The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, or Trucking Alliance, applauded a 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruling this week, saying it clears the way for a new era in the freight transportation industry. The ruling upholds a 2012 congressional mandate to require electronic logging devices (ELDs) in interstate trucks. ELDs automatically record the hours that truck drivers are behind the wheel, thus reducing truck driver fatigue and improving highway safety.
The court’s decision effectively ends an 81-year old practice that allows truck drivers to write down their on-duty hours in a log book. In the unanimous court ruling, Judge David Hamilton wrote that with logbooks, “[it] is easy to insert an error…whether intentionally or not” and that logbooks “have been ongoing sources of concern because they are easy to falsify.” This ruling virtually assures that all interstate freight carriers must install ELDs in their trucks by December 2017, giving law enforcement a more accurate way to verify compliance with drivers’ on-duty driving time.
“ELD’s, when embraced by our industry, will improve commercial highway safety,” commented Reggie Dupré, president/CEO of Dupré Logistics, Secretary/Treasurer of the Trucking Alliance and a former chair of the American Trucking Associations Safety Policy Committee. “ELDs are another technology that assists our drivers in their effort to be safe and reduce accidents,” said Dupré.
ELDs enable technology to do the work for the truck driver, recording their on-duty hours, while also making violations more easily identified by law enforcement. The court viewed the ELDs as a key element to reducing accidents caused by truck driver fatigue, citing an estimate by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that ELDs can result in “26 lives saved, 562 injuries avoided and 1,844 crashes avoided.”
The three judge panel frequently cited the importance it gave to Congress and its’ mandate of ELDs in 2012, writing that “requiring ELDs was not left to the discretion of the agency; Congress mandated it” and later emphasizing that “Congress did not instruct the Agency to consider requiring electronic monitoring, as it had in the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995. In 2012, Congress simply ordered the agency to require ELDs.”
In 2011, the Trucking Alliance joined with Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and other consumer safety groups in calling on Congress to pass an ELD mandate. Sponsored by the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and former US Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), Congress passed the “Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2012” the next year, directing the FMCSA to require ELDs in all interstate commercial trucks.
“The fact that Congress mandated ELDs, rather than relying on the FMCSA to simply promulgate a rule making, gave this issue much more weight,” observed Lane Kidd, the Alliance’s managing director. “Congress mandating ELDs will prove to be the pivotal point that changed the trucking industry for the better and a new era of safety and compliance.”
Steve Williams, president of the Trucking Alliance, Chairman/CEO of Maverick USA, and a former chairman of the American Trucking Associations, thinks that coalition building between the Department of Transportation, the trucking industry and safety organizations will prove vital to eliminating fatalities and injuries in large truck accidents, as the recently announced “Road to Zero” campaign by several federal agencies hopes to do.
But as important as this court ruling is, Williams believes there’s more work to be done. “With this ruling we are one step closer to assuring the motoring public that commercial truck drivers are properly rested,” said Williams, adding, “but now we need similar use of technology to ensure drivers are drug and alcohol free” referring to a current effort by Trucking Alliance carriers to utilize hair testing in lieu of a urinalysis for truck driver applicants.
The Trucking Alliance is a coalition of freight transportation companies and other businesses that support safety reforms in the freight transportation industry.