If it’s true that the Early Bird gets the worm, what does the Late Bird, or the “Barely Beats The Deadline Bird” get? If that late, or almost-late, bird is a trucker, fleet owner, or manager, it could be hefty fines or lots of costly inefficiency, overpayment, and risk.
In 2012, Congress passed the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” bill, better known as “MAP-21.” In addition to directing how billions of tax dollars will be spent on highways, MAP-21 put the commercial trucking industry on a course to the elimination of paper driver logs. Last December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued the final language for its planned enforcement of that law. With only a few exceptions, trucks in this country must be equipped with working and up-to-date electronic logging devices, or ELDs, by December 2017.
But if you’re thinking it’s a good idea to wait until November 2017 to make the switch, think again. There’s a good chance that by then, vendors providing that technology will be snowed under by a wave of procrastinators, which could mean missing the deadline – a very expensive mistake. Since January 1, 2016, there have been nearly $120 million in fines for Hours of Service violations. Many of those cases likely did not involve actual instances of drivers exceeding their HOS limits, but rather being unable to document their driving hours because they didn’t keep their paper log books properly updated. Now, on top of that, you or your drivers could get caught after the December 2017 not only having improperly maintained logs, but paper logs. Even if they’re up-to-date, that won’t count as proper proof that a driver has stayed under his or her HOS limit.
So while it’s unwise to wait until the last minute to make the jump to ELDs, it’s also unwise to delay another day.
ELDs are being mandated – with the support of trucking industry groups – as both a way to increase highway safety and lower truck operating costs. ELDs certainly will be a significant deterrent to those drivers who might otherwise risk going over the HOS or somehow fudge the numbers. But nearly all such systems on the market include other technology features that monitor key aspects of driver performance such as RPM management, fuel usage, speed tracking and route efficiency. Most also include operations aids such as GPS tracking, load management and route planning. By tracking all that data, drivers can learn how to perform their duties more efficiently, which not only will reduce costs, but allow them to carry more goods with the hours saved by the efficiency gains.
So failing to switch to an ELD system now, well before the December 2017 deadline, is a decision to continue spending unnecessary money and forgo additional revenue you could be picking up.
While ELD equipment isn’t free, it’s not nearly as expensive as you might fear. Sensors need to be placed at key locations on trucks, and hooked to a central processor. Technology is trending toward proprietary devices that do more for less money than ever before, and toward highly portable tablet computers, rugged mobile computing devices (like those used by UPS delivery drivers) or even smart phones. Whether companies issue smart phones or tablets to their drivers, or simply let drivers download the company’s tracking software onto their personal phones or tablets, the advent of highly mobile wireless devices makes ELD technology downright cheap. In fact, when you add in the operational cost savings the ELD process makes possible, many truckers who’ve not made the investment in ELDs technology are actually costing themselves money by not making the switch.
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