Democratic Senator pushes for clarity with Electronic Logs

“DOT’s one-size-fits-all approach fails to take into account the uniqueness of these industries, and I request you provide more clarity and exemptions to the rule to address these situations," said the Senator.

Ag haulers now exempt from ELD mandate until June 18

A  Democrat Senator from Republican dominated North Dakota is pressing the Department of Transportation for clarity over electronic logs and how truckers will be required to log in their hours.

Heitkamp Pushes for ELD Clarity

This is just the latest effort by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) to get legislators and the DOT to evaluate the new ELD laws and their impact on agriculture.

In a Tuesday letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Heitkamp said she is worried that agricultural stakeholders have not had enough input in the administration’s efforts to impose the rule.

“Based on feedback I have received from my constituents, I am very concerned that this rule does not take into consideration the realities of transporting livestock, insects and perishable produce, and that it will affect recreational horse users that are not involved with the commercial trucking industry,” Heitkamp wrote.

“DOT’s one-size-fits-all approach fails to take into account the uniqueness of these industries, and I request you provide more clarity and exemptions to the rule to address these situations.”

The new rule, which mandates truckers use electronic logging devices rather than paper to record driving hours, went into effect Dec. 18. But the administration gave truckers until April 1 to comply with the requirement, which is meant to adhere to hours-of-service rules and help improve safety.

Additional Agriculture Waiver Approved Tuesday

An additional 90-day waiver from the electronic logging device rule for agriculture-related transportation was approved today by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“Today’s ELD waiver is good news for our farmers and ranchers,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said. “This will help ensure that our ag products can get to market.

Moving forward, we will continue working with our colleagues in the Senate and FMCSA to provide a solution that does not impose unworkable requirements, which threaten the safety of livestock while in transit.”

The waiver ensures drivers transporting agriculture products will not be forced out of service if they are still using paper logs to record their hours of service.

“We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from,” Administrator Ray Martinez said in a statement.

Fighting for Some Time

Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Heitkamp have been leading the bipartisan attempt to delay electronic logging device implementation for livestock haulers.

On Dec. 5, 20 senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader (R-KY) Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader (D-NY) Chuck Schumer, supporting a provision in the House-passed Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations. Language in THUD delays enactment of ELD rules for commercial motor vehicles transporting livestock or insects.

The letter says a delay will allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) additional time so adjustments can be made in hours of service rules that will help address animal welfare concerns.

Eld Impact on Agriculture

“The ELD mandate imposes restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

“If the agriculture industry had been forced to comply by the March 18 deadline, live agricultural commodities, including plants and animals, would have been at risk of perishing before they reached their destination,” he said. “The 90-day extension is critical to give DOT additional time to issue guidance on hours-of-service and other ELD exemptions that are troubling for agriculture haulers.”

Heitkamp in her letter said there is “uncertainty” surrounding whether or not the rule applies to “agriculture and recreational uses” like transporting cattle for rodeos.

The North Dakota lawmaker, who is up for reelection this year in a state President Trump won by nearly 38 points, said she backs a delay in imposing the rule on commercial vehicles moving insects or livestock.

“The delay will give the FMCSA time to make necessary adjustments to hours of service rules that address trip start time and animal welfare concerns,” Heitkamp said, referring to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which issued the rule.

Groups opposing the rule argue it’s too costly for the trucking industry to implement. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which says truckers faced technical issues due to electronic logging, last month called on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to hold an oversight hearing on the regulation.