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Predicting the future is easy, until it isn’t – ELD edition

 Will the ELD rule lead to more trucks being parked, or more trucks being added to the nation's fleet?
Will the ELD rule lead to more trucks being parked, or more trucks being added to the nation’s fleet?

Last week we discussed the challenges of predicting the future, what parts of predicting the future are easy, what parts are more challenging, and where many predictions go wrong. As we explained, predictions of large disruptions in a marketplace seldom prove to be accurate. Our general rule for this is, “Calamity, well anticipated, seldom is.” 

One of the most blatant examples of this in recent history was the Y2K panic. Because the programmers of the 70s and 80s hadn’t planned for the year input field going from 19 “99” to 20 “00,” the entire world’s system of computers and everything that relied on those computers was going to crash.  Airplanes were going to fall from the sky and cash could no longer be withdrawn from ATMs after midnight Dec. 31, 1999. Instead, almost everyone in the free world upgraded their hardware and software, or learned to live with systems that told them it was Jan. 1, 1900.  Either way, the massive calamity that was widely predicted never happened because it was “well anticipated.” It is at this juncture we feel morally obligated to point out the obvious. Everyone who is even remotely aware of the trucking industry in the U.S. knows that the ELD rule went into effect on Dec. 18. Time will tell, but so far there are not massive numbers of trucks parked on the side of the road, and shippers are actually able to find trucks to move loads, we are not surprised. Why? Because, “calamity well anticipated, seldom is.”

The other way predicting the future is wrong is the failure to consider the law of unintended consequences. Just like everyone else who is familiar with the new regulation and the way that the trucking industry works, we expect that adoption of, and enforcement of, the ELD rule will initially lead to some constraints on trucking capacity. How big will that reduction be and how long will it last is yet to be seen. 

There are three basic factors driving the predictions of capacity in trucking: 

  • Fewer miles per truck – Most of us anticipate some loss of capacity through a reduction in miles that can be run by the trucks that are in service. Said another way, log book cheaters can’t cheat the paper log book anymore and so the number of miles the cheaters gained by cheating will be lost.
  • Fewer trucks – Trucking will become less profitable and, as a result, thousands of truckers will go out of business which will idle tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of trucks.
  • Fewer trucks with fewer miles, but more efficient? – We expect that in the long-term the unintended consequences may have an equal to more powerful effect on the visibility of equipment and the bad behavior of shippers and receivers. 

Let’s dissect all of these points: 

Fewer miles per truck – This is dependent upon not only how many truckers are cheating but how they are cheating. Estimates vary widely on the number of trucks that are ELD compliant. It is widely understood that all the major fleets are compliant, and have been for some time. It is also widely understood that almost all the small fleets are not compliant. That begs the question, “How many of the small fleets cheat their logs books?” and more importantly “How do cheaters cheat their log books?” At the margin, we suspect/concede most of those still using paper log books were making small ‘mistakes,’ however, we believe that the vast preponderance of those ‘mistakes’ were a result of driving less than 11 hours, but not driving those 11 hours within a 14-hour window. We believe the number of trucks driving more than 11 hours in 24 hours is less than 1% of the nation’s fleet. If the cheating of log books is not a function of driving more than 11 hours a day, and more a function of not driving the 8.0 to 10.9 hours within a 14-hour on-duty window, then the reduction in capacity may not be as great as has been widely predicted.

Fewer trucks – Another one of our long-held rules of this marketplace is, “It takes forever to kill a trucker!” If predictions of dramatic reductions in capacity are correct, then rates will also rise dramatically. A dramatic increase in rates could keep marginal truckers in business, and even encourage some to add capacity. We will closely monitor the trucking company failure rate in the coming weeks and months, but we see more trucks, not less, as a real possibility in the intermediate to long-term. The more dramatic the rise in rates that happens as a result of ELDs, the larger the possibility that more trucks are added to the nation’s fleet. To the extent that capacity is reduced by trucks running fewer miles, there will be a real need for more trucks in the nation’s fleet.  

Fewer trucks with fewer miles, but more efficient? – We expect that in the long-term, the unintended consequences may have an equal to more powerful effect on the visibility of equipment and the bad behavior of shippers and receivers. As all trucks adopt ELDs, they become easier to add to technology systems that provide shippers and brokers better visibility of equipment. Those same systems also allow truckers and brokers to more closely monitor and score how fast each shipper and receiver loads and unloads trucks. This data will allow truckers to be more selective in accepting loads and punish bad loading and unloading behavior with “poor reviews” that are based in verifiable data. 

Bottom line, we haven’t seen a dramatic drop in capacity or meteoric increase in rates yet. We concede, that it is still too early to tell. That said, the ELD rule was well anticipated and if cheating was more a function of not driving the hours within a 14-hour window, and less a function of driving more than 11 hours, then capacity may not go down as much as was widely predicted. To the extent that rates go up as a result of ELDs, the total number of trucks on the road may go up, not down (as has been widely predicted by others). Lastly, increased use of in-truck technology may result in more equipment visibility by more market participants, many of whom stand to benefit by making the use of that equipment and those driver’s hours more efficient. Only time will tell, but we will keep you informed as events unfold.  Stay tuned…

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Donald Broughton, Principal & Managing Partner, Broughton Capital

Prior to starting Broughton Capital Mr. Broughton spent nine years as the Chief Market Strategist and Senior Transportation Analyst for Avondale Partners. Before that, Mr. Broughton spent over twelve years at A.G. Edwards. At A.G. Edwards, in addition to being the Senior Transportation Analyst, he was the Group Leader of the Industrial Analysts and served on the firm’s Investment Strategy Committee. Prior to going to Wall Street, Mr. Broughton spent eight years in various distribution and operations management roles in the beverage industry, including serving as the Corporate Manager of Distribution for Dr. Pepper/Seven-Up companies and Chief Operating Officer for Bevmark Concepts.

One Comment

  1. One week in to the ELD mandate, the impact has been significantly different than the author portrays. What we and other brokers have experienced is a significant increase in the number of carriers that have "dropped off loads" because they don’t have the available hours. And we have seen several one day lanes become two Day lanes because carriers are not willing to risk incurring a violation. As the CEO of a medium size broker told me, for 18 months they had a dedicated lane with one day service. This week the carrier pulls off 60 miles from the locatotion because he has run out of hours. Prior to the ELD, they’d complete the run and adjust their paper logs. Who knows if this was a one time incident of if it portends the future. In any case, it will be worth monitoring this in the weeks ahead.

  2. All that will happen is the additional stress on the driver will cause more drivers to commit acts of road rage. Nobody ever cared if a driver spent 2/3 of his day wasting his time, and not getting paid before. As long as he didn’t show up 10 minutes late to get in line to deliver his load of toilet paper. Nobody is going to care now, until they can’t get a load moved. But for the near future, it’s going to be up to the driver to make up for everyone else’s inefficiency

  3. Yeah you guys have been talking only for yourselfers but what about the drivers that are away from home and don’t have a chance to have a nice meal even a nice place to rest ours body’s because since ELD we don’t have time for ourselves. Like I can move the truck for a good meal. Without burning our time and have a decent place to rest without hidden. Because we can’t move and our off duty time be spend in the middle of nowhere instead of be with ours closers ones. be 30 mins away from home and sleep in the truck instead of be with. My love one’s yeah but no body’s care about the drivers. And the same pay but more time away from home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. I personally drive so much more aggressively than I ever did. Since having this ELD installed in my truck I have been in about 1 fight a week at truck stops because somebody won’t move. At the truck stop or on the highway now it is all about me. The good thing about having an elderly is now if I am not off duty while loading or unloaded I get on Craigslist list and arrange for some lonely young lady to spend the 10 hours having a good time, so eld’s do have a plus but now I am so exhausted because of all the booty calls and not being able to get a good sleep. Got to keep going now no matter how played out I am. So when you are on the highway you better get out of my way or you might be just a statistic by the end of the day. O if you think I am the only one like this you are sadly mistaken.

  5. I’m am currently sitting 67 miles away from my delivery location scheduled to deliver this morning at 7am. I refused to take the load at 7am tomorrow morning because I only gain two hrs which would force me to sit on the border of Mexico/San Diego for another 24 hrs to get 12 hrs back. I’ve used my time to apply for a new job near my home town where I can go home at night and not put up with this bullshit, with full benifits. This is a bunch of shit. I am forced to drive harder and more aggressive because of all the speed control bullshit that leaves trucks with no power to get up hills when pulling 80,000 lbs. You can’t make time up so you run out of hours to drive before you’ve driven the miles it should only take given state speed limits. Regulation kills industry and costs the economy billions of dollars. This will increase freight which in turn everything goes up in prices. Economists think that all the pencil pushing they do will make the world go around as they determine..this will end badly..Mark my words.

  6. If there is a rate increase. Yes there will be more trucks that will probably start up again. That said more trucks on the road can only mean one thing rates will start to be cut to get the loads. Then you are right back to trucks going out of business. It’s time we put a stop to the bigger company’s that wanted this mandate for Eld logs. Put a limit of trucks that they can have. Don’t let them dominate the business.

  7. Still the 2nd biggest scam the government has pulled on the American people. Obuma being the biggest.
    If they wanted to fix the problem they would make driver pay but the hour not the mile. Pay for the time wasted on docks shippers and receivers should never take over an hour to recive or load a load. Also making a driver wait until a load is counted on a sealed load is bs. All loads should be received seals intact sign bills let the driver go.

  8. Trump said less regulations will he isn’t helping us at all. And where the one’s that got him elected

  9. Whom ever the MORON is that wrote this article needs to live the same way we as truck drivers do for a year, then rewright the article when they have a clue whats really the truth. 30 years of working this industry I believe I’ve grown to know what it’s like

  10. I have been doing loads for 6months for a company out in Odessa Tx going to Ft worth Tx. I have never been late for delivery before. Today was my first day using the ELD and guess what? It burned all my hours while loading, meaning I had to stop half way towards my destination and didnt make it for 8am delivery. I got there at 11am and it caused a mess trying to reschedule the load all because of the fucken ELD bullshit.

  11. Its still easy to cheat ELDS,but I won’t say how.Elds is something that the government and big companies call "leveling the playing field" and it hurts the small guy because we don’t have lobbyist in The Swamp.

  12. Hi,it seems you have a lot to say about the eld,s,it just makes me wonder either you were paid to write about it,or your just trying to get drivers to swallow your self-righteous do what I say,not what I do bull.oh yea I have 25yrs driving experience,2.5 million miles,no accidents.how bout you.i have run them,and just don’t like them,have grown to dislike them as 1984 as they are,do like most of the drivers,get another job.your article sucks.Doug Anderson

  13. Hahaha increase rates never happen in last 20 years, may be you live in different world and you don’t know what is going on in trucking industry.

  14. If ELD’s are going to happen drivers are going to need some changes, such as being able to split the ten hr sleep rule and also not counting off duty time for meals against our fourteen hr rule. If these two changes could be made we could maybe survive! We are not robots!!!

  15. U are totally wrong the eld logs will push drvers. That means more accidents , more trucks , no parking , prices will start to go up because it will cost more ti haul , drvers will get tired fastet. ,get less money an be gone longer the government will eat us up in taxes an the trk stop prices will go up again U people dont know shit

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