Truckers' logbooks replaced with electronic logging devices (ELDs).
January 20, 2016
Concern over the well-being of truck drivers and the safety of all who share the road has played a part in a federal mandate that will lead to the replacement of driver logbooks with a digital counterpart. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will require the installation of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) on commercial trucks by the end of 2017. This technology automatically records a truck's driving time, known as hours of service (HOS), as well as monitoring engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven and location information.
The ELD mandate was included in a 2012 transportation bill enacted by Congress called "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century", also referred to as MAP-21. The administration estimates the rule will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries per year.
Along with safety, this mandate is meant to advance carrier efficiencies by reducing paperwork and improving the quality of logbook data. It is thought the paperwork reduction could save the industry $1 billion annually. Some unintended consequences are of concern though, including the reduction of shipping capacity, making it more difficult to find carriers to haul freight.
What an electronic logging device does.
ELDs will replace paper logbooks and other recording technologies that do not comply with the new regulations. The law requires installation of a device that is hardwired to the truck's engine.
Federal safety regulations limit the number of hours commercial drivers can be on-duty and still drive, as well as the number of overall hours spent driving. These limitations are designed to prevent drivers from becoming fatigued while behind the wheel by requiring breaks and sufficient off-duty rest periods before returning to on-duty status.
Regulators want ELDs installed to provide more accurate readings and prevent drivers from logging incorrect information or intentionally misrepresenting their hours in their logbooks.
Even with an exemption for trucks manufactured before 2000, the FMCSA estimates that 3 million commercial vehicle drivers will be impacted by the ELD mandate.
How the mandate impacts the shipper.
For smaller carriers, the impact could be as drastic as closing their business for good. Installing ELDs on existing trucks or buying new vehicles with the technology included will be very expensive. Smaller trucking firms are already operating on thin margins due to heavy regulatory expenses and increasing costs associated with the competitive market for drivers. Analysts believe many mom-and-pop and small regional carriers will not be able to absorb the mandate's expense.
That will make capacity much tighter, especially during busy shipping periods. It will also have a major impact in areas that are already underserved by major carriers and depend on smaller, regional companies. Carriers that remain in business will continue to concentrate on shipping lanes where they can make the most money and will likely forgo the opportunity to replace small companies in underserved areas.
Companies that rely on truck haulers won't see much difference in availability in 2016. But starting midyear 2017, firms that find the cost of ELD installation too great may begin to exit the business.
How to prepare for the mandate.
You should ask the carriers you use how prepared they will be for the ELD mandate and what impact it will have on their operations. Even some smaller companies that remain in business may have to raise shipping rates to cover the expense.
Companies should also use the next year to find shipping alternatives. Using a freight service provider like Freightquote by C.H. Robinson will minimize the impact of the ELD mandate. They create sufficient capacity with contracted carriers and negotiate rates so that costs will not significantly increase if in fact there is a decline in overall trucking capacity.
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