SEATTLE, Wash. -- It could be 2015 or 2016 before the US mandates the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track hours-of-service, according to former FMCSA administrator and current principal of TransSafe Consulting, Annette Sandberg.
However, there are good reasons for carriers to consider using ELDs or electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) before they are mandated, she added, when speaking during a Zonar-sponsored Webinar on coming regulatory changes.
A rulemaking on ELDs (the terminology was changed from EOBRs at the behest of industry, to ensure the regulations would pertain only to the collection of HoS data, and not other information collected by EOBRs) is likely to be published by October of this year, Sandberg said. That would be followed by a 60-day comment period, with a final rule posted sometime in 2014. It would take another one or two years to fully implement the new requirement, Sandberg added.
The industry has had plenty of warning that an ELD mandate was in development. However, there have been a couple setbacks along the way. One was a successful legal challenge by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which argued that such devices can be used to harass drivers into working longer hours. The ruling forced FMCSA to go back to the drawing board, host a number of listening sessions and investigate the potential for harassment resulting from the use of ELDs.
The other setback, Sandberg said, was the result of concerns in the industry that not all devices on the market will be able to meet the requirements of the regulation. Currently, manufacturers of ELDs are self-certified. Sandberg said plans are underway to introduce a third-party certification process, so that fleet customers can be sure the products they’re buying will be compliant with the regulation.
“The Agency and others indicated there might need to be a more robust certification process, where they have a third-party do the certification and make sure all the devices on the market are capable of doing what they say they’ll do,” Sandberg explained.
Despite the delays, Sandberg said carriers she has been working with through her consulting firm are seeing benefits in transitioning to electronic logs early.
“For hours-of-service, the biggest hurdle is getting drivers away from the paper, getting them to understand these devices make their lives much easier. Quite frankly, a lot of drivers don’t understand all the nuances with the rules - particularly with these changes coming in July - and these devices will do it for you. They’ll tell the driver when they need to take a break, how many hours they have left, when they’re out of hours, when they’re potentially in violation,” Sandberg said. “I strongly encourage carriers to look at these electronic systems and whether they can fit into their model, because I think it makes drivers’ lives easier and it certainly makes the carrier’s life easier as it relates to compliance and proving compliance.”
Another impending rule that will affect carriers operating in the US is the launch of mandatory sleep apnea screening for high-risk drivers. Talks are underway to decide whether to require all drivers to be screened as part of their medical, or whether guidance should be provide that would require drivers with certain physical attributes (based on neck size or body mass index, for example) to be tested for the condition.
The FMCSA last year issued a guidance based on body mass index, then quickly retracted it. Sandberg said it’s expected the FMCSA will issue a rulemaking, opening it to public comment before coming out with a final rule.
“This is going to be a very big issue for anybody in the industry, simply because stats out there show truck drivers have a much higher incidence of obesity (than the general public), which is a big indicator of them being likely to have apnea,” Sandberg explained. “We’re waiting to see what this might do, but it will increase the cost for anyone that runs a commercial motor vehicle fleet and has a lot of drivers on staff, as almost every carrier would have to test at least a portion of their drivers for apnea.”