Guest Opinion: Open letter to President Trump on ELDs

Mr. President, on Oct.11, 2017, we all listened intently as you addressed a crowd in Harrisburg, PA. You proclaimed that your administration wanted to cut red tape and burdensome regulations that prevent truckers from doing their job efficiently and affordably—a message welcomed by all who were watching. We heard you again on Dec. 14 in a White House briefing when you stated, “For many decades, an ever-growing maze of regulations, rules, and restrictions has cost our country trillions and trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, countless American factories, and devastated many industries.”

Yet, on Dec. 18, 2017, your administration imposed the most ill-advised and costly regulation that America’s trucking industry has seen in the past decade. The electronic logging devices (ELDs) mandate requires all commercial motor vehicles (CMV) model year 2000 and newer to transition from using paper logbooks to electronic devices connected to the vehicle’s engine to log the driver’s hours of service (HOS).

The agency tasked with implementing this mandate, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), has already said it is not prepared to enforce it. FMCSA confirmed the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) notice that it will not begin issuing citations for non-compliance until April 1, 2018. Further, FMCSA also announced its own delay of the ELD mandate for all transporters of agricultural commodities due to needing “additional time to evaluate” the concerns expressed by the agriculture industry.

The ELD mandate will cost upwards of $2 billion to implement—a hefty price tag for a regulation that will neither increase the safety of our highways nor prevent unsafe situations from occurring. Truckers have been warned that if their ELD should fail, they must provide proof of hours in paper logbooks, which means that they will be required to record hours both electronically and on paper—a gross waste of time. We are aware of instances in which the ELD can be hacked into and confidential corporate data can be compromised.

The current ELD marketplace clearly does not support the needs of livestock haulers. Manufacturers are unable to confirm if their devices can accommodate the HOS exemptions currently utilized by the livestock industry. The lack of understanding on what these devices are capable of and the inability for anyone to share a clear answer on the use of these devices only exposes the confusion that exists in the implementation of this mandate.

As a member of the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), I am especially concerned with how these devices will affect the safety and welfare of the millions of animals that are transported across the countryside daily. It is the job of livestock haulers to ensure that animals arrive to their destination in the best condition possible. This responsibility requires additional hours of training and expertise, provided by industry programs such as the Master Cattle Transporter program and the National Pork Board’s Transport Quality Assurance program. Livestock haulers must take into consideration the welfare of their cargo which means avoiding rough-road conditions, slowing down, and being more aware of their surroundings to prevent animal injury.

If neither the enforcing officers, transporters, or manufacturers of these electronic devices are properly educated and made aware of the demands of the mandate and its scope within the agriculture industry, how will this play out in the field? To impose a regulation that you are unable to enforce or explain does not seem like a good business practice, Mr. President.

Rural America urges you to do the right thing and peel back government regulatory overreach. For the sake of all Americans, we hope you will. — Linda Chezem, USCA board member and past judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals

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