If there is one thing the ELD mandate was designed to do, it was to improve safety among truck drivers. Of course, it was also designed to prevent fleets and trucking companies from getting hit with errors in paper logbooks, but safety – in relation to hours of service – was also a big driver for the mandate.
Yet now, trucking companies and agriculture trucking companies in particular are saying that everyday consumers could see their grocery prices rise as a result of the new ELD mandate. But does this view bear fruit – pun intended?
Many truckers say the problem stems from the fact that truck drivers are experiencing problems as they switch from paper logbooks to ELD devices. With the ELD mandate designed to keep truck drivers honest about their time on the road, and thus make the roads safer overall, there are unintended consequences, as with any new rule or regulation.
Not Enough Distance
The ELD mandate results in inevitable delays, which means truck drivers simply aren’t covering as much distance or delivering as many loads as they used to. Whether it be in California or Arizona, when less produce is getting to the endpoint, while demand continues to increase, the laws of supply-and-demand create an environment ripe for price increases.
Before the ELD mandate, truck drivers recorded their hours manually. And while may of them did not intentionally falsify their hours, they did have greater flexibility in how those hours were recorded. As an example, if a truck driver was stuck in traffic, or sat behind a construction zone far longer than expected, they may not have recorded that as driving time.
Another example could be a truck driver who knew they were reaching the 11-hour driving limit, but decided to push it just a little longer in order to find a safe place to have a rest. Of course, by the letter of the law, these practices were not legal, but when using a paper log, truck drivers were able to balance road safety with business interest.
Compliance is still a necessary part of a truck driver’s job, and the ELD mandate ensures that, but unintended side effects do occur. As an example, one 12-store grocery chain in the Midwest has seen the cost of goods roughly double since the ELD mandate came into effect. While the company has, for the most part, been able to absorb the cost, items like bananas and lettuce have gone up by 20 percent.
Is it the Device’s Fault?
While trucking industry companies and advocacy organizations undertake studies to determine the safety efficacy of the ELD mandate, many are wondering where the new rules will take us. It appears, at least in the short term, it may be higher prices.
Fleets are concerned that truck drivers who are delayed may try to drive faster in order to make up for lost ground. Will this cause unneeded safety problems? Consider that the amount of time a truck driver can drive has not changed. What has changed is how that time is measured.
With some farms and agricultural providers stating that they are already seeing unintended consequences, prices in the grocery store may be going up. How will this translate into consumer sentiment, no one yet knows.
Gone are the days when truck drivers could “use their best judgement” to determine when it was safe to pull over, depending on road conditions. If prices for every day goods go up at an unsustainable rate, will we see a regulatory backlash against such measures?