A new federal rule—known as the e-log mandate—will require truck drivers to report their hours of service via electronic logging devices (ELDs) installed in their vehicles. The mandate won’t take effect until late 2017, but carriers are already beginning to implement changes to their trucks to avoid hefty fines in the future. With an influx of new data collected by ELDs, shipping and trucking will see some big changes over the next few years.

More Data Means Improved Efficiency and Safety

Imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the purpose of this mandate is to increase efficiency and safety in trucking. Automatically capturing driving hours is more accurate than paper logs, which are still used by more than 3 million drivers today (RTS Carrier Services). Electronic tracking also saves time, reduces human error and potential for manipulation, and can save lives. Below are some interesting stats:

  • While the estimated cost of electronic tracking per cab falls between $132 and $832 per year, the FMCSA reports that each can recoup that and more, including $700 per year from paperwork alone.
  • By more accurately tracking hours of service, regulators say the mandate could help prevent a minimum of 26 road fatalities and 562 injuries per year, with some estimates far exceeding those numbers.
  • The transportation industry stands to save between $1 billion and $2 billion when factoring in the costs of crash-related injuries.

Many drivers already use an automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) to record duty status, operating time, and engine data. ELDs take that process a big step further by streamlining operations and creating opportunities for truckers to capture data in new ways. For example, ELDs can monitor and record Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR), International Fuel Tax Agreements (IFTA), and detailed information on driver behavior—like hard breaking, speeding, and idling. Additionally, many systems integrate mapping and routing features, which can help drivers navigate around construction and high-traffic areas. Having this type of data available leads to better load planning and improved performance since dispatchers can more easily stay up-to-date on a driver’s status (ELDFacts.com).

Safeguards for Drivers

It’s important to note that in addition to improving driver efficiency and safety, the e-log mandate protects drivers against the following:

  • Privacy Violations. The new ELD mandate ensures that electronic logs continue to reside with carriers and their drivers. The only time regulators and law enforcement can access to ELD data is during compliance reviews, roadside inspections, or accident investigations.
  • Harassment. The mandate dovetails with the driver coercion rule that took effect in January 2016. This rule prohibits carriers, shippers, or any third party intermediary from using ELD data to force fatigued drivers to stay on the road. It also establishes reporting procedures for drivers and imposes steep fines on violators (ELDFacts.com).

Long-Term Capacity Benefits

For many carriers, efficient capacity utilization is a challenge.  When drivers don’t use their full allotment of hours per week, their capacity is effectively taken out of the market. ELDs allow for more real-time data on trucks and loads, which in the long run, will lead to better asset utilization. In fact, one industry expert estimates that collecting and managing more real-time data with ELDs could produce capacity gains of 8 to 10 percent. With more turns per week, fewer violations, and less driver fatigue, carriers can more efficiently plan their loads and give shippers more access to the capacity they need.  This shift will undoubtedly take time, but the results are sure to create improvements for both shippers and drivers in the future (JOC.com).

In the meantime, shippers must adopt a “shipper of choice” mentality. They must be more conscious of driver time limits when scheduling because drivers can no longer “fudge” hours of service. Being flexible with appointment times, minimizing dwell time, and using drop and hook instead of live loads when possible, will help them make better use of the hours drivers spend on the clock.

Check out the below blog posts for more steps you can take to become a shipper of choice:

A Freight Flow Revolution

Though the e-log mandate has generated mixed responses from truck drivers due to privacy concerns, installing ELDs that connect to engines, brakes, and other on-board systems in millions of vehicles could lead to an abundance of useful data that could revolutionize the North American supply chain (JOC.com). Once implemented, we may see a drop in the number of carriers on the road initially; but in the long run, real-time freight visibility will lead to more capacity for shippers, higher pay and improved safety for drivers, and more efficiency all around.

In preparation for the e-log mandate, we are proactively aligning ourselves with carriers who already use ELDs. We expect to have 75% of our fleet using ELDs by the end of this summer, and full compliance well before the mandate takes effect in 2017.