In December of 2017, the trucking industry said goodbye to one of its most enduring tools – the logbook.
Or at least the paper log. The electronic logging mandate called for all commercial truckers to replace their paper logbooks with electronic logging devices (ELDs).
These devices essentially function like a hard drive attached to the vehicle’s engine. They record active time, ensuring drivers do not stay on the road longer than hours-of-service rules allow. The rules are designed to keep drowsy drivers off the road, but the logbook presented a workaround for these rules.
Drivers who had lost mileage because of traffic jams or weather delays could simply fudge the log, giving themselves more time and staying out longer than what the law allowed. The mandate was purportedly aimed at stopping this from happening, and ensuring truckers took their legally mandated rest breaks when required.
But as with most laws, there were unforeseen consequences. Some may say these consequences were predicted long ago, but the regulators in favor of the mandate simply ignored them. The issue is that drivers are now making less money – and this means they’re harder to keep on staff. As a result, transportation costs are rising and these costs are being passed on to the consumer.
They say one person’s loss is another’s gain, and that’s even true when we’re talking about freight modalities rather than people. While shippers are now turning away from trucking for their cargo shipping needs, they are looking elsewhere – including up.
While trucking is America’s preferred modality, air is also seeing a nice bump. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that $17.5 billion worth of goods moved via plane – that’s over a third of all global trade by value.
Michael Notarangeli, EVP Logistics at Main Pointe, said: “In the short run, intermodal has seen a bump in utilization as shippers hustle to get things moved. The front and back end of that intermodal move gets covered by a truck and is affected by ELD, driver shortages, improving economy – all the factors constraining capacity…”
The driver shortage is another issue putting pressure on trucking, and could also be tied to the ELD mandate. Drivers can now expect to make less money and be subject to more violations, meaning the line of work is even less appealing. But with economic conditions looking up in many sectors, shippers are still looking for solutions.
The ELD came at a bad time, as well. Landing right in the midst of a capacity crunch, it made the industry work harder to meet existing demand it used to satisfy with ease. Even with the shortage, trucking was doing okay, enjoying a relatively strong 2017 in comparison to previous years. But all these factors coinciding around the same time has led to a big problem.
At least a problem for trucking – air shippers are doing well, and we’d bet they aren’t worried too much about trucking’s recovery or rebound next year.