There is much anger and frustration in the trucking industry over the looming ELD mandate. The industry is facing a December 18, 2017 deadline to have all trucks manufactured after 1999 equipped with an electronic log ( ELD ), also know as an Electronic On Board Recorder ( EOBR ). This mandate has been pushed by the ATA ( American Trucking Association ) and its member companies. The FMCSA ( Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ) jumped at the idea of increasing it’s reach and power. There are several issues with this mandate that need addressed.
It will cost the industry, and all hard-working Americans, $2 billion to be compliant. You ask how it will affect all Americans, the answer is simple. Trucking companies typically struggle to make a few cents a mile profit. There are always exceptions, but the general rule is a few cents. They already pay $70,000 or more a year on fuel, $8,000 and more a year on insurance just on the trucks, IFTA taxes, repairs & maintenance and the list goes on. For them to recoup the cost of this mandate the price has to be added to the goods transported. That means you will pay more, $2,000,000,000 more. At a time when wages are stagnant and everything is increasing in prices, the last thing you need is for everything to increase more.
The ATA member companies do not represent drivers. When you hear that claim know it’s a lie. They represent the interest of their members which are mostly the largest trucking companies in America. Many of these are public companies with share holders that are interested in only profit. Most, if not all, of these companies already implemented ELOGS as a way of keeping track of a drivers time and lift the burden of having to review paper logs every day for hundreds of drivers. Being large companies they get volume discounts on everything that a smaller company can not get thus decreasing the cost of items like the electronic log and the monthly service fees that come with them. These companies also have an incredibly high turnover rate that typically hovers around 100% a year. They like to pay lower wages, or if they pay high wages they don’t give their drivers a lot of miles a week. Their drivers typically run less than an independent or small company driver. As a result of low miles, ( keep in mind most drivers are paid by the mile not hourly )micromanagement, and slow trucks drivers leave looking for a smaller company that will give them some freedom. This has led to the ELD push.
The ATA lobbied the FMCSA to mandate electronic logs for the whole industry. The FMCSA commissioned a study and claimed it will save approximately 500 some lives. So for 500 lives the whole industry, and the American consumer, will have to pay an $2 Billion. I’m not against saving lives, but this is a dubious claim at best. How can you have a study and get accurate numbers when less than 25% of the industry at the time of the study was currently using the device? What this is is a push by the ATA and the ELOG manufacturers to implement something that will cripple the competition. The ATA companies benefit because many small companies and owner operators will go out of business. The ELOG manufacturers will benefit because now every truck that travels interstate, and some intrastate, will be required to but their product. It’s a profit grab, folow the money.
They claim this will make the roads safer. Experience tells me it will not. Think of the companies you see speeding through work zones, speeding through city speed zones, not slowing down for inclimate weather, tailgating, cutting traffic off to pass a truck that is one mile per hour slower than them resulting in traffic backing up for miles, the trucks you see wrecked, under low bridges, etc.. are companies like Prime, PAM, Celadon, Crete, Werner, Stevens, Swift and the list goes on. If the claim were true the accident rates of these companies would be going down, not up. The truth is the elog has put tremendous stress on truck drivers. It encourages unsafe behavior of always rushing and not taking the time to operate that 80,000 LBS truck safely. They are always ” under the gun ” to go – go – go before the electronic box says your day is done. This brings up another problem I’ll address later.
They claim the electronic log will help keep accurate track of how much time drivers sit at a customer loading and unloading. Currently shippers and receivers can keep a truck for hours with no repercussions. The claim is with the ELOGS we can now see the time and address the problem. The problem is this is a bogus claim. Before ELOGS the industry still had satellite technology like Qualcomm and PeopleNet ( cell service based ) that can pin point a truck with a high degree of accuracy. Once the driver arrives they send a message to their dispatcher and the GPS coordinates are logged. We even have apps that log where you are with a very high degree of accuracy that will tell when the truck arrives and departs. One is MacroPoint and another is Navisphere. There are others that I haven’t listed that are just as accurate. Using this invalid argument they are pushing a $2 Billion expense on the industry and you.
They claim the electronic log will eliminate the log violations that are common today. You have duty status violations such as logging in the sleeper when you are driving. You have form and manner violations that are simply the zip code not being entered on the log, a trailer number was left off, hours were added up wrong, etc… . The problem here is the driver still has to enter this information. The companies that are saying they are seeing a dramatic decrease in form and manner violations are seeing this due to the inspecting officer not looking at the logs. Currently a vast majority of CMV inspectors don’t bother to look through the digital info to see if everything is squared away. When they do these violations will start trending up again. The technology is not at the point where it can enter all the required info with out driver input. Even duty status changes require the driver to manually input the change of duty and why the change. The only exception is the driving duty status, most ELOGS will do this on its own.
The issue I alluded to above is the Hours of Service ( HOS ) that drivers are regulated with based on junk science. On the current HOS a driver is literally penalized for parking the truck if they get tired or the weather is too bad before their clock runs out. To explain this, a driver has 14 to get everything done with no regard to any delays or health issues such as the flue, migraine, etc… . At the end of the 14 hours they must not drive until they have had a 10 hour break. The science says that at the end of that 14 hours the driver should be tired enough to sleep for that 10 hours and be fully rested. It does not allow for being sitting at a warehouse for 6 hours loading, the driver taking a nap during that time, then when they have to park for the 10 hour break they aren’t tired and possibly will miss the delivery appointment the next day due to events beyond their control. For the ATA member company that has 1,000’s of trucks this isn’t an issue. They can send another truck to get the load. For the small company or the driver who owns one truck this is a huge problem. The ridiculous and restrictive HOS has been amplified by the ELOG mandate. Before the driver could drive to a safe place to park for the 10 hour break and make it “look” legal on paper. With the ELOG it tracks your movements without the luxury of editing the driving duty status. Now your going to ask why the driver is driving illegal, they due so because shippers and receivers don’t care if they take an hour to load / unload a truck or 8, 10, 12 even 30 hours. Many companies then tell the driver they can not park on the property for their federally mandated 10 hour break. Now the driver has to drive somewhere, at times over 2 hours to find a safe, legal place to park in hopes of not getting stopped and if they do the officer who stops them is understanding of the situation. On paper you can make it look legal and not worry so much.
There are currently a lot of drivers who have been driving 20 or more years that have exemplary safety records with a tremendous amount of knowledge. A great many of these are retiring before December 18th to avoid the increased regulations and cost that might just put them out of business or their company out of business. This will leave a huge hole in the driver pool that the ATA member companies will fill with drivers they train. They will pay these new drivers substandard wages, teach them just enough to pass the CDL exam and train them just long enough to meet the few requirements the insurance company may want as a minimum. So you’ll get highly skilled, experienced and safe drivers off the road and replaced with low paid, stressed and poorly trained drivers with not experience driving around your family in an 18 wheeler. Sounds safe to me! I don’t know what could possibly go wrong.
The FMCSA is currently offering exemptions and accepting exemption requests for the ELD mandate. If this was all about safety they wouldn’t give any exemptions. This tells us it’s all about money.
All the industry experts have agreed that this mandate will ” tighten capacity “. This means there will not be enough trucks to haul the freight. The stuff you ordered today will take longer to get to you. Your local grocery store will have a harder time keeping shelves stocked. The manufacturers will have to pay more to ship their product to become a priority to the trucking companies. This will cause your stuff to get even more expensive as they pass the increase on to you the consumer.
There is current Twitter storm amongst drivers hash tagged ELD_or_me , ELDorme, RepealELD, ReformHOS , DelayELD are the top. The are addressing the president, Sec. Elain Chow, Sen. Ted Cruz and the Kansas Representatives that introduced H.B. 3282 to delay the ELD mandate by two years. So far there has been no, or lack luster response at best.
I encourage you to contact your representatives and senators to put a stop this mandate. OOIDA argued against the mandate on it violating a drivers 4th Amendment rights. They lost their case and the Supreme Court declined to hear arguments. Personally I think using the constitution as an argument was a bad idea as the Supreme Court years ago decided drivers didn’t have a constitutional right to deny law enforcement to see their logs as it is a public safety issue. Now the only way for it to be stopped is the FMCSA stopping it, the president issuing an executive order or congress passing a bill to stop it. The fate lies with you the consumer.