SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - A mandate that will require truck drivers to have electronic logging devices (ELD) in their vehicles at all time is cause for concern for many South Dakota drivers.
After repeated attempts by owner-operators and independent trucking companies, it appears a mandate that will require all truckers to have ELDs in their vehicles is set to take effect on Monday, Dec. 18. South Dakotan drivers have repeatedly raised concerns to KSFY News reporter Erika Leigh about this mandate.
Over the summer, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) introduced H.B. 3282 to delay the ELD mandate, which currently has 69 co-sponsors in the House, including Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Rep. David Young (R-IA), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). Despite the bill's support, it has sat stagnant in the House for months.
Babin has made repeated appeals to President Donald Trump to delay the Obama-era mandate. At the end of November, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and the Department of Transportation (DOT) agreed to a 90-day delay of the mandate for agriculture and livestock haulers, along with exemptions for some other truckers, such as those who drive under 150 miles for pick-ups and deliveries.
"The Department of Transportation can give a 90-day waiver for all truckers for this mandate," Babin said. "Instead of offering fairness and relief they're picking winners and losers."
Babin spoke on the House floor again Thursday pleading the president to consider delaying the mandate for all drivers until they can come up with additional rules and regulations for all drivers, as opposed to a "one-size-fits-all" mandate.
On Friday, South Dakota truck drivers raised additional concerns, including cybersecurity, after the University of Michigan was able to hack a device in August 2016 and take over a truck's brake system and engine.
As of early last month, nearly half of drivers had not yet purchased an e-log device, which can cost upwards of $200 for the most basic models, plus an additional monthly subscription fee. Many who have say they've received notifications that the devices are out of stock until February.
"I think it's gonna be a big mess," Kenny Meiers, a South Dakota owner-operator said. "There's already a shortage of trucks, there's already a shortage of drivers and this is just gonna make it worse."
"We've been ignored," Meiers said. "I think Washington has just turned a deaf ear to this whole thing the only people they want to listen to is the ATA (American Truckers Association) and the major trucking companies."
Sen. Mike Rounds hosted a round table with several South Dakota truckers and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao a few weeks ago, where he felt they made progress, particularly with ag and livestock haulers, who were granted a 90-day delay. but everyone else will have to start using the devices on Monday.
"The issue is not so much that we electronically log, the issue are the hours of operation that these folks can operate," said Rounds. "You can't expect someone to count against their 14-hour day sitting at a livestock barn for eight hours and then trying to get their livestock to where it's gotta be delivered."
For small owner-operators like Meiers, he said this mandate just doesn't work for his small business.
"We have families to think about and we have loved ones that we want to get home to," Meiers said.
As it stands, the e-log device will keep a trucker on the road for a 14-hour shift, no matter what they're doing. They could be sitting, waiting for a delivery for several hours, not driving and once their clock is up for the day, they have pull over where ever they are, even if it's 10 minutes from home.
"The picture that they want to paint is that we're a bunch of outlaws, falsifying our logbooks, running 24 hours a day, 1,000 miles a day," Meiers said. "That couldn't be most farther from the truth."
For those drivers who don't have their ELD on Monday, truckers said they can be cited at every weigh station they stop at. Most states haven't set that fine yet, but the state of Washington has. Their fine is set at $500, so for a trucker driving from Spokane to Seattle, where there are four weigh stations along the route, they could be fined up to $2,000 -- and that's just in one direction.
Truckers also said the additional cost they incur will eventually be passed on to consumers -- it will likely start with an increase in cost of produce and dairy and then trickle down into every day household goods. They believe that will happen in the next several weeks.