I’m going back in time this new year. I finished my last ever log book at the end of December and now a little box of electronic magic will be drawing my lines for me, much the same as the tachograph did throughout my 22 years of trucking in Europe. I’m actually looking forward to using the electronic logging device (ELD) as it won’t be a hindrance whatsoever to my working day.
Time spent sitting there scratching my head and tapping buttons on a calculator to figure out what hours I have left to work will be replaced with the general simplicity of hitting a button when I stop.
The introduction of ELDs was one of the big reasons I chose to sign on with the carrier I’m with. There is no forced dispatch. We are sent a load offer, not a dispatch, and if it cannot be completed on time and legally, then we refuse the load on those grounds and dispatch will either reschedule or put another truck on the load. There is no coercion or “persuasion” – if it can’t be done legally, then it doesn’t get done at all.
I’m hoping that the introduction of the ELD mandate raises the game a little; well, a lot actually. Not just eliminating the cowboy element, but also at shippers and receivers, who will know we no longer will be able to make up for delays in the supply chain.
So, companies will have to get their ducks in a row and not use our trailers as warehouses on wheels.
Obviously in the real world this will be difficult to achieve, but carriers will now have an electronic record of delays to use as a bargaining tool for waiting time, which will hopefully see compensation get passed on to the driver.
For me this part is irrelevant as I already get paid waiting time, but there are many that don’t and if it becomes standard practice, it can only make things better.
Another potential benefit and possibly the biggest of all is that it opens the door for hourly pay. Now, this is going to cost more, no doubt about that, especially when you consider that legally there should be an overtime rate for hours worked over a set amount.
Maybe even a higher rate for weekend working, you know, just like they do in almost every other industry in the civilized world. Yes, this will cost more, but seeing as though when you take inflation into account, we’re charging less per mile now than we were 10 or 20 years ago, that is a long overdue shake-up. Not only have rates not kept up with inflation, equipment costs have increased significantly with the 18-wheel supercomputers that we now use to haul freight.
I recently posted on a Facebook page in reply to a question about low rates. My response was that transport is seen as a commodity, rather than a service, and I believe that the use of ELDs will help turn this ridiculous situation around.
I’m not talking about using them as a weapon, but their use will allow carriers to sit down with customers and show them exactly what it entails to move their freight from A to B and how much it all costs in the real world.
Every carrier out there will be playing by the same rules, so shippers will have no choice but to listen. Rates and wages will increase and conditions will improve. This will make the industry an attractive proposition once more and it could help solve the problem of an aging driver pool. Nobody will be making a Smokey and the Bandit movie about a driver running an ELD in a speed limited autoshift truck, that’s for sure, but really let’s be honest.
When has driving a truck been anything like that anywhere but the truck stop lunch counter?
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.