Trucking companies will receive a small reprieve when it comes to implementation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) electronic logging device (ELD) rule that takes effect on Dec. 18, 2017. The rule, which is designed to reduce inaccurate hours of service reporting, requires truck drivers that currently use paper logbooks to record their on- and off-duty status to instead use electronic on-board devices.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) announced on Aug. 28, 2017, that inspectors and roadside officers will begin issuing citations on Dec. 18 for failure to have an ELD or automatic onboard recording device, and fines may be issued. However, the CVSA said that trucks will not be placed out of service for violations until April 1, 2018. The CVSA – a nonprofit association comprised of governmental commercial motor vehicle safety officials and industry representatives – said that this two-phase enforcement plan is consistent with the enforcement of previous major trucking regulations. FMCSA spokesperson Duane DeBruyne reiterated the CVSA decision and further emphasized that companies that continually violate the rule could be subject to federal investigation.

In previous articles (see Holland & Knight's alerts "Supreme Court's Refusal Keeps Electronic Logging Device Rule on Track," June 21, 2017, and "Is There an Opening to Withdraw or Modify Electronic Logging Device Rule?," Jan. 13, 2017), we have provided updates on the ELD rule, which was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit after a challenge by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). On June 12, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, rendering the Seventh Circuit decision final. With the effective date of the rule looming, many in the industry are not yet in compliance.

Considerations for Carriers

The ELD rule remains a topic of debate in the industry. A proposed bill in the U.S. House of Representatives offered by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) would delay implementation of the ELD rule, but congressional Republican leadership has not indicated that it would support the bill and the industry is divided on the issue. Lobbying efforts continue at the U.S. Department of Transportation and in Congress, but at this point, all motor carriers and owner-operators should make arrangements to be in compliance with the law by Dec. 18, 2017.

Even if trucks are not placed out of service, citations and fines may be issued, and trucking companies also risk the possibility that shippers and brokers will refuse to use carriers that are not in compliance with the law.