ELD dawning day approaches

June 5, 2017
Skynet debuts Dec. 18 if ‘Hail Mary’ prayer goes unanswered

I don’t consider myself to be a movie aficionado. But I can say that when  a recent conversation I had about electronic logging devices (ELDs) referred to Dec. 18, 2017, as the day in which Skynet takes over, I had to chuckle.  If you have ever seen a Terminator movie, you know that Skynet is the advanced, technological computer system that led to machines taking over the world.

Now I don’t think we can realistically be that melodramatic over our ELD compliance date, but I can say that the December date in question can be one which certainly turns the tide on the trucking industry,  the very day in which hours-of-service compliance went on-line in an effort to disregard paper logs forever.

Don’t get me wrong. The Hail Mary that was thrown toward the Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to have the rule overturned should be viewed as just that, a Hail Mary. The odds are against the rule being overturned or even heard by the Supreme Court, which brings me back to the advice I have given TCA members over the past years: Find an ELD solution that works for your company.

The questions that surround ELDs are also coming at a sprinter’s pace at this point, so much so that just about every trucking association and ELD provider is conducting webinars or posting FAQs to their website in an effort to assist our motor carriers in finding answers to questions they may have. We hope the transition will be seamless; however, I do think there will be hiccups in the implementation process. In review of that process though, there seems to be a few things that are truly gnawing at the back of my mind. It may not be Skynet, but it is a tsunami of data that’s about to hit our industry. Are  we prepared to deal with it?

Think about it for a moment. We have spoken for years about the prevalence of driver detention that runs rampant throughout our industry. Come December, we will now be generating data that can actually verify that time and location in which the detention exists. In essence, ELDs can generate a coordinated map pointing out the extreme violators. Come December, we will actually be producing sound data that proves what we have been anecdotally saying for years—that our drivers are arriving “just in time to wait.”

Detention time is just one ELD issue to be dealt with, but what else? How about truck parking?  Often part of the detention time argument is the constant churn affecting a driver’s ability to find suitable parking spots. Nearly impossible to find after six o’clock, drivers face the ultimate ticking time bomb of detention when it interferes with any preplanned parking options and now the inevitable adjustment on the fly. Sure, there are apps out there that identify parking availability, but the one thing an app won’t do is create additional parking spaces for the drivers who are detained for an exorbitant amount of time that it now requires a change to their planned-out trip.

I totally get it. There are folks on our roads who simply are not looking forward to this implementation process. The aspects of watching everything our drivers do and the costs involved are just some of the arguments brought up by  ELD detractors. Just remember the aforementioned topics. We may now have sound data that demonstrates just how large of a problem this has become.

Whether Skynet takes over or not, Dec. 18 will indeed be a judgment day to say the least. The data generated with ELD implementation will definitely creep into the plans that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has moving forward. It places them with the dubious honor of being careful what you wish for. Now, with the production of sound data that may actually justify our anecdotal arguments, it places the agency in a position that forces them to act on a problem.

The hope is that one day, in the long run, this massive data explosion can reduce our detention times and parking problems and make them more of a thing of the past rather than a problem of the future.  

About the Author

David Heller

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs. Before that, he spent seven years as manager of safety programs for American Trucking Associations.

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