Most in the industry are aware that most over the road trucks and buses are now required to be equipped with electronic logging devices (ELDs); but like many major changes in the industry, the journey to get there has been tortuous. Since 1938, bus and truck drivers have been required to keep logs of their activities while on duty. The logs have been kept in written form, and each day and hour within that day must be accounted for. Every time there is a “change of duty status” such as stops for sleep, fuel, loading or unloading, it must be recorded. The purpose of the log is to ensure that drivers are conforming to prescribed hours of service rules. Authorized government representatives and carriers can check the logs at any time.
Obviously, such a system was cumbersome, to say the least; but drivers were used to it. For several years however, there was a push to require the installation of electronic on-board recording devices, commonly referred to as ELDs. Finally, in 2015, after four long years of public listening sessions extended comment periods, and Congressional action the FMCSA published the long awaited rule. Since the rule was not to take effect until December 18, 2017, there was more time for appeals and protests. . ELDs had long been strongly supported by the American Trucking Associations and just as vigorously opposed by the Owner – Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). OOIDA pursued their efforts all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear their appeal.
Under the new rule, every driver required to keep a Record of Duty Status must use an ELD to record his or her compliance with hours of service regulations. ELDs are advocated to aid drivers and improve accuracy and efficiency. Many advocates have suggested they will improve safety as well, by forcing compliance with hours of service rules. (It was assumed that many drivers fudged on their paper logs.) In 2014, the FMCSA reported that carriers using ELDs had about 12% fewer crashes, and hours of service violations were reduced by 50%. . Pilot programs had indicated that more accurate reporting actually resulted in productivity losses of 3 to 4%. However, a study by Transplace revealed that 81% of large fleets were already in compliance, and virtually all were working toward compliance. A number of smaller fleets had been unwilling or unable to move ahead with installation, and some were still hoping for governmental intervention right up to the last minute. It was expected that a large number of drivers would simply leave the industry.
So what happened? The new rules have been effect about 8 months, and enforced for about 5. The FMCSA reported that there have been few violations, and in May reported that less than one percent of roadside inspections uncovered drivers without ELDs. It would appear that most of the industry has gotten on board. According to a recent Journal of Commerce article, we have not seen drivers fleeing the industry, but we have seen transit times lengthen. Some one day trips have now been extended to next day. That would suggest that some drivers had to go over the line a little to make the one day trips. So while we may be losing productivity, it is not in the way everyone expected.
Even so, these extended transit times may cause shippers to take another look at their networks and shipment practices, particularly those who are operating the more severe customer service constraints we have today. While ELDs will cause some adjustments to be made by both carriers and shippers, so far it appears that they have had a positive impact.