Is a possible ELD exemption for small fleet operators on the horizon?

On May 23, 2018, Representatives Collin Peterson (D-MN), Greg Gianforte (R-MT) and Steve King (R-IA) introduced H.R. 5948: “Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act of 2018.”

If passed into law, commercial carriers that own or operate 10 or fewer commercial motor vehicles would be exempt from the electronic logging device (ELD) requirement.

On May 24, 2018, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. While the bill garnered 36 bipartisan cosponsors, it stalled and expired with the 115th Congress. The bill was supported by the Small Business Transportation Coalition, primarily organized around trucking concerns. The House is now reporting that a similar, if not identical, bill (H.R. 1697) has been introduced in the House; however, the precise language has not yet been made available.

While a few may initially hope for regulatory relief from ELDs, we must be realistic. It is noteworthy that Congress mandated the Secretary of Transportation require ELDs in nearly all interstate commercial motor vehicles in the surface transportation reauthorization bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). While the House seems more reluctant to burden businesses with more regulations, support for ELDs seems widespread in the Senate.

The proposed bill would exempt “small fleets of 10 or fewer vehicles.” On the surface, relief from the regulatory burden of ELDs for small businesses resonates, but only until the reality of the numbers come to light. If passed into law, over 85 percent of trucking companies and nearly 95 percent of passenger carriers would be exempt.

This would be tantamount to a complete Congressional reversal. Is that possible? Yes. Probable? Probably not.

If you listen to industry rhetoric, the ELD mandate was once again largely about the elusive leveling of the playing field—a never-ending preoccupation with some organizations in Washington, D.C. Large carriers, particularly large fleet trucking concerns that likely already operated some form of ELDs, were convinced small carriers placed them at a competitive disadvantage by fudging on their paper logs.

It seems unlikely the American Trucking Associations will sit by idly while watching their efforts to mandate ELDs come undone.

Meanwhile, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Secretary of Transportation have announced that improved compliance obtained through ELDs is permitting them to propose revised hours-of-service regulations that offer improved “flexibility.” The proposal is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget and pay be published for comment soon.

The UMA Legislative & Regulatory Committee has placed H.R. 1697 on their cautious watch list. While most bills spin their wheels and die in Committee, occasionally they get some traction and take off. We will keep UMA members posted on the progress of the bill. As always, let us know your thoughts at     

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