Wednesday, January 3, 2018

ELD mandate is on. Is it good or bad for the truck drivers?

Author: Sibila Patsy 

If you are in the trucking industry, you know that December 18, 2017, was Doomsday for everybody in it because of the ELD mandate that Congress imposed in 2012. If you are not in this professional area, you might still be aware of the issue as well since it's still perceived as very controversial and it is widely discussed.

The ELD rule is part of the MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress) bill signed into law by President Obama that outlines the development of America's transportation. It requires the commercial vehicle operators and carriers to have electronic log devices starting December 18, 2017, and record their hours of service (HOS) only with that machine. The rule applies to roughly 3 million truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as the primary watchdog for implementing the ELDs says that the most significant benefit of the switch from paper to digital documentation is safety as it will "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". Also, the Department of Transportation states that the ELDs will eliminate 1,844 truck-related accidents a year saving 26 lives and preventing 562 injuries. These numbers seem impressive but according to research conducted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Foundation they are to be viewed with criticism since the sample used for the calculation is very small - just five motor carriers out of a possible 539,000.

Wall Street Journal also reports that there are lots of truckers who do not get their devices on time, have difficulties installing them and do not get help from customer service agents of the ELD providers. So, instead of being on the road hauling, these drivers have to dedicate their time to resolve the issues with a machine that is supposed to make their job easier. The market for ELDs has exploded in the recent months and some truckers have warned that there are unfair suppliers who do not offer any return policy and their devices do not work at all.

Commercial vehicles operators also complain that the ELDs certainly makes driving harder since they record data at all time when the engine is on and do not make a difference if there is a delay at the shipper or the receiver. In this way, the driver's 14 hours allotted per day are quickly exhausted and may force him to drive longer when tired. It is evident that the industry has to change and the first signs of it come from the said freight shippers, receivers, and brokers who now offer longer delivery times considerably.

There are few exclusions to the ELD mandate. Truckers who operate commercial vehicles model 2000 or older, towing or recreational vehicles drivers, carriers with less than 8 HOS per month and agricultural vehicles drivers working within 150 miles from the source of the commodity do not have to install electronic logging devices. Plus,  those who have an onboard recording device (AOBRD), a grandfathered machine, may, for the most part, continue to use the older method until December 2019.

Nevertheless the exclusions, a lot of truckers still see more negatives than positives in the mandate. Not only have they to buy new devices to be compliant, but they have to also brace for lots of frustration, less sleep while on the road and difficulties changing jobs. The average amount freight operators sacrifice for ELD devices is $350.00 which is a burden for independent contractors and small fleet firms. 

The ELD may be an obstacle for the truckers when hired at a new company. Many trucking businesses don't want to work with a contractor without an installed device. Also, a shipper may as well refuse to work with an operator who is not compliant with the new rule

That is why a lot of repair shops for semi trucks started offering installation of ELDs long time ago. 
Merx Truck and Trailer in Melrose Park, for example, has been working with small transportation companies and independent owner-operators in Illinois for quite some time. Their observation is that once the device it`s installed the driver gets used to it relatively quickly. 

Carriers and freight operators still adjust to the reality after the December 2017 Doomsday.  They will have a bit more time - until April 1, 2018 - to implement the ELD into their routine. Until that day authorities will issue only a warning if they catch a trucker driving the old way. It is hard to predict if the soft enforcement phase will help all 3 million drivers be fully ready and happy with an ELD on board. Hopefully, it will.

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