Don’t Let Desperate Regulatory Rollback Attempts Undermine Highway Safety

The size and scope of the regulatory state has increased costs and created uncertainty for many industries. Reforming it is critical to the continued growth and competitiveness of our economy. But in the mission to cut red tape, it’s important to understand that not all regulations are created equal. In some cases, repealing or delaying certain rules is bad for business. Worse, it could endanger safety.

Such is the case with a pending final rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requiring the use of electronic logging devices for professional truck drivers. The rule, which was required by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), goes into effect December 18th, just in time for the busy holiday travel season.

ELDs are the new gold standard for our industry to effectively track and comply with driver “hours of service” on our nation’s highways and are important to curtailing driver fatigue. They are accurate, easier to access, and difficult to falsify, compared to the outdated pen and pad methods of tracking.

This modern-day technology has proven effective in improving safety and increasing compliance. FMCSA’s 2014 report titled “Evaluating the Potential Safety Benefits of Electronic Hours-of-Service Recorders,” found that carriers using an ELD saw an 11.7 percent reduction in crash rate and a 50 percent drop in hours-of-service violations over carriers using traditional paper logs.

This and other evidence has convinced the American Trucking Associations, along with many other industry supporters, law enforcement and FMCSA to support the implementation of ELDs. The U.S Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected a challenge to the ELD rule, concluding that the rule appropriately implemented Congress’s instructions and the Supreme Court rejected a petition for review of that decision.

Unfortunately, despite the iron clad evidence of the benefits and the broad support of ELDs, opponents are mounting an 11th hour campaign to kill it through legislation that could ultimately be bundled into the appropriations bill.

Their arguments are thin at best. Opponents suggest that ELDs infringe on driver’s privacy rights. This is unfounded since drivers are already required to share paper logs at the request of law enforcement. The same information is provided by ELDs, only submitted electronically. Furthermore, FMCSA has built in privacy and harassment protections into its rules.

Opponents also suggest that holiday shipments will be adversely affected by the timing of the rule’s implementation. Again, this is another falsehood as the ELD does not add any new limits on drivers’ hours-of-service limits. It is ludicrous to suggest that an antiquated paper system of tracking will ensure that your holiday gifts arrive on time.

Many professional truck drivers have already adopted ELDs and appreciate the time savings of not having to manually calculate and record their hours-of-service and the peace of mind they have by knowing they are compliant. Sadly, the only implicit reason that any driver would be opposed to an ELD is that the driver intends to skirt the hours-of-service rules. The ATA stands vehemently opposed to that.

The ELD issue has been debated for nearly a decade. It has been approved by Congress three times, and upheld by federal courts. Any attempt to mislabel this as a “bad regulation” in the final weeks before implementation is intentionally misleading. Killing or delaying implementation of the rule any further will create more uncertainty for the trucking industry as we seek to plan and make investments in this important new technology. We urge Congress to keep our highways safe, by avoiding a move that will give bad actors an opportunity to bend the rules.

Chris Spear is President and CEO of American Trucking Associations

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