Truckers carrying fresh produce and other agricultural commodities have been given a 90-day temporary waiver from Electronic Logging Device rule mandate that will be implemented Dec. 18.
In addition to the 90-day waiver, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said in late November it will soon issue guidance to existing hours-of-service exemptions for the agricultural industry.
As it is written now, the agricultural exemption allows for the transportation of agricultural commodities within a 150-air mile radius from the source of the commodities without falling under the hours of service rule.
“FMCSA has listened to important feedback from many stakeholder groups, including agriculture, and will continue to take steps to ease the transition to the full implementation of the ELD rule,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Cathy Gautreaux said in a news release.
Formal publication of the guidance via the Federal Register is expected by early December, according to the release, and will include a public comment process.
The latest information on the mandate is on the FMCSA website.
The Department of Transportation rule on Electronic Logging Devices requires their use by commercial drivers who fall under hours-of-service rules. Under those regulations, truckers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, and may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
Replacing paper logs, the devices connect to a truck’s engine, tracking hours of service compliance. Even though the hours of service requirement for truckers isn’t changing in December, some industry leaders believe the less flexible, more precise enforcement of hours of service could increase the cost of produce and add a day or more in cross-country shipments.
The mandate is regulatory overkill, said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Spencer said the association believes the mandate will increase costs for the vast majority of truck shipments, without any offsetting benefit.
“The 90-day waiver exemption is good as far as it goes, but there should be a total exemption,” Spencer said. “The reality is that there is no way you are gonig to be able to have that mandate without increasing costs for transportation providers and transportation users.”
The association supports legislation to push the mandate back by two years, allowing time for Congress to consider other options, he said.
The temporary waiver will help some but leaves some questions, said Kenny Lund, vice president of support operations with La Cañada Flintridge, Calif.-based Allen Lund Co.
“If you are a cross-country truck guy and you are hauling produce you are OK, but if you are that same truck and get a backhaul with something else, then you are illegal,” Lund said. “It’s kind of weird basing the regulation on what you are hauling as far as an exemption.”
Lund said the regulation may help farms that do their own deliveries to nearby markets, such as a farm in Salinas to the Los Angeles wholesale market.
Overall, he said the 90-day delay would have been more meaningful and sensible if it specified refrigerated trucks instead.
Lund said regulators need more people with industry experience when they make rules changing the way the trucking industry operates.
Lund said the hours of service regulations are most troubling.
“The ELD is a big thing because it is now going to enforce hours of service that are flawed,” he said.
The way the hours of service regulations are written, truckers will be pressing to cover more ground in a shorter period of time.
“Truckers are regulated based on time and the regulations are making it really hard to have leeway in those hours and so the truckers are going to cover the same amount of miles in less time available to drive,” he said.
Mike Grantham, dispatcher with DT Grantham Trucking, Goldsboro, N.C., said the firm is concerned about the logging device mandate, combined with the hours of service regulation, could put the firm out of business. As a carrier specializing in less-than-truckload volume, he said the time spent loading and unloading subtracts from the allowable time spent transporting product.