Does one size fit all? Small trucking fleets testify against ELD mandate

ELDs come in various price points with a multitude of features, from simple HOS recording to full management systems.

ELDs come in various price points with a multitude of features, from simple HOS recording to full management systems.

Yesterday, the Small Business House Committee heard how forthcoming ELD regulations will stifle competition, and how it won’t actually provide safety benefits. The hearing, called “Highway to Headache: Federal Regulations on the Small Trucking Industry,” was an opportunity to provide input on the vital role small businesses play in the overall economy and highway safety. Their arguments revolved around the topic of how the government is over-regulating an industry that will hurt the small businessman, the very ones risking the most.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), introduced the panel, asking for the regulations to be delayed until the “bugs can be worked out.” Today, the Indiana Attorney General asked for the same thing, observing, “This thing ain’t ready for primetime.”

Rep. Steve Chabot, (R-OH) led off the hearing, pointing out that the regulations are adding up and burdensome to the small business owner who already operates on small margins. Ranking member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), noted in her opening remarks that the meeting provides, “An important opportunity to evaluate the trucking industry to help achieve both safer highways, and a thriving healthy trucking sector,” for which she sees an opportunity for bipartisan support.

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The meeting gathered witnesses from various sectors of the trucking industry. Monty Wiederhold, representing the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), testified first. Wiederhold pointed out that the ELD mandate is estimated to cost impacted stakeholders more than $1.8 billion annually, making it one of the most expensive federal transportation rulemakings over the last decade. The ELD manufacturers are “self-certifying” their equipment and there is no way to know for sure if the equipment, which the small fleet owners will have to purchase by the Dec. 18 implementation date, will even meet the government’s rules, he said. “There is not a one-size-fits all mandate that will work across the industry,” he argued.

Wiederhold also argued that some of the devices will cost as much as $700 with $50 per month subscriptions and 2- to 3-year contracts. During Q&A, Wiederhold pointed out that there are a variety of possible costs, but regardless, they are all unduly burdensome.

Marty DiGiacomo, representing numerous small trucking companies, said hours-of-service rules actually take the choice away from drivers to rest when they feel tired. These devices force them to meet demand without flexibility. The stress and pressure of being under the gun with the ELD devices will create the opposite effect of what the regulation seeks, that is stressed and frustrated drivers. Among other things, they don’t allow for flexibility. Many drivers may be caught in overcrowded parking situations, or worse, having to pull over at the side of the road for many hours without any facilities.

Witnesses also expressed the concern of unnecessary required training. They gave examples of the uniqueness of trucking certain products, such as concrete. It can’t stay in the truck longer than 90 minutes at a time, and it can only make short runs.

Proponents for ELDs argue that there are many vendors who provide low-cost ELD options, with monthly service fees in the $10 range. Further, there are already businesses working on creating free ELD software.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), presented compelling contradictory arguments that there should be no further delay to the already long overdue ELD mandate. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) also reminded lawmakers that it strongly supports the mandate. Collin Stewart, president of Phoenix-based Stewart Transport Inc., said in a statement to the committee, “Nothing in the ELD rule changes the current hours-of-service limits. Drivers who claim that ELDs remove their discretion in deciding when to take a break or when to drive either don’t understand how the current rules are structured or are willfully ignoring them.”

Fred Fakkema, vice president of compliance at Zonar Systems, agrees that the impact on construction companies will be more challenging and that more can be done. Overall, however, the mandate has been coming for the past two years and there is no need for further delay, he told FreightWaves. The implementation of the technology is simply taking away the ability for drivers to fudge their records, tracking their logs on a second-by-second basis rather than fifteen minute intervals. The bottom line is that it helps with safety and the hours-of-service rules have not changed, just the manner in which they are collected and displayed.

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