U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear ELD Appeal

June 23, 2017

Sometimes, it's not what's said that really holds the most meaning, it's those silences that are so telling. And for American truck drivers, the United States Supreme Court said a mouthful when they refused to hear a lawsuit challenging the mandated use of electronic logging devices starting December 2017. By not hearing the case, the Supreme Court has effectively killed efforts to stop the digital wave that's coming for truckers everywhere.

This news is a mixed bag for professional drivers and the community is equally torn on the end result of ELD usage. A 2016 article on Trucks.com reports that a recent survey asked trucking companies if they had drivers leave over ELD requirements. It found that a full 51.4 percent lost manpower over electronic mileage logging. Drivers have voiced their thoughts on ELD, some stand in support of ELD, others are looking for other opportunities so they can avoid being forced to use the technology.

Two Sides of a Heated Debate on ELD

Some of the drivers who are opposed to ELD are concerned about their privacy. After all, it may just be a truck to their company, but it's home away from home for the trucker. To these staunch opponents, ELD systems are akin to letting Big Brother in their front door. Others believe that the ELD is a sorry attempt at an overhaul of the way trucking is currently managed by the Department of Transportation.

"If the government is going to mandate ELDs and [faulty] hours of service, then the government should also mandate that shippers and receivers load and unload their own freight in a timely manner or pay mandatory detention time of $50 an hour per driver after the first hour of waiting, all of that money going to the driver." Steve Brandon posted on OverdriveOnline.com. "Shippers and receivers have always been bad about delaying the driver and it seems they have gotten worse since the new HOS rules came into [effect]."

However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hasn't been swayed by complaints lodged by owner-operators and other small fleet drivers. By their estimates, ELDs will spare the trucking industry 1,844 costly collisions, 562 injuries and save the lives of 26 travelers each year. This could ultimately be a very good thing for small drivers who sometimes struggle to find reliable insurance coverage. Accidents with cars end up being exceedingly expensive once juries have awarded damages, which in turn makes insurance companies wary of covering truckers at all.

What ELD Can and Cannot Do

Computerized automation has come to all aspects of modern life, it was only a matter of time before the trucking industry would have to embrace technology, too. The good news is that ELDs have already been in use by larger fleets like UPS, FedEx and Werner Enterprises and some small fleets, too. What these companies have found is that ELDs not only decrease costs to the carrier, they save a lot of time for drivers.

Since ELDs can detect information about driving behaviors like idling, speeding or hard braking, they can help improve fuel economy immediately while encouraging safer driving. A U.S. Department of Transportation commissioned report analyzed data from 224,034 truck-years and 15.6 billion miles of driving using ELDs and found that ELD-equipped trucks had a 11.7 percent lower crash rate than their unequipped peers for all crash types. The preventable crash rate was 5.1 percent lower in the ELD population, as well.

These devices do learn a lot about your truck and your driving habits, but they are not in any way reporting directly to the DOT, nor is anyone able to shut down a truck remotely. ELD legislation currently in place tightly regulates how these devices can be used and who can see the data that comes from them. Only a limited number of employees at your trucking company have access to your ELD data. This can come in handy if, for example, your truck were to break down in a remote or difficult to access location.

ELDs might hold the potential to revolutionize the trucking industry. Future applications could include sending instructions to receivers to anticipate a truck so it can be unloaded quickly, for example. No matter what side of the argument you're currently on, the Supreme Court's message was clear: ELDs are here to stay.

What do you think about the recent ELD ruling? Is ELD going to change trucking significantly or is it just another fancy log book? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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