ELD mandate: Readers respond

| March 17, 2014

Though an electronic-logging-device mandate has been unveiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, leading into the release readers continued to air ideas on the best way to handle logs. 

S.E. (Susan) and Warren McCurdy

S.E. (Susan) and Warren McCurdy

S.E. McCurdy, one-half of a Landstar Ranger-leased owner-operator team, proposed an alternative system that she had experience with. It uses electronic time-stamped records placed at driver stopovers, delivery points and other locations along interstate routes.

“This is not welfare, nor socialism, nor Big Brother interfering,” she wrote in this piece on OverdriveOnline.com. “It is the system that was in use by one of the largest privately held corporations in Wisconsin, Gateway Foods. We know this because we worked for them before we became owner-operators.”

Among Overdrive readers, emotions run high on the very mention of a requirement for interstate haulers to utilize electronic logging devices for hours of service compliance. More than half of the respondents to this poll, conducted in the weeks prior to the ELD mandate's release,  showed a strong preference for another line or work or retirement over use of the devices. Running intrastate, assuming states didn't adopt the federal rule (unlikely in most), to avoid using the devices was the second-most commonly chosen poll result.

Among Overdrive readers, emotions run high on the very mention of a requirement for interstate haulers to utilize electronic logging devices for hours of service compliance. More than half of the respondents to this poll, conducted in the weeks prior to the ELD mandate’s release, showed a strong preference for another line or work or retirement over use of the devices. Running intrastate, assuming states didn’t adopt the federal rule (unlikely in most), to avoid using the devices was the second-most commonly chosen poll result.

The idea struck a chord with readers. They particularly liked McCurdy’s justification for an alternative to the truck-tied electronic logging devices currently on the market, which with some variations are the kinds of devices that would be mandated by the new rule. EOBRs/ELDs are “forcing drivers to bear the financial burden of and accountability to the unreasonable and constantly changing and contradictory standards placed upon them by nondriving rulemakers,” McCurdy wrote. “EOBRs are being put in the wrong places. The devices should be placed at all the shippers and receivers in the country rather than in the trucks.”

When deployed this way, “each time a driver shows up to load or unload, they bring in a time card, and the customer time-stamps it,” McCurdy wrote. It’s stamped again at departure. Customers “should be billed at $50 an hour for the driver’s time spent at their business. Roadside inspection sites, toll booths, construction zones and inefficient fueling stations should also have to time-stamp a driver’s time card and be billed for delays in their areas. Dispatchers, too, have an accountability role in driver efficiency and fatigue. When a driver calls in for a load, the dispatcher should record the time between the call and the dispatch and pay the driver accordingly for sitting.”

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While such an idea may sound unreasonable to those in other parts of the industry, there is at least some appetite for increasing safety-regulatory authority. At the February meeting of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, made up of diverse representatives advising the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on safety policy, boosting such authority and enforcing an as-yet-unspecified restriction on driver detention were top priorities. The ideas were among items the committee recommended FMCSA take to Congress to approve in the next highway bill.

MORE READER RESPONSE, following the mandate’s announcement 
Del Ray Johnson: “Few drivers think or talk about the money [which is the real issue]. If they say ELD we babble about it, if they say Mexican truckers we babble about that. If they say brake inspections on self-adjusting slack adjusters we babble about that, too, instead of “Hey man — you aren’t paying me so I do not care and I am going to park your truck! Like I said, ELDs in trucks: Great we can do it July 1st because I ain’t using paper logs to run 90 hours a week anyway.”

Scott T. Nixon: “The independent owner-operator derives no benefit from any of [a typical e-log with fleet-management capabilities] since he/she is already in the cab of the truck and can already monitor his/her truck from behind the steering wheel. He/she has no fleet to monitor and no need to communicate with dispatch. The result is a competitive advantage for the larger fleets over the single owner-operator resulting from this ELD mandate, something the federal government should not be doing as the Justice Department should be enhancing competition, not inhibiting it.” 

Chris Thomas: “I’m going to go turn wrenches myself once the logs come into play, work my ass off, still make bank, still play with trucks.” 

Terry Gunderson: “Laws should be for everyone… If you pass a law regulating a motor vehicle, then all motor vehicles are to be subjected to the same law. Cars not able to be used after 14 hours since first daily startup without a consecutive 10-hour break and sitting at work doesn’t count. Try getting that one into law.

The detention issue was front and center throughout the meeting’s first discussion day. MCSAC member Danny Schnautz of Texas-based Clark Freight Lines hammered away on the need for shippers and receivers to come under federal safety-regulatory purview, putting forward ideas to impose a requirement that drivers and carriers alike be paid for time detained. 

Said MCSAC chair Stephen Owings, “That whole concept should be expanded to require that the whole chain of responsibility is on the hook financially and in every other way for doing anything to encourage dangerous behavior.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s initial statement on the issue also hammered on issues it considers of vastly more safety benefit than a mandate for ELDs, which it has long opposed:

Congress and the courts have set the standard of requirements high for FMCSA [in MAP-21 and elsewhere]. The agency must address the serious safety issue of how EOBRs are used to harass and coerce truck drivers into continuing to drive regardless of driving conditions, such as bad weather, congested traffic or simply if the driver is too tired to drive. Plus, there is no known device that is capable of automatically recording a driver’s duty status throughout a work day, not just when they are driving, and this is also a requirement from Congress. We will examine the proposal in detail to see how the agency has attempted to meet these requirements, especially considering that an important study on the harassment issue is still listed as “ongoing” on the FMCSA website.

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Further, the issue of cost to truckers and what specific technical requirements are called for, especially when FMCSA has yet to show any direct safety benefit between ELD/EOBR use and reduced crashes, will be a critical focus of our review of the proposal. This is the first stage in the regulatory process for the agency’s latest attempt to craft a rule on this topic, and OOIDA and small business truckers will certainly be weighing in and providing comments.”

In the weeks before the ELD mandate rule’s release, Overdrive asked readers what their response to such a rule would be. Results of the poll, along with further reader response via Facebook and here at OverdriveOnline.com, follow. 

Rob Singhisen: Retire. I’m fed up with government regulations anyway. Trucking is not a crime – I’m tired of all the harassment.

Lawrence Lamson: I don’t know what people complain about [so much with] e-logs. I was skeptical, but once I went with a company that runs it and learned the tricks to it, there’s not one load that came across that screen I had to reject because of lack of hours. You get accounted by the minute, not by 15-minute increments. I still get 3,000-3,300 miles weekly out of a 65-mph truck.

Rene Barboza: I don’t run them as a local driver, and if they ever mandate them for local drivers, I’ll quit! It’s already the reason why I refuse to run OTR. Carriers are taking the money right out of drivers’ hands with this garbage! E-logs equal more time sitting. More time sitting means less time running, which equals a lot less revenue for the truck and the driver.

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Chris Dodds: Never in my truck. I drive it, I own it, I paid for it.

Todd Ramey: I’m on e-logs (small company driver) and don’t have a problem with them, and I still get 3,000 miles a week. What I do have a problem with is mandating them for all trucks. Let the companies put them in if they want. But there are, for the most part, good law-abiding owner-operators out here. Don’t punish them by forcing them to put them in. Punish the bad apples who continually have multiple log violations.

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Ron Spencer: My wife and I run team [from] Seattle to the Carolinas, but the truck sits every night for at least eight hours. I’m not worried about e-logs one bit until it can report who was actually behind the wheel at any certain time. Another toy for my entertainment.

Shawn McConniel: I’ll put them in when they pay for it. 

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