Washington, we have a problem — potentially a really big one.
Based on information gleaned from several sources, hundreds of thousands of motor carriers may not be compliant with the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate and the implementation date is just over one month away.
The most telling data comes from CarrierLists, a company formed in September 2016 to connect primarily carriers with shippers and brokers by supplying them with information such as preferred lanes, types of trailers, hazardous materials endorsement and other helpful information.
CarrierLists has some 13,000 carriers, all running between five and 500 trucks with over half a million in truck capacity in its database, according to Kevin Hill, the company’s founder and president.
“One of customers’ requests was having up-to-date ELD information,” Hill said. “So we decided to start asking and take a quick survey, and that’s morphed into what we are doing now.”
The company just posted the third weekly update of its survey November 10, and while the data show that ELD ramp-up among carriers is increasing, the compliance rate, itself, is somewhat alarming, Hill said.
CarrierLists has surveyed 2,315 carriers since September 8, the majority of them smaller carriers, based on the company’s focus. The surveys have found that only 41 percent of carriers with 20 or less trucks (a total of 1,772 in the survey) had installed ELDs.
Of the remaining 543 fleets with 21 or more trucks, 55 percent had installed ELDs.
The American Trucking Associations in its “Trucking Trends 2017” notes that according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration there are 1,558,078 for-hire and private carriers registered to transport interstate commerce.
Of those, 97.3 percent have 20 or fewer trucks. Based on CarrierLists data, that would mean there are 894,445 carriers with 20 or fewer trucks that still have no ELDs.
“Those numbers are frightening,” Hill told The Trucker. “Even at the compliance rate in our 370 interviews last week (68 percent compliance) the number is overwhelming, especially when fleets only have five weeks to comply. ELD companies are about to hit their fulfillment deadlines to be able to get the hardware, install and program it by December 17. And that doesn't even mention training drivers and dispatch.”
And while the CarrierLists sampling was not scientifically random, Hill believes the information could be considered “statistically significant because we are covering coast-to-coast with a wide variety of fleet sizes.”
The most recent Morgan Stanley survey showed less than 40 percent of fleets under 100 trucks were compliant. “With the ELD deadline less than eight weeks away, our most current survey of 1,600 carriers shows only 37 percent of fleets operating five to 100 trucks are now compliant,” said the survey.
“This is a significant increase from our survey in early October," it continued. "At that time only 23 percent had or were in the process of installing ELDs. Thirty-seven percent is still shockingly low, though. It looks like the run-up all the way to the final deadline on April 1 is going to be one chaotic mess.”
“Anything less than 100 percent is going to be chaotic, but I would say 75 percent, 80 percent will be compliant as of December,” Hill said. “Even if it reaches 95 percent, that’s still a lot of noncompliant carriers.”
Tom Reader, director of marketing at J.J. Keller and Associates, a national provider of regulatory, safety and compliance solutions, echoed Hill’s findings.
“We have similar statistics,” he said. “Our customer base is a few hundred thousand fleets and when you look at the very small fleets, the one to five CMV fleets, we’re showing that 85 percent do not have ELDs.”
But the good news is that the smaller the fleet, the easier the ability to get implemented quickly, Reader said. “When you have two trucks, it’s not as painful as getting a 50-truck fleet up and running, and there are plenty of those out there, too. I was at the American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition last month and I had fleets with more than 50 units that were just looking. They are going to have problems with inventory and just the change. This is a change for drivers and it’s not just the technology. It’s routing and planning.
“For someone with 20 trucks if they work hard, they could get up and running by next month, but getting 20 drivers up and running and using e-logs within a month is going to be a challenge. We’re taking those types of orders every day and we have quite a few tools to educate, and provide self-help, and we provide our own support. When you have drivers who are on the road and who don’t come home, how do you train those drivers … that can be a hard thing.”
“Drivers download apps all the time,” he added. “The difference is the app has to communicate with the electronic logging device that’s connected to the engine. There’s a Bluetooth connection there and that communication produces the electronic log. But at the end of the day, drivers who are familiar with smart devices are up and running fairly quickly.”
The challenge, Reader said, will be at the roadside and how the driver and the roadside inspector communicate and deliver the data as needed to the inspector.
“There’s a little bit of routine there, but we have help tools and a utility in our app where the driver can put the device into what we call roadside inspector mode so the inspector can only see the last week’s worth of data. That simplifies it so there is not more on display and more to dig through. We’ve had drivers get up and running within half an hour.”
As for the reason they have not installed ELDs, most companies surveyed by CarrierLists said cost is the primary factor, Hill said.
“But I don’t know if that’s a true reason,” he said. “I know that it’s expensive, but not backbreaking. I think a lot of them were waiting for an 11th hour reprieve. They are not convinced yet that it’s actually going to go into effect. I think they are betting on a delay. I think we are going to see in the data that as we approach this, that hope is going to fade rather fast.”
There won’t be a delay, says Duane DeBruyne, spokesman for FMCSA, reiterating the fact that this is a Congressionally mandated rule.
“The ELD rule does not change federal Hours of Service regulations, does not change HOS roadside enforcement, does not change existing HOS exemptions. The ELD rule is estimated to save more than 25 lives and prevent more than 500 injuries resulting from crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles. The ELD rule will result in an annual net benefit of more than $1 billion — largely by reducing the amount of required industry paperwork.”