Logging court hours

May 6, 2016
Long-awaited ELD rule could get bogged down in litigation

We all know the phrase—maybe uttered as part of a joke or gag on someone, or maybe even sung  while listening to our favorite ‘80s music station (you know who you are!). “So close, yet so far away” are not just lyrics in a Hall and Oates song but a reference to where we stand as an industry that has waited for so long for a final rule on ELDs. I know I am dating myself when I say that I can even remember the time, which really was not too long ago, when we, as an industry, opposed ELDs and in our opposition to them, we called them EOBRDs.

Now, we have a final rule on the table—a mandate requiring ELDs for drivers who currently use driver logs—and our industry has embraced that rule. Ummm, wait … and I say wait because we have a hiccup, a speed bump, a small mole hill that has the propensity to become a mountain.

Most of us can remember that our industry has been in this situation before; in 2011, our industry was prepared to embrace the adoption of these logging devices. Safety departments had done their homework, fleets were adding this technology to their vehicles, and even drivers were overcoming their discomfort level and realizing that this would work. Then, in what can only be described as a rug pulled out from under our industry, the Court of Appeals sent the rule back to the drawing board to address harassment and coercion, based on litigation filed by our friends at  the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA).

Fast forward to 2016. Our industry is in the same place, that is, so close to a rule that will inevitably make a difference but also so close to that rule going back to the drawing board. Why? Once again, it’s because of litigation. Citing those ever-popular terms of arbitrary and capricious, not to mention a violation of a driver’s fourth amendment rights, OOIDA is intent on putting this highly anticipated rule on that proverbial hard-to-reach shelf. 

“This mandate means monitoring the movement and activities of real people for law enforcement purposes and is an outrageous intrusion of the privacy of professional truckers,” uttered OOIDA president and CEO Jim Johnston, which appeared in pretty much every industry news story out there on ELDs. 

And you know something? He is right but only in the sense that the federal hours of service has to monitor the movement and activities of drivers, not the ELD. It’s important to remember that the movement and activities of drivers are recorded in the driver log, and whether that’s done in a log book or electronically, it is still recorded and mandated that it must be recorded through the federal hours-of-service regulations.

And that leads us back to where we were—waiting on a rule for our industry to employ that makes the life of our drivers easier and has the propensity to eliminate the menial task of constantly updating a driver’s log book.

When it comes to my job and the members that I represent, our foremost message has always been that we cannot advocate noncompliance. We have taken a position of accepting technology to be used as a tool for compliance, nothing more and nothing less.

And why have we done that? It’s because it’s what’s next. Like it or not, our industry is exploding with technology just waiting to become the norm rather than the exception. By delaying the possibility of including technology with plausible and proven safety benefits, our industry may be singing the tune of another Hall and Oates classic, Out of Touch.  

About the Author

David Heller

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs. Before that, he spent seven years as manager of safety programs for American Trucking Associations.

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