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Ag Truckers Want More Than 90 Day Extension on DOT Mandate – DTN

Ernst Undesser
By Mary Kennedy, DTN Cash Grains Analyst November 29, 2017

Ag Truckers Want More Than 90 Day Extension on DOT Mandate – DTN

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Images

On Monday, Nov. 20, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a 90-day exemption for truckers hauling agriculture loads and livestock to comply with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) electronic logging device mandate (ELD). The mandate is set to go in to effect December 18, 2017.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, perhaps the loudest opponent of the ELD mandate, wants more. On Nov. 21, the group stated in a news release that they submitted an exemption request for a five-year delay to cover small-business truckers. The OODIA has long contended that smaller, safer carriers should be completely exempt from the “costly, unproven” regulation.

“Small-business truckers that have already proven their ability to operate safely should not be subject to purchasing costly, unproven and uncertified devices,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA.

OOIDA noted in the news release that the request is for at least a five-year exemption for motor carriers classified as small businesses according to the Small Business Administration and with a proven safety history with no attributable at-fault crashes, and who do not have a Carrier Safety Rating of “Unsatisfactory.”

Among the numerous concerns cited in the request, self-certification of vendors is one of the biggest issues brought up by OOIDA. FMCSA has stated that they do not know if the self-certified ELDs listed on their website fulfill regulatory requirements in the mandate. At present, none of the 193 devices listed have been validated by the agency or any unbiased, third-party testing program.

“Most small-business motor carriers can ill afford to make these purchases only to learn later that the ELD is non-compliant. Yet they are required to do so or risk violation,” said Spencer.

Another major concern expressed by OOIDA in the exemption request includes cybersecurity. At two recent cybersecurity conferences, a leading research firm released a summary of their findings after analyzing three ELD providers currently listed as self-certified on the FMCSA website.

Their general conclusion was that all three devices did very little, if anything at all, to follow best practices and were open to serious compromise, according to OOIDA.

The request was submitted to the agency that regulates motor carriers, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration. (here)

AGRICULTURE HAULERS, SMALL TRUCKING FIRMS CAN’T ABSORB COSTS

I asked Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, what he thought of the mandate for truckers who haul grain and other ag commodities.

“Many agricultural haulers are concerned due to the cost of purchasing the equipment,” he said. “Many who transport agricultural products are small trucking firms or owner-operators who are less able to absorb such an expense in such a tight-margin industry. Many are arguing that those small businesses who have a track record of safety, who maintain a paper record of their operations should not have to incur such a cost.”

Steenhoek told me, “There is a concern that this mandate could drive certain small trucking firms out of business, which will reduce the capacity and amount of competition within agricultural shipping.”

I also spoke to an owner-operator from Texas who said that he has many friends in all parts of the trucking industry, from agriculture to oil. “This mandate is going to cause some real headaches on this country as we don’t have the infrastructure for this yet…”

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“The funny thing is the trucking alliance puts all these numbers out about accident reduction, and so forth, and most large carriers are on ELD, but they have the most accidents anyway,” he said.

“It’s also been proven that most truck accidents happen on two-lane highways, not the interstate, so where does the ELD help with that? It’s not the machine that is the problem, it’s the humans that are making all the rules and overregulating one of the most important industries in our nation. Without drivers like me and other small operators, America will stop functioning as we know it.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, who on July 19 already introduced a bill titled “H.R. 3282, the ELD Extension Act of 2017,” said on his Facebook page: “I sent a letter on Nov. 9 to President Donald J. Trump with a plan for him to use an Executive Order to delay the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate, and urged him in the strongest possible terms to do so. Millions of Americans will be affected by this regulation that was written by the Obama Administration that will go into effect this Dec. 18 unless we act.”

“Millions of hard-working American truckers, farmers and small businesses need you to take immediate and decisive action to protect them from a massive new regulation that is scheduled to go into effect just 39 days from today,” Babin said in the letter.

“I am writing on their behalf with a plan to help you do just that. Accordingly, I respectfully request that you issue an Executive Order as soon as possible, instructing the Secretary of Transportation to provide an immediate waiver for all trucking sectors and operations subject to this mandate, until such time as it can be certified that implementation will not cause economic or other harm to the millions who are subject to it,” Babin wrote.

Here is copy of the letter.

Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

Follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter @MaryCKenn

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Ernst Undesser
By Mary Kennedy, DTN Cash Grains Analyst November 29, 2017