Fearing disruption to fresh produce trucking markets, Western Growers has sent a letter to the Department of Transportation requesting a minimum one-year delay in its scheduled mid-December Electronic Logging Device implementation date.
“We have heard feedback that independent truckers simply aren’t ready to implement,” Ken Gilliland. director of international trade and transportation, said Nov. 8. “It is a concern with the effective date quickly approaching that it will have a tremendous impact on our industry.”
Coming Dec. 18, the Department of Transportation rule on Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) requires their use by commercial drivers who are required to prepare hours-of-service records. Under hours of service 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, an ELD is an electronic device connected to a truck’s engine that allows truck drivers to track 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 add to delivered costs of produce and add one or more days in cross country shipments. Trucks can be fined by the highway patrol if they are found to be violating hours of service.
Stating that a delay in ELD implementation is in the public interest, Western Growers said in the letter that producers of fresh, perishable commodities are “almost entirely reliant” on independent owner-operators for transporting their fresh crops.
“It has become readily apparent that many, if not most, of the independent owner operators who specialize in hauling perishable agricultural commodities will not be able or prepared to comply with the December 18, 2017, ELD implementation date,” Matt McInerney, senior executive vice president of Western Growers, wrote in a Nov. 6 letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. “A further impediment to meeting this deadline is a lack of understanding on enforcement among the vast majority of independent owner-operators regarding the ELD mandate,” McInerney said.
He said that unless the Department of Transportation grants a compliance extension, growers will most likely face a sizable shortage of available specialized refrigerated transportation services.
“The lack of equipment will have a direct impact on the ability for growers to meet their harvest schedules and move their crops to market, resulting is spoilage, and in turn, shortages of fresh vegetables and fruit throughout the distribution chain,” he said.
The December implementation of ELD is supported by the American Trucking Association, which told transportation officials earlier this year to resist attempts to delay the regulation.
The trucking group said the December deadline for the regulation was established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2015 following a decade of regulatory inquiry, study, litigation and a Congressional mandate in 2012.
“This technology has proven effective in improving safety and increasing compliance many times,” the letter said.
According to the ATA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2014 report titled “Evaluating the Potential Safety Benefits of Electronic Hours-of-Service (HOS) Recorders,” found that carriers using an ELD saw an 11.7% reduction in crash rate and a 50% drop in hours-of-service violations over carriers using traditional paper logs.
On the other hand, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has favored delayed implementation of ELD by two years, and is joined by a coalition of more than 30 groups,several related to the livestock industry and agriculture.