Both Sides Of ELD Mandate Fight Find Rare Agreement In Aftermath Of Explosive New Study

Little Rock, Arkansas – Opponents and supporters of the electronic logging devices (ELD) mandate are each claiming vindication and finding some agreement in the wake of the explosive new study by researchers at Northeastern University and the University of Arkansas.

The recently released academic report which concluded enforcement of the ELD mandate has not led to better safety outcomes as proponents promised, while dramatically reducing HOS violations among truck drivers, has reignited a fierce debate over the issue.

Both opponents and supporters of the controversial law have been speaking out since the findings of the study were revealed. Interestingly, both sides are claiming “We told you so.”

“ELD Mandate Is Working As Intended,” Say Supporters

Supporters of the mandate such as the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) are urging members to view the report with a “more hopeful outlook.” In a recently penned editorial, TCA Vice President of Government Affairs, Dave Heller, and TCA Manager of Government Affairs, Kathryn Sanner, write, “Compliance does not, and never will, equal safety.”

The TCA policy leaders contend those claiming “that the overarching goal of the ELD mandate was to improve safety by reducing crashes, speeding, and a litany of other safety problems,” are “misguided.” In fact, they say achieving a greater level of safety was never the primary goal of the law.

 

They write, “On its face, the ELD mandate’s sole goal was to improve compliance with the present hours of service (HOS) regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). That does not mean safety was not a factor at all – the belief by the Agency was that safety improvements would be a byproduct of better HOS compliance.”

While the TCA leaders say improved compliance could “theoretically” improve safety outcomes, this reasoning was never realistic. They write, “But in the real world, drivers are feeling pressured to speed, drive while drowsy, and continue driving longer than the allotted limit when they are delayed by sitting in traffic, driving through construction zones, or detained at a shipper or receiver’s facilities.”

“The ELD mandate is working as intended. While the ELD mandate may not have immediately produced safety results, it has provided us with proof that HOS regulations need to change.” – TCA Vice President of Government Affairs, Dave Heller, and TCA Manager of Government Affairs, Kathryn Sanner

Further, they explain TCA has “continuously reiterated… many unintended consequences could result from solely focusing on compliance.” The important take away from this study they say is that HOS rules must change.

“While the ELD mandate may not have immediately produced safety results, it has provided us with proof that HOS regulations need to change,” they write. Revealing the inadequacies of the current HOS regulations was always the intended outcome of implementing the ELD mandate they argue. “The ELD mandate is working as intended. Next stop: HOS reform,” they concluded.


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Opponents Say ELD Mandate Was “Never About Safety” Anyway

While supporters make the case the ELD mandate is “working as intended,” opponents are crying foul. David Owen, president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC), says he’s been against the mandate “from the beginning.”

In an exclusive interview with Transportation Nation Network (TNN), Owen said he’s not surprised the reaction coming from supporters of the mandate. “What’s interesting is they immediately turned the conversation into claiming that they knew in advance that ELDs wouldn’t improve safety,” Owen commented.

“They immediately starting talking about speeding tickets going up and drivers speeding to make up for their lost time which is totally anecdotal,” he maintained. “You can make the numbers on speeding go up any time you want to. That’s just a diversionary tactic to bring up speed limiters.”

NASTC now has over 11,000 members which Owen says the average sized member company has 14 to 15 trucks. He says if the FMCSA and supporters of the ELD mandate really wanted to improve safety they would begin by working to reduce driver turnover. “Driver turnover is the biggest issue in trucking as far as safety is concerned,” Owens argues.

“Most of my guy’s turnover rates are in the teens not in the hundreds of teens. These large public companies have to grow to satisfy their investors. In increasing their revenue they get to a point where they become cancerous. Their turnover goes up to 110% and their safety numbers are bad,” he remarked.

“I do believe it is going to help prove the point that we tried to tell them all along. Smaller carriers have become less safe. It didn’t help anything.” – Mike Landis, CEO of the United States Trucking Alliance

However, the study revealed the safety outcomes for larger carriers remained largely unchanged. It was the smaller carriers and independent operators who saw a sharp increase in “unsafe” moving violations and increase in crashes.

Mike Landis, CEO of the United States Trucking Alliance (USTA), said that was exactly what he was expecting. “As much as I’d like to say it surprises me, it really doesn’t,” Landis recently told TNN.

He explained, “You are taking people the system likes to call “cheaters” and now you are forcing them to one-hundred percent abide by the HOS, which we all know are not safe. So they are rushing a little bit more or running tired.”

Landis lamented that legislators and regulators didn’t listen more to the voices of small business truckers when debating the potential impacts of the mandate. He hopes the results of the new study will wake up those in power.


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“I do believe it is going to help prove the point that we tried to tell them all along,” Landis said. “Smaller carriers have become less safe. It didn’t help anything.”

Landis was also unfazed by larger carrier’s safety results. “The big carriers were menaces on the highways before because of lack of training,” he said.

Landis, like many, continue to question the real motivation behind the law. “I don’t ever think it was about safety. It’s all about money and corporate America,” he insisted.

 

AGREED: HOS Reform Is Long Overdue

The two sides don’t agree on much when it comes to the mandated use of ELDs, but one thing supporters and opponents alike can find agreement on is the need to reform the current HOS rules. Heller and Sanner wrote “desperately needed changes to the regulations” include “providing the ability to stop the 14-hour clock with split sleeper berth flexibility and removing the 30 minute rest break.”

Owen agreed. “It would be a good year if they would stop at AOBRDs and do away with the 30-minute break to let drivers manage their own risks,” he told TNN. “You would see accidents, fatalities and property damage go way down.”

Landis is holding out hope the FMCSA will provide more flexibility to drivers like him who have operated accident-free for 14 years. “I am hopeful that they’ve listened to all of us that have met with them, but I’m also skeptical because if you look through history they do what benefits the bigger carriers,” Landis worried. “I just think they are going to make sure it’s not too flexible so that the big carriers stay ahead of the competition.”

We should know soon what reforms the FMCSA will be adopting to HOS rules. An announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

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