A bumpy road lies ahead for the trucking industry with the newly-implemented
Electronic Log Device (“ELD”) mandate. The rule requires most
trucks (and commercial busses) to be equipped with electronic logs that
record a driver’s time behind the wheel. Per the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration (“FMCSA”), the purpose of the mandate
is to “help create a safer work environment for drivers, and make
it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of
duty status (RODS) data.
The phase-in period of the mandate went into effect December 18, 2017,
which will last until April 1, 2018. The mandate is triggering deep divisions
in the trucking world and raising concerns that shipping goods could get
more costly and complicated.
Proponents believe the mandate brings the transportation industry into the 21st century, and helps drivers cut down on deadhead miles, as well as assists
in keeping accurate records. For them the ELD simplifies compliance by
eliminating long-term paper logs, and in doing so results in a significant
cut back in the most common violations, since drivers will always have
an accurate and up-to-date log on file. With electronic transfer capabilities,
inspections will go significantly faster and easier, resulting in the
truckers being back on the road in no time.
Most large motor carriers have used electronic logs for years and expect
to benefit from the ELD mandate.
However, smaller carriers, which make up the majority of the nation’s
fleet, have been slower to upgrade. As of early December, about 25% of
smaller fleets still had not installed the devices, according to a survey
by CarrierLists.com, which compiles data about trucking firms.
Many shippers and drivers expect the rule to reduce the number of miles
trucks travel in a single day, because the logs make it easier for regulators
to enforce existing rules limiting driving time. Some drivers say they
may retire rather than use the ELDs.
Retirement by drivers would reduce the number of trucks available for hire
at a time when big rigs are already in short supply. DAT Solutions LLC
estimates that the average cost to hire a big rig in the spot market soared
24% year-over-year in November of 2017.
According to Tucker Company Worldwide, Inc., a freight brokerage and logistics
firm, the mandate has caused some shippers and freight brokers to pay
hundreds of dollars extra to convince carriers to accept their loads.
Industries that need to move cargo immediately, like agriculture, could
be particularly hard hit if shipping prices shoot up. Food companies are
already dealing with new sanitary rules intended to ensure the safety
of food in transit, and that too can make it more difficult to book transportation.
The FMCSA has granted some exceptions, including a 90-day waiver for trucks
moving agricultural commodities. The agency is reviewing other requests
and is working with operators to ease the transition.
While some businesses are willing to cover any fines its drivers incur
on the road, they fully expect shipping prices to go up as a result of
the mandate. Fresh-produce business are already experiencing shortages
in the state of California from customers not being able to cover loads.
They believe there will be considerable disruption in the flow of commerce
that most industries are not prepared for.