A recent post on social media from my local service shop caught my attention, as they were announcing they are now offering to collect people’s trucks from local carriers, work on them, and deliver them back to the yard. A nice idea, but what caught my attention was the reason behind it: electronic logging devices (ELDs).
My carrier recently sent a satellite message informing drivers that to operate within the law, they must log journeys to the shop as on-duty time, which has always been the case under current hours-of-service.
All of a sudden, drivers felt it was impossible to take their truck in for service or repair, leading to this shop offering to pick up and drop off trucks. I use this shop myself, and when my truck needs service or repair, the process is simple. I complete my trip, drop my trailer, hand in my paperwork, drive the five minutes to the shop, do my post-trip, log off and get the wife to pick me up to take me back to the yard to collect my vehicle. And then I go home. The process is reversed when I collect the truck. All in all, it adds 15 minutes to my logged hours at most, which is spread over two shifts.
So, what’s the big deal? Why are people finding it so difficult to perform such a simple task? The truth is that these arguments are just fueled by their hatred towards the e-log. I know for a fact that none of the drivers having such a difficult time finding an extra 15 minutes are hitting their 70 hours as they drive through the yard gates. We are not dispatched like that. There is always plenty of time to do the job without coming close to the limits of hours-of-service, so there is no genuine reason why anybody cannot take their own truck to the shop.
There is no good argument against e-logs. There is no flexibility in the hours-of-service rules. Once you start your pre-trip, you have 14 hours to get 11 hours or less of driving done, that’s it.
Now, we all know you can tear up a log sheet and start a new one in order to make up for a delay, but why should we? If our journey takes us through a busy city and we lose an hour or two in traffic, the rate should reflect that. But if that delay never happened on paper, that will never be the case. The same applies to delays at the loading dock. They can make it impossible to make the delivery appointment without rewriting a log sheet. Yet, that isn’t anything we can control, so why are we compensating for the inefficiency or incompetence of others? We should be charging for the lost time and corresponding revenue.
Then there are the drivers who have to fudge their logs because of poor time management. They want to sit at the lunch counter telling stories, or spend a couple of hours in the sleeper in the afternoon. Well, quite frankly that is ridiculous. First of all, they probably wouldn’t need a nap in the afternoon had they not worked an 18-hour day the day before and secondly, try behaving like that in any other job. If you’re working construction, or in an office or factory and you want to take a break when you feel like it, or you want to take a two-hour nap in the afternoon, you would be lucky if you were not fired on the first day. Why should trucking be any different?
There is a major upside to all of this. At first, only a minority will be able to take advantage of it. In December, when anybody hauling to the U.S. and at most Canada-only carriers are running on e-logs, it is going to be a gong show of epic proportions. There will be trucks marooned all over the place and anybody that can manage their time properly will be able to make a killing. If you’re running on a mileage rate, there will be as many miles as you can handle. If you’re running for a percentage of revenue or have your own authority, you will be able to earn enough in 2018 to take the whole of 2019 off work. Trucking is a supply and demand business. As soon as there are more loads than available trucks, rates go up. It’s as simple as that, and if you’re in a position to take advantage of that, you will reap the rewards.
A fourth generation trucker and trucking journalist, Mark Lee uses his 25 years of transcontinental trucking in Europe, Asia, North Africa and now North America to provide an alternative view of life on the road.