ELDS Bring Changes to Fleets, Truckstops

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The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate will take effect later this year, changing the way millions of drivers on the road operate. The new regulation will bring changes to both the trucking and truckstop industries alike, and those within the industry expect to see drivers that are more starved for time as well as productivity losses for fleets.

ELDs automatically record a driver’s hours-of-service and duty status and will be used by all drivers currently required to complete paper logs. One NATSO member told Stop Watch he believes ELDs will revolutionize the industry as much as deregulation did.

Fleet Consolidation
“It is changing how companies respond,” the member said, adding that he expects to see an increase in the number of companies using relay drivers, which means more drivers will return home at night, as well an increase in consolidation among fleets. “I think trucking companies will get bigger and bigger.”

Consolidation could be the biggest single concern for truckstops. As the trucking companies get bigger, they’ll have more negotiating power with truckstops.

Miles Traveled
ELDs may also affect miles. Truckload miles have been “stepping down” year over year, and were down by about 4 percent for 2016, said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. “Truckload carriers are simply not getting any more miles on their trucks every single month. Some of it is regulatory, and we’ll have a big regulatory event this year with ELDs,” Costello said while addressing attendees at The NATSO Show 2017 in Savannah, Georgia.

Decrease in Productivity
Industry analysts agree that the adoption of ELDs will drive down productivity for fleets. Noël Perry, a transportation economist with the research firm FTR Associates, said the productivity hit for early adopters of ELDs initially ran 4 to 8 percent for over-the-road operations. That figure could go as high as 12 percent for carriers that were violating hours-of-service regulations.

A number of fleets are already using ELDs and have found ways to offset productivity losses, Costello said. There are 4.1 million heavy-duty trucks that fall under the ELD mandate based on FMCSA data. In FMCSA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis for the final ELD rule, the agency estimated there would be an adoption rate of 22 percent among long-haul trucking fleets and 7 percent among short-haul carriers by the end of 2016.

Carriers may be able to use the data obtained from ELDs to strategize loads and ultimately improve operations. Schneider, for example, has already reported that it has worked through productivity losses and improved pricing.

More Trucks on the Road
Costello added that if productivity goes down, fleets will need more trucks. “If your productivity goes down, each of those individual trucks may buy less and use less fuel, but you need more trucks to haul the same amount of freight,” he said.

More trucks on the road would also drive food sales, which is an important category for truckstop and travel plaza operators. Darren Schulte, vice president of membership at NATSO, said ELDs will make drivers’ time more valuable, making convenience even more important. Drivers may seek out more foods they can keep inside their cabs or fast, grab-and-go options that they can eat on the run.

Changes in the Parking Lot
Changing regulations could also mean drivers are parking longer, which would give operators more opportunities to boost sales. While ELDs may result in drivers observing their full, mandatory rest periods and spending more time at truckstops, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll spend more time within the locations’ profit centers, Schulte said.

“Just because a driver is going to be on your lot for a required time, that doesn’t mean he’ll be inside your store,” Schulte said, adding that operators will need to focus on ways to bring drivers inside or deliver food to drivers either as they rest or while they fuel.

“If drivers are more starved for time, they may load their truck up with food and not even stop during the day. They will just fuel and go. If you’re not going to be bringing food to them at the pump, you’ll be at a disadvantage,” Schulte said.

Shift in Customers
Truckstop and travel plaza operators may also see a shift in customers. Requiring all truckers to use ELDs removes carriers’ and drivers’ ability to violate work rules, forcing them to stop as soon as they’re out of hours. In the past, drivers may have been able to push forward another half hour or 45 minutes to get to their favorite truckstop or travel plaza.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers using ELDs had a 53 percent lower driving-related HOS violation rate and a 49 percent lower non-driving-related HOS violation rate than trucks not equipped with ELDs. 

Increase in Safety
Ultimately, the mandate is expected to improve safety. The Department of Transportation estimates that the rule will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles annually. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers using electronic logging devices had a lower total crash rate (an 11.7 percent reduction) and a significantly lower preventable crash rate (a 5.1 percent reduction) than trucks not equipped with an electronic logging device.

Costello said the American Trucking Associations does not believe the new presidential administration will delay the mandate. “This is final and done. If there was a proposal to roll it back, we would say we do not want that,” he said.

The ELD Mandate
Electronic logging devices automatically record a driver’s hours-of-service and duty status, and the majority of drivers will be required to use the devices beginning in

December 2017. The mandate applies to all interstate commerce drivers that are operating a vehicle with an actual weight or rated weight of 10,001 pounds or more or any amount of hazardous materials requiring placarding, but there are some exemptions to the mandate. Operators of pre-2000 model-year trucks are exempt due to vehicle connectivity concerns and retrofitting costs. Exemptions are based on Vehicle Identification Numbers.

CDL short-haul drivers operating within a 100-mile radius (even if they cross state lines) or non-CDL drivers operating within a 150-mile radius won’t be required to install an ELD.

CDL drivers are also exempt if they drive no more than 11 hours in a 12-hour span after a minimum of 10 hours off duty or do not exceed more than eight days out of any

30-day period. Additional exemptions include drivers who conduct drive-away or tow-away operations, where the vehicle being driven is the commodity being delivered.

However, if the requirements to meet the short-haul exemption are broken, private fleets will have to keep a record-of-duty status for those days and for days that they use the 16-hour short-haul exemption.

Photo credit: Brittany Palmer/NATSO 



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