U.S. Rep. Brian Babin: ELD law is the ‘Dodd-Frank law of the trucking industry’

Texas Republican says he’s not opposed to ELDs, but is concerned for the viability of small trucking businesses as law kicks in.

Last-minute efforts to delay or stop the electronic logging device rule (ELD) are continuing, but it may be too little, too late unless President Donald Trump throws a Hail Mary.

In an exclusive interview with FreightWaves, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) said it’s unlikely any legislative relief will come for those opposed to the Dec. 18 mandate before then.

“Legislatively, at the Congressional level, we’re not going to get this done by the 18th,” Babin explains. “But where we can get this done is at the presidential level.”

On Nov. 9, Babin sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to issue an Executive Order to delay the ELD mandate. In the letter, Babin noted he consulted with the Congressional Research Service and believes Trump has the legal authority to issue such an order.

“Accordingly, I respectfully request that you issue an Executive Order as soon as possible, instructing the Secretary of Transportation to provide an immediate waiver for all trucking sectors and operations … who are subject to it,” he wrote.

Babin asked for a delay at least until April 1, 2018, preferably longer. April 1 is the day that the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has slated as when enforcement personnel will begin placing drivers out-of-service for not having a legal device. Prior to this date, enforcement will issue only violations.

Babin, who says he is not opposed to the usage of ELDs in general, believes a three-month delay will assist FMCSA in dealing with a large number of exemption requests. Already, FMCSA has issued exemptions around rental vehicles and agricultural vehicles and specific exemptions for UPS and other companies.

There are those who do not believe the president has the authority to delay the mandate, which went through an extensive regulatory process and comment period and has been several years in the making. Babin disputes that, pointing to the exemptions already issued.

“For those who say it is illegal, I’d say that FMCSA has the authority to issue an exemption to the ag haulers and cattle haulers,” Babin notes, pointing to one of several exemptions to the mandate FMCSA has issued this year.

Babin cited the cost of the devices in his letter to Trump, noting a “disproportionate impact on small businesses,” safety claims being “dubious at best,” and cybersecurity concerns as reasons for a needed delay in the mandate.

“With Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, the last thing the American people expect us to do is mandate that every hardworking truck driver in America spend thousands of dollars on the purchase, installation and monthly service fee for a government-approved tracking device,” Babin wrote.

Babin is hoping that Trump will act on his request and order a delay.

“We’re reaching out to the administration as hard as we can,” he tells FreightWaves. “These are hardworking folks, they play by the rules for the most part, like any industry. These people believed President Trump when he ran for office [and said] Washington elites weren’t listening to them. …He said it will be a new day and blue-collar workers across the country voted for him.

“I’m hoping the president and administration will listen,” Babin adds.

Babin previously introduced the ELD Extension Act of 2017 that would delay the mandate two years. That bill, H.R. 3282, has 67 co-sponsors, but has not advanced yet out of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where it was referred on the day it was introduced.

“We appreciate Congressman Babin’s leadership on this issue. While we still believe the ELD mandate should be outright repealed, FMCSA simply isn’t ready to implement this rule,” Todd Spencer, Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association vice president said at the time of the bill’s introduction. “Congressman Babin’s bill would provide more time for the agency to address a number of significant unresolved concerns identified by stakeholders.”

Despite the number of co-sponsors, the Extension Act has not moved out of committee and Babin acknowledges that it’s too late in the process for it to advance at this point. Most of his concerns center on the questions surrounding the devices and whether the industry and enforcement are ready to roll it out, and what impact it will truly have on the small businesses.

“This ELD mandate is the Dodd-Frank law of the trucking industry,” he says, alluding to the banking law implemented by the Obama Administration following the Great Recession. “Over the years, small banks have gone out of business [because of Dodd-Frank] and I’m afraid the same thing will happen to the small truckers.”

This article was originally published by Freight Waves.