Five years ago, when the issue of mandating electronic logging devices first started to heat up, I commented in this space that I found the “consistent and loud opposition coming from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) puzzling, if not irresponsible.”
As you will have read with our cover story this issue, the US Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) has now issued its long-awaited final rule on ELDs, making them mandatory for truckers in the US as of December 2017.
It comes as no surprise that OOIDA remains vehemently opposed. Reading through OOIDA’s defense of its position on ELDs, I’m no longer puzzled. I think I understand what drives OOIDA logic – and I use that term very loosely – on this issue. And I consider their position even more irresponsible than I did five years ago. OOIDA had previously scuttled FMCSA’s plan to mandate ELDs with a legal challenge that argued ELDs could be used by shippers and carriers to harass drivers into using up all their legally available driving time, even when tired. Bit of a stretch, I thought, but okay let’s make sure drivers don’t get abused by unscrupulous carriers and shippers.
This time, a few weeks before publishing its final rule on ELDs, FMCSA passed a law that prohibits the coercion of drivers by motor carriers, shippers, receivers and other transportation intermediaries. It even went so far as to build into the final rule safeguards to prevent driver harassment, including the requirement for a mute button on the device that can help prevent a driver from being disturbed by dispatch while in the sleeper berth.
What’s left for OOIDA to oppose? Nothing, if you’re willing to take a logical approach to the situation. But that’s clearly not OOIDA’s plan. From what I can see, there are two reasons OOIDA remains opposed to this legislation.
First, because it is legislation supported by the American Trucking Associations, a carrier association. And in OOIDA’s “us versus them” view of things, legislation supported by carriers can’t be good for O/Os. The second reason is that OOIDA would rather keep hiding our industry’s dirtiest secret – the fact that paper logs are easy to falsify and often are – than do anything about it.
Right now the fallout from inefficiencies caused by delays, paperwork errors and other issues all too often get pushed down to the driver. Drivers, faced with the possibility of losing income or running out of hours before getting home as a result of these inefficiencies, feel compelled to cheat the logbook. Yes, that puts some money in drivers’ pockets. Yes, it gets them home more often. But it also keeps our broken system of hours-of-service broken forever. Rather than fixing it, we cheat it.
If it was much harder to cheat the system, as would be the case with ELDs, carriers would have to deal with the inefficiencies in their operations. They would have to confront shipper practices that delay drivers and they would have the data at hand to prove it. This will not be easy. It will require change. But in the end, OOIDA’s own members stand to benefit. So why isn’t OOIDA in favour of ELDs? Jim Johnston, OOIDA president and CEO, describes the ELD rule as “absolutely the most outrageous intrusion into the rights of professional truckers imaginable.” I will do him one better: I think OOIDA’s opposition to ELDs shows “absolutely the most outrageous abandonment of the rights of professional truckers imaginable.”
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