Truckers concerned about federal mandate set to take effect in December

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ABERDEEN, S.D. (KSFY) - Many truckers across the country are preparing for a federal mandate to take effect Dec.18 that will require them to have an electronic device inside their vehicles that records everything they do. For those converting from a paper log, they say the regulation is intrusive, a violation of their privacy and will destroy the trucking industry for both drivers and consumers.


The devices are called ELDS, or electronic logging device systems, better known as "e-logs."

The mandate first went to Capitol Hill back in 2010 and has been approved since 2012. It was enacted in 2015 and despite pushback that's kept it on ice for the last seven years, is set to go into effect just before Christmas time.

"I like to describe it as, 'how the Grinch stole Christmas,'" said Jason Pies, a driver from Ellendale, North Dakota, who travels to Aberdeen daily.

Pies explained the devices are much little black boxes.

"It's a device that mounts into your vehicle like a little black box and it'll mount to the engine ETM," Pies explained. "It keeps track of your vehicle mileage, engine on and off time, miles driven, the amount of time that you were driving."

That might not sound bad to most people. After all, nearly everything is automated these days, right? But truck drivers say it's an invasion of their privacy.

"These trucks aren't just our job, these aren't just a truck, these are a home on wheels too," Pies explained. "[On] an average drivers spend 300 days a year in a truck so it's the equivalence of putting a security camera for the outside world to know what you're doing, where you're going in your own home and I don't think a normal person would allow that intrusion of privacy."

And in addition, Pies said he's watched e-logs ruin at least one company he used to work for.

"I worked for a carrier in West Fargo, North Dakota that made the switch several years ago from a paper log to an e-log and it was kind of devastating to them," Pies said. "What ended up happening is a number of drivers quit. This company went through three outbound dispatchers in a year– and lost about 50 percent of their customer base because of late deliveries, drivers not getting there on time."

Pies said he can see the same exact thing happen just in time for the holidays.

"The transportation industry starts hauling our Christmas products stocking the stores about the middle to end of October is when the Christmas season starts," Pies explained. "Well, that's gonna be about the time the carriers are going to start putting these devices in to trucks."

All during the busiest stretch of the entire year.

"Transportation industry also hauls all the mail – all your Christmas cards, all your packages for UPS and Fedex are gonna be late -- store shelves aren't not going to be filled up," Pies said. "If you think last year was bad for Black Friday add in a transportation industry issue and you're going to have a lot of angry shoppers this year."

The e-logs will dictate how long truckers drive and regulate when they take breaks, whether or not they need one. The new mandate also says that dispatchers can't harass drivers, but Pies said he's already had that happen too.

"You decide to shut down because of weather because of road conditions, accident up ahead, you have dispatch send you a message saying, 'you still got four or give hours of driving left, why are you stopped?' Well, as a driver, I felt it was safe for me to stop," Pies said.

"It's going to take the discretion away from the driver, put it in the hands of somebody who is not in the truck and have them make the decisions as to when you're gonna drive and when you're not."

When the mandate was up for approval, all of South Dakota's legislators voted in favor of it.

"Had they actually read it, I don't think they would've allowed this to pass, " Pies said. "Tim Johnson voted yes for this, Kristi Noem voted yes for this and John Thune, voted yes for this, I don't know their reasoning behind it. I really don't."

Thune, the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he has been paying careful attention and doesn't see any issue with the new regulation.

"I realize how critical the trucking industry is to making sure we get our products to the places where they're going around the country, they're a huge part of our economy," Thune said. "So, I'm not interested in anything that would undermine or be a detriment to the job that truck drivers have to do."

Thune said he didn't believe that the e-logs would have an effect or disruption on holiday deliveries, since the mandate was enacted nearly two years ago.

But truckers disagree and say Washington has no idea what's coming.

"Trucking is hard enough industry– without Washington making it even tougher," Pies said. "If we can't make any money, the trucks ain't rollin', if the trucks ain't rolling, this economy goes to hell in a handbasket and that's the truth."

The compliant e-log devices can run up to $700 per device and companies will need to get a separate device for each truck.

Truck drivers say they are planning a protest in Washington, D.C. this October.