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How quickly will ELDs be felt in the freight market?

Dec. 14, 2017
Last-minute push to install ELDs to comply with the December 18 mandate could lead to "confusion" due to lack of preparation and training time.

Once the electronic logging mandate becomes official on Dec. 18, attention will turn to just how quickly it cuts into freight capacity.

Andrew Lockwood Sr., senior manager of analytics and solution design for the Kenco Group, said it will be several months before there is reliable data.

However, Lockwood said initial signals could be found in DAT’s report on spot market rates for the week of Dec. 18, which will be issued after Christmas. It particular, Lockwood said he will monitor changes in load-to-truck ratios.

Lockwood and Kevin Hill, founder of CarrierLists, have been polling fleets for several months on ELD preparations ahead of the mandate. As of early December, about 75% fleets said they were ELD ready, up from around 50% in October.

Hill said it is no surprise to see the sharp increase ahead of the deadline, but the last-minute push will likely lead to initial confusion due to a lack of training and practice time. Overall, ELD rates among regional haulers lagged other fleets, with tank and bulk carriers ranking the least compliant. Reefer carriers were most compliant at about 90%, while dry van carriers were second with 75%.

In a joint interview with Fleet Owner, Hill and Lockwood said a true indication how much capacity ELDs have taken from the market may not been seen until the end of March. January and February often are weaker months for freight, and some smaller carriers may remain on the fence whether they want to move forward with ELDs.

“This story is really about those with five trucks in the fleet,” Lockwood said.

He added while he understands the feeling of some owner-operators that the government is forcing this upon them, he believes there remain several misconceptions.

First, he stressed ELDs are not nearly as expensive as many believe. Additionally, Lockwood said they can provide truckers a way to gain better treatment from customers “that are just awful when it comes to loading carriers on time.”

ELDs will help “fix areas that have been in blind spots for a long time,” especially shippers not respecting truckers’ hours. He also expressed some skepticism drivers will be so quick to turn in their vehicles and turn to the construction sector with a strong freight market and rising rates.

At the same time, moving to electronic logs will also will weed out some of the bad apples and “dark sides of the industry,” Lockwood added.

Separately, Hill said there remain many questions about ELD enforcement.

“There is no one plan – it varies wildly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” Hill said. One example is Oklahoma, where the highway patrol was planning an 8-hour training session starting in the second week of December.

Hill said there are plans to utilize 10-hour, out-of-service penalties, instead of fines, during the soft enforcement period.

Still, they said confusion is inevitable, such as the 90-day agricultural extension. That covers trucks only when transporting approved items, so ELDs will still be needed with backhauls of commodities not covered.

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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