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Michael Leizerman
Michael Leizerman
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Attempt to Stall Truck Safety Is Voted Down by House

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On September 6th, the U.S. House voted 246-173 against a measure that would have potentially delayed the upcoming mandate for Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) that will require all trucks on the road to comply starting in December 18th, 2017.  This most recent tactic was proposed by Representative Brian Babin of Texas, who, along with several other lawmakers, had intended to delay the ELD requirement through the 2018 fiscal year by restricting funding for enforcement with an amendment to House funding bill H.R. 3354. Attempts at delaying the ELD mandate first surfaced earlier this year when a bipartisan group of representatives proposed a standalone bill that would have postponed the ELD mandate through 2019—without success.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates the trucking industry, believes the new ELD mandate will go a long way toward improving hours-of-service (HOS) compliance with commercial drivers, thereby improving safety on our nation’s highways. The FMCSA first proposed such legislation in March 2014, leading many to believe that the recent efforts to delay the requirement are nothing more than stall tactics.

While many opponents cite the potential for financially burdening small transportation companies as the reason for wanting to postpone the ELD requirement for up to two years (the industry claims that units are now more affordable than ever with tablet- and phone-based apps now entering the marketplace), proponents of the new rule claim that it will reduce HOS violations by making it much more difficult, if not impossible, for drivers to misrepresent their time spent behind the wheel—a frequent phenomenon that leads to fatigue and unsafe driving conditions. In fact, there are many truck drivers who will shamelessly admit that they often do surpass the safe driving hour limits in order to make more deliveries and thereby receive more pay. In addition to the ELD mandate, there have been other initiatives aimed at reducing the amount of HOS fraud and ensuring all drivers on the road are well-rested and alert. Some drivers are lobbying for a pay by-the-hour system rather than by-the-mile, an idea supported by research done by an Australian university—who claim that such a system does not account for driver “down time,” therefore they often take fewer breaks and more drugs (usually to help keep them awake) when driving.

These are all great ideas to reduce the occurrence of unsafe conditions, but I believe that what really needs to happen is more stringent enforcement of the regulation known as the 11/14 rule or 14-hour rule. This regulation states that truck drivers can only be “on duty” for 14 hours and drive for only 11 of those hours before needing to take a 10-hour break. ELDs are seen as a tool that will help the FMCSA enforce this by providing accurate and easily accessible HOS records, but again, it is up to the federal agency to effectively use such data while removing all violators from the road. As the December deadline for compliance continues to approach, we get closer to learning whether or not this mandate will promote safer truck operation.

Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Associates by visiting their website, www.truckaccidents.com.

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