FMCSA's Martinez answers questions about ELD mandate at House hearing

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | 5/22/2018

Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, asked for small-business trucking fleets with excellent safety records to be afforded the same exemption from FMCSA’s electronic logging mandate that was given to the Motion Picture Association of America during a House Transportation Committee hearing on Tuesday, May 22.

FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez met with the committee for more than an hour to discuss current topics in the trucking industry, including the implementation of laws from 2015’s FAST Act.

One of the most popular topics during the hearing was the electronic logging mandate, which went into effect in December and began being fully enforced in April.

Babin pointed out that while FMCSA has called the ELD mandate a safety issue it has granted numerous exemption requests or waivers to such groups as the Truck Rental and Leasing Association, Old Dominion Freight Lines, agriculture haulers, livestock and insect haulers, the Motion Picture Association of America, and Rail Delivery Service Inc., in California. Babin then asked if FMCSA planned to grant OOIDA’s five-year exemption request for small business truckers with excellent safety records or to include agriculture retailers in the 150-mile farm exemption.

“The Motion Picture Association of America doesn’t have to worry about ELDs for five years,” Babin said. “The same goes for the California private company Rail Delivery Service.

“Is FMCSA going to give (small-business truckers and ag retailers) the same good treatment they gave Hollywood film studios and grant these exemption requests?”

Martinez said that the agency was still reviewing the individual exemption requests.

“All of these requests for exemptions are evaluated on their own,” he said. “Many of these are still pending. It’s unfortunate that it is taking so long to evaluate them, but they are all evaluated on their own merit. The trucking industry is very segmented. Many of them have specific issues and concerns. When looking at a request for a waiver or exemption, it is geared toward when will you be able to come into compliance.”

Other lawmakers pressed Martinez on creating some flexibility within the hours of service and creating consequences for shippers and receivers who make truck drivers wait for extended periods.

Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said he is hearing from his constituents that there must be some provisions in the hours of service for such incidents as bad weather or an accident on the highway.

“Has FMCSA given any thought to making any changes beyond the arbitrary hours limits to give more flexibility for the drivers because there’s an accident on the road and they pull off. Is there a way they can get more flexibility?” Gibbs asked Martinez.

In April, Babin introduced the REST Act, HR5417, which would allow truckers to pause the 14-hour on-duty clock for a single period of up to three hours. Although Martinez didn’t mention Babin’s bill specifically, he did say the agency is open to the idea of increasing flexibility within the hours-of-service regulation.

“I believe a great first step is these electronic logging devices because now we’re all on a level playing field,” Martinez said. “We have to all admit that paper logs were fudged in the past. Electronically, there’s less susceptibility to that. Now, let’s look at hours of service and see whether some modifications – not by extending the hours – can create some flexibility in the current rules. We are engaging with stakeholders and safety advocates to see what would be acceptable.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., stressed the importance of holding shippers and receivers responsible for making drivers wait hours at the dock.

“An issue that I think causes a lot of problems in the industry is detention time,” DeFazio said. “If you study economics, there is something called ‘external diseconomy.’ I dump my waste into the river, and someone else has to clean it up. Someone else has to pay for it. I saved money, and I dumped it out. So we have some warehouses where drivers have no predictability, and they’re on the clock. ‘Sorry. You’re going to have to sit there, because we’re busy right now.’”

DeFazio added that he wants to create a public database of which shippers and receivers make drivers wait in detention time.

“We could actually have a marketplace solution, because drivers would say that ‘I’m not going there. Everyone has to wait five hours there.’ That could create some corrective action for the receivers.”

OOIDA wasn’t asked to testify at the hearing, but the Association said it was pleased by comments from such lawmakers as Babin and DeFazio.

“Although OOIDA wasn’t invited to testify, we welcomed remarks from Rep. Peter DeFazio, the full committee’s ranking Democrat, on issues such as the need to address detention time,” said Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs. “We’re also glad Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (representing Washington, D.C.), the highways and transit subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, reminded everyone in the room that groups like OOIDA should have been invited to participate. It should also be noted that Rep. Brian Babin continues to show support for small-business truckers and their concerns, particularly regarding the electronic logging mandate.”

 

 

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