Trucks line-up to cross the scales USDA photo by Heather Hartley
Trucks line-up to cross the scales at the Coshocton, Ohio Three Rivers Energy biofuels plant.

Ag retailers urge delay in trucking logging requirements

Agricultural Retailers Assn. concerned with unnecessary costs ELD systems impose on industry without any proven safety benefits.

The Agricultural Retailers Assn. (ARA) on Wednesday asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to delay implementation of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule. Earlier this month, a coalition of livestock groups also sought a delay.

"ARA is concerned that many agribusinesses are not and will not be fully prepared to meet the Dec. 18, 2017, compliance deadline," said Richard Gupton, senior vice president of public policy and counsel for ARA. "Moreover, ELD manufacturers may not be able to accommodate existing hours-of-service exemptions currently being utilized by agricultural retailers and distributors."

ARA requested the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) delay ELD enforcement for one year. The request was made in conjunction with a coalition of transportation stakeholders -- including the National Corn Growers Assn., National Grain & Feed Assn., U.S. Cattleman's Assn. and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. -- during a meeting earlier in the day at the National Press Club.

Agricultural retailers play an important role in feeding the world. ARA members provide farmers with essential crop input materials, such as seed, fertilizer, crop protection products and equipment. The industry has a strong commitment to vehicle safety and supports FMCSA's mission to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks.

The current process allows for self-certification by ELD manufacturers without a robust third-party screening process. Even though FMCSA is unwilling to certify ELD devices, there are manufacturers in the marketplace claiming that their ELD product is "FMCSA Certified."

To become a certified medical examiner -- those who perform driver medical exams -- FMCSA requires medical examiners to enroll, complete necessary training and pass a certification test. A medical examiner must receive notification of certification from FMCSA before being authorized to perform driver exams. A similarly stringent process needs to be established by FMCSA for ELD manufacturers so the industry has full confidence that the systems they purchase will be compliant with new regulations.

ARA is also concerned with the unnecessary costs ELD systems impose on its industry without any proven safety benefits. ELDs can cost from $200 to $1,000 each, in addition to costs related to maintenance, service contracts with manufacturers or vendors and driver training to use this new equipment. This requirement adds an unnecessary financial burden to an agricultural industry already struggling with a soft economy, lagging commodity prices and massive economic losses following hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as other weather-related disasters, ARA said.

Agricultural retailers are urging Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and the Trump Administration to delay the pending De. 18, 2017, compliance deadline given the many implementation issues facing the industry and other affected stakeholders.

ARA said it supports efforts by livestock producers seeking a delay and additional clarifications regarding ELD exemptions and waivers. “Stakeholders within and outside the agricultural industry are also negatively impacted by the ELD mandate, which only highlights shortcomings in the HOS regulations,” ARA said.

A delay to resolve these important issues would fully align with President Donald Trump's regulatory reform initiatives while not affecting the transportation safety of the nation's roads and highways, ARA added.

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