Time – it’s admittedly just a construct created by humans, but it’s one of the most important constructs there is.
People order their days by hours, minutes, and seconds for a reason. It can help them stay consistent and be efficient – and since businesses can rise and fall by these characteristics, it’s very important for them to be mindful of the timeclock.
Truck drivers are used to working in an industry full of tight deadlines. Shippers, receivers, dispatchers, brokers, regulators – everyone is working on their own time. And none of them want to tolerate a single minute of delay, even if traffic congestion or weather factors mean delays are unavoidable.
One of the main reasons trucking became such a popular occupation was because of the freedom it once offered. It used to be a liberating job, touting “freedom of working on the open road” as one of the most alluring parts of the job. But regulatory oversight has made things tougher, and has contributed to a growing driver shortage.
The regulation of interest here isn’t the electronic logging device mandate enacted on December 18 of last year. Instead, it’s the regulation that ELDs are meant to enforce compliance. Hours-of-service rules dictate how long a driver may be on the road before they’re allowed to rest.
In the past, an unanticipated traffic jam from an accident or storm could be mitigated simply by fudging a paper log. Delay put the trucker an hour behind? No problem – just change the log to compensate. But while America depends heavily on truckers, who manage the country’s preferred freight modality, regulators don’t have a lot of faith in truckers. Rather than letting drivers use their own judgment, they elected to take the possibility of hour-fudging out of the equation by digitizing the entire process.
Now companies are already feeling the effects. Deliveries of “tweener hauls” that take between 1-3 days have already slowed down because of ELDs. Slower shipments mean receivers get less product over the same period of time. A slimmer inventory, all other things being equal, will result in higher prices for consumers. Perhaps this is the type of effect that will finally make the public realize how stifled the trucking industry has become.
The hit to tweener hauls could have rippling effects throughout trucking. C.H. Robinson Worldwide CEO John Wiehoff said: “A lot of the tweener lanes probably had a bigger impact than anybody expected in terms of truckload pricing.”
For truck drivers who go over ten minutes past their allowable time now, it’s a lot different than during the paper logbook era. Now that small oversight, even if it’s not the trucker’s fault, can lead to big fines and even out-of-service orders in some cases.
With companies already feeling the effects and slow shippers given a gentle warning to hurry things along, trucking is already changing, thanks to ELDs and their impact on hours-of-service rules. Time has always been important for truckers, but now it matters more than ever.