Ok, it is easy for me so see why we belong to trucking organizations, like the Western States Trucking Association (WSTA), National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC) and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). These groups have people that read the Proposed Rules from the FMCSA line-by-line, page-by-page and try to decipher what the FMCSA is trying to get through, as far as the rule is concerned.
I just sat down to read the final rule on Electronic Logging Devices (ELD), OMG!!! One hundred twenty six pages, of very small print I might add. I was dumbfounded at the detail, including what the acronyms and abbreviations are and what they mean, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has gone to to get this final rule finalized. I would have thought it would be a simple, straightforward rule that would be easy to understand. But Noooo, there are summations of all the comments made in response to the NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) and the responses made by the FMCSA to each issue of concern. I was somewhat saddened by how few drivers threw in their two cents, it was mostly safety advocates, fleets, device makers and trucking organizations.
Along with the proposed rule in great detail, there are charts and graphs claiming how many lives will be saved and how much money it will cost or save by using the device. I understand that these numbers are a guess, because NO ONE can predict when or where there is going to be a crash and/or a fatality, or someone would be there to prevent it. At best the claims are the HOPE that the crashes that take a life will not happen by using an ELD. I personally do not see how using an electronic device to record Hours Of Service (HOS) will save any lives.
I do see it as a compliance device and will make it easier for law enforcement officers to see exactly what you have been doing lately, or at least how much you have been driving. Maybe if everyone ran legally that MIGHT prevent a crash.
For those who claim they will not be able to make a living using an ELD. All I can say is, they just said, in not so many words, they cannot log LEGALY and make a living, or they must falsify their logs in order to make a living. Which is why, I think, the FMCSA wants this device so badly. There simply isn't enough law enforcement to find violators and enforce compliance. These devices will not guarantee compliance but will go further than any other means currently available to do so.
OOIDA has filed a suit against FMCSA contending that congress wanted the device fully automatic, which in my opinion is impossible without driver input, and I believe it, is OOIDA's opinion also. FMCSA contends congress wants the intent of automation, which it will do for half of the duty status options. If it were left to the device without driver input, a driver would be out of hours within three days, 70 hours, and wouldn't be able to move again after 8 hours (30 minute rest break requirement) of logging on the unit and driving. Even logging onto the unit would require driver input, so would that takeaway the full automation congress requires? I think so.
When I started driving my trainer told me "never log anything you don't get paid for" that included swapping trailers, fueling, loading, or unloading. I know that is not the compliant or legal way to fill out a logbook, but how many follow this practice? These duties take away from Driving time and that is how we as drivers get paid, by the mile. An ELD will not change this because it is up to the driver to make those remarks and be in the On Duty- Not Driving (ODND) status.
The mandate by congress was that the ELD was to be automatic. To a point it is, it will change from any other duty status to driving as soon as you start driving. All the ELD's I have used did this; they would also change from driving to ODND as soon as I turned off the engine after driving. This, I feel is where things start going wrong, and this is what OOIDA, I believe, is contesting. Every carrier I have been with has released me from duty when I'm not doing trucking related business, such as restroom breaks, meals or any time I'm out of the truck and not under a load.
In order for a device like this to function fully automatically, I think there would need to be some sort of sensor that would be able to decipher the intent of the driver as to whether said driver is going to the restroom, having lunch, going to the sleeper, or doing a trucking related function. The technology isn't there so making this device that automated is not possible, in my opinion.
Even if there were such a device it seemingly would need to be implanted in the drivers body somewhere that a scanner could read, and that would be an infringement of privacy for sure. That sounds like science fiction but it may come to be some day, just watch the movies of future life on earth, everyone is tracked through an implanted device. Even a bracelet of some type would not work because it would be to easy to "forget" to put it on. Leave congress alone long enough and they will make it required just to survive. But until that time comes, maybe the FMCSA will require an implant for all CDL holders just to get our logs legal, I think that is what OOIDA is trying to push the FMCSA into doing to us. That will be more court battles for the lawyers to fight. But again the technology doesn't exist yet, as far as I know.
We have been using an ELD for many years and I can say for sure, we will never lease to a carrier that doesn't use one, our lives are just so much simpler using one. I like to tell this story of a good friend about ELD's. When Joe (not his real name) heard that his carrier was going to require ELD's in all trucks in the fleet and gave a firm date, said to me " the day I have to put one of those things in my truck is the day I'll leave here". Since we had been running one for a few years I said " Put one in, give it thirty days, if you still don't like the device, pull it out and move on". He agreed and had the unit installed. About a week later he called and said, " Bob, why didn't you have me put one of these in sooner, we both love it, it has made our lives so much easier, thank you". There is a learning curve and mistakes will be made, some the driver can fix others the carrier has to fix but nothing that is the end of the world.
As for me and my truck, I we will always have an ELD. As for the rest of the industry, I believe an ELD is a good thing; mandating one was not a good move by congress. FMCSA must do what congress directs them to do, but congress was WAY to vague as far as what the device must do, I believe. I also believe the only way to get drivers to run compliant and legal is to have one of these devices. Truckers are the hardest working people in this great country of ours, and these devices will force them to calm down, slow down, stop and smell the roses.