Dana Shifflet of Newton loves trucks, and trucking. He was a truck driver for a good portion of his life before he retired. He still helps organize antique truck shows and supports the industry — and that support of the industry is what drew him out to Newell's Truck Plaza on Dec. 4. There, he met drivers who are protesting a federal mandate — one that they, and he, believes is bad for truckers. 

"This is part of the reason I quit," Shifflet said. "Trucking requires some flexibility, and it seems like the  rules are intent to take that away. It is people who don't do the job that are writing them."

Dec. 18 the U.S. Department of Transportation is scheduled to begin implementation and enforcement of an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate — which those present Dec. 4 do not beleive will be good for truckers.

An ELD is a device connected to a vehicle's Engine Control Module and to the internet either by cellular or satellite connection or both. The ELD monitors and reports functions of the vehicle such as speed, distance traveled, critical events such as hard braking and evasive maneuvers, and then sends out two reports —  one  to a dash display in the form of an hours of service log which is by law to be made available to law enforcement officers upon request during a roadside inspection. The other is sent to the company in the form of a safety report.

"This is being forced on us, and it is law. We are trying to delay it," said BJ Hamlin, who organized Dec. 8's protest at Newell Truck Plaza.

Part of the issue is how the ELD tracks when a driver is driving — and the limits placed on drivers. When they hit their limit, they have to stop for 10 hours — no matter where they are.

"I could be an hour from my house, and if I am out of driving time, I have to stop — for 10 hours," Hamlin said. "... This is an increased cost being put on small business owners."

Costs of equipping a truck are around $2,000 — with monthly service fees for data and internet access. Current ELD systems, according to the Owner/Operator Independent Drivers Assocaition, there is no current technology that can automatically record on-duty not driving (ODND), off-duty, or sleep-berth times without manual input from the driver— it can only record a driver as in service.

There is a bill on capitol hill to at least delay theimplentation of ELDs, however, that bill is currently held up in committee. Offered by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), H.R. 3282, the ELD Extension Act of 2017,  would implement, by law, an additional two-year delay of this mandate.

Babin wrote a letter to President Donald Trump in support of his bill, and is asking for an executive order to delay implentation of the ELD rule. In that letter, he expressed concerens over the cost to small business owners, safety and cyber security.

"The ELD device required by the regulation doesn’t just sit in the cab of a truck and monitor motion," Babin wrote. "It connects directly to the engine and onboard computer of the vehicle itself. The implications of this are particularly profound. There is simply no assurance at this time that these ELD’s, which are being manufactured with components from around the world and sold by numerous companies across America, are safe from a cyber attack that could cause these trucks, many of which carry hazardous materials, to inflict terror on Americans."

Newell's Truck Plaza was one of 40 places nationwide to host a protet Dec. 4. The protest was in the parking lot closest to I-135.