Since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) electronic logging device (ELD) mandate went into effect in December 2017, stakeholders in the waste and recycling industry have continued to seek relief from the controversial ruling.
The ELD rule mandates that commercial drivers, like those in the waste and recycling industry, electronically track their records of duty status (RODS) information by logging their activity on the road using an approved device. This replaces the paper logbooks drivers used to record their federal Hours of Service (HOS) requirements. The mandate is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage and share RODS data.
In November 2018, the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) filed a petition with the FMCSA requesting an industrywide exemption from ELD rules, maintaining that ELDs are counterproductive to safety in the waste and recycling industry.
“Safety is the top concern for NWRA and its members. We want every single member of our industry to make it home each day safely, without a crash, and free from injury or fatality," said NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith in a statement. "While NWRA recognizes the safety benefits that ELDs present for other sectors, these devices are actually counterproductive for our industry and increase risks associated with distracted driving due to the frequency that waste and recycling industry drivers must interact with them."
Brandon Wright, NWRA’s vice president of communications and media relations, says that petition is separate from NWRA’s previous comments urging an industrywide exemption filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and FMCSA in support of Houston-based Waste Management’s (WM) exemption request, as well as in the HOS rulemaking.
“Waste Management did not receive an exemption from the ELD mandate,” says Jeff Martin, vice president of Waste Management’s safety services. “Rather, [WM] requested an exemption under the short-haul [HOS] regulations and supported its request with evidence of its robust safety programs. This exemption limits the use of ELDs in its fleet.”
The ELD mandate requires companies operating commercial motor vehicles outside the short-haul exemption to install electronic devices to monitor both engine and driver activity. To properly follow the mandate, a driver must interact with the electronic device each time he or she starts and stops the vehicle.
“[WM] recognized that compliance with the ELD mandate would require drivers to interact continuously with the electronic device, in some cases hundreds of times per day,” says Martin. “[WM] was concerned that this continuous interaction would place drivers at risk of being distracted. Additionally, [WM] was concerned that the constant interaction with the device would extend drivers’ work days.”
Drivers in the waste and recycling industry normally work a five-day work week, their daily work schedules are set in advance and they are eligible to obtain a 34-hour restart each week. They start and end their days at the same location, rarely going beyond a 40-mile radius. Since drivers live locally, their daily work schedules are managed directly by local supervisors.
The company has maintained that ELDs have caused delays and distractions in its vehicles due to the stop-and-go nature of trash pickup. In July 2018, Waste Management told FMCSA that these distractions impact driver and community safety.
According to NWRA, FMCSA has previously granted this exemption to the ready-mix concrete and asphalt industries. NWRA filed comments in August 2018 as part of its effort on behalf of the entire waste and recycling industry.
Martin says WM argued that it has always strived to limit drivers’ working hours.
“… We take great pride in our safety programs and culture where employees accept safety as our core value without compromise,” he notes. “The FMCSA agreed with our safety systems, stating, ‘The agency believes that the drivers of WM CMV’s [commercial motor vehicles] used to collect waste and recycling materials who are exempted will likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to or greater than, the level of safety achieved without the exemption.’”