Owner-operators and other trucking industry stakeholders have commented in droves on the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s request for an exemption from the electronic logging device mandate for small trucking businesses.
The exemption, if granted, would apply to small businesses (those with up to $27.5 million a year in revenue) who have no at-fault crashes on their record and who have a “Satisfactory” or “Conditional” safety rating.
The comment period closes Thursday, Feb. 1, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. Those who wish to comment before then can do so here. As of Monday afternoon, nearly 1,500 comments had been made on the exemption request – most of which were in favor of the exemption.
Following are some comments filed to the Federal Register:
Jake Schwarzentruber echoed frustrations that have been legion in the aftermath of the ELD transition. “This ELD mandate is hurting small businesses out here,” he wrote. “We are trying to run under ELDs and having problems on a daily basis.” He cited difficulties keeping his system connected in the cab, faulty location readings within the device often “40 to 50 miles from where we’re at. We are spending countless hours trying to correct issues.” Meanwhile, “trucks are shut down because of the ELD not working right. The law must be changed. This is a burdensome regulation costing the industry a lot of downtime.”
Patrick Stone cited a contention that federally mandated ELDs were 4th and 5th amendment violations, representing an illegal search as well as contravention of the protection against self-incrimination. Further, he spoke to a perceived safety negative effect. “I’ve seen and have been passed by ELD drivers at times of terrible road conditions, and I have asked, ‘why don’t you slow down?’ The answer is always ‘no time, I must be at a certain place at a certain time.’ The last couple of snowstorms it seemed to be even worse than before. … There are many drivers who have control of their truck and do an excellent job and do not need an ELD to spy on them. If exemptions are not granted, lots of drivers will find other work. For everyone who stops driving you now have another replacing this driver with no experience, making more accidents possible.” Stone also noted he’s been active communicating his concerns to his Congressional representative, outside the federal exemption process.
Loren Starkey, an owner-operator with his own authority, said he shut his company down in the wake of the mandate because “me and every other driver with good records should not be punished because the mega carriers want to just throw bodies in a truck and call them drivers. … ELDs and emissions and all the other regulations are putting the little companies out of business and putting more Americans out of work.”
Scott Hampton said he feels like he’s being punished by having to use ELDs and not having a choice. With 35 years and 3.5 million safe driving miles under his belt, Hampton said he has done everything right in his trucking career. “I know you [FMCSA] can change it if you want to, please reconsider your choice, let us who are safe make the choice on our own and punish the companies who have shown to be unsafe,” he said.
Other truckers, including Casey Flanagan, cite costs as their major concern over the mandate. “Installation of each expensive device can cost $1,000 and monthly maintenance can cost $40.00 – $60.00,” he said. “This burden is too great for many small business owners. Providing a small business exemption will provide relief for these small businesses, allowing them to continue to operate. Their continued operation will prevent disruptions and cost increases for consumers.”
A relative few commenters opposed OOIDA’s exemption request. Many among them utilized the same language, likely stemming from a pro-ELD-mandate interest or fleet, which follows: “I would like to express my continuing support for compliance with the ELD mandate. Motor carriers of all sizes and safety records should be ELD compliant at this point in time.”
Werner Enterprises was identified as a source for language in identical pro-mandate comments on a previous docket for small-business regulatory revision ideas, as reported previously in Overdrive.
The large fleets weren’t the only ones opposed to OOIDA’s request, however.
Nick Hewitt, owner of Professional Transportation Services Inc., a fleet comprised of 10 company trucks and five owner-operators, said he switched his whole fleet, including owner-operators, to ELDs four years ago. He said it was the “one of the best decisions we ever made.” Since implementing ELDs, Hewitt said PTSI was able to better its safety scores and received a Platinum Safety Award from Great West Casualty. “Given our experience, it is my belief that ELDs should be mandated across the board with no exceptions,” he said. “Highway safety should be every carrier’s number one goal, and ELDs will in my estimation make our nation’s highways safer for everyone.”
Mike M., a company driver and owner-operator for 18 years, said he feels the main reason for opposition to ELDs is because drivers “cannot cheat” while using them. He goes on to say that hours rules have not changed, and drivers gave up their privacy when they became commercial drivers and signed a log book. “The ELD is just an electronic device which records what you should have been doing all along legally on paper,” he said. “The problem is that when they say we have no flexibility means that they’re not running legal and they can’t cheat.”