FMCSA urged to ‘move swiftly’ on mandatory electronic diaries

By: Brad Gardner

American trucking lobby wants the country's heavy vehicle regulator to move fast on mandating electronic work diaries.

FMCSA urged to ‘move swiftly’ on mandatory electronic diaries
The ATA believes electronic work diaries will improve road safety in the US.


America's chief trucking lobby group is urging the country's heavy vehicle regulator to "move swiftly" in mandating electronic work diaries for truck drivers.

While Australia is planning to make the diaries voluntary by as early as next year, there is strong support in the US for the devices to be compulsory.

In a recent submission filed with the agency regulating the US trucking industry, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the ATA urged it to quickly issue a mandate for drivers to use the diaries to monitor their compliance with fatigue management regulations.

"ATA supports laws and regulations mandating the installation and use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) for recording drivers hours of service," the ATA writes in its submission.

"ATA is confident that such devices will improve compliance with the hours of service regulations...ATA urges FMCSA to move swiftly to issue a final rule mandating ELD use, but not so swiftly as to make the rule vulnerable to inevitable legal challenges."

The ATA anticipates it may be up to three years until the devices are imposed on trucking operators but adds that the deadline may be pushed out even further depending on the legislative process.

"Realistically, it will probably take the agency at least one full year to issue a final rule and the subsequent deadline for device adoption will likely be two years thereafter. In other words, fleets will not be required to install these devices for at least three years," it says.

"In fact, delays in the regulatory process and potential litigation over the rule could delay an adoption deadline even further."

The ATA says the FMCSA, in the meantime, should provide incentives to the trucking industry to adopt electronic work diaries voluntarily.

This includes allowing operators with existing devices to continue using them for the remainder of the service life of the vehicles in which they were installed even after government-approved units are mandated.

The ATA says the move will encourage voluntary adoption and not penalise early adopters of the technology. 

"We know these devices can improve safety, so it makes sense for FMCSA to do all they can to encourage adoption of electronic logging devices," ATA president and CEO Bill Graves says.

The FMCSA has proposed limiting the use of existing devices to two years after mandatory diaries are introduced but the ATA says the measure will have "a chilling effect on voluntary adoption".

It says operators are concerned their devices will become obsolete by the time the two-year grace period ends, leading them to question if investing in the technology early on is worth it.

The FMCSA says many of the devices being used today will be capable of being compliant once they receive a simple and inexpensive software upgrade.

"However, fleets have their doubts and will not know if this will be possible until after the final rule is published," the ATA's submission says.

"Given the uncertainty that their hardware may become obsolete or that a mandatory system upgrade will be costly, fleets will undoubtedly have second thoughts about making an early investment in ELDs."

The ATA adds that operators should be able to edit records and that a driver's licence number should be used as their electronic work diary identification number.

In Australia, transport ministers have supported the introduction of the devices to provide drivers and companies with an alternative to using paper work diaries.

Policy makers believe the highly-accurate electronic diaries, which can record information on a second-by-second basis, will help improve compliance with fatigue management regulations while saving drivers the hassle of filling out a paper diary.

National Transport Commissioner (NTC) CEO Paul Retter told attendees of this year's Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) conference he expected the devices to be introduced from next year or 2016.



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