Aug. 06–A Texas representative is trying to stall an Obama-era law that would force truck drivers to track their road hours electronically instead of the historic paper and pencil logs.
Some warn that delaying the rule will keep the potentially life-saving tech out of trucks, while advocates for delaying it say small companies aren’t ready to tackle the up-front costs.
Under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or the MAP-21 highway law, the commercial trucking industry has until December to rig its vehicles with electronic logging devices or ELDs.
In July, Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, introduced a bill to extend the implementation by two years.
“While technology like ELDs have great promise, I didn’t come to Washington to force those ideas on small businesses — and neither did President Trump,” Babin said in a statement. “If trucking companies want to continue implementing and using ELDs, they should go right ahead. 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.”
The rule could have the greatest implications for independent truck drivers and small companies, said Alex Stark, marketing director for Scranton-based logistics company Kane is Able.
“It gets to the point where a small mom-and-pop might not be able to run trucks anymore,” he said.
Home to the intersection of several major highways that reach the country’s largest population centers, Northeast Pennsylvania has a robust and growing trucking industry.
Kane installed ELDs years before the MAP-21 Act required them. Company officials rolled the hour-logging equipment into their trucks along with other technology to track shipments. However, small companies, with one to 10 drivers, proliferate the industry, Stark said.
“If they’re forced to trying to make that financial commitment … on top of everything that goes along with hiring and keeping drivers. Our belief is that people will say, ‘It’s just not worth it,'” Stark said.
Regulations essentially cap drivers hauling cargo from driving more than 11 consecutive hours after 10 hours off-duty. ELD advocates say companies can cheat on paper reports, but the devices hold drivers and their bosses accountable.
Many larger companies tapped ELDs long ago, seeing that the industry was moving toward automated hour-logging without government intervention. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates it costs between $165 to $832 annually per truck.
If implementation has the effects that Stark suggested, pushing smaller carriers out of business, less capacity in the industry could drive up the cost of consumer goods, he said.
On the other hand, the FMCSA estimates that the mandate could prevent 1,844 crashes and 26 deaths annually. Financial net savings, considering reducing crashes and paperwork, minus the cost of new equipment and training, could total $1.17 billion industry-wide, the FMCSA says.
Other companies have taken a stronger position pushing to preserve the December implementation deadline.
“It’s true that truckers deal with difficult driving regulations, but that is a separate issue altogether,” said Anthony Brooks, co-owner of the North Carolina-based Brooks-DeHart Furniture Xpress trucking company. “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.”
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