In the United States, trucking plays a key role in moving goods through the supply chain. Shippers rely on an available and stable supply of trucks and truck drivers to move their cargo. Besides the tightening of capacity that we saw as a result of the hurricanes in Florida and Texas, two additional factors could further constrain capacity and drive up costs for shippers in 2018. Those two things are the regulation requiring the use of electronic logging devices, or ELD’s, and a driver shortage not seen for more than a decade.
Electronic logging devices
ELD’s are devices that are meant to replace the paper logs that truckers have kept for decades to show their hours of service. Much like airline pilots, commercial truck drivers’ hours of service are regulated and after a period of time, they are required to rest.
The regulations governing the use of ELD’s are promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and have a compliance date of December 18, 2017; a little over a month away. ELD’s monitor and capture a variety of data points including engine usage, mileage driven and total duration of engine operation. The agency maintains a comprehensive FAQ on their website detailing the requirements of the rule.
The ELD mandate represents a number of challenges for carriers. The devices add cost to an industry that operates on tight margins, plus there are ongoing subscription requirements for capturing and retaining data, upgrades, etc. For vehicles that are shared between multiple drivers (like line haul vehicles that run day and night), the devices must allow for changing drivers in the same equipment. The most dangerous part for shippers is that waiting or idling time counts for time in service, meaning that the longer a driver has to wait to pick up or unload at a facility, the less they are able to drive before having to stop and rest.
Shippers and consignees who operate on an appointment system should focus on ensuring adherence to those appointment times and schedules otherwise they will find themselves with additional costs for driver detention or with a “dead” truck in their dock or on their property with little or no recourse.
Looming driver shortage
The American Transportation Research Institute is a not-for-profit entity and revealed that for the first time since 2006, a shortage of drivers is the industry’s top concern. The survey generated responses from more than 1,500 motor carriers and commercial drivers. The full report requires registration to read, but the group cites the challenges facing truckers and offers suggestions for encouraging more young people to pursue trucking as a profession. Rounding out the top three concerns were ELD’s and the Hours of Service (HOS) rules.