New York Hadn't Been Enforcing the ELD Mandate. Now It Is.

The New York State Department of Transportation announced that state inspectors will begin enforcing federal electronic logging device rules, ending a year-plus stretch during which a lawsuit kept the state law enforcement in limbo and left federal inspectors as the sole enforcers of the rule in the state.

“The purpose of this rulemaking is to comply with federal requirements,” NYSDOT said in a document posted to a public site on Jan. 16, more than two weeks after the New York Supreme Court on Dec. 31 rejected a lawsuit that sought to block the state’s ability to enforce the law.

That lawsuit, brought against the state by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, sought to restrain New York officials from enforcing the ELD mandate, which requires most motor carriers to equip trucks with the devices to track hours-of-service, and took effect in December 2017.

The lawsuit, which OOIDA said was filed after the federal mandate took effect, named as defendants the acting commissioner of NYSDOT, the superintendent of the New York State Police and the deputy commissioner for the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. It prevented New York from being able to incorporate the mandate into state law. With the judge’s ruling in its favor, the state indicated that it will move to adopt the rules.

Members of the New York trucking community knew that state officials hadn’t been enforcing the mandate, according to Trucking Association of New York President Kendra Hems. But she noted that the association has encouraged ELD adoption nonetheless.

“Concerning HOS enforcement, adoption of the ELD mandate will better assure compliance with HOS regulations that have long been recognized as the key to preventing accidents that occur because of fatigued driving,” the state said in its Notice of Emergency Adoption, which was posted to the New York State Register, a site where agencies may post rulemakings for public review.

Beyond harmonizing its enforcement actions with federal inspectors, adoption of the law also restores New York’s eligibility for grants under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. The program issues grants to states that agree to incorporate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations into state law and enforce those regulations.

“Unless the ELD mandate is implemented in New York, the state will face the elimination of MCSAP funding,” the state’s notice said. “Adoption is therefore a matter of high priority and will be effected as soon as possible.” The Supreme Court’s ruling acknowledged that the ELD rule had not previously been incorporated into state law.

 

New York’s policies on ELD enforcement have evolved since the mandate took effect. The state DOT issued a memorandum Dec. 15, 2017, stating that no tickets could be issued until the federal ELD rule was incorporated into state law, but allowing enforcement officers to enter violations into a computer system.

This was superseded by a subsequent memorandum on March 19, 2018, that ordered inspectors to stop transferring local data from ELDs. However, officials were still permitted to make highway stops and enforce pre-existing HOS requirements by reviewing drivers’ logbooks.

Members of the New York trucking community knew that state officials hadn’t been enforcing the mandate, according to Trucking Association of New York President Kendra Hems. But she noted that the association has encouraged ELD adoption nonetheless.

“We’ve made sure to advise them to make sure that, regardless of what New York is or isn’t doing, that they need to be in compliance with the mandate, in part because most of them are not operating solely in New York State and other states are enforcing it, but also because we knew that, at some point, the state would come in compliance and adopt the federal regulations,” Hems told Transport Topics.

Hems noted that New York truckers were urged to adopt ELDs since federal inspectors still were enforcing the mandate. Those federal inspectors would have been ensuring ELD compliance regardless of whether New York had formally decided to require the devices.

Plus, she noted that since New York officials were consistently checking for paper logs, the absence of statewide ELD enforcement did not have a massive impact on safety.

“If they were stopped and they were found to be in violation by virtue of reviewing the logbook, they would still be cited, potentially put out of service,” Hems said. “In this short duration in which they’ve had to hold off the enforcement until the court case worked itself out, I don’t think it has had a negative impact on safety. They were still enforcing the hours-of-service requirements.”

An FMCSA spokesman declined to comment.

OOIDA spokeswoman Norita Taylor told TT that the association is reviewing the State Register document.

“Our challenge to the ELD mandate goes back for years and we have always looked for ways to push back on behalf of our members,” Taylor said. However, she said the group is not planning similar action elsewhere in the country.

“We do not have any plans for other states,” she said.