AUSTIN — Come mid-December, commercial truckers will be required to use a software system to log driving time, but despite claims that it will save lives, a Texas congressman wants to delay implementation.

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, argues that implementing the Electronic Logging Device mandate will cost truckers $2 billion annually, and that claims of increased safety are dubious.

Babin wants an executive order delaying implementation “until such time as it can be certified that implementation will not cause economic or other harm to the millions who are subject to it,” he wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump.

“Millions of hard working American truckers, farmers and small businesses need you to take immediate and decisive action to protect them from a massive new regulation,” Babin wrote. “I 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 subject to this mandate ...”

At least one national organization — the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association — says small-business truckers shouldn’t be subject to buying the devices, and wants a five-year exemption, but the man at the wheel of the Texas Trucking Association says it’s time to move ahead with change.

“We don’t want the delay,” said John Esparza, president and CEO of the TTA. “It’s too important not to work through this mess.”

Commercial truckers are already required to record their driving hours on paper logs.

Adrienne Gildea, deputy executive director of the not-for-profit Commercial Vehicle Safety Association, said that ELDs will cut down on cheating and reduce the number of tired truckers on the road.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsiness and/or fatigue are principal, causal factors in about 100,000 police-reported crashes each year.

Truckers are responsible for about 135 of the 3,500 fatalities on Texas roads each year, Esparza said.

“It costs money to save lives,” Esparza said. “Are we willing to make that commitment?

“There are those who say no.”

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the owner-operators organization — OOIDA — said in a recorded statement on the OOIDA website that the mandate “is not about safety.”

Esparza said the “majority of those who are anti-ELD are those who are more upset with the current federal hours-of-service regulations for drivers.”

Property-carrying drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

They may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.

Chad Davis is safety manager at Fort Worth-based Raider Express, which runs about 250 trucks, most of which carry refrigerated food.

The electronic devices only log information on driving hours that’s already federally mandated.

Raider Express trucks already have ELDs and Davis said the company is “happy” to have made the move.

“There’s an awful lot less trying to fudge things and trying to bend the rules,” on driving hours by drivers, Davis said.

The cost to install ELDs was “just a couple of hundred dollars per truck,” Davis said, with objections coming mainly from older drivers, “who put up quite a fight.”

Gildea said that anyone who can use a smart phone can figure out how to use the ELD.

Of course, Gildea said, “you’ve got a lot who are older, they’re still on those flip phones.”

John Austin covers the Texas Statehouse for CNHI LLC’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jaustin@cnhi.com.

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