It is no secret with truckers hauling enormous trailers across the country can take a toll on their health. If that wasn’t concerning, they feel there is something more to worry about regarding the Hours of Service (HOS). Under the current electronic logging device mandate, titled in short as the ELD mandate, a good chunk of the drivers’ payments are docked.
This sadly, in turn, makes them an even bigger hazard on the highway by racing against the clock to deliver the goods. According to the HOS, drivers are allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours during their on-duty time of 14 hours. The rest of the hours is a cool-off period where the truckers must take 10 consecutive hours off-duty. While on their duty, they have a mandatory 30-minute break at some point in that 14-hour window. Well, the rules implemented don’t correlate with the reality of day-to-day long-distance traveling.
Almost 63% of truckers state they wait at a shipping dock for three hours or more every time before the shipment arrives. Their income is paid by the miles traveled rather than per hour as this has given them even more reason to voice their opinion. So, their reduced pay is a result of not meeting the deadline or reaching the destination in its entirety from the 14-hour time slot. The lengthy 14-hour time block also has pushed the drivers to alter their sleep schedule. This leaves a horde of truckers crashing the night at truck stops that leave fewer parking spots for others. This shows the ELD mandate is unable to anticipate and react to unforeseeable circumstances. A streamlined system issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in partnership with the US Department of Transportation, had the initial goal to lower highway accident rates. But instead, this limited driver’s flexibility and reduced their operating efficiency.
What is an ELD?
An ELD (or ELD log) is fitted and integrated into a commercial vehicle’s engine which automatically registers the driving period. Generally, for the employer, it is meant to establish a safe road environment while tracking and regulating with precision. Also, it is an electronic record of the hours of the driver’s duty whether on the road or waiting by the docks. The list goes on from navigating around highly dense traffic areas, all the way to avoiding time-consuming paperwork. The drivers prioritize the Record of Duty Status (RODS) which is a new model of the old paper-based logbook and is in compliance with the HOS requirements. Transitioning from paper logs to the digital format, HOS was implemented to ELD logs to hinder manipulated and fabricated information of the work carried out by the truckers. The ELD mandate was the answer to solve accident rates which is a hair-raising concern in recent years. The concern derives from the recent FMCSA data that details the number of road incidents since 2014. The estimates reveal if HOS guidelines are imposed on ELDs, there could be the prevention of more than 1,500 crashes, 520 injuries and 21 deaths.
Politicians felt vehement and took a stance for regulation. Congress passed a bill by making ELD law on February 16, 2016. The date to comply and utilize ELD was on December 18, 2017. Currently, commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are equipped with automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) which must be upgraded or replaced to fulfill the ELD compliance by December 16, 2019.
5 Amendments to the ELD Mandate
Since there was a majority of outcry from the commercial drivers, the FMCSA has proposed amendments to the current mandate:
1. Truckers can take a 30-minute break when they are on duty, for instance, if they are waiting at warehouses for a shipment — but not while driving. If there is a chance that the driver is on the road for long hours, he/she can take a breather after 8 hours of uninterrupted commute.
2. They will be able to divide their 10-hour off-duty time. Instead of having a full 10 hour time off, a portion of 7 consecutive hours will be allocated as the “sleeper berth” period. The rest of the time will be allotted to 2 consecutive hours, either as “off-duty” or “sleeper berth”.
3. On the condition that a trucker takes 10 full hours off duty at the end of their shift, he/she is allowed to go for an off-duty break of 30 minutes to three hours. This would put a pause on a truck driver's 14-hour driving spell.
4. An extension of 2 hours will be issued if there are unpleasant driving conditions present. Conditions such as snow, fog, hail, or unusual road/traffic conditions, will provide time and leeway.
5. For the case of short-haul drivers, there have been some interesting changes too. The on-duty duration can stretch from 12 hours to 14 hours, including, the distance from 100 miles to 150 miles.
There are some proponents who are against the ELD compliance as they believe AOBRD is already intrusive concerning privacy. ELD has restrictions in place but with limitations. Another group exists that does not want to get with the times of change in this tech-savvy world. However, any attempts by the detractors were thwarted on the court by the strong support of lawmakers. Efforts are spearheaded to overhaul driver’s HOS that can accommodate them. The execution of ELD reforms, more specifically, HOS reforms, can determine the cumulative effect across the various attached industries. The commercial freight industry is burgeoning as we speak and keeping issues flawless or unscathed has its challenges, Particularly, if we are discussing the welfare of the people involved.