The hard deadline of the ELD mandate is finally here, as the market sees a rush in fleets trying to buy and fit ELDs on their trucks to steer clear of penalties or hits to their CSA scores. Though the mandate had been in existence since mid-December last year, the convictions had largely been sporadic, which is expected to change from April 1.
FreightWaves caught up with Ken Evans, the CEO of Konexial, to understand the compliance rates and what the hard deadline signals for the truck industry. “I’m familiar with a couple of data points that have been reported in the press which claim more than a 90 percent compliance rate for ELD. I do not believe that their data is accurate,” he said.
The data that most of the surveys report are from fleets that run 6 or more fleets, which brings in a lot of bias into the results as 91% fleets operate 6 or fewer truck. Evans notes that there are at least half a million Class 8 vehicles without an ELD device on them and that the majority of the 16 million Class 3 to Class 7 vehicles are not compliant either. “We have data on how many devices that we think have been manufactured and it is not anywhere near enough to support the whole industry,” he said.
Konexial is a provider of ELDs, and this lets Evans discuss the mandate with truckers and their perceptions of it. What comes back to him frequently is the fact that most of the truckers seem to be resisting the mandate and do not plan to fit ELDs until the time they get shut down by the authorities.
Also, the fact that the FMCSA issues exemptions and waivers to the mandate is looked at skeptically by many truckers and slows down the overall adoption rates. Evans insists that if complete compliance across the industry needs to be realized, FMCSA must stop issuing exemptions and waivers. “A lot of small fleets are not going to respond to anything less than a massive fine and being shut down. It may take the hard enforcement to make them actually to buy ELDs,” he said.
The late adoption of ELDs is also a cause for concern. ELD is an electronic equipment and like all such devices, takes some time to get used to. Though every ELD comes with a manual and even video tutorials, Evans feels that a lot of truckers seek personal guidance and training, looking for someone to talk to them on the phone. “You would be surprised at the number of people that have been using a paper log who don’t even understand the rules,” he said. “So you have to explain the rules to them, so that they understand how the ELD actually works.”
But the sudden influx in ELD sales leading up to the hard deadline puts an undue strain on the ELD providers to help train truckers. Evans believes the problem is that a lot of them have waited until the day before they are potentially going to be shut down, and that it is not feasible for the ELD vendors to address such a huge audience with their ELD initiation.
Fleets that run without ELDs would be issued 10 hours out of service when caught, forcing them to sit for 10 hours before they are allowed to continue to their destination. Subsequently, the truck would be placed out of service until the owner installs an ELD. Evans considers that enforcing these practices would be key to making fleets compliant.
The complaints about the ELD mandate are not necessarily centered around the device itself, but rather on the hours-of-service (HoS) rules. “It is the HOS that has people upset and the reason why this rule is opposed for so long and continues to be emphasized. Once you start working for the day, from the first minute you start driving, the 14-hour clock starts and can’t be paused for any reason,” said Evans. “So the main complaint we hear is around this and the fact that if a driver has an unforeseen delay, he can get stuck somewhere away from his final destination. This sometimes can get very inconvenient, and there is no way for a driver to legally get where he needs to go.”
Evans concludes by saying that the ELD mandate would actually shed light on the issue drivers face around detention and that it has the potential to make it a level playing field for everyone. With an ELD on deck, carriers now hold records to their locations with timestamps, which they can use to bill on their detention forms. It has also enabled dynamic load matching, which would not have been possible without an ELD. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to observe the industry as it braces itself to face the hard deadline a few days from now.
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