How Will the ELD Mandate Change the Freight Marketplace?

The clock is ticking on the federal rule that requires all truck drivers to automatically record hours of service (HOS) and related driving data through an electronic logging device (ELD). Slated to take full effect on December 20, 2017, the ELD Mandate (also known as the e-log mandate) has left many shippers with questions about how the rule will affect truck capacity, rates, and service levels they’re accustomed to.

We’re answering some frequently asked questions—and also debunking some misconceptions—to help you prepare for the upcoming changes.

Why Are Some Truck Drivers Concerned?

Though many large and medium-sized carriers have already begun using ELDs with positive results, some small fleet owner/operators are holding out and questioning the benefits of the mandate. Objections stem largely from inflexibility, costs, and privacy issues—not to mention the learning curve that comes with new technology. Drivers are also worried about the impact this will have on their pay, as strict enforcement of the 55-hour-per-week legal limit puts constraints on their earning potential. Additional concerns come from having to manage shipper expectations on expedited transits. It’s not uncommon for drivers to go beyond their HOS limit today to meet shipper demand, and having to fit loading, unloading, and scheduling duties into such a tight timeframe will be challenging for some.

Further, a single ELD can cost around $584 per truck to install plus another $20 per month in subscription services to maintain. Fortunately, inexpensive aftermarket options are quickly becoming available, as more competition among ELD manufacturers are driving costs down. These new models are also easier to use than legacy ELDs that have been on the market for years. Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says it will allow ELD smartphone applications to comply, which could bring down costs even further for carriers.

Is a Driver Exodus on the Horizon?

In a recent survey of over-the-road truckers, 71 percent of independents and small fleet owner/operators said they would quit before complying with the ELD requirement. That’s a serious threat that could equate to 700,000 fewer trucks on the road when experts already predict a shortage of 239,000 drivers in coming years. However, not all who threaten will leave. Drivers near retirement might go, as happened at Werner Enterprises when hours-of-service changes caused half of its drivers over 60 to quit, but we predict that the actual number of drivers who leave will be much smaller. Certainly, losing experienced drivers is not good for the industry, but history suggests that drivers under the age of 40 and those who need the income are likely to stay to see the upsides of change (Overdrive).  

We should actually see an increasing number of team drivers once the mandate takes effect, as this will be one of the few ways to expedite shipments going forward. Having an extra person in a cab means longer hours on the road, and many carriers are working diligently to recruit team drivers now. Other transit methods like relaying loads between line haul drivers will also become more prevalent. These alternatives could be lifesavers for shippers who need to keep their freight moving beyond the HOS limit to meet their customers’ tight delivery timelines.

In addition, thousands of truck drivers have recently been laid off from oil industry jobs. Many of them are now seeking over-the-road trucking opportunities, which should help balance the number of people leaving due to ELD requirements.

Could ELDs Make Carriers Less Efficient?

As data slowly replaces speculation, productivity gains should ease driver fears. It is true that some fleets with ELDs currently in place have seen a reduction in capacity and weekly miles per truck, some as much as 5 percent. In the past, it hasn’t been uncommon for drivers to exceed legal HOS limits in order to meet shipper demand. Because e-logs will eliminate this type of hours-flexibility, drivers fear that added pressures will lead to aggressive driving such as speeding, passing, and tailgating to make up more time.

But efficiencies will come. In fact, drivers who have already adopted e-logs often report satisfaction with short-term increases in productivity from fewer human errors and less paperwork. More significantly, ELDs allow for more real-time data on trucks and loads, which in the long run, will lead to better asset utilization and more available capacity. Over time, shippers should see savings as a result of better load visibility, planning, dispatching, and more (Logistics Management).

Learn more about how the data collected from E-logs could revolutionize the supply chain.

In addition, the ELD mandate could come as a blessing in disguise to some shippers who are dealing with high pressure deliveries into their customers today. Because compliance with the mandate will standardize how transits are executed, shippers and their customers may be more on the same page when it comes to realistic expectations. 

Our Take

A mandate of this scale will surely take time to bear fruit, and working with an experienced 3PL partner will help shippers manage short-term capacity challenges. For example, the right 3PL will be able to help you with the following:

  • Vetting shipper lanes for ELD vulnerability and understanding whether typical lengths of hauls are still possible under full compliance.
  • Helping ease concerns of smaller/independent carriers by arming them with important information and tangible solutions (e.g. less expensive options available).

In preparation for the e-log mandate, we are proactively enforcing the use of ELDs through our carrier compliance process. We expect to have 75% of our fleet using ELDs by the end of this summer, and full compliance well before the mandate takes effect in 2017. 

Are you ready for the e-log mandate to take effect? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts.

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