by Avery Vise, FleetOwner.com

logThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is expected to publish soon a proposed rule to mandate electronic logging devices (ELDs) for hours-of-service compliance and establish minimum performance standards for those devices. The White House Office of Management and Budget cleared FMCSA’s supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) on March 11, clearing FMCSA to publish the rule in the Federal Register for public comment.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro announced the latest development at a House Transportation & Infrastructure subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s implementation of the highway program legislation known as MAP-21. That legislation required FMCSA to issue a rule in 2013 mandating ELDs within two years of the final rule. In addition to mandating ELDs and setting performance standards, the SNPRM would revise FMCSA’s requirements for HOS supporting documents and address concerns about driver harassment resulting from the mandatory use of ELDs.

Driver harassment was the key issue that scuttled FMCSA’s earlier final rule on electronic logs. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. successfully challenged the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on the grounds that it did not include measures to protect against harassment as required by a little-noticed provision in the law. A few months later in May 2012, FMCSA formally rescinded its April 2010 rule that had established a phased-in mandate and set performance standards for devices.

The supporting documents portion of the SNPRM also will address an issue that sprang from litigation. The American Trucking Assns. asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to force FMCSA to issue a long-overdue rule on supporting documents. One of the key events that sparked ATA’s action was the agency’s decision in late 2008 to begin using satellite positioning data routinely as supporting documents in auditing logs – an action that reversed a policy that had been in place for about a dozen years.