Must admit, I’m feeling a bit like a pin cushion of late. My column last month criticizing the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) for what I strongly believe is an irresponsible opposition to the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate in the US, generated more than a few angry retorts from readers.
There were those who thought that since I don’t drive for a living, I don’t have the right to be commenting on things that affect the lives of those who do. True, I don’t drive for a living but I have been writing about transportation issues for more than 25 years and in that time I’ve spoken with hundreds of fleet owners, managers, technology specialists, legislators, enforcement officials and more than my share of company drivers and owner/operators. I would say that makes for a well-rounded view of issues. And never when approached by a professional driver who wanted to complain about a new technology or a regulation did I think he or she shouldn’t be heard because they weren’t engineers or legislators.
There were those, such as Johanne Couture, who think ELD technology is an “added financial burden to small carriers.” Sorry folks but the “financial burden” argument is used every time a new technology is mandated – by carriers, drivers, and OEMs, depending on what is being mandated.
I’ve heard this argument so many times, for so many different occasions, I can’t take it seriously. The sky is falling, the sky is falling, is the cry that goes out every time. Except the sky doesn’t fall.
There were also those who insisted carriers will use this technology to force tired drivers back on the road if the logs show they still have legal driving time available. I agree that’s possible. But I’m willing to bet those who attempt to do so would be the same carriers who think nothing of asking drivers to keep two logbooks so they can cheat the system now.
But enough from this “irresponsible moron,” as one of you affectionately called me. Let’s hear what others have to say about ELDs. John G Smith, editor of Private Motor Carrier, in his column last month wrote that evidence from current ELD use actually shows a drop in form and manner violations, such as missing lines and blank cells: “Such problems accounted for 16% of violations during 2016. Those who failed to keep a duty status up to date accounted for 8%. Both of these situations were more common than the share of drivers who were behind the wheel eight hours after their most recent off-duty or sleeper time (7.43%) or driving beyond a 14-hour duty period (4.37%).”
Gerald Janosik, a driver with Gorski Bulk Transport, a carrier which has been using ELDs for several years, wrote a letter to the editor about ELDs for our sister publication, Today’s Trucking. In Janosik’s own words: “From my experience, ELDs reduce paperwork for the driver and eliminate mistakes. Overall the DoT on both sides of the border tend to wave trucks through more often with ELDs.” Janosik added: “ELDs can prove to be very positive if you work for the right company and if, as a driver, you are open to change.”
Which gets us to the heart of the issue: resistance to change. I remember when I first started writing about transportation more than two decades ago, the rage was all about the threat of Big Brother intrusion into drivers’ lives brought by satellite tracking. No driver wanted that technology in their cab. How many of you now would do without it?
Call me crazy but 25 years from now I think you will be saying the same thing about ELDs. In the meantime, feel free to keep on telling me otherwise
With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics. All posts by Lou Smyrlis