Those of you who have known me over the 20-plus years that I have been involved in trucking can attest to the fact that I possess a somewhat sarcastic sense of humor, which tends to accompany a true appreciation for Saturday Night Live and its performers.
This is a stretch, even for me, in trying to relate SNL to the trucking industry, but recent issues surrounding our rule regarding electronic logging devices (ELDs) and the implementation process are invoking images and memories of the skit “Really!?! With Seth and Amy.”
Maybe it’s not that much of a stretch. The reaction of “Really!?!” has been uttered industry-wide by thousands as we creep closer to the ELD compliance date of December 18.
This rule can hardly be described as a surprise. In the mid-’80s, motor carriers began using ELDs to record hours of service (HOS) for drivers to eventually accommodate a rule in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations that addresses the use of AOBRDs (automatic onboard recording devices).
In other words, this rule has been nearly 40 years in the making, and some are still asking for a delay. Really!?! Adding further fuel to the fire, in 2000, FMCSA began advocating for a mandate that tracks HOS electronically only to be sidelined with a court order in 2004.
Circling the wagons, the agency published another notice in 2010 that required ELDs for the most egregious violators of the HOS regulations; in 2012, through MAP-21, Congress required FMCSA to develop a more encompassing rule for ELDs for the industry as a whole.
Not accounting for court decisions and potential litigation that was never heard, these mere dates point out that the idea of ELDs is not a new one. It has been publicized often and criticized frequently. Our industry should now be prepared for a compliance date that will soon be upon us.
Really!?! What did you think would happen?
All too often, we fall short of our intended goals by kicking the can down the street, and this ELD process has highlighted that very problem. Forty years in the making—and many are still opposed.
In saying that, let’s look at some of the very things that ELDs will do once they are implemented and begin to generate data. Whoops, I said it. I used the word that will be deemed king very shortly—data.
When it comes to rules and provisions, data is now king, and no mandate would be worthwhile without it. We can no longer rely on the pen and paper that made up driver logs of old.
We now have electronic information that can be traced and used to improve upon the operations and safety performance of our fleets. Issues like productivity, detention time, truck parking, and even personal conveyance will now have realistic data to be attributed to these issues in an effort to find solutions that may actually work.
If there ever was a statement that could generate a “really!?!”, that would be the one. Our industry has been embroiled in those aforementioned issues for what seems to be eons, and now we need to move forward with the road map we have to find a way to actually address these problems.
The evolution of ELDs should allow our industry as a whole to take a position of support on these compliance tools for what they can be used for rather than what they could possibly prohibit. Addressing the aforementioned issues needs to become the end game, the finish line or the apex on what our industry has reached. We’re trying to move the needle on problems that have populated for years on end.
Imagine, if you will, that the ability exists to actually drive, rather than spend time waiting to be loaded. Imagine not receiving a note from a shipper that informs a carrier that they will find another trucking company that operates without ELDs. Imagine turning the tide on an industry to change the scope of conversations that we have endlessly had to dialog that can be new and exciting and can make a difference.
To those very points, my response most certainly would be . . . really!?!