Will ELDs lead to greater highway danger, worsen “driver shortage,” halt civilization?

This is ELD deadline week, and the sky is falling. Or maybe it already fell. Is it the end of the world as we know it? (photo: Shutterstock)

In the recent frenzy, Freightwaves broke through to a VP of a long-haul carrier, and an owner-operator driver with questions we’ve been wondering ourselves

This is ELD deadline week, and the sky is falling. Or maybe it already fell. Is it the end of the world as we know it?

The succession of legislative attempts to halt—or really just delay the bill—fell short. What could they really say against the wave of technological overhaul that’s sweeping the industry?

And really, this ELD thing will be good news. Why? Because it’s healthy for an industry to get “up to speed” with technology, especially when that tech keeps things transparent, documented, and one that will eventually—probably—prove fair.

Just like an apparently “even” trade between two baseball teams, time will tell.

No doubt, there will be short-term losers. And that’s where the best arguments and the “fairness” come into question: the smaller carriers will be hit first and hardest, putting some out of business, and the new regulation certainly doesn’t appear to help the driver shortage problem—however one defines “shortage.”

So, what’s left to talk about? Plenty, if on-boarding a new and wide-ranging national transport system makes for a story.

And there are many lingering questions. Do we really need more regulation? And who are the regulators really looking out for?

There also remain plenty of other unresolved issues. Just yesterday, ELD suppliers, such as KeepTruckinOmnitracsBigRoad, and One20, saw massive spikes in usage and service calls.

And that’s not the end of the story by any means. According to the most recent Stifel report, the top five unresolved ELD issues are:

1. Visibility at Roadside

2. ELD Malfunctions and Data Diagnostic Events

3. Personal Conveyance / Yard Moves

4. Form and Manner

5. Instruction Card / Supply of Blank RODS

Don’t even worry about what each of those top five things means. Each issue accompanies a series of mind-numbing clarifications and descriptions.

We’re in the first stages of growing pains. A whole new learning curve, and everyone better get used to it. After years of legislation and slowly moving toward a technologically more advanced system, it’s not likely to return to old-fashioned paper and pencils. You can’t let the genie out of the bottle.

To get a little perspective, Freightwaves spoke with Ed Kern, Vice President of Pricing and Network Strategy at Covenant Transportation Group, a larger, mostly long-haul carrier.

“ELDs really shouldn’t be a problem. A lot just don’t do it because they weren’t playing by the rules in the first place,” says Kern.

In the short term ELDs very likely will shrink the capacity of drivers who just don’t want to deal with it. At the same time, it’s sure to benefit the larger carriers, such as Covenant, who already have systems in place and have been playing by the rules all along.

Kern doesn’t agree with the drivers who argue the ELDs are too inflexible and will force drivers to drive when they’re tired. “Speeding may be an issue,” he says. “But owner-operators who already implement governors [the ability to halt gas intake in an engine at a certain speed] shouldn’t worry.”

According to Kern, most, or at least many, carriers use a governor system to maximize fuel efficiency, and also for insurance reasons. “A single crash can result in a multi-million dollar claim.”

As for dealing with the driver shortage issue, Kern says the industry will adjust and realize we need to pay drivers more money. “We also need to address the lifestyle issues, and treat them with the respect they deserve.”

Freightwaves also spoke with driver, Jeff Clark, who was driving out of a congested Chicago evening traffic at the time. Clark is a veteran driver with 29 years under his belt, 16 of them as an owner-operator.

“The ELDs don’t force you to do anything,” he says. “I’ve been using them for five years now, and the only difference is that I’m better rested.” One thing ELDs do force a driver to do is actually take that ten-hour break.

As for speeding, Clark agrees that some drivers probably will. “I’m most efficient at 62-63 miles per hour, so that’s where I tend to run. Sometimes, though, I might have to get it up to 68-70 if I need to make the run.”

Clark doesn’t buy the driver shortage thing. “It’s crap,” he says. “It’s economic-based. We need about 3.5 million drivers. We attract about 500,000 a year, but we don’t keep them.”

Clark does believe that ELDs will tighten the supply of drivers in the short-term, but before we see drivers’ rates go up, he thinks something else will have to give. “Efficiency needs to increase. When it starts costing the docks they’ll get more efficient. That will be the first change to come. Why? Because it’s cheaper than paying drivers more.”

As for ELDs, Clark says, “At first you get a little obsessed with it, but then you get used to it.” It can actually be helpful at times too, keeping drivers focused on their stats, efficiency and schedule. “I think in a year no one will be talking about this.”

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Chad Prevost

Chad is radio host and broadcast media specialist for FreightWaves.

One Comment

  1. How come you guys always talk to a large companies with piss poor drivers and safety rating. And forget about the little xompaines and owner operator’s.

  2. How about the environmental companies that at the end of your 14 hour day, your company has an emergency response to a spill that you can’t go to cause you’re out of hours.

  3. Ok. Ok. You won. We have a transparency. We have a technology. We have a safe roads. We have a paradise. Cumbaiyaa.

    1. I love it. But how come there are accident they said it would be safe..i saw three him maybe the 4 wheelers need elds too!

      1. No, 4 weellers don’t need a elds. The government and motor carrier safety administration need to see a psychiatrist.

  4. I was happy two times in my life.
    When I started with trucking. And when I quit with trucking.

  5. The top concern should be i use to be able to be safe now i dont don’t have time. I have lost over 120.00 in two days at this rate my family will lose 18,000 plus in income next year.
    1. That’s reduced tax collect for the government times 3.5 million rigs. While the driver increases expenses on eld suscribtions and parking!
    2. Has created a black market for parking, people making money and not claiming the revenues collected from drivers.
    3 Rigs parking on the hwy since they got caught in traffic, thats not safe for them, the Freight or the general public. Expect more driver death in robberies of freight!
    4. Freight will move slow across the country and brokers are asking for non eld drivers!
    5.shippers and receivers are creating issues with kicking drivers off property when they have burned there clicks out! Coercion law need to be strictly inforced
    That should be your top 5.
    Number 6. We’re now in a hurry so sorry to the 4 wheels im going to have to be aggressive with u use to be able to give you the time u needed but now my clock is ticking. Tic tic all day long i don’t have time for your stupidity! The fact is im 80000 get out of my way you won’t look good as a hood ornament!
    How this is about safety is beyond me, i have no time to do anything not even eat right truckers have the higest suicide rate and now we are picking them in there cabs no time for nothing we just to meet friends. No time for that.
    Elds will create lost jobs what Dennys or blue beacon is going to stay open when we just don’t have the time to stop wash our trucks our feed ourselves, and we have an income reduction.
    This led mandate is going to kill trucking!

  6. What is going on is above my understanding. Swift has a electronic logs since 2011 and swift has a bigest accident rate. To put 80.000 lb driver against clock, to jeopardize his life and the lives of others driving community. It’s your mothers and wifes taking children to doctors, and they drive slower on the way of the raging, on the coffeine truck drivers it’s a crime. I don’t care how big was a bribe.

  7. “I think in a year no one will be talking about this.”

    Dude, it’s been two years already and people are still massively angry about this. Get out of my business and my life. I’m a million miles accident free. I am not the problem. The big companies with their driver mills and extremely bad safety records are the problem. The four-wheelers with no sense of self preservation or understanding of what a big truck can do to them are the problem. If the ELD we’re truly about safety not profit, the government would focus on the big companies and cars that are the actual problem.

  8. Why everybody have and can work overtime and a cop and a fire fighter and a doctor and they do not get citation of thousants of $ but we should get any??. It take me more time to set the eld then to do it on paper and was an IT guy. All the big companies want small comp out of their way but how many loads we carry for them that they cant keep up. It been 3 days but already 5 times almost hit a truck that suddenly pulled on a shoulder, and i stoped too just to see why and he said " sorry man but i have to stop or my company will charge me 300$ every violation" and you all tell us we will get used to it. Those who are happy with eld always are at 5 pm at truck stops buying a case of beer and sneaking it in a truck, or staying and talking blsht in lobby. Also those who work for big companies they Do Not need more then 0.41cpm the are lazy and they have their baby money and they have their benifits, and OO is a I have a family of 4 i have to feed and if i was making a load in 1 day from atlanta to chicago now its 2-3 depends on when i got out of delivery. And he telling everybody he feel more rested?? Anf the other one that we do not play by rulles? Hope that none of these two ppl will suffer from this eld implimentation. Hope that no semi will block the shoulder and the ambulance will arrrive on time and a life will be saved.

  9. Jeff Clark is an idiot who is dead wrong on just about every single count. Other than that, the article is more right than wrong.

    EOBRs, which I initially supported the concept of (and still do, if they were to be done correctly), are a poorly conceptualized and simplistic attempt to "force implement" the exact same rules of a paper logbook (which inherently includes "flexibility" in the form of cheating), in an utterly inflexible and nearly cheating-proof computer. This is an incredibly stupid and shortsighted implementation. And, as a result, it definitely does not improve safety, but instead reduces safety, at least for those of us who had not been excessively cheating in the first place. For those who were running double logbooks other extreme cheating methods, I am sure it would improve their safety, but that never applied to me, since I was always a stickler.

  10. EOBRs could have been a true safety device, and simultaneously been popular with drivers IF they had been conceived of with limited and "paid back later" flexibility baked in to the rules.

    Trucking and truckers depend on flexibility. Murphys Law runs trucking far more than DOT law ever has or ever will. The only antidote to Murphy is multifaceted flexibility. But only on a limited and future paid for basis. There has to be a price to be paid for out of tomorrow available hours, so that you always have to think about it long and hard before using the flexibility. Otherwise flexibility would be overused and we’d be back to an unregulated wild west of trucking…and worst of all, freight rates would go down sharply.

    The main value of the current HOS & EOBRs, is that they eff things up so much, and put Murphy of Murphys Law so much in control of all of our day, that freight rates are going up, up, UP!