big rigs - truckingThe Trucking Industry is going around and around about the new ELD Mandate that went into effect at the end of last year. Yes, the whole industry is abuzz with all that is going on, how to implement this, should small trucking companies have to comply, and should livestock haulers comply.

How are we going to get our produce from California to Boston on time and why is the time spent at the loading dock counted on duty? Many, many questions and everyone you talk to has the answer! In my humble opinion – if you want something messed up – let the government try to fix it.

2017 ELD Mandate

In the mid-1980s, some companies started using Electronic Logging Devices to record their hours of service. This was just the beginning, kind of the experimental phase. They were far from high tech as the wireless technology was not where it is today.

In 1986, you guessed it, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) started lobbying the Department of Transportation for a mandate that would require the ELD for all motor carriers. The American Trucking Association and several trucking unions were also advocating the implementation of the ELD.

Since 1986 and to its full implementation in 2017, the regulation has gone through many ups and downs, changes, and many attempts to halt the process altogether. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) are steadfastly against the regulation, I can fully understand why when you consider the added cost to their operation. Just as small trucking companies, operating on small margins, can ill afford the extra cost.

The majority of livestock haulers and produce haulers are owner/operators and they run on a very time sensitive big rigs - hauling produceschedule. They will have the added cost of the ELDs and the added worry that their cattle will arrive alive or their tomatoes will be fresh when they get to their destinations.

Since the mid-1980s people have been researching this regulation. It would be interesting to find out who they talked to, what kind of focus groups were put together, and who all was involved in the writing of this legislation? I know I was driving in the 80s and no one asked me anything about it, I didn’t hear about it until around 2010! But, it is probably good they didn’t ask. It has always been my belief you can’t regulate human behavior – everyone eats, drinks, and sleeps at different times. That has always been the attraction to the Trucking Industry, the fact that big brother was not watching you all the time!

Now We Comply

I guess the question now is “who should comply with this regulation”? The way the regulation is written, if you operate in all 48 states you must comply. Drivers who operate under the short-haul exception may continue using time cards. The regulation also states that if you operate a truck manufactured before 2000, you are exempt.

Motor carriers and drivers were to start using ELDs on December 18, 2017. There have been many questions as to what type of ELD is acceptable. Does it have to be directly wired into the engine ECM or can it be an app that one can operate and view on a cell phone?

The FMCSA states that an ELD can be portable – so long as it fully meets the technical specifications and is certified and registered. The portable ELD must be mounted in a fixed position during the operation of the motor vehicle and visible to the driver from a normal seating position.
Another big question among many, is what to do in the case of a malfunction and what to do if data cannot be transferred properly? There are a million questions as to how to transfer data, or what is the acceptable way?

From what I have seen, all major carriers have installed the ELDs into their tractors and their drivers are strictly held to the hours of service. At the start of all this, there were trucks that would give you about a fifteen-minute warning (you were about to be at your eleven hours of driving) and then shut down. This is one thing they have found is not feasible.

There are still a lot of people questioning rather they should have to comply and why. I can understand why! When you look at all the different types of trucking there are in North America, one could see why one rule will not be feasible for everyone.

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blow my stackFMCSA ELD Mandate Exemptions

The Motor Carrier Safety Association is adamant that no one should be exempt. We have a lot of companies and a lot of individuals that are challenging this. A few states are jumping on the bandwagon, because of the complications that will be created and the revenue that will be lost, in the event products cannot be hauled out of their state.

A good example of this would be California and Florida when you talk about produce. Kansas and Texas when you take into consideration the meat and livestock industries. It remains to be seen if any state or industry will be exempt.

In order to comply, companies, shippers, and receivers are going to have to educate their employees about the hours of service. Getting trucks loaded or unloaded are going to have to be done in a timely manner. Drivers cannot be waiting four, five, or more hours to be loaded or unloaded. Not without changing the regulations.

In order to make this regulation work, shippers, receivers, and companies are going to have to make major changes. Companies are going to need more team drivers and increase driver pay if they expect to keep freight moving and retain drivers. Shippers and receivers are going to have to be more aware of the time a truck is on their docks. There will be the need for more drop and hook operations.

Many more changes than those I just mentioned are going to be needed if this is to work, or drivers and companies will figure a way to get around these regulations. There were a lot of states getting fined when the CDL went into effect for not testing properly. People administering the test were being paid to overlook those that didn’t have all the necessary qualifications for a CDL license. Many more under the table deals were going on and I suspect they are still going on. Why do we have drivers that can’t speak or read English?

This is generally what happens when the government tries to regulate an industry too much. What is going to happen is, the FMCSA is going to start handing out exemptions, or drivers and companies are going to comply, or everyone is going to figure a way around all this!

ELD Apps

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has set up a website dedicated solely to the ELD Mandate. How many pages it consists of is too many to count. The website will take you to about twenty-five different sites, leading to more rules and regulations pertaining to the ELD Mandate! You can also download a 126 page PDF, at the above website, about the regulations, but it also takes you to links, with additional rules.

It all kind of reminds me of the Hazardous Materials Regulations and the IRS Rules. A person can interpret it in so many ways. What rule you are going to have to adhere to depend on which state you are in or which DOT officer you are talking to. Just like it was with paper logs, every state and every law enforcement officer has their own interpretation of the law.

The way I understand, ELD Apps are allowed as long as they can connect with the ECM of your engine and it states it can do this by way of WiFi. The FMCSA has a list of over 100 Approved Devices that you can purchase.

If you would like to check into some Electronic Logging Devices, that are FMCSA approved, from Amazon!


Conclusion

Yes, I think there is going to be a lot of confusion for some time. Most all major carriers have installed the devices on their tractors. The FMCSA estimates the cost of the ELDs at about $495 per truck, but they also state the total yearly cost to go as high as $832 per truck. My guess is no one knows for sure. But, when you add these numbers, someone who has 3000 to 5000 trucks on the road is going to incur some major expenses. JB Hunt operates about 12,000 trucks, so you do the math. I am sure they are getting a discount, but it is still a ton of money.

I don’t think there is any way around not increasing freight rates. If companies comply totally with this regulation, they are going to have to hire more drivers to move the same amount of freight they are hauling now. As stated earlier team drivers will be needed to haul livestock and produce.

Paper logs worked very well as long as companies enforced the rules and dispatched accordingly, but everyone found ways to get around the regulations. Most DOT officials didn’t care too much, as long as you could show them a neat, legal looking log book.

When you think about how long this has been talked about, the research that has been done on logbooks and driver safety – you would think a workable system could be implemented. We should get away from more regulations and leave more of this up to the drivers. They should know how much sleep they need when they need to sleep, and when they feel rested! If you force a person to adhere to a strict schedule or work when he is not feeling rested, that is not going to improve safety.

It very well may be in a year or two drivers and companies will work out ways to get around these new regulations and everything will be back to normal in the Trucking Industry.

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One Comment

  1. No Bill, in most cases the unions are with the government, I know they were behind the ELD Mandate. It’s like everything else, years ago, the Unions helped as drivers were working way too many hours, but now it is better if the companies and drivers can work together to eliminate the problems we have. One rule to fit all will not work in the Trucking Industry. Kudos to your father-in-law for his truck driving years. Have hauled that paper a little myself. THX for your comments!

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