ELDs are about money, not safety

Photo:  Robson Hatsukami Morgan


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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One Comment

  1. The best article. Ofcourse eld, as any computer can help. For so many years we tolerated HOS nonsense. Whoever created it is responsible for the tragedies on the highways and has to be imprisoned. Those HOS is a crime.

  2. Finally a rational commentary about ELDs. The protesters really had no legitimate reason for complaint. Someone should have challenged them to produce their paper logs for the past year and show anything performed on paper that couldn’t be accomplished running with ELDs. There would be nothing to show because regulations are the same with paper logs and ELDs.
    While small carriers aren’t as likely to be subject to an audit as the larger carriers when they are the penalties are much more severe. Forcing or allowing drivers to falsify log books is a felony. The DOT Office of Inspector General has prosecuted drivers and carrier officials when audits revealed falsified logs. Management of large carriers never face criminal charges, even after a driver that falsified laws causes an accident with multiple fatalities. The FMCSA will hit a carrier with 5,000 trucks with a $10,000 fine. Just how punitive is that?
    Carriers will have to raise rates so drivers that have been consistently falsifying their log books to survive on low pay by working 80 – 90 hours a week will be able to make a living working 70 hours a week or less. However, ATA is pushing to lower the minimum age for interstate driving to 18. Teenagers with no families to support or rent or mortgage to pay can survive on a much lower income.

  3. This guy is an absolute idiot. To suggest that small fleets and owner/operators have an advantage is moronic. We get roadside inspections too. If we kill someone in a crash, we get audited. If our csa score gets too high, we get audited. We don’t get to reduce our csa score with a bullshit safety class because we are the driver, owner and safety director. We are regulated through our insurance premiums better than through FMCSA regulations. We can’t hire 18 year old drivers because we can’t insure a driver without 2 years perfect mvr. ELDS are a method for the large carriers to solve their driver shortage. If they can end the o/o option and remove any fleet that doesn’t use elds then their drivers will stop quitting. Google turnover rates. It all about making the large carrier the only option. If this was about safety why isn’t Werner the safest fleet, they developed the technology. Stop kidding yourself, eld’s will not prevent inexperienced drivers from doing dumb shit and killing people. It’s not going to increase rates or detention pay. We experienced drivers being driven from the industry didn’t set the rates or delivery precesses. All that was done by the mega fleets with their unending drop trailer pool. The only thing that’s going to help safety is to end the Self Insured Exemption for large carriers. Make everyone pay to play based on safety performance.

  4. So now drivers can’t take rests when ever they wanted.
    They can’t sleep for couple hours when I felt sleepy.
    They did not have to rush with paper logs.
    Law is saying now that we have 14 hrs it means tired or not just drive and most of drivers are not used to overnight driving but will be driving drowsy.Most drivers will be pushing to make it and I think safety has been taken away from drivers.because they can’t be their own boss.Anyways let’s go with LED it’s going to bring accidents down as they say,let’s see.

  5. Donnie Hadden. Working 17 years in 10 -12 companies from jb hunt and Stiven transport to 1-2 company drivers size, I saw tendency, besides drop and hook, that some say rat holes shippers or receivers, like in new York or camden, nj big company don’t go. They want cover big facilities. So plenty shity work for smaller cariers. You say a lot of right. Surprisingly no say about HOS. Wich in my opinion the bigest issue I saw.

  6. Bains. This why I quit for now. SafetyNess was taken from me. I wait. If it change I go back. If not I don’t let no computer, no government agencies drive truck for me.
    I am commander when I drive. Period. Thanks for suggestions though, but, sorry, I drive when I want and sleep when I want.

  7. Why isn’t anyone commenting on the 11hour driving time allowed and the 14hour on duty time allowed?. If something needs to be regulated, its those insane hours that exhausts drivers….No other industry mandates those long hours. How about reducing these hours to a regular 8 hour shift, hiring more drivers with an increase in pay and perhaps the USA will rise from their medieval slavery thinking and catch up with the rest of the western civilized world!

    1. Frank, your comment implies that you have not a clue, have never driven OTR nor transported perishable food. First it is not a mandate that requires one to work 14 hours. It is the MAX time. Second, your mathematics skills are obviously lacking. A maximum 8 hour shift, including fuel stops, mandated break, traffic, etc, would equate to well over a week to transport goods cross-country. Here’s a challenge for you: Get in your car and travel coast to coast, you get only 8 hours a day to drive, stop to eat, gas up, take a crap, etc…., you have to follow all of the state/fed laws for trucks regarding speed, truck lanes, etc. (you can not drive in the carpool or fast lanes, etc). Let’s see how long it takes you to get from let’s say California to Miami, FL. Get back to us after you have done that. Moreover, you have obviously been hiding under a rock for the last 10 years or so when many companies/industries began offering "Flexible Work Schedules", which means employees can opt to work a 4/10 (four days/10hrs), 3/13 (three days/13 hrs), etc. Therefore, a trip from CA to FL would correlate very closely to the 4/10 and a trip from CA to GA would correlate very closely to the 3/13… If we could only work a total of 8 hours a day running OTR , we might as well get in the free cheese line……

  8. Richard Gaskill. With all my respect, I wanted to comment on your comment. But before I want make sure you are definitely in the industry, but not a driver. Is it right.

  9. So no oos and no points against drivers or companies score but you will get fines!! Hows that making the roads safer at the contrary if they really cared about safety they would remove the danger by putting us oos . Go figure