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Trucking Trends: Real Impact of ELD-Day Still to Come

By Mark Montague, DAT Solutions

Truckers have had December 18, 2017, circled on their calendars ever since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced its final rule for electronic logging devices, or ELDs, nearly two years ago.

An ELD works with a truck's engine to automatically record when the vehicle is in motion. By December 18, all carriers and drivers who are legally required to record their duty status were required to transition from paper logs to ELDs if they haven't adopted something similar called an automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD).

Most large fleets did so long ago and say ELDs reduce paperwork and errors, and also limit the temptation to pressure drivers into working more hours than the law allows. But ELD adoption rates are far lower among smaller carriers, which account for 97% of the 3 million federally regulated commercial vehicles on the road.

December 18 was seen as a D-day for trucking, with predictions of drivers hanging up their keys and loaded trucks stranded at inspection stations a week before Christmas, put out of service because they lacked ELDs.

While the effects of the mandate are still to be seen, there's reason to believe the deadline won't be the crunch date it was once predicted to be. Here's why:

• Out-of-service violation postponed: In August, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the leading association of federal, state, and local motor vehicle safety officials, decided that roadside inspectors will not place drivers out of service until April 1, if a vehicle is not equipped with the required ELD.

• CSA penalty postponed: The FMCSA announced that drivers caught without an ELD won't get points against their CSA scores until April 1, 2018. This is significant because even if a truck was not placed out of service, the threat of poor CSA scores might have compelled carriers to comply.

• Spot truckload rates are at multi-year highs: It's been a long time since rates have been this high, an enticing reason to stay in business. In fact, the monthly average rate for vans and reefers hit their highest mark in more than three years in November.

What ELDs Won't Do

If you're a shipper using carriers and drivers involved in interstate commerce who by law have to maintain records of duty status, it's worth remembering that an ELD can only track vehicle movement. It can't tell whether a driver a tired or alert, or sleeping or awake.

The ELD mandate does protect a driver from harassment if a carrier uses ELD data, or information available through connected technology, to pressure him to do something that the carrier knew, or should have known, would result in an HOS violation or to drive when ill or fatigued. A similar rule against coercion applies to shippers and receivers.

As you review 2018 transportation plans with carriers, ask for an accounting of how many hours it takes to move your freight from Point A to B and talk to your carrier about how to make sure your routes are in sync with hours-of-service rules. The ELD clock can't be stopped once it's running so talk to your carriers about the amount of time their drivers spend at your facilities and then find ways to improve productivity.

The postponement of out-of-service violations and CSA penalties gives shippers, freight brokers, and carriers a bit of a grace period to make sure trucks are properly equipped and drivers are using ELDs. While the impact of the December 18 deadline may have softened, April 1 is not far off. There's no time to waste for carriers and drivers that aren't in compliance.

Mark Montague is senior industry pricing analyst for DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT® network of load boards and RateView rate-analysis tool. He has applied his expertise to logistics, rates, and routing for more than 30 years. Mark is based in Portland, Ore. For information, visit www.dat.com.