We have all heard the myth that stop signs with white borders are optional. That one always got a laugh, but it concerned me a bit when I sat down to write this column, so I researched the tall tale on Google. This was clearly not the first time that this particular subject was searched for on the Internet.
Seriously, are folks that gullible, or are they just looking for a way around a particular rule? I have read the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations cover to cover and could not find a sentence proclaiming that the rules governing the operation of a commercial motor vehicle are optional.
While my sarcastic demeanor is evident when it comes to this particular subject, I can say that there have been some interesting reactions from our driving community in response to the compliance date of ELD technology. Heralded by its detractors as bringing possible anarchy to our highways, the December 18 compliance date inevitably came and went with little to no disruption to the normal workday.
Hardly a trade secret, these baseless negative opinions were noted, but the general shock and disdain for these devices trumped the reality that ELDs do not represent a problem, the rule is not optional, and its compliance with the federal Hours of Service regulations should never be viewed as a hindrance.
We have seen all of the quotes from drivers popping up on social media and in the comment threads of our favorite industry publications regarding the implementation date. “The 14-hour clock adds pressure to continue driving.” “Where I was is nobody’s business but my own.” How about this oldie but goodie, “ELDs place pressure on a driver because he is now on a clock.” And my particular favorite, “Privacy and time constraints with ELDs hurt my bottom line.”
So, during the past 10 years, these drivers have either not paid attention to what an ELD is or truly have a problem with the Hours of Service regulations.
My point is that we, as an industry, cannot advocate for more sensible rules when many are publicly declaring that the rules in question are optional to them. And we, as an industry, can all agree that the 14-hour clock does add pressure to continue driving. Time constraints can be a financial burden, and the previous statements about ELDs are inherently true whether there is a device present or not.
In fact, many of us, including me, have argued about the burden the 14-hour clock places on our industry because of its inability to stop when started—a true obstacle when trying to be efficient with both productivity and safety. The problem with making this argument previously was the lack of proven, accurate data that supported our arguments. We made blanket statements because many drivers camouflaged logs that hid detention time and an inflexible 14-hour duty clock to the point that many viewed our reasoning as baseless. ELDs are going to bring these issues to the forefront of our ongoing conversations about hours of service and the changes that need to happen.
Now, December 18 is no longer the date in question, and the April 1 out-of-service enforcement date looms on the horizon. Shortly after that, drivers will be faced with penalties that make compliance with HOS regulations absolute. Compliant drivers not only create a level playing field but will also tell a story. Yes, an inflexible 14-hour window lacks the real-world opportunity to accurately portray a day in the life of a driver.
Drivers today face an abundantly broad range of issues that consistently delay their schedules or place them in an environment that could potentially interrupt what we would call a relatively productive day. That being said, the presence of ELDs will now highlight these issues and provide our industry with the opportunity to tell our story, which is supported by ample data.
This new influx of data can help the industry and agencies make meaningful changes to fix an hours-of-service problem that has plagued our industry for years. With hard dates to adhere to and a chance to accurately comply with a rule that can no longer be viewed as optional by some, we can finally make sleeper berth flexibility a reality rather than a pipe dream.