SLV county commissioners support rural Colorado in letters to legislators

VALLEY — The San Luis Valley County Commissioners Association (SLVCCA) signed two different letters of support for state and federal legislation during their meeting on Monday. One is in favor of the state lottery while the other is against mandated electronic logging devices (ELDs) for trucking.

Currently Colorado's lottery is scheduled to expire in July of 2024. Colorado Senate Bill 66 would repeal the termination date and permanently establish the lottery division, securing funding for programs like Great Outdoors Colorado and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. District 35 Senator Larry Crowder is one of the co-sponsors of the bill.

Rio Grande County Commissioner Karla Shriver shared 2015 figures showing how GOCO has helped the Valley with approximately $45.8 million. Alamosa County received $5.5 million in 28 grants, Conejos County received $4.4 million in 22 grants, Costilla County received $4.2 million in 17 grants, Mineral County received $5.5 million in 16 grants, Rio Grande County received $9.9 million in 58 grants and Saguache County received $16.3 million in 60 grants. Projects usually involve preserving or enhancing trails, parks and recreation facilities.

"It is a wonderful board and they do wonderful things for the state of Colorado as a whole," Shriver said Monday.

Later in the meeting the SLVCCA signed letters addressed to Third Congressional District Representative Scott Tipton, Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and the Colorado Department of Agriculture against the implementation of ELDs. The letter argues how the devices and their regulations would be detrimental to the Valley's agriculture community and consumers.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandated the installation of ELDs on Dec. 18 but their usage won't be enforced via fines until April 1. FMCSA is using this time as an opportunity to receive comments. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation waived enforcement for agriculture and livestock truckers for 90 days.

ELDs replace paper logs and cap workdays at 14 hours. A driver can't be on the road longer than 11 consecutive hours and they must rest for 10 consecutive hours. The clock starts as soon as the engine does, even if the truck is idling or the driver takes a lunch break.

"When you pull up and it takes four hours to get a load loaded on and you're sitting there at the facility, that counts against your drive time," said farmer Mark Peterson. "I don't think anybody wants to break the law here, but when you're not driving you shouldn't have that time count against you."

Another issue is that there is no grace period granted, forcing truckers to park on the side of the road or in unincorporated communities like Tres Piedras, New Mexico even if they are only a few minutes from a rest area.

"Sometimes our guys may not be able to make it home on the weekend," said trucker Spender McDaniel. "They'll be gone five straight days and haul three loads versus being gone four days and hauling four loads. It cuts into our revenue 25 percent and also the driver’s paycheck because they get paid by the mile."

The loss of revenue trickles down as freight prices and market prices will increase to offset the difference.

"It's really going to kill us on the buying end," said trucker Tyler Fawcett. "This law is going to affect two groups of people most: those that sell commodities that don't get to demand their price and those that pay for it on the retail outlet...This isn't just about a few truckers crying the blues and saying how it's going to hurt them. This is going to have national impact on all sides of the equation."

While the ELDs are designed for safer roads, trucker Eddie Wilson says this will do the opposite.

"You're going to run at a higher speed and the regulations will push you to your sleeping point," Wilson said. "You're going to drive a full eight hours before you take those two hours off."