The future of small fleets post-ELD mandate

( Photo: Shutterstock )

(Photo: Shutterstock)

With less than two months left before the ELD mandate goes into effect, statistics coming from ground zero on the compliance of carriers to the proposed rule are far from satisfactory. Kevin Hill from undertook an interesting study, where he surveyed ELD adoption rates with 1,600 carrier companies. “The deadline is fast approaching, and yet, only 35% of the fleets have purchased and installed ELD devices for their fleets,” says Hill.

The records kept by the American Trucking Association (ATA) show that 97.2% of all fleet owners operate fewer than 20 trucks, thus classifying an overwhelming majority to be small-fleet carriers. Larger fleets ply with deeper pockets and many have already complied with the mandate or are in the process of equipping their trucks with the ELD, unlike the smaller fleets.

One of the primary reasons for the seeming reluctance in adoption is the perceived fall in revenue when ELDs come into play. This is because ELDs regulate the number of hours truckers spend on the road and officially driving is restricted to 11 hours for a 14-hour shift. This also includes time wasted at the dock and on the highways due to traffic and logistics issues. 

Truckers get paid by the mile. Strictly monitoring and limiting their driving hours could potentially impact their earnings potential. ELDs provide little flexibility when compared to paper logs. This puts smaller fleet companies in a spot and thus there is an obvious resistance to change. ELDs range in price from less than $100 to $1,000, and many include monthly service fees, adding a financial burden on these companies.

Authorities from state and federal law enforcement departments understand that the change is hard for the smaller fleets and thus plan only on fining truckers without ELDs and not force them off the road until April 2018. But critics feel that there would be a visible loss of trucking fleets due to the mandate, since it inevitably means lower incomes.

On the positive side of things, the ELD mandate is touted to bring in a lot more accountability to the industry. Better driving hour regulations mean the truckers are properly rested, thus reducing accidents on the road, with FMCSA estimating that the measure would save 26 lives annually.

Though the near future looks murky, adopting ELDs might be a shot in the arm in the longer run. Tighter compliance with regulation of trucking hours means reducing the hauling capacity and speed of delivery, but with demand remaining constant, the fleet companies should be able to leverage that for better pricing - which eventually would work well for the industry’s future.

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