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A New Day

Consequences—intended or otherwise—of the ELD mandate
MS_A New Day

“The biggest ELD issue we’ve faced is a spike in freight costs,” confirms James DeMatteis, CEO and president of Des Moines Truck Brokers, Inc. Like many, DeMatteis believes adjusting hours of service rules are key to successfully managing compliance with ELDs.

Who’s on First?
Opinions of ELD compliance are a dime a dozen, with advocates and opponents on every facet of the issue. Carriers, distributors, lobbying groups, and brokers are far from united over whether the mandate should have been implemented at all, let alone how, since no sole group benefits entirely from the way the legislation is currently written.

Most drivers, though, have been universally opposed. Terry Keister, carrier manager of Cool Runnings, headquartered in Kenosha, WI, found there was “pushback from day one” from drivers, along with “a reluctance to take on long-haul jobs and a real fear insurance costs will go up.” It also wasn’t great for productivity, as many drivers struggled with using the technology.

This attitude is understandable given the penalties drivers suffer for noncompliance. While initial inspections focused on issuing citations to give drivers a cushion as they began using the equipment, the regulation has teeth. Repeated violations can lead to federal investigations of companies and individuals, and while drivers will bear the brunt of compliance inspections, there’s plenty of pain to be spread around: the total cost of ELD implementation is predicted to reach more than $2 billion.

This cost is added to an industry already reeling from a lack of qualified drivers and capacity crunch. A study in the Journal of Commerce in 2017 predicted that the shipping industry might realize losses of between 3 and 5 percent due to ELD-related costs, exacerbating existing problems.

A driver’s view
One of Keister’s Cool Runnings’ drivers, owner-operator Jimmy Christensen, is among the staunch opponents to the use of ELDs. He complies with the mandate by using a tablet with a logging app. “There’s nothing in e-logging that’s about safety; it’s all about control.”

He is not alone in this thinking; 62 percent of owner-operators surveyed for a special Randall-Reilly/Commercial Carrier Journal report in 2017 believed new technology (i.e., ELDs) would “make it easier for fleets to monitor and control drivers.”

And when drivers were asked “What is the one thing you dislike most about your job today?” for the Randall-Reilly/CCJ report, 60 percent of owner-operators cited regulations as making it harder to work and earn a living.