Electronic Logging Device and Hours of Service Rules for Livestock Drivers

By Marina DeWit, Region 9 Advocate

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 1.7 million heavy-duty and tractor-trailer truck driving jobs in the United States with a total of 7.4 million Americans in jobs tied to the trucking industry. Trucking is an industry made up of small businesses with 91 percent of motor carriers operating six or fewer trucks, and over 97 percent of trucking companies having fewer than 20 power units. With the driver’s average annual income of $54,000, truck driving remains one of the fastest growing occupations. It is a tough and important job that is a leading indicator of the country’s economic health.

There is a growing number of government rules regulating what drivers can and cannot do on the job. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has Hours of Service (HOS) rules and regulations that allow a driver a period of 14 consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. Such limitation to how many hours a driver can drive in a day is applied to prevent road accidents due to driver fatigue. In the past, most drivers used paper logs that could be manipulated and falsified. Most truck drivers get paid by the miles they drive, and if, for example, they are held up at a loading dock for longer than anticipated, many would try to make up their driving miles regardless of the hours lost in waiting.

The Congressionally mandated Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule has been implemented nationwide since December 2017. An ELD is used to electronically record drivers’ Record of Duty Status (RODS), which replaces the paper logbook drivers were using to record their compliance with HOS requirements. The device is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share RODS data. An ELD also synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, driver behavior (speeding, idling, hard braking, etc.), and driver status/location.

The current regulations of the Department of Transportation endanger livestock during hot summers and cold winters causing significant stress on the animals and concern for the drivers. In May of 2018, eleven Senators proposed the Transporting Livestock Across America Safety Act, a bipartisan bill that would help alleviate the strain of transportation laws for truckers hauling livestock. Some of the fixes in the bill include extending the hours of service time from 11 hours to 18 hours, exempting loading and unloading times from the driving time, and granting flexibility for rest at any point during the trip. Both the Senate and House versions of the 2019 budget include ELD delay language to provide transporters of livestock and insects exemption from enforcement of the ELD rule until September 2019.

When truck drivers are on the road for a prolonged period of time getting to their destination, it is important to reduce their fatigue and potential road accidents by setting the limit on driving hours.  Nonetheless, when dealing with transportation of livestock across the country, many small businesses would prefer the ELD rule be modified to ensure the comfort and survival of the creatures being transported.

Marina DeWit serves as the Region 9 Advocate for the SBA Office of Advocacy, representing small businesses in Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands of Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Trust Territories. DeWit works with small business owners, state and local governments, and small business associations to bring the voice of Region 9 to Washington DC. She can be reached at Marina.DeWit@sba.gov.