Commentary: The ELD Mandate's Unanswered Question

Commentary by Editor in Chief Deborah Lockridge

February 2018, - Editorial

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor-in-Chief - Also by this author

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I refuse to ever put a devil’s machine in my truck.”

Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

That’s what a three-truck fleet owner told me when he called to talk about mandatory electronic logging devices – and it wasn’t just a figure of speech. He said ELDs, along with computers and the Internet, will be Satan’s tool to control us all after the Rapture. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, he said, is being controlled by the Prince of Darkness himself.

I’m withholding his name, but my caller said he’s been driving for some 50 years and millions of miles and has a totally clean record, no tickets, no accidents. He also said God is his co-pilot – and perhaps he is, if this driver regularly drove coast to coast in 37 hours, as he claimed. As you might guess, he said he will not put an ELD in his truck.

I wonder how long that clean record will last.

As I write this, it’s been just over a month since the FMCSA started requiring most interstate commercial truck drivers to start using ELDs to track compliance with federal hours of service rules.

The reactions to the long-delayed, long-debated, long-contested ELD mandate that took (partial) effect in December have been all over the map, from this extreme example on one end, to FMCSA’s new deputy administrator saying that “a great deal of work with our enforcement partners went into ensuring that the rollout of the ELD rule was a success.” 

The reality, as usual, is somewhere in the middle. Of course with any big regulatory change like this, there are going to be hiccups, to say the least.

You can read about a few of them in our Safety & Compliance department this month. For instance, there’s a fair amount of confusion among drivers and enforcement personnel about the difference between the mandatory ELDs and the previous FMCSA spec for voluntary e-logs, automatic onboard recorders (AOBRDs), which some fleets are still using during a two-year grandfathered period. Plus problems and misunderstandings with the electronic transfer of the logbook data.

We’ve also seen a lot of anecdotal reports of increased problems with truck parking, which many critics predicted. A number of fleets and specialty trucking interest groups have filed for and received various exemptions and delays. Owner-operators who are refusing to put ELDs in their trucks are traveling back roads to avoid scales and inspections. 

A lot of this will work itself out, although it doesn’t make it necessarily less painful in the meantime.

The bigger question is whether the rule truly will save lives.

It’s no secret that even the safest truckers have told “white lies” on their paper logbooks that would allow them to, for instance, reach a safe parking spot at night when delays at a shipper or receiver put them behind schedule. Several truckers and fleets told me they’re now driving faster to make up for that time lost, which is a safety concern. In fact, ELD provider KeepTruckin found through analyzing ELD data and conducting surveys that 75% of drivers are detained at a pickup or drop off location for at least two hours every week – and that they drive 3.5 mph faster after such “extended detention events.” That’s why KeepTruckin petitioned FMCSA asking for a two-hour exemption for long-haul drivers delayed at a shipper.

In short, the real question lies with the hours of service rules themselves. How effective are they, really, at preventing fatigue? We’ll explore that question in a feature Equipment Editor Jim Park, a former driver himself, is working on for the March issue. My hope and belief is that ELD data will help answer that question. Because where the devil really lies, as they say, is in the details.


  1. 1. Dennis Musselman [ February 13, 2018 @ 06:21PM ]

    The rule may or may not save lives, but the ELD is nothing more than an electronic log book. The HOS are exactly the same as they were before the mandate. Again, people are blaming e-logs, which is nothing but an enforcement tool, rather than the HOS regulations. As far as detention, most loads I carried over 15 years had scheduled delivery times, which I was never late for, even when I was detained at a shipper, sometimes up to 8 hours. So, the detention, as far as having any affect on my pay, was minimal. The only way it affected my pay was that I didn't get paid for all the hours I sat. But when it came to my mileage pay it had zero affect since I made my appointment times every time. So the argument that drivers have to drive more wreckless to make appointments is, for the most part, a fabrication. A vast majority of loads are scheduled to take into account possible delays. I can understand places that have no scheduled time, those that can deliver whenever you get there, may make a driver think he has to drive like a bat out of hell, but they don't. ELDs do not drive the truck, humans do. To blame an electronic tool on increased accidents (which, as of yet, I've seen no evidence to support that the accident rate has increased), is ridiculous. It is the driver who uses poor judgement that causes accidents. HOS is the problem. That is where the focus needs to be. If the HOS were back to the days before the current regulations were in place, no one would be saying anything about ELDs.

  2. 2. Brian [ February 14, 2018 @ 08:22AM ]

    I for one can attest to the higher speeds to make up for the delays. Our fleet has had their speed limiters turned from 67 to 73 (all legal in my state). The result has been shocking to say the least. Fuel MPG has gone up. But beyond that, no unsafe driving practices have been recorded, and that has been verified thru the on board cameras.

    I can say that we have seen the novice/inexperienced (mega) carriers driving quite a bit more unsafely. Driving in the mountains at much higher rates of speeds that posted, flying thru truck stops, and going full speed up to security gates because they are about to run out of hours.

    I do wish HDT would stop using Deborah Lockridge as a journalist. Most of her stories are full of things that are easily disproven. You can tell by her writing styles, and attitudes, that she is for complete regulation of the trucking industry. She is not biased, or objective.

  3. 3. thomas stone t.r stone tr [ February 17, 2018 @ 08:47AM ]

    well trucking is just that stop and take a good look at the kids comeing out of schools no nothing about what that rig can do or how to handle it just road test them kids they start off in third gear thow it out of gear comeing up to a stop lite they have no clue and there should not be any radio or other stuff in truck that makes them look at it like getting messages over some device and they look at it and try to reply all that needs to go like old time run the truck not all this check your email and juck drive the truck stay on your mark learn how to do the down shif and use the truck to help stop and 65 should be the top speed not wide open and all trucks stay to the right not left lane but that is what i say all should work total hrs per day 12 truck shuts down 27.00min pay for all who drive with 5 or more years

  4. 4. Prosper Loan [ March 12, 2018 @ 06:39PM ]



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