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Momentum building for delay of ELD rule for truck drivers

WASHINGTON D.C. — Truck drivers are hoping for success like cattle and insect haulers achieved in delaying a mandate to electronically log time spent behind the wheel.

Truckers at different gathering places nationwide Dec. 4 protested the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) rule scheduled to take effect Dec. 18. Without a delay, more than 3 million truck drivers will be required to replace paper log books used to record when they’re on and off duty, with electronic logging devices.

The idea is to improve travel safety by making sure drivers aren’t giving a false account of time spent on the road.

On Dec. 5, more than 20 Republican and Democrat senators called on their colleagues to impose a one-year delay on the mandate for livestock and insect haulers so the strict hours of service rules transporters must abide by in the ELD can be addressed with the FMCSA.

That came several weeks after the House approved a one-year delay of the mandate for carriers of insects (mostly bees used for pollination) and farm animals.

Steve Hilker, chair of the transportation committee for the U.S. Cattlemen’s Assoc., said livestock haulers should not fall under the same requirements as other truck drivers. Unlike other products, he said animals require care and drivers stopping to get the required sleep places livestock – especially hogs, more prone to disease – at higher risk for developing health problems along the way.

Exposure to extreme weather like heat, for example, is best minimized by getting animals to their final destinations as quickly as possible, he said. “We’re the only ones in the industry that have something that lives, breathes and needs something to drink, and can only be confined for a finite amount of time,” Hilker explained.

A second driver to pick up and continue with the load would avoid the risk of animals being on the road for extended periods. But Hilker said two drivers for one shipment would increase transportation costs that would be passed on to the consumer, and filling such a need would be difficult, with drivers with animal husbandry skills being in such short supply.

He also said there are few, if any, designated places for livestock haulers to pull over and unload in a facility adequate for animals before getting their sleep.

Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) are leading a bipartisan effort to gain Senate approval for a one-year delay on the mandate for livestock and insect haulers, and expressed their position in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Hilker said support in the House was strong but placed the odds of passage in the Senate at just 50-50. He said the 90-day delay will help build the type of coalition that existed in the House to try to gain similar support in the Senate.

The ELD mandates that truck drivers get off the road after 11 hours, then stay parked for 10 before taking off again. Livestock and insect haulers want to keep the flexibility in the regulations that have been in place.

For example, time spent off the road for a nap or rest is added back to the amount of time they had left on their travel clocks before stopping. Drivers can also exceed the drive time limit if they’re within a 150-mile radius of their destination prior to the time limit expiring.

‘’If you went into the sleeper for three hours, then we’d like to extend our drive time by three hours, just in order to complete the load. All we ask for is what we’ve had in the past,’’ said Hilker.

Legal challenges to the mandate by groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assoc. have been unsuccessful. OOIDA raised privacy issues but the U.S Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found no violations of driver confidentiality or unreasonable search and seizure protections contained in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The FMCSA cited a more than 11 percent increase in citations for falsifying driver logs and a nearly 15 percent hike in truck drivers put out of service for falsifying logs last year, as reason for going ahead with the mandate on schedule.