Independent truckers protest electronic device that monitors driving habits


FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT)  -  About a dozen independent truckers rallied at the State Capitol in Frankfort on Monday to protest a federal Electronic Logging Device mandate that takes effect Dec. 18.

The ELD, as it is known, is a small device that plugs into a truck's engine control module, which monitors and controls some engine functions.  Similar to Bluetooth technology, the device is connected to the internet and reports vehicle functions like speed and distance traveled, as well as critical events like hard braking and evasive maneuvers.

The ELD generates two reports.  One is sent to a driver's electronic device, such as a tablet, laptop or smartphone, to automatically log hours of service, the other is a safety report sent to the company.

Federal regulations limit a truck driver to a 14-hour day, with no more than eleven hours of actual driving.  A minimum half-hour break is also required after driving eight hours.  Meals, fuel stops, traffic delays, waits at shipping and receiving terminals, are included in the 14-hour limit.  Up until now, drivers have been able to keep a paper log of their activities.   

Jeremy Osborne of Henry County, who along with his wife operate a one vehicle trucking company, said he is concerned the ELD is susceptible hackers.

"There have been high school kids who have hacked these devices," he said.  "They can activate your brakes, your throttle.  The University of Michigan did a study where they hacked an ELD very easily."

He also is concerned that the hacked information can help potential hijackers.  "If you know anything about what it takes to move freight, you know if it's a high value or high security load. Then they know exactly where you are."

Osborne said there are a lot of large companies who use this technology.  "They like to be able to track their drivers and company equipment, to make sure they're using it properly.  With owner-operators, it's the government that wants to track us." 

ELDs would be devastating to her business, according to Shelli Conaway of Greenup.  She has tried one for the past six months.  "We're looking at about a 20 percent loss in actual miles and revenue," she said.  "I'm projected to lose about $50,000 next year, if this trend continues.  I can't support my business on that."

The reason for the loss is because hours of service and ELDs don't match up, Conaway said.

Conaway and Osborne both say they favor legislation sponsored by Congressman Brain Babin, R-TX, which would delay implementation of the ELD mandate for two years.

"The government needs time to certify the ELD units," Conaway said.  "There are also several studies now underway on topics like hours of service reform.  "All of this data is coming out after the mandate starts.  This delay would allow them the time they need to look at the issues and fix some of them before it's finalized."    

Drivers have some high-powered help.  Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill sent a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last month, saying the mandate puts an undue burden on drivers and operators.

Hill's chief concern is that there is no government or third-party verification in place for the ELD device self-certification process.  

"With manufacturers of ELDs currently responsible for 'self-certifying' their compliance with government standards, with no effective procedures seemingly yet developed to provide oversight over such 'self-certifying', drivers and operators are left without any way of ascertaining which brands and models of devices ultimately will pass muster," said Hill. "They must fly blindly into investing in products they are being required to purchase.  Most small-business truckers can ill afford to make these purchases only to learn later that their ELD is non-compliant.  Yet they are required to do so or risk violation."

Hill requested the federal safety adminstration hold off on implementing the ELD rule until the agency can "develop guidelines that offer greater clarity to the individuals you expect to follow them."

Similar protests were scheduled to be held at more than 40 locations across the country.


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