In December 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a rule that requires trucks to use electronic logging devices (ELDs). The mandate has received mixed reactions from those in the trucking industry. The ELD rule is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of driving (RODS) data. The way that the ELD functions is by synchronizing with a vehicles engine to automatically record driving time, allowing for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording.

    On December 18, 2017, the new regulation will take effect—requiring by law the use of ELD for truckers to keep track of their hours of service. In addition to keeping exhausted drivers off the road and limiting accidents, the new rule is designed to better hold companies and drivers accountable for HOS compliance. How vital is it to reduce driver fatigue? According to information from the National Highway Safety Administration, drowsy driving caused 72,000 accidents and 44,000 injuries in a recent year. It has even been estimated that up to 6,000 deaths are caused each year by drowsy drivers. Commercial drivers are among those who are most likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.

    The FMCSA believes the new ELD mandate will eliminate 1,844 truck-related accidents per year, saving 26 lives and preventing 562 injuries. The rule also stands to force those drivers and carriers that make a living breaking the rules off the road.

    Besides the projected safety improvements, this new regulation has caused quite a stir in the transportation arena, but what does it all mean?
    1.) The ELD will save drivers precious time that they no longer have to enter data into paper logs, increasing efficiency and saving wasted time.
    2.) Increasing dispatch efficiency by allowing fleets to better plan out their loads and deliveries.
    3.) Decreasing fuel costs by reducing trucks downtime and lowering crash rates all translates into more money for companies and drivers.
    4.) The ELD can also assist in additional regulatory compliance, such as driver vehicle inspection reports, etc.

    1.) Opponents argue the ELD actually produces a decrease in productivity, cutting down the number of miles traveled, and essentially increasing spending through the necessity to add more drivers to haul freight.
    2.) Small firms are at a disadvantage, and the new regulations will make it difficult for them to afford the new devices and continue to pay for their other expenses.
    3.) Drivers are opposed to being micromanaged and having their every movement tracked electronically.
    4.) The safety improvements are all just projected.
    5.) The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association feels that their Fourth Amendment Right are being jeopardized, and see the ELD ruling as unconstitutional.

    Overall, it is very difficult to project exactly how the new ELD mandate will pan out once the regulation goes into effect. Many truckers have already abandoned paper logs in favor of ELDs because of the safety advantages they offer. For smaller companies who have not yet adopted the ELD program due to expense, according to one estimate, using an ELD will cost an average of about $500/truck per year. Many smartphones and tablets can even be used as ELDs, reducing the need to buy new equipment.

    The biggest concern surrounding ELDs is that they may force a decrease in driving hours and thus hurt productivity. The ELD will not give them the authority to decide when they can take breaks or not drive through inclement weather. These concerns may be valid, especially given that there is already a shortage of qualified commercial drivers in many areas. If the existing drivers are held to extremely strict regulations, the industry as a whole could suffer. Eventually, the FMCSA may have to revisit the mandate and adjust it to strike a balance between safety and productivity.

    The impact of electronic logging devices on the trucking industry will become much clearer after the mandate goes into effect at the end of 2017. If you have any additional questions regarding how the ELD mandate may affect the transit of your freight, please reach out to our PNG Logistics offices at (717) 626-1107.

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