Any state law undercutting ELD rule likely would violate federal regulations

Several states are looking at ways to exempt truck drivers from the ELD mandate, but at least one expert says any laws passed by states to do so would likely violate federal regulations.

Several states are looking at ways to exempt truck drivers from the ELD mandate, but at least one expert says any laws passed by states to do so would likely violate federal regulations.

At least six states are working to undo portions of the electronic logging device (ELD) rule, but any efforts to pass state laws undercutting the federal ELD rule would likely be unenforceable, according to one expert.

According to federal rule 49 CFR 355.25, “no State shall have in effect or enforce any State law or regulation pertaining to commercial motor vehicle safety in interstate commerce which the Administrator finds to be incompatible with the provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.”

Because the ELD rule is a federal provision involving interstate commerce, it’s unlikely that any state that passes a law preventing enforcement of the ELD mandate would be successful.

“If a state were to go as far as enacting legislation or adopting a regulation that prevented enforcement of electronic logging devices on interstate drivers and carriers, it would be in direct conflict with federal rules - specifically 49 CFR 355.25,” Avery Vise, vice president of trucking research at FTR Transportation Intelligence, tells FreightWaves.

Vise goes on to explain that FMCSA could grant a state waiver under Statute 355.25 Part 389, but only in situations where the state law or regulation “is not contrary to the public interest and is consistent with the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles.”

It’s doubtful FMCSA would grant such a waiver that blocks enforcement of ELDs on interstate carriers, he adds.

The six states moving forward with potential regulations includes one, Idaho, which is simply asking FMCSA to make a 90-exemption for livestock haulers permanent. Alabama has requested more flexibility in the regulations, particularly for truckers hauling agricultural products, and South Dakota lawmakers issued a resolution “encouraging Congress and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to overturn the rules regarding electronic logging devices.”

Wyoming and Missouri lawmakers have proposed laws that would negate any federal rule requiring the use of ELDs within state borders. Tennessee also has a bill pending that would prohibit the use of state funds for ELD enforcement, effectively defunding enforcement activities related to the rule.

Missouri’s bill is not currently on any calendar for discussion while Wyoming and Tennessee’s bills have been referred to transportation subcommittees.

“Even if a state were to adopt such a law or regulation, it would surely be unenforceable,” Vise says. “Moreover, even if such a law could be enforced, the practical effect would be limited unless multiple contiguous states adopted similar laws. A driver traveling through a non-compliant state would still have to worry about the next state it traversed.”

If any state follows through on their threat to prevent compliance, Vise says FMCSA has other options to utilize, if it so chooses, to ensure the state enforces the federal regulations.

“The regulations governing the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program give the agency authority to launch a proceeding to withhold MCSAP funds if it finds that a state law, regulation, or enforcement practice related to CMV safety ‘in either interstate or intrastate commerce’ is incompatible with the FMCSRs or the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs),” he says, noting this is codified in Statute 49 CFR 350.355. “Indeed, this is the stick FMCSA has in pushing states to adopt regulations on intrastate operations that are comparable to federal regulations. FMCSA doesn’t always insist on identical or simultaneous compliance, which is why we are seeing some states postponing requirements for electronic logs on intrastate operations. However, if a state were to openly refuse to enforce the FMCSRs on interstate operations, that surely would be another matter. The agency surely would not accept such an action.”

With all the recent talk of states trying to either force changes or not enforce the law at all, Vise notes that only 4 jurisdictions failed to report any ELD violations in December or January. According to his research, those four jurisdictions are Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii and Illinois.

Of the six states mentioned, Missouri issued 542 violations for ELD compliance in December and January, while Alabama issued 149, South Dakota 136, Wyoming 90, Idaho 73, and Tennessee 19. Only Wyoming in that group issued an out-of-service order related to the violation, and it was just one out-of-service order. Arizona was the top state issuing ELD violations with 1,034 during the timeframe. Missouri was 15th overall.

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