December 15, 2020
Nobody likes to be told what to do.
That’s one of the reasons why many truckers, dispatchers, carriers, and shippers simply hate the electronic logging device mandate from the Federal government. While compliance is high -- nearly 99% -- the mandate has caused major frustrations across the industry.
Yet it’s not all bad under the mandate, even if all the promised benefits haven’t appeared yet. We’re only 9 months into life under the mandate. Based on this experience, here are 6 key things to know about life under the ELD mandate.
One of the best pieces of news is the high compliance rate across the country. By the end of the “grace period” on April 1, compliance rates were at 97% across all fleets.
And that compliance doesn’t seem to have produced much chaos in the industry. As truckers and everyone in the industry finds ways to live with the mandate, things will become smoother.
The ELD mandate leads to tighter enforcement of the Hours-of-Service (HOS) requirements for truckers. Because truckers can only drive for 11 hours in a day, and work for 14, anything which causes truckers to have down-time is bad for them.
Including waiting to unload.
Coupled with the trucker shortage, the ELD Mandate and the HOS rules have caused shippers, including Walmart, to relax some of their delivery deadlines.
Truckers know that time equals money, and time spent idle in a shipper’s yard is less money for them. Shippers which can provide better use for trucker’s time will benefit, as will truckers.
Time equals money for everyone, not just for truckers. Consumers want their deliveries sooner rather than later, regardless of the size of the shipment.
The data from the ELD coupled with blockchain technology will lead to constructive disruption to the logistics industry. People prepared for that disruption will be positioned to take advantage of it.
Blockchain technology can sound mysterious, but in many ways it’s simply like a database shared by a network--and the network can constantly check it for accuracy. If the supply chain has a unified network, the entire system can be more efficient and responsive.
Shippers, carriers, and companies will know real-time when trucks are in traffic delays or have to reroute because of unknown highway closures.
An additional benefit from the potential network based on the ELD is the ability for a long-haul driver carrying a half-load to find convenient small loads along the route. The network can determine hours remaining, and therefore the ability of the driver to pick up the small load and make the delivery or add it to the long-haul.
While Federal regulations had allowed the use of a truck as a “personal conveyance” before the ELD mandate came into effect, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published clearer guidance now that the mandate is here.
The personal conveyance rule accounts for the movement of a truck while the driver is in off-duty status. This rule allows drivers to move the truck to their homes or night-lodging places without that move counting towards their hours of service.
Use of the motor vehicle for personal conveyance is subject to the rules of the carrier--a carrier does not have to allow it. Any personal conveyance time allowed must be recorded, and ELDs must have a setting for personal conveyance.
One of the benefits of the new guidance from the FMCSA is extending the personal conveyance rule to straight trucks. This benefit is now available because now, both laden and unladen CMVs may be used as a personal conveyance.
While using the truck as a personal conveyance should not substantially provide a work advantage, the FMCSA does recognize that finding the nearest reasonable and safe location may in fact be closer to the next shipment location. The FMCSA also will not require drivers to return to the most recent on-duty location after the off-duty period ends.
While nothing is set yet, the FMCSA is also considering four changes in the hours-of-service requirements, and the ELD mandate is one of the reasons for this increased flexibility.
The first potential change is the expansion of the 100 mile “short-haul” exemption to 14 hours; it’s currently at 12 hours.
One significant change under consideration is allowing “adverse conditions” to extend the 14 hours on-duty limit up to two hours. Driving time already may be increased because of these conditions, and this change would expand the work-hours. The FMCSA is going to use public comment to define “adverse conditions” allowing this expansion.
Another possible area of change is the the elimination--or modification--of the 30 minute rest break. The final area the FMCSA has raised as an area of modification is the sleeper-berth provision. This currently allows drivers with a sleeper berth to split the 10-hour off-duty period into 8- and 2-hour periods.
The FMCSA also is conducting a flexible sleeper berth pilot program examining whether allowing flexible sleeper berth times might meet the safety goals inspiring the hours-of-service requirements.
The comment period for the changes is currently open.
During the months and years leading up to the mandate, many observers feared that the mandate would cause many truckers to leave the industry, rates to go up, and other disruptions to the supply chain throughout the U.S. While some drivers are leaving, trucker employment also seems to be growing.
The mandate has led to an increase in trucking rates in 2018. Spot market rates are up 29%, while contract rates are up 19%. Driver compensation is up between 10-12%, and over half of all drivers have received raises.
Another effect of the mandate has been to lower transit times. Trips of 1,000 miles which used to take two days are now taking three. Overnight trips are now taking two days.
Slow shippers are losing ground. With tighter capacity, shippers will have to increase their respect for a trucker’s clock. Detention pay seems to be increasing, and shippers are beginning to pre-stage loads--leading to faster turnaround times.
The ELD mandate is not going to go away--that’s pretty clear. Truckers, companies, shippers, and dispatchers will have to find ways to work with it.
Even if the changes the FMCSA are considering go into force, truckers will need to think more strategically. Companies will have to allow time to find safe rest spots. Shippers will have to expedite loading/unloading, and dispatchers will need to coordinate better loads and routes.
These changes may lead to a stronger trucking industry--and it certainly looks as if shipping prices are going up. That’s a good beginning.
It will take a year, or more, however to understand the full effects of the ELD mandate--so the best answer right now is--stay tuned.