Tales From The Trenches: Trucker Interviews About ELDs

Recently I sat down with a couple of professionals working hard in the trucking industry. They had some insight into how electronic logging devices and hours of service rules are slowing them down. See how well this relates to your own experiences in the trucking world, and if so, reflect on ways to resolve this issue for your company with an investment from our finance team.

The Facts about ELDs

The primary goals of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations regarding electronic logging devices are improving transparency and safety among drivers.  With paper logs, commercial interstate truck drivers were not allowed to use different hours of service rules, however, the ability to edit logs was much easier. This is another reason the industry switched over to electronic logging devices—to avoid tampering with logs by drivers and company owners.  ELD regulation was designed to:

  • Better manage the total time on-duty, not necessarily just time behind the wheel.
  • Reduce discrepancies and eliminate log manipulation.
  • Provide more rest for drivers through enforcing operation/non-operation time

I interviewed an owner-operator if he feels safer with ELDs. Brent Brumbaugh works as an independent contractor for an SMB trucking company with fewer than 50 trucks.

Q: Has installing an electronic logging device in your truck improved your safety?

A: No, to me it’s not safer because you are so restricted on the time you have to fight the clock all the time. I find myself being impatient with other drivers and stressed, which leads to health issues. You’re also forced to either stop ahead of the 14 hour shift cap or park in unsafe or unlit neighborhoods due to a lack of hours, impacting either your delivery time or reaching your home.

Q: How does time relate to driver behavior and inability to feel safer?

A: The ELD requires you to stop when that 14-hour on-duty period is up. It also keeps you away from your family more because if you are two or three hours away from home, you have to park there for 10 hours instead of driving home. That is one less day you get to spend with them, and that only makes you drive harder and faster to try and beat that 14-hour window.

Hours of Service Rules and ELDs

But with the new ELDs, it is impossible to break up sleeper time. Brumbaugh discussed the reason that ELDs are causing driver behavior issues that can adversely affect safety. This is where hours of service rules come into the picture. He said, “Once you start driving, you have 14 hours to do whatever you are going to do. Even if you only drive one hour during that 14 hours, that is all you get before a 10-hour mandatory rest.”

He continued, “Say you start at 7 am and you only got to drive five of those hours and the rest of the time you’re stuck in traffic. Or you have to strap down a load, which takes an hour or so. No matter what you have to do, you are forced to stop driving at the end of the 14 hour period.”

“With the hours of service rules, you are also forced to drive in bad weather because you cannot stop and wait until the storms clear out because it goes against your 14 hours of on-duty hours of service. It forces you to sit at times when you could be working and forces you to go when you should or need to be resting.” At the same time, you have to get your load delivered on time for the shipper and your employer.

“It takes away any personal choice or decision making for drivers, adding to the stress of the job,” said Brumbaugh. This is because you are stuck balancing the 14 drivable hours with the irregular shipping schedules of customers, weather issues, traffic bottlenecks, construction, accidents, equipment breakdowns, driver health issues, and the simple act of getting lost on route.

Financial Cost of ELDs

Brumbaugh said that his shipping customers have noticed changes, too. One customer he delivered to in Tennessee recently said that since the new ELD laws have gone into effect his shipping rates have doubled to get the same freight moved as before. That customer seems to think it is a result of ELDs, which is a telling indicator for the industry.

As for the cost for investing in ELDs, according to George T., a long-time owner of a trucking company in Northeast Georgia, there is an initial investment of about $1,000, plus two monthly fees including a software subscription fee and the internet service required for transmitting ELD data, totaling roughly $100 per month.

The Takeaway

Truckers are the lifeblood of commerce; everything we use, from raw materials to finished goods, to the foods we eat were delivered by truckers.  The job of the OTR trucker is not easy, but there’s a sense of freedom and pride that comes with commanding your own equipment.  You’re responsible for safety and timely delivery of goods—adapting to changing weather, traffic, construction and closures—in a seemingly shrinking window of time.

We love having a chance to have real talk with our customers; even about difficult topics like driver log regulation. The intent of the regulation is to create a safer, more transparent environment for freight to move about the country, however the law is not perfect.  We’re here to help our customers navigate and mitigate risk, and manage insurance costs based on your individual business operation and needs; even managing your exposure on regulation like ELDs.  If you’d like to have real talk about managing risk, maximizing coverage, at great rates, give us a call at (855) 270-2560.