The U.S. trucking industry is continuing to adjust to the federal electronic logging device mandate that took effect late last year.
Carriers are focused on complying with the regulation, navigating enforcement issues and finding ways to derive additional value from the technology.
The federal ELD rule requires most longhaul drivers to record their hours-of-service information with ELDs instead of paper logbooks.
An ELD inspection underway during a Roadcheck event. (TT file photo)
Based on the experiences of drivers at FAB Express, enforcement officers have shown some leniency because they, too, are still learning, said Mark Caithamer, project and operations manager at the Lemont, Ill.-based carrier.
“It was a big change for the law, and our law enforcement and the trucking industry,” Caithamer said.
Edin Selimagic, safety manager for Midwest Freight Systems, a carrier based in Warren, Mich., said it has taken time for the company’s drivers to get used to ELDs.
To ease the transition, the company has focused on driver training and has established an ELD department that drivers can call with questions.
“Any time they have an issue or are confused or don’t understand something, they can call that extension. That means a lot to the driver,” he said.
Although hours-of-service rules haven’t changed, the ELD mandate has strengthened enforcement of those rules and leveled the competitive playing field among carriers, said Brad Delco, a transportation research analyst at Stephens Inc.
The ELD mandate also tightened the freight market by eliminating capacity that wasn’t compliant with HOS requirements, he said.
It’s hard to determine how much of the capacity crunch is from the ELD mandate and how much is from a stronger economy. Those two factors have combined to make this one of the strongest trucking environments on record, Delco said.
The inside of a cab of a Midwest Freight Systems truck equipped with an ELD. (Midwest Freight Systems via Facebook)
Ricky Stover, vice president of sales at C.R. England Inc., agreed that ELDs have made competition within the transportation industry more fair.
“While the vast majority of the trucking industry has been following hours-of-service laws for some time, there are clearly bad actors that would not comply without enforcement and clear accountability, particularly in industry segments that have historically relied heavily on noncompliant carriers to meet aggressive transit goals,” he said.
The current capacity crunch has increased the need for shippers to partner with carriers to maximize utilization by minimizing driver and equipment delays and optimizing mode selection, Stover said.
Caithamer of FAB Express said that while a few older drivers may have left the industry rather than install an ELD, the younger generation doesn’t mind the electronic logs.
“They don’t want to do paper,” he said. “You have someone 40 or younger, you don’t hear a peep out of them.”
Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the association doesn’t have a way of tracking how many drivers have left the industry, but has heard that some have.
“A few have said they are going to do shorthaul or buy an exempt truck,” Taylor said. “Some are looking at buying either an older truck or updating with a glider” with a pre-2000 engine.
Trucks with engines manufactured before 2000 are exempt from the ELD mandate.
Dave Osiecki, CEO of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, said the mandate has forced better compliance by a small percentage of noncompliant fleets and drivers, but only 4% or fewer of drivers inspected are cited for noncompliance with HOS.
Vigillo, an analytics firm that tracks fleet safety data, has seen a precipitous drop in all HOS violations since the mandate’s enforcement grace period ended April 1, said CEO Steve Bryan.
Steve Bryan says a sharp drop in all HOS violations has occurred since April 1. (Joseph Terry/Transport Topics)
There were 34,381 violations documented in April, down from the 47,872 issued in March, he said. The majority of violations concerned not having a record-of-duty status, which now must be recorded by an ELD.
Other top violations include failure to maintain an ELD instruction sheet and failing to maintain the user’s manual.
“What the enforcement people don’t understand is those instruction sheets are largely on the screen,” Bryan said. “I think there is some confusion.”
Vigillo is part of SambaSafety.
Kerri Wirachowsky, director of the roadside inspection program at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said one of the biggest issues facing the industry is that drivers don’t know if they have an automatic on-board recording device or an ELD.
AOBRDs are older electronic logging systems that predate the ELD mandate. Fleets that installed AOBRDs prior to the mandate can keep using them in lieu of ELDs until December 2019.
“The transfer mechanism on AOBRDs and ELDs is completely different,” Wirachowsky said. “They literally look identical, but some of the display screens on the AOBRD don’t have the data an ELD would have and the transfer of the data isn’t the same.”
While AOBRDs are compliant, they don’t necessarily have the ability to transmit the log, Vigillo’s Bryan said. “That is where we’re seeing a lot of these improper violations because drivers don’t know the difference.”
Wirachowsky encouraged carriers to ensure that drivers understand what type of e-log system is in their trucks and know how to download the files.
Drivers must keep a week's worth of ELD data for law enforcement review. (LoadDocs)
Although inspectors are doing their best to learn all of the devices, it’s impossible to know how to operate every one, she said.
Hundreds of different ELD systems are listed on an online registry maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Dustin England, vice president of safety and compliance at C.R. England, said most Department of Transportation officers know that the carrier is grandfathered and don’t ask which ELD or AOBRD the company is using.
“Possibly due to this fact, we haven’t seen any difference in the level of enforcement for our drivers,” he said, adding that the carrier’s scores under the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program haven’t changed much.
Salt Lake City-based C.R. England ranks No. 26 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.
As part of the ELD regulation, drivers must keep supporting documentation for their hours, which Scopelitis’ Osiecki said hasn’t been properly highlighted.
“If you’re a company that is required to have an ELD and the driver doesn’t have an ELD, you get five points for the violation,” he said. “If the driver does have an ELD and but doesn’t have the supporting paperwork, you get seven points.”
Brian Belcher, chief operating officer of LoadDocs, said the ELD mandate makes it important for fleets to organize and store paperwork, which can be done digitally.
“Half of this mandate was documentation,” he said.
Drivers must maintain a week’s worth of ELD data for law enforcement review. That includes metadata, such as a driver’s name, time and status.
Documentation can include bills of lading, manifests, dispatch records, expense receipts and payroll documents, Belcher said.
“If you have to prove your HOS, that documentation is critical to back that up,” he said, adding that carriers also must make the information available for at least six months.
CVSA’s Wirachowsky suggested drivers keep everything in their trip envelope and give it to the inspector.
“Know you have to have supporting documents, know how to work the device and all will go well,” she said.
However, OOIDA’s Taylor said some drivers in the field have expressed frustration after experiencing problems transferring ELD data.
“A few have called saying they were put out of service for not using an ELD,” she said. “Some have said that the only thing an officer has asked for is the ELD and then let them go upon proving they had one.”
Averitt Express Inc. saw some temporary declines in productivity due to the learning curve of additional administrative time being taken in the truck, but the carrier has gained back everything it lost and then some, said Amos Rogan, productivity and efficiency leader for LTL operations at the fleet.
Cookeville, Tenn.-based Averitt Express ranks No. 31 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.
Drivers at FAB Express say ELD enforcement officers have shown some leniency because they also are learning. (FAB Express via Facebook)
James Smith, safety coordinator for All Source Logistics, a carrier based in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., said the company has turned down loads with certain shippers because drivers were likely to be delayed, which can throw off their schedules under HOS.
“They get held up when they get loaded and then they can’t get unloaded. It will end up tying your trucks up for two to three days instead of one day,” Smith said. “If you get held up in the first part of your week, it seems like you never get caught up.”
Many fleets have found that ELDs make trucking life easier and more efficient, Scopelitis’ Osiecki said.
“ELDs help some drivers better manage their time, and they collect a lot of other data,” he said. “They provide greater visibility on HOS, better dispatch and they collect other pieces of data.”
That data captured by ELDs can support fleet management in a variety of ways.
Jerry Robertson, chief technology officer for Bolt System, a fleet management and freight tracking software provider, said ELDs that use geofencing can eliminate the need for a driver to make a check call, he said.
“You can get the scheduled time when the driver breaks the geofence, so we know they got there on time,” Robertson said, adding that automatic alerts can help shippers schedule labor.
Osiecki said ELDs also can help identify driver behavior issues. “There are probably greater safety gains to be had with the additional data these devices provide over the HOS compliance data.”