Efforts to delay ELD mandate gain support in Congress

WASHINGTON – With the federal mandate on electronic logging devices set to take effect in only four months, opponents are stepping up their efforts to derail the rule.

And while it appears doubtful that the mandate will be killed, there has been some movement in Congress to at least delay the rule, which was issued in 2015 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and requires that interstate trucks and buses convert to ELDs by Dec. 18 of this year.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which recently lost its court battle to scuttle the rule when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear its appeal, has convinced a congressman to introduce legislation that would delay the mandate for two years.

Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, introduced a bill last month titled the ELD Extension Act of 2017, which would simply amend to four years from two the time between when the ELD final rule was published and the compliance date.

Babin’s bill, H.R. 3282, would extend the current implementation date from December 2017 to December 2019.

“While technology such as ELDs have great promise, I didn’t come to Washington to force those ideas on small businesses — and neither did President Trump,” Babin said.

“If trucking companies want to continue implementing and using ELDs, they should go right ahead. But for those who don’t want the burden, expense and uncertainty of putting one of these devices into every truck they own by the end of the year, we can and should offer relief.”

An OOIDA spokesperson said the association worked with Babin to compose the legislation.

Only a day before Babin introduced his bill, a House committee approved a transportation appropriations act that included language that also has the potential to delay the ELD mandate.

It was inserted into the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies FY 2018 Appropriations Act approved by the House Appropriations Committee.

The committee said the ELD rule would cost $2 billion to implement and would impose “regulatory compliance burdens on small and independent carriers.”

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said FMCSA “has failed to answer important questions from Congress and industry stakeholders about this mandate,” including issues related to enforcement, connectivity problems in remote locations, cyber vulnerabilities and the ability of law enforcement to access data.

“The agency refuses to certify any ELD as compliant with the rule, thus leaving consumers with no idea if a device they purchase is indeed compliant,” Spencer said, referring to FMCSA’s policy of allowing ELD companies to self-certify that their devices meet the agency’s criteria.

“We appreciate Congressman Babin’s leadership on this issue,” Spencer said in a news release issued by Babin’s office. “While we still believe the ELD mandate should be outright repealed, the FMCSA simply isn’t ready to implement this rule. Congressman Babin’s bill would provide more time for the agency to address a number of significant unresolved concerns identified by stakeholders.”

Chances that Babin’s bill or the ELD language in the THUD bill will make it through Congress remain questionable, especially since Congress itself mandated the use of ELDs when it passed the MAP-21 transportation bill in 2012.

Ken Presley, vice president of industry relations and COO at the United Motorcoach Association, cautioned motorcoach operators not to depend on such “Hail Mary” efforts to delay the mandate, “given the minuscule chance Congress would stall the requirement.”

“I worry that hopeful procrastinators could be sitting with parked buses and motorcoaches on Dec. 18,” Presley said. “Enforcement officials are not going to allow buses and motorcoaches to proceed after the compliance date just because someone was waiting to see if Congress might pass legislation to stall the requirement.”

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