ELD-Day: On the ground with enforcement in Kentucky as truckers, officers adjust to new logs reality

| December 18, 2017

Sergeant Jason Morris of the Kentucky State Police beginning an inspection of local-route Tennessee Contract Carriers driver Robert Huff of Chestnut Mountain, Tenn., who runs under the short-haul exception to the hours of service, likewise the ELD mandate.

Northbound on I-65 coming out of the Nashville, Tenn., Cherokee Marine Terminal, trucker David Bell had a feeling he was going to get pulled in by the Kentucky State Police at their scale just across the state line in Simpson County near Franklin, Ky. Why? Because “I came by here today without an ELD,” Bell noted, though he hasn’t been even keeping a logbook very often over the last year, hauling the second truck in a two-truck owner-operator operation leased to Aetna Freight Lines of Ohio.

Bell’s typical three trips between the river terminal, hauling steel on a flatbed with a Conestoga-type set-up, and Bowling Green, Ky., keep him within the 100 air mile short haul exception to the hours of service. The only time he’s required to keep a logbook is on the occasion he runs out of Nashville to Memphis, which might happen twice a month, three times at most.

It wasn’t his lack of an ELD that he had to worry about today — problems with the trailer brakes, however, sidelined the trucker for longer than he’d hoped when he got the pull-in indicator at the weigh station.

Bell spent 12 years hauling for Maverick Transportation on much longer runs. He used electronic logs for much of that time and has only a single beef with the devices — that they don’t always let you get home when you otherwise might. At once, he says, he often dropped his trailer and utilized personal conveyance to get home in such situations when he was out of hours.

Bell and the 2005 G&T Trucking Freightliner Columbia he drives marked the third inspection of the morning for Sergeant Jason Morris of the Kentucky State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement unit, on a day he hoped to get in as many as 13 inspections to count toward the total 32 annually he needs to keep up his CVSA credentials. Morris works in the public affairs unit of the state police and spends much of the year doing outreach to trucking companies, members of the general public and others about safety and enforcement.

Too often, he says, time gets away from him for his inspections and he spends several days in Simpson County finishing out the total.

Among those first three power units, none was utilizing an ELD. The first was a combination tractor-trailer run by an owner-operator who’d waited until just two weeks ago to finally put in an order for an ELD to comply with the mandate. Two weeks later, the unit had apparently shipped, but the trucker had not been home to retrieve it. The trucker said he “was told by the ELD maker that he could use a piece of paper that showed he’s ordered the ELD and that would make it OK,” Sergeant Morris says, but that’s not the case. “This isn’t something we concocted last night,” referencing the long advance period of years since the ELD mandate was issued as a final rule, likewise the more than six months since the last step in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s legal challenge to the rule concluded.

Trucker David Bell and Ky. Sergeant Jason Morris conferring on Bell’s inspection report.

That driver wasn’t the only one who was in similar straits at the scale house this morning. Toronto-area headquartered Renson Transport company driver Issac Allen was not yet utilizing an e-log system the fleet had begun to equip its trucks with, noting that he’d not yet been supplied a login or told how the device was used. The company “should have done it a month ago,” he said, though he wasn’t much worried about it, given officers in many states around the nation are in the same position as he is and are still getting used to a new system.

That first violation, for instance, that Sergeant Morris was documenting for not having an ELD system: encoding the violation wasn’t even an option for him in the state’s central computer system, as it hadn’t yet been updated to reflect the new ELD violations. He got on the phone to headquarters in state capitol Frankfort to see when that might be an option. For the time being, he said, it wasn’t going to happen, though he suggested it could be in place by the end of the day.

Kentucky is one of many states who have chosen not to issue citations (which come with a court summons/associated fine) for ELD mandate noncompliance, too, in the interim period between now and April 1, 2018, when the CVSA out-of-service criteria for ELDs will be enforced. Among others now operating under such a soft-enforcement policy who’ve responded to Overdrive queries on the matter are Florida, IllinoisIowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Captain Chris Turner of the Kansas Highway Patrol notes that FMCSA “only put out the violation code” for ELD-related violations in the central enforcement system a week ago. “We won’t even really be writing the warning,” or documenting the violation in inspection reports, “until a few weeks from now. There’s going to be a learning curve, and I think most states are trying to err on the side of caution.”

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In Minnesota, an approach is being taken that is in one way contrary to that of Kansas and other states adopting no-cite policies before April 1. Captain Jon Olsen there notes the decision to issue a citation is being “left to the individual officer.” At once, he adds, “we all realize this is a monumental change for the CMV industry, and people have waited until the last minute in hopes that something would have changed. Given that, I don’t anticipate you will see inspectors from Minnesota scratching out criminal citations [Monday] to drivers for failing to comply with the ELD mandate. Conversely, if a driver is stopped in February or March and has no ELD as required, has some falsification issues, and etc., I can certainly see and support one of our inspectors giving a criminal citation to the driver for failing to comply with the ELD requirement.”

Many other states (for an updated list, scroll to the bottom of the post at this link) echoed Olsen’s sentiment in noting they would leave the decision to cite to officers from ELD Day 1. Those among such states who’d responded to Overdrive queries to date include California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

In at least one of those that aren’t writing citations, for now a little tough love is on offer as “encouragement.” At the scale house counter in Kentucky this morning, an inspector could be heard asking a driver if he was utilizing an ELD — he wasn’t. The reality — he hadn’t bothered to plug it in yet, given expectation of soft enforcement and no actual training from his fleet to speak of as yet. As he exited to get his truck and pull it into the scale’s inspection barn, the officer noted he had better plug the ELD in before he pulled the truck around.

Shaking his head later out by his truck and powering up a tablet he’d been given to pair with the ECM plug-in device, the driver, who declined to be named for this report, said simply, “I’d better roll down there. I think he’s mad at me.”

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Truckers report business as usual as enforcement begins

Respondents to an Overdrive query posted to Facebook this morning reported mostly smooth sailing as the ELD mandate’s enforcement date took effect. Some noted their continued obstinance to the mandate, such as Duff Nelson, who simply stated, “I’m not going to do e-log. I’m staying on paper.” Others railed about their issues with the mandate, which have been well documented on Overdrive in recent months and years. Many expressed a sentiment along the lines of “Screw your ELD!”

Some reported an uptick in enforcement personnel, while other commenters noted a perceived dip in truck traffic.

Commenter Amanda James Marshburn said she saw at the I-35 Kansas-Oklahoma border that enforcers were “checking every truck for ELD.” Woodrow Caudle reported a rash of police on U.S. 287 in Texas’ Dallas County, but didn’t say they were checking for ELD compliance, necessarily. “Came down U.S. 287 from Amarillo to Wilmer, Texas, and Dallas County Sheriffs were sitting in the northbound scales on I-45,” he said.

Jason Pies reported “truck traffic is definitely down across SD so far today. Not the usual volume of truck traffic.” Mat VanderHeiden responded, saying he’d notice the same in Iowa. Commenter Jason Severson said he “noticed that also,” but didn’t report his location.

Others, meanwhile, chided their trucking peers, relaying a common refrain. “Don’t see what all the fuss is about — the driving regulations have not changed,” said Jim McWilliam.

“All you people that don’t like ELDs is because you can’t cheat on two or three log books now,” said Michael Shelton.

“Adapt and overcome. The way of the outlaws is gone,” said commenter Thomas Plummer II.

Many commenters, however, reported business as usual. “Normal day in Florida,” said Michael Royster, which was followed by “Normal day in Nebraska,” and “Nothing yet in Cali,” from other readers.

Gwen Lutes, with a little humor, said, “Nothing different than the norm happening today. Still running 11/14 as usual. Just logging by push of a button rather than getting the crayon out.”

–James Jaillet

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