know when their drivers have reached their limit.
Truck drivers can be paid by the mile, hour, load or other ways. If they are paid by the mile, they can earn more the more miles they drive in a shorter time.
However, Sean McNally, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, which supports the mandate to require the ELDs, said the new devices will actually save drivers time.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has stated the devices will save the industry more than $1 billion a year, mostly by reducing the amount of required paperwork, and save 26 lives and 562 injuries a year. The devices also will increase the efficiency of law enforcement personnel in reviewing driver records, the agency stated.
“We support the mandate,” McNally said. “We very much are looking forward to the requirement going into effect this December, as scheduled. This will help improve safety for all motorists, including commercial truck drivers.”
He did not know how many companies currently use ELDs, but, “We know they are becoming more common.”
He said there initially was some resistance.
Brokenshire found the same reaction. He said that at first, not all drivers at Watsontown Trucking were on board with the idea of the electronic devices.
“It’s like anything else,” he said. “They obviously resisted it, at first. Some were resistant in terms of operation. But there are a lot of pros that go with it.”
Brokenshire said the devices, installed in all 350 of Watsontown Trucking’s vehicles, also allow the company to track their drivers and know exactly where they are.
“We can look up any truck and know where it is,” he said. “If a customer calls (and asks), ‘Can the freight make it here today?’ we don’t even have to call the driver (to find out).”
He said there are different types of ELDs, some with more options than others. He would not say what the devices cost the company.
The company can communicate with its drivers with the ELDs, and the system includes a GPS, specific instructions for a delivery, load information and fuel economy data.
“We don’t have to bring the truck in and plug it in. I can look up any truck’s fuel economy,” Brokenshire said. “If they get a roadside inspection, we know they’re compliant. If it’s a paper log, we don’t know if it’s accurate.”
Trucking companies would still be allowed to use paper logs if the rule is delayed, however.
That is, if the bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, a Texas Republican, makes its way through Congress and is signed by President Donald Trump. Babin’s ELD Extension Act of 2017 currently is with the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, according to congress.gov.
Babin has indicated the rule would place a burden on smaller carriers.
“If trucking companies want to continue implementing and using ELDs, they should go right ahead,” he was quoted by online publication fleetowner.com. “But for those who don’t want the burden, expense and uncertainty of putting one of these devices into every truck they own by the end of the year, we can and should offer relief.”
“It’s true that truckers deal with difficult driving regulations, but that is a separate issue altogether,” Brooks said in an issued statement. “If truckers want to change the number of hours they are allowed to be on the road, then they should focus on that issue. ELog devices simply keep drivers accountable, making the roads a safer place to drive.”
“The bottom line: If Congress manages to delay these new regulations it will keep the roads more dangerous for everyone,” DeHart added. “When drivers are held accountable, they will get the rest they need and exhaustion-related accidents will decrease.”
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