Proposal to mandate electronic logs clears internal hurdle in D.C.

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 3/12/2014

The issue of driver harassment remains a big issue for truckers as a proposal to put electronic logging devices in all trucks clears an administrative hurdle in D.C.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking on electronic logging devices, or ELDs, cleared the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday, March 11.

Clearing OMB sends the proposal a step closer to publication, but it is not a rule at this stage.

The supplemental notice contains four parts. Three relate to the design and specifications for what an electronic logging device would be able do or not do in terms of logging a trucker’s hours of service.

The fourth part, the sticking point, is that electronic logs cannot be used to harass drivers.

“That’s still a big question out there, and one we have not received much detail on from FMCSA to this point,” says Ryan Bowley, director of government affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The FMCSA issued a first final rule on electronic logs in 2010.

OOIDA challenged that rule in court, and in August 2011 the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of OOIDA on the harassment issue. The ruling forced the FMCSA to vacate the rule.

In 2012, Congress passed the transportation policy and funding law known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. MAP-21 directed the FMCSA to once again pursue an electronic-logging rule. It also reiterates that electronic logs must not be used to harass drivers.

As the supplementary notice continues to move through the inner workings in D.C., the FMCSA is awaiting the results of a study of harassment of drivers who use electronic logs. That survey is being conducted by Virginia Tech.

“Congress and the courts have made it clear that any policy regarding electronic logs must take the issue of harassment and coercion into account,” Bowley said. “It will be important to see if the proposal incorporates the study on harassment at the start, or if it is something the agency wants to incorporate at a later stage, which is the wrong direction to take in our view.”

An actual rulemaking for electronic logs must go through the public process, and that presents an opportunity for truckers to file comments.

“When the notice is public, we’re going to review it and get information out to folks,” Bowley said. “Truckers will need to comment on this, because the large carriers are going to be commenting, the so-called safety groups are going to be commenting and the vendor community is going to be commenting.”

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