When a C.R. England truck driver pulls out of a shipping depot and onto the highway, he or she knows the 14-hour clock is ticking. An electronic logging device (ELD) mounted on the truck’s engine is keeping track of every minute of duty time that goes by. And that driver isn’t alone. Every trucking company not granted a special exemption is now subject to the ELD rule that went into effect this past December (2017).
When the rule was first introduced years ago, it was seen as a logical way to better enforce existing hours of service regulations. Unfortunately, the final rule implemented in 2017 is so inflexible that it is causing more problems than it’s solving. The chorus of opposition that existed prior to implementation of the rule has grown into an overwhelming roar demanding that it be revisited.
So, why is the ELD rule causing such consternation? Consider the following three unintended consequences that regulators apparently never saw coming:
1. Unmanageable Shipping Schedules
The ELD rule is such that every minute a truck’s engine is running counts against the driver’s 14 hours of daily service. Just moving a truck to a different spot in a truck stop counts against a driver’s allowed time. The rule makes no allowances for traffic delays, inclement weather, and any of the other hundreds of things that impede truck drivers.
One of the results of this inflexibility are shipping schedules that are growing ever tighter. And the tighter they grow, the more unmanageable they become. The rule is causing nightmares for shippers, receivers, and dispatchers nationwide.
Trucking and logistics were already hypersensitive to time before the rule went into effect. Keeping freight moving while still managing costs requires great sensitivity to scheduling. Yet the ELD rule has greatly disrupted an already delicate balance and made it more difficult for the industry to meet demand.
2. Higher Consumer Prices
The second unintended consequence of the ELD rule is higher consumer prices. An article published by The Hill in early March illustrates this particular issue via the horticulture sector. For example, consider growers who rely on truckers to transport their products to local nurseries. Those products are extremely sensitive to time. Shippers cannot afford delays if they hope to get their products to market while still fresh.
Managing such tight shipping in order to keep customers happy has resulted in a 50% increase in consumer prices just in Oregon alone. The Hill suggests prices in the Midwest are up as much as 70%. Who pays the higher cost of shipping? Consumers.
3. Increased Driver Fatigue
The third consequence of the ELD rule should, by itself, motivate regulators to revisit the issue. Remember that the rule was implemented to force truck drivers to get the rest they need to drive safely. Unfortunately, the rule has done just the opposite.
No human being can regiment sleeping into a static, inflexible schedule. Yes, most of us go to bed around the same time every night and rise at about the same time every morning. But our sleep schedules are often altered by circumstances outside of our control. We have the flexibility to adapt to those circumstances and still get enough rest. Truckers don’t.
The ELD rule forces an inflexible sleep schedule that doesn’t allow drivers to actually get the rest they need to perform at their best. So rather than keeping fatigued drivers off the road, the rule is actually putting drivers on the road who should be sleeping.
If that’s not enough to force regulators to revisit the rule, nothing will ever be enough.