After what local news reports and police said were about 100-125 trucks took part in a "slow roll" protest in Indianapolis Thursday largely directed at electronic logging devices (ELDs), motorists and truck drivers themselves had reactions from strong support to annoyance and anger.
The protestors met up on I-465, the beltway that loops around the city linking multiple interstate highways, yesterday morning at 11. They made two passes around I-465 keeping to the minimum highway speed—45 mph—and traveled in the two right lanes to impede traffic as a way to raise awareness of the problems they say they have faced since being federally required to use ELDs to record their on- and off-duty time.
The Associated Press posted video of the event shot from a news helicopter:
Some, including truck drivers, came out openly against the protest. Among the criticisms heard was a familiar one for opponents of electronic logging devices: that these drivers are simply "cheaters" who are upset they can no longer fudge their paper logs to run illegally/ outside of federal Hours of Service (HOS) requirements.
"Our experience with ELDs and tracking are mostly but not all positive," one reader told American Trucker, pointing to business improvements at the carrier thanks to ELDs. "We have now been able to charge customers for things we previously could not, such as delays and detention because we now have electronic proof rather than just a person's say so," he said.
"I don't think drivers realize how obvious this is when they speak out the way they do at times," he added. "I truly think they are hurting themselves and not helping the situation, and the cause that they should be focusing on is HOS revisions. Focus on the changes needed to the HOS, not the ELD device as it's most likely never going away—it will just adapt to whatever changes are eventually made to the HOS."
Signs on the highway warned truck drivers of the rules before the protest took place:
"Minimum speed 45 mph
No trucks left lane
It's the law"
Many took to social media to post reactions and opinions about the protest. It highlighted how the average motoring public outside of trucking and professional commercial drivers often doesn't understand this issue and what it is these truck drivers don't like about ELDs.
Tweeted one motorist: "This is not how you win supporters, folks." Some drivers were angry and thought police should ticket the trucks participating.
But ultimately, police said the protest caused little traffic disturbance and went off as planned. One commenter quipped that it was good to see trucks going slow and they're normally speeding around I-465—which, actually, is another of the things truck drivers opposed to ELDs often say. Dozens of truck drivers have told American Trucker they have seen trucks speeding through construction zones and other lower-speed zones more now because ELDs have them "racing against the clock."
Some among the public were supportive of the protest in Indy, even if only to back truckers and the important jobs they do in transport and the nation's economy.
One staffing agency coolly reminded drivers to be aware of and plan for the protest if they would be on I-465.
National protest April 12
In videos posted on YouTube from the protest, one trucker participating referenced a larger national protest that's being organized by a Facebook group of truckers called Black Smoke Matters. The group's name comes up frequently in the videos.
They plan a truck shutdown April 12 over ELDs that could possibly involve trucks shut off on roadways. To avert that protest, he suggested an ELD exemption for trucking operations with 10 or fewer trucks.
"This is going to affect all of us. Come April 12, trucks will shut down—I hate to say it, but I have heard from drivers, some will be blocking highways and interstates," he said.
"I'm just letting you know," he added. "You guys better get on board and help us fix this before April 12, get some kind of relief out here on drivers. If we can get it pushed through and get 10 trucks or less exempt, it's a start. But we need some help, guys—we need you guys to get on board."
From 19,332 members just a month ago, the now-private Black Smoke Matters Facebook group is picking up steam more quickly. It has since surged upward another 30% to now more than 25,000 members.