ELDs are about money, not safety

Commentary

After years of court-cases, legislative maneuvers, in-fighting between industry organizations and leaders, the ELD mandate is finally here. There have been predictions of major economic calamity, trucking bankruptcies, double-digit rate increases, and many dire predictions that would make chicken little proud.

There have been a lot of emotions in this debate and it is certainly the most divisive topic in the industry. But it all comes down to one thing- money.

Sure, safety is a concern. Everyone has a vested interest in the safety of our highways and streets. We all want to see a reduction in accidents and a reduction in fatalities at the hands of unsafe drivers. Most people would agree that there needs to be some level of enforcement when it comes to speed, training, and how many hours a driver should be behind the wheel.

News stories of drivers going from Oregon to Massachusetts in three days non-stop become instantly shareable stories on social media and give the impression that truckers are going nuts on speed, meth, and cocaine without any concern for their own safety or the safety of others. The reality is quite different. These stories are picked up because they are so rare. The American Trucking industry has never been safer. The OEMs, insurance companies, and enterprise fleets are doing a great job of implementing technology and using data to identify things that can mitigate accidents and incidents in the industry.

But getting back to the root cause- this ELD mandate is all about money. ELDs are not evil and the folks that want to see them adopted industry-wide are not evil (although some will suggest it). It’s about fair play in ensuring that everyone in the industry plays by the same rules.

Large enterprise fleets are often subjected to audits from the FMCSA and are the prime targets of lawyers like the “Texas Hammer” that will “Hammer the big trucking companies.” If they failed to adhere to HOS rules, they risk significant financial consequences or worse.

The small carriers and independents have not had to operate under the same threats of enforcement or compliance. The chances of a driver getting shut down or caught for lack of HOS compliance are quite small. Therefore, the small fleets have always had an advantage when it came to how many hours they could run vs. the larger enterprise fleets. This gave the smaller operators an advantage in the market for recruiting and pricing.

The hours-of-service regulations are ridiculous. The government believes these rules applied universally will make the roads safer. But what they actually do is take away the driver’s own ability to manage their time and work schedule. A driver that is tired will push himself further to maximize his hours of driving time and will forgo opportunities to drive when conditions (traffic, weather, and his own body) are best.

But if we are going to have these dumb rules then it seems fair that everyone should adhere to them. Now that ELDs are here, we can focus our collective energy on repealing mindless HOS rules. Imagine if the ATA, TCA, OOIDA, The Alliance, and other vested industry interests got behind creating a new HOS framework that considered the driver’s own intellect, we would all be better off.

 

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