Trucker Electronic Logging Mandate Edges Closer [Updated]

Trucker Electronic Logging Mandate Edges Closer [Updated]

[Updated March 13, 1:15 p.m. EST]

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A proposed rule that would require the use of electronic logging devices in all heavy trucks and buses in the U.S. will shortly be released and ready for public comment.

The Federal Motor Carrier Association today said it sent its long-awaited, controversial proposed rulemaking to the Federal Register for publication, perhaps as early as March 14, after it was reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

"By implementing electronic logging devices, we will advance our mission to increase safety and prevent fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel," said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro.

"With broad support from safety advocates, carriers and members of Congress, we are committed to achieving this important step in the commercial bus and truck industries."

The publication of the proposed rule will kick off a 60-day comment period that would end June 9. Tthe FMCSA is bracing for a large number of comments on its latest ELD proposal.

The OMB is still reviewing other FMCSA proposals, including a rule that would prohibit “coercion” of truck drivers by carriers, shippers or intermediaries.

The FMCSA has been working on finding a way to electronically monitor driver logs and compliance with hours of service rules for 20 years. A U.S. appeals court shot down an earlier attempt, overturning a final rule in 2010 after a successful challenge from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The FMCSA began working on a new proposal, spurred on in 2012 by a congressional mandate in the two-year highway spending reauthorization act.

The latest proposed rulemaking will establish minimum performance and design standards for electronic logging devices — once called electronic onboard recorders. Use of ELDs instead of paper log books would be mandatory.

The proposed rule also must address concerns about driver harassment resulting from the ELD mandate. The potential misuse of ELD data by dispatchers to harass drivers, and the cost of the electronic devices, were issues raised by opponents of a mandate.

The FMCSA proposal will explicitly prohibit harassment of drivers using information from an ELD, the agency said. The rule will establish a complaint process and calls for a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for violations.

Supporters of the mandate, including the American Trucking Associations, say it will help enforce federal driving limits and make it harder to evade regulations. Opponents, including the OOIDA, raised concerns about privacy, driver harassment and cost. 

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com and follow him at @wbcassidy_joc.