Putting the Brakes on ELDs

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One of Trump’s first executive orders immediately following his inauguration was to freeze all new and upcoming business regulations. White House press secretary, Sean Spicer announced, “The Trump administration will send a letter to all executive agencies tonight to immediately abide by a regulatory freeze” until the administration provides further notice, according to the Washington Examiner.

This should have been no surprise since Trump regularly expressed his intention to reduce the regulatory burden on American industries, if elected, and he wasted no time at making good at this promise. Since then, he also enacted the “two for one” rule requiring that for every new regulation, two regulations must be thrown out. That rule is now being sued by labor and union organizations. Stay tuned on that.

The previous approach, that society needs government to regulate industries in order to protect the common good has been replaced by the current approach of allowing industries to self-regulate.

In the case of the electronic logging rule (ELD), the purpose of the new regulation was to make it safer for drivers by decreasing driver fatigue, while increasing efficiency in managing, tracking and sharing records of duty status (RODS) data. The ELD accomplishes this by automatically recording the driver’s time at the wheel, increasing efficiency, while also increasing the accuracy of hours of service (HOS) recording.

This mandate, intended for carriers/drivers who are required to keep RODS (with some exceptions, more info here), became effective a year ago, on February 16, 2016.  Those using paper logs or other system must convert to ELDs by December 18, 2017. (More info on that here.) Of course, all of that is on hold for now though.

Before the new administration, the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) representing the small-business truck drivers challenged that new rule. They argued that the rule was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated driver’s 4th Amendment rights to privacy. That challenge was struck down last fall in the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. (OOIDA hadn’t made it publicly known if they would appeal it to the next step: the U.S. Supreme Court.)

On the one hand, there’s a clear need for some government regulation. The 2007-2009 subprime mortgage crisis is a clear example where self-regulation failed miserably.

Self-regulation can work though, and works best when consumers and businesses are protected, while at the same time preventing suffocation to innovation or the economy.

Some would say, “Who knows the industries better than the companies that are in it?” Done properly, companies know which and when regulations are most needed and wanted, and they’re far quicker and more nimble to respond to important issues/problems than the notoriously slow government.

However, in the case of the ELD mandate, there’s a very real fear by small-business and independent truckers that the new regulations — and the significant expense that comes with them — will only help the large companies by pushing the smaller guys out of business.

It will be interesting to see where this all leads. Stay tuned on that, too.

Linda Baerend

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