Today an article on how the FMCSA admits there are problems with the electronic devices truck drivers was published. What a great read. If you are unsure what an ELD is, you’re more than likely not in the trucking industry. You can learn more here on the official FMCSA website. I’ve been wanting to take a moment to share my thoughts on this highly debated topic in the trucking community. Thoughts here are my own.
Today I walked into my local grocery store. My first stop is always the produce isle. The isle was extremely bare and picked over. They had a sign that said, “Due to circumstances beyond our control, our produce is limited. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.” Being in trucking, I asked the produce manager what was up? He mentioned the trucks had issues with delivering freight since ELD enforcement started. I wasn’t surprised to hear it, but surprised he was educated in the topic. Politics aside, if we as consumers are not careful with the changes in our government and changes in the trucking industry, I’m here to tell you, don’t be surprised if this soon becomes a regular occurrence in your store too.
Last year, my husband and I got stuck for a few days at the border of Nogales with a load of apples from Washington state. If you’re not familiar, produce that goes to Mexico is cross docked with trucks from the states. Meaning, as they unload one truck from the states, they load another with a product from Mexico to bring back. They have very stringent guidelines for produce coming into the states so this process can take time as drivers sit and wait. The day we happened to be there, trucks from Mexico didn’t show up. We were stuck and had to wait it out.
We’ve been in trucking for approximately three years. Our business has always used ELDs, and like the driver in the article, we’ve experienced problems over the years as well. Unlike the driver in the article, our issues with ELDs are random at best. Over the last three years our electronic device has randomly turned off while driving, we’ve had software glitches, and service outages in non 3G areas of the country. With enforcement up, I’m not sure how these minor occurrences will be viewed during an inspection now and that has me worried. Especially with something that is out of our control.
There are many sides to the enforcement of eld laws for truckers, it’s a complex issue. A few views are those drivers who are strongly against-elds and those like us, that don’t know life in trucking without the devices. Regardless, electronic or paper log books, all drivers should be following the federally mandated hours of service rules. Given truckers keep America moving, I feel we need to not only look at the device, but we also need to look at the hours of service. They need updating. They’re impractical. If a driver gets stuck in traffic or a shipper/receiver that takes too long to unload/load and doesn’t respect a drivers time, similar to what happened to us at the border, drivers feel rushed to get freight to their next stop. Drivers are always preparing for what’s next and know anything can happen. They also know they lose money if the truck isn’t moving, as most are paid by the mile. Then add the issues of lack of parking for semis, a drivers time becomes more limited. Sure, 11 hours of driving time sounds great. But add in all those real world hold ups, you’re not really driving 11 hours in your 14 hour allotted day. Once that clock starts, it doesn’t stop. There needs to be an option to pause your clock while getting loaded and for other factors that may come up. And trust me, they come up.
Here’s a real world example. Most drivers aren’t paid for on duty, non driving time. Think about it, a driver that is paid by the mile sitting in the truck waiting to be loaded at a shipper, doing nothing, one would think they could stop that clock from moving if the truck isn’t moving. Yet, if they started their clock that morning at the truck stop, they can’t stop the clock once started. That clock keeps rolling and counting down from 14 hours until you have to take a 10 hour rest break. Say that driver sits for 10 hours waiting to be loaded, that gives them an hour to find a place to park because that shipper took to long to load them. Imagine it’s 7pm and all the truck stops are now full. The shipper told you, you have to leave their property and can’t park overnight. You are now are stuck without a place to sleep for the night because a clock told you to park and even though you’ve been sitting all day you can’t drive now. It’s happened to us more than once. The rules need to be changed to fit into the challenges drivers face today. Challenges are different today than even a few years ago when the rules were put in place.
Technology isn’t fail safe. A drivers livelihood shouldn’t be dependent on flawed technology. I come from a background that disrupts industries, Internet marketing and start up culture. I’m open to bettering the trucking industry with disruption. However, there needs to be realistic changes first. Some may not see electronic devices as bettering trucking because they’re realists. They don’t feel as if their livelihoods should be tracked every second of every day. Truckers are planners. You have to be. You have to expect the unexpected and be one step ahead. I’ve never understood how people who sit in offices make the rules for those who drive. Yet it’s happening.
Trucking is ripe for disruption. Trucking has been on the path to evolution for many years. However, some like us that live for technology and the industry alike don’t feel as if our livelihoods should be dependent on a roomful of people who don’t understand the disruptions and real life scenarios of living on the road. On the same note, the average driver needs to realize technology is here to stay. And their job as a truck driver is evolving. We need to be open to those changes, but also stand up for changes to our industry that aren’t working. And in my humble opinion, it’s the hours of service are not working, not just a device. The HOS should have been the first thing to change, not a untested device that has so much riding on it. They should’ve been changed prior to rolling an enforcement of electronic devices. Electronic devices do not make drivers safer. A well rested driver, who is allowed to rest on their bodies clock, without more stress of finding parking, one where their time is respected, makes drivers safer. The last thing drivers need is more restrictions. Their job is too important to America to have to deal with all this undue stress. Unfortunately until it affects more Americans they won’t change. Obviously the ones doing the job aren’t being listened to.
As I witnessed today, electronic devices are already causing our store shelves to become empty, not the drivers. They are indeed causing fellow drivers to rush and more crashes are bound to happen. Drivers are against electronic devices because they’re rushed to beat a clock that isn’t designed for success. A clock that isn’t designed for the real world. A clock that isn’t designed for the human body. As much as the country depends on drivers to move freight, those in charge should listen to those who do the job. Sure the industry is ripe for disruption, but we still need well rested drivers. We still need rules and regulations that make since. When a regulation doesn’t make since, it’s a bad regulation for everyone.
I don’t claim to have all the answers but I am open for discussion and would like to get one started. Let me know how your thoughts in the comments below. Keep it clean, keep it you, but don’t be a dick and I’ll approve your comments.