E-Logs: DoT FMCSA Publishes 3rd Generation Hours-of-Service Rule Clock Starts Ticking

By Randy Field

The often delayed, long awaited third-generation rule update to Electronic On Board Recording (EOBR) and Automatic On Board Recording Device (AOBRD) regulations was cleared by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget on November 17, 2015. The new “Electronic Logging Device” (ELD) rule was published in the Federal Register on December 16th and starts the clock for December 2017 compliance for vehicles without existing AOBRDs and upgrading existing uncertified AOBRDs by December 2019.

In 2012, Congress enacted the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” bill that is more commonly referred to as MAP-21. That bill, which also outlined the criteria for highway funding, included a provision requiring the FMCSA to develop a rule mandating the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs).

While the American Truck Association (ATA) supports the rule, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has strongly objected to it and filed a court injunction on the publication date citing “the most outrageous intrusion into the rights of professional truckers imaginable”.

From the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) FMCSA website update on December 10, 2015:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) amends the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) to establish: Minimum performance and design standards for hours-of-service (HOS) electronic logging devices (ELDs); requirements for the mandatory use of these devices by drivers currently required to prepare HOS records of duty status (RODS); requirements concerning HOS supporting documents; and measures to address concerns about harassment resulting from the mandatory use of ELDs. The requirements for ELDs will improve compliance with the HOS rules.

Post publication, there is a thirty-day petition period for reconsideration.

The rule applies to most motor carriers and drivers who are currently required to prepare and retain paper RODS to comply with HOS regulations under 49 CFR Part 395. The following drivers are excepted in section 395.8(a)(1)(iii) from installing/using ELDs and may continue to use “paper”:

•       Drivers who use paper RODS for not more than 8 days during any thirty day period

•       Drivers who conduct driveaway-towaway operations, where the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered.

•       Drivers operating in a zone less than 150 miles from end-to-end.

•       Drivers of vehicles manufactured before model year 2000

The FMCSA estimates that paperwork and crash reduction savings will be three times ELD cost. While most large fleets have already installed ELDs, 2.5 million trucks remain uninstalled.

What is next?

While it might seem to some that the FMCSA has been around for forever, it was established by the DOT on January 1, 2000 “to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries”. Prior to that time, carrier safety was a function of the DOT’s Federal Highway Administration.

So, while the E-Log rule appears to have been driven by other factors, the reality is that it was born on the back of fatality and injury reduction.

Although the ATA supports the new E-Log rule, OOIDA has filed another injunction against the latest version. A large portion of the 2.5 million uninstalled trucks, today, are driven by OOIDA members.

Common telematics reporting is not required by the new rule. If the trucking industry does not reduce fatalities and injuries from out-of-compliance drivers, expect more FMCSA rules to be drafted.

What can the truck carriers do to avoid new rules?

The FMCSA’s next moves are likely to be around telematics reporting (hard braking, excessive acceleration and speeding), Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies (automatic collision detection technology, blind spot notification and speed limit sign recognition) – and, reducing driver distractions beyond no texting and hands-free operation. New specifications could address in-vehicle displays: number of lines of text on a screen, font size/color, audible alert tone standardization, alert decibels and other restrictions.

In June 2014 on the New Jersey Turnpike, a van was hit by the driver of a WalMart truck traveling 20 MPH over the speed limit. He was allegedly awake for 24 hours and had 28 minutes to finish his deliveries before violating the HOS rules – plus, the truck’s automated braking system failed. Tracy Morgan, a comedian, was severely injured and another comedian passenger died. WalMart reportedly paid Tracy Morgan $90 million.

There are many new, low cost IoT technologies emerging that can help make our roads safer. Telematics Service Providers (TSP) and fleets have been slow to engage new technologies. TSPs have used legacy telematics metadata for driver training. A step forward – but, short of what is capable today.

The missing link is similar to a line from Eddie Izzard, another comedian, where he questions the expression that guns do not kill people – people kill people. He adds, “But, the gun helps.” When you interchange people with drivers and guns with trucks, the story is similar – the truck helps! Fleets, drivers and trucks must come together as one ecosystem focused on preventing accidents. The standard objection is cost. $90 million can pay for a lot of accident prevention by integrating the driver and truck. Heads up displays, audible lane change alerts absent of a turn signal, eyes on the road alerts, speed set to the flow of traffic and many more tools are easily within reach.

There is some movement. Diamler Trucks North America (DTNA) recently took a minority position in Zonar Systems, a TSP. Simultaneously, Zonar announced that it was doubling the size of its Technology department. This indicates an accelerated partnership between carrier and service provider.

For true progress to be made, the ATA, OOIDA and Unions must find common ground. Without a common ground, the DOT’s FSCMA will continue to make the rules.