- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Monday granted a 90-day temporary waiver from the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate to agricultural commodity carriers.
- In the same announcement, the FMCSA teased it would soon unveil formal guidance on the "personal conveyance" provision, the existing hours-of-service exemption for the agricultural industry, and the 150 air miles hours-of-service exemption.
- The agency's press release explicitly stated the FMCSA is looking to "implement the ELD rule in a manner that improves safety without impeding commerce," and the decisions were made after listening to feedback from "many stakeholder groups, including agriculture."
The FMCSA is ramping up its efforts to help the industry prepare for the long-awaited ELD mandate, but as the industry lags in adoption, the agency must find new ways to ensure no economic harm is done by the rule.
Earlier this year, the agency went on an awareness tour to hear stakeholder concerns, answer questions and educate the industry on how mandatory ELDs would affect them. In addition, the agency has a detailed frequently asked questions page and various other online resources to help carriers make the shift.
However, fears of a capacity crunch are due not only to a lack of information and guidance, but also a cultural lag in adopting the devices and a degree of procrastination in complying with the rule.
Although the FMCSA has made it clear not complying by Dec. 18, 2017 would result in a fine, a recent survey revealed 60% of small carriers had yet to install an ELD on their fleets. And if not enough carriers install the devices in time, some analyst suggest the industry may face an exodus of truckers or logistics companies from the market, leading to a shortfall of transportation options nationwide.
It was for that reason that state agencies said they would not force any carriers out of service for failing to comply with the ELD mandate until April 2018. The agency has also sporadically granted exemptions to the rule for certain companies.
However, the delay for the agricultural industry is the first time the rule is delayed for a full class of drivers. The choice was reportedly made after hearing industry concerns; could this delay signal the door is open for further exemptions with 3 weeks left until the mandate's implementation, or is that hope a fool's errand?