What will the run-up to the ELD mandate deadline is going to be like — how many carriers still need ELDs? Will there be an eleventh-hour stampede for ELDs? Will ELD providers be able to meet the last-minute demand?
The December 18 deadline is both a finish line and a starting line. So if the ELD era begins and a significant number of trucks are still running without them, what would that scenario look like?
David Owen, president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies and no fan of the mandate to begin with, expects it will be “devastating.”
“I’m not a sky-is-falling type guy, but I’m not at all confident it’s going to be a pretty sight,” he said. He expects a lot of confusion, frustration, violations and out-of-service vehicles.
In April, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance released the latest edition of its North American Standard of Out of Service Criteria, which includes the OOS conditions pertaining to the ELD mandate. “There’s about a half a dozen ways a vehicle can be placed OOS because of an ELD,” CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney said.
The most obvious is not having one. Owen anticipates a good many trucks will not have ELDs by the December 18 deadline, as does Tom Bray, industry consultant with J.J. Keller & Associates. And if enough of these trucks get slapped with violations, that could mean problems for individual drivers and for the industry as a whole.
“Short term, it’s going to crunch down on capacity somewhat,” Bray said. “If the OOS rate goes from, say 5 percent to 25 percent, that’s a lot of trucks just not moving.”
Bray suggested that if there is mass noncompliance because of an industry shortage of ELD units, one possible solution to prevent a supply chain breakdown may be to give some leeway to drivers who could show they have a system on back order.
That is possible, Mooney said, but don’t count on it. “At this point in time there’s no grace period,” Mooney said.
Tom Cuthbertson, vice president of regulatory compliance at fleet management software company Omnitracs and who also was on the committee that fashioned the wording of the CVSA’s ELD provisions, agreed.
“FMCSA has consistently said, ‘we’re not changing the date. The date’s the date.’”
Everyone’s known this was coming for quite a while, Mooney said, and if drivers choose to ignore the situation or refuse to buy the required equipment, that’s their choice.
“Of course, there would be enforcement consequences,” he said.
It’s important carriers give themselves enough time to make sure their drivers know the HOS rules and can live by them, Bray said. Between ELD violations and HOS violations, a lot of CSA scores could take a hit in a relatively short time.
Owen, however, wonders if law enforcement will be ready for December 18. “How many people are going to be trained or certified to pull data on the side of the road from 50 different devices?” he asked.
Mooney said the CVSA is working with ELD vendors to get inspectors acquainted with their hardware. A good example of this effort was at the North American Inspectors Championship in Orlando, Florida, August 7-11. About 18 ELD vendors were expected to be there, Mooney said, and they were asked to install simulated logs with violations into their ELDs so inspectors could get used to extracting information from their systems.
In an e-mail, an FMCSA spokesman said: “Law enforcement/safety officials have received training and will continue to receive training …” The e-mail went on to say that a second phase of law enforcement training will begin in the fall, a “train the trainer” format in which law enforcement/safety officials will be trained with the express purpose of taking what they learn and spreading it among their respective units.
Whether there’s confusion over reading the ELDs or there’s a sudden slew of violations, Owen thinks the industry is headed for a crisis, and the worst of it, he said, is it will be a “created crisis” that didn’t have to be.
“I don’t think it’s going to be something we’re just going to shrug and say, ‘oh, well, that wasn’t a very good idea,’” he said. “The only good thing that could possibly come out of it is that it will glare a shining light on the stupidity of the Hours of Service, the 14-hour rule particularly, and the 30-minute forced break.”
Cuthbertson, on the other hand, doesn’t think there has to be a crisis. Get your ELD now instead of waiting until November to do it, he said. Crisis averted.
“I don’t mean to be sarcastic on it, but I mean if people start doing something and moving forward now,” there’s a chance a crisis could be [averted]. “But if you have a whole contingent wait until the last 30 days … .”