On December 16, 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a ruling requiring all commercial truck and bus drivers to begin utilizing electronic logging devices (ELDs) by December 18, 2017. These devices automatically record driving time, monitor engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information replacing the old system in which driving and on duty hours were logged with paper and pencil making them difficult to verify the accuracy.
It is no secret that mandating the use of ELDs is a much-debated topic. Whenever the subject is mentioned you will quickly see two camps rise to the top of the conversation. Those who are adamantly against the idea. And those who are definitely on board. There does not seem to be too many that fall into the gray in-between area on ELDs. However, regardless of which camp you might be in, the fact remains that the deadline is set and quickly approaching. This means that carriers are going to have to make a decision. Either get on board or get out.
Unfortunately, this is going to be a very tough decision for many smaller carriers. The costs of new equipment and services to support the use of ELDs may be too great for fleets who operate twenty trucks or less. So what will they do? Many may actually decide to leave the industry. Others might lease themselves on to larger carriers who can provide the technology. In any case, many of these companies will likely hold out as long as possible. The result could mean a flood of carriers trying to get equipment installed at the last minute. For shippers, this could mean delays along with scrambling to get their product on wheels while waiting on their usual carrier to become compliant. Or the need to suddenly find a new company to work with when their current carrier pulls the plug.
So why all the fuss?
It seems like hardly a week goes by that we don’t see something in the news about a tragic accident involving a commercial vehicle. Often the story line talks of truck drivers who are tired and either dozing off or distracted in some way due to fatigue. The mandate will improve roadway safety by employing technology to strengthen commercial truck and bus drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service(HOS) regulations. Historically, paper logs have been too easy to manipulate and difficult to verify for accuracy. ELDs will automatically and accurately log time and status for the driver. The system will notify the driver of exactly how many hours they have available and when breaks are required. Stronger compliance with the HOS regulations will reduce fatigue while driving.
So where is Nussbaum in all of this?
For some time, we believed ELDs would eventually be mandated and decided to get ahead of the field. We have now been operating with electronic logs for eight years. While we did see a 5 percent decrease in productivity upon implementation, we have also seen numerous benefits for our operations and drivers. With our ELDs in place, operations are able to watch for compliance issues and provide support for drivers when needed. Driver managers also have an accurate and up-to-date picture of their driver’s available hours allowing them to plan more effectively. For our drivers, ELDs have reduced the amount of paperwork and eliminated the potential for violations due to simple errors such as forgetting to update your duty status. This has not only helped to reduce fatigue in our fleet but also created some peace of mind. In fact, we have often heard from our drivers that:
“I hated these things when you put them in the truck, but now I’d never go back!”
Ultimately, making the switch to ELDs has allowed us to move forward in our efforts to be an effective, safe, and reliable carrier for our partners. Furthermore, our willingness to embrace new technology has put us in a position to be ready for the future.
We know we’re ready, the question is… are you?