The ELD Mandate
Finalized in December 2015 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the ELD mandate requires commercial drivers to use Electronic Logging Devices in their vehicles when on duty. Intended to improve accountability, reduce accidents, and gather more information about driver performance and activity, the ELD mandate was—and remains—a controversial law for many drivers.
Rather than allowing drivers to make personal judgments about their schedule and record their hours on a paper log, the ELD mandate requires that every driver is tracked by a device that tracks hours to the second and distance to the tenth of the mile. Because of their accuracy and precision, ELDs leave absolutely no room for error.
Before the ELD mandate, drivers used pen and paper to record their hours. The truthfulness of these paper logs was disputed by government officials who claimed that drivers had a habit of “fudging” the numbers and driving longer hours than allowed by law. The majority of employers and employees were fine with using an honor system to record hours, as it allowed companies to make more shipments and drivers to make more money.
However, a decade-long increase in commercial vehicle accidents and suspicions that drivers were circumventing HOS rules with falsified logs prompted the FMCSA to take matters into their own hands. Despite having been set in place for years, it was the ELD mandate that brought attention to the serious flaws and problems with the current Hours of Service (HOS) rules.
Many drivers feel that the ELD mandate, in conjunction with HOS rules, keeps them racing against the clock to make deliveries and shipments to avoid breaking the law. With ELDs now in place, drivers find themselves making less money, speeding more frequently, and radically changing their sleeping schedule to comply with arbitrary rules, such as having to sleep for 8 consecutive hours.
This handy infographic from Safety Track does a great job of summarizing the HOS rules:
Paving A Road with Good Intentions
On top of feeling pressure from the government, drivers are being pressed by employers to comply with these rules. Pushy dispatchers encourage drivers to defy common sense and drive in rush hour traffic to maintain their schedules, rather than wait until later at night.
Instead of preventing drivers from overworking and becoming fatigued, limited hours and mandatory breaks actually force them to scramble to get the job done before the end of their shift. Simply put, HOS rules remove flexibility from truckers’ schedules and cause them to engage in risky behaviors that decrease safety on the road—the exact opposite of what the FMCSA intended.
Why are the HOS regulations unrealistic? Because in reality, truckers don’t live in a 9-to-5 world where they get the recommended 8 hours of sleep and 8 glasses of water per day. They work difficult shifts (often overnight) and have customized schedules dictated by their work. Nevertheless, HOS rules still remain in place with virtually no changes since they were first written up in 2011.
If the ELD mandate is to stay in place, some serious revisions need to be made to HOS rules to ensure that drivers—and their way of providing for themselves and their families—are truly being protected.
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