Category Archives: Trucking

Welcome To The National Truck Driving Championships

While the name may not immediately bring “safety” to mind, the National Truck Driving Championships put the spotlight on truck driving safety. In fact, the top truck drivers in the country competed on August 15 – 18 in an effort to prove who has the best safety chops.

Called the trucker’s “Super Bowl of Safety,” the NTDC Championships tested 424 truck drivers who won their state qualifiers earlier in the year. To qualify for the championships, truck drivers had to have been with their motor carrier for at least one year with an accident-free record. Winners from the nine categories at the state level were then sent on to the national competition, with judges evaluating them on a written exam and truck driving skills.

What Is It All About?

Across four days of hard competition, elite truck drivers from fleets across the country had a chance to bring home a trophy from within their division. Still, only one truck driver could lay claim to the title of “Grand Champion.”

In order to make it through the competition, truck drivers needed to demonstrate their safety proficiency by displaying in-depth knowledge regarding essential truck driver information, pre-trip inspections, and then make their way through an advanced truck driving course.

This intensive competition is designed to highlight professional truck drivers who have stood out among the crowded field of hundreds of thousands of truck drivers who operate on the nation’s roads day-in and day-out. Held in Columbus, Ohio, the competition is designed to provide a true skills and training test for truck drivers who have already demonstrated they have what it takes to operate safely on our nation’s roads and highways.

This event dovetails with the National Step Van Driving Championships and included a walk-through of the course and preview of the vehicles that were used for the pre-trip inspection portion of the competition. Once the on-hand part of the competition was completed, participating truck drivers were required to take a written exam to prove their proficiency on the topic.

The event drew so much attention that FMCSA administrator Ray Martinez even made an appearance and greeted participating truck drivers during a breakfast ceremony entitled the “Breakfast of Champions.”

There were several categories involved, including:

  • 3-axle
  • 4-axle
  • 5-axle
  • Sleeper berth
  • Twins
  • Straight truck
  • Step van
  • Flatbed
  • Tanker

Winners were announced during an awards banquet, where ATA leadership addressed the competitors. Curious about who this year’s finalists were? Simply follow this link.

The National Truck Driving Championships has been going on for many, many years, and proudly holds itself as a paragon event focusing on trucking safety and great driving. Professional truck drivers from all over the country work their hardest to enter the competition and many are sponsored from their own states.

Events like this only prove how essential it is for the trucking industry to focus on safety and, more than that, it shows the public that the transportation sector has a singular focus on ensuring the nation’s roads and highways remain safe for truck drivers and passenger cars, wherever and whenever.

Fleet managers, owners, and owner-operators should keep this competition in mind as they go about their daily routine. Not only does it reinforce good behavior, but it shows that your operation has safety in mind, which is quite possibly the most important aspect of running a transportation company.

Finding Parking Back In The News With New Research

Have you heard? The American Transportation Institute (ATRI) released a new bit of research examining the vexing issue of truck parking. ATRI found that 63% of all truck drivers look for parking for more than 15 minutes between 4pm and midnight. The amount of potential driving time and pay that is sacrificed as a result amounts to an average of nearly an hour – no small amount.

This presents a critical safety issue, for many reasons, but it also represents a major productivity problem. The parking shortage would then represent a shortage that would reduce an individual truck driver’s productivity by over 9,000 revenue-earning miles per year. This could equate in lost wages nearing $5,000.

What happens, as a result? Truck drivers are forced to take greater risks in order to find a decent place to park their vehicle. Now, the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) is weighing in on the issue by tapping into raw GPS data to determine where parking facilities are most needed across the state. Will other states follow suit?

More on the Data

ARDOT is using ATRI’s research data to try and figure out whether a vehicle was at rest or on the move, based on the GPS pings sent to and received from said vehicles. Once the information is received, the agency can then overlay a comprehensive map of truck parking facilities across the state. The map includes private truck stops, public truck stops, and large parking lots near interstate highways, such as those belonging to Walmart, Target, or Lowe’s.

By laying the data over each other, researchers and ARDOT can determine how many trucks were parked at what area and for how long. It is then easy to determine if any were overcrowded. The best use of this data is both to determine where overcrowding is occurring, but also where it is going to occur. By being able to predict it, the state can better allocate resources to its prevention.

ARDOT has been conducting a multi-year study going to private and public rest stops along the four major interstates within the state. The study includes state employees manually counting trucks parked there, which they had been doing to track issues. The new research method allows the state to become far more pinpointed and precise, without having to rely on labor-intensive processes.

Arkansas is now the only place where parking has turned into a major issue. The Federal Highway Administration is releasing a commercial parking survey any day now. The federal study will look at parking needs related to port shipping.

A Federal Study

According to the agency, in a statement they said they would assess the needs of drayage, short-haul and some long-haul operations. The federal study will primarily rely on information provided by both the Department of Transportation and state agencies.

With so many truck drivers reporting problems finding decent places to park, the spotlight on safety becomes ever-brighter. Whether motor carriers are worried about the safety of their truck drivers, safety of their cargo, or safety of others on the road, it is vital that either the federal government or state agencies finally do something about parking for truck drivers.

Will we see actions come before words? At this time, it is to early to tell. With Congress and the White House focused on other priorities, many within the industry openly wonder whether parking will make it back to the front-burner, especially with the midterm elections coming up. With bold action, from either the Trump administration, Congress, or other industry advocates, the trucking industry can see real change for truck drivers looking for somewhere safe to park.

Critical Ways Trucking Safety Can Be Improved

It is no secret that tractor-trailers competing with passenger cars on our nation’s roads and highways can potentially invite disaster. In fact, deaths from crashes involving large trucks and passenger cars have been rising since 2016. While it could be attributed to lots more newer truck drivers on the road, the fact is, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) deaths are up 5.4% from the same period in 2015.

Yet, more can still be done. Research clearly proves that advanced safety systems continue to reduce crashes as they continue to be installed on more and more passenger vehicles. Systems like forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are making a big difference in preventing crashes and saving lives.

More on the Problem

The problem is, we are not yet seeing enough adoption of these devices on large commercial motor vehicles. Far too many big rigs on the road today are too old and simply predate the advent of these new safety technologies. In fact, according to some estimates, only around 15% of large commercial motor vehicle fleets in the United states are using advances safety systems on their rigs.

Unfortunately, it is also estimated that over 100,000 crashes per year – a quarter of those involving large commercial motor vehicles – could be prevented if systems such as blind spot warnings and stability control were standard on semi-trucks. Many argue, and rightfully so, that these technologies should be prioritized for trucks before cars. With up to 80,000 pounds barreling down the road, no safety stone should be left unturned.

There are two types of safety systems used on trucks. One alerts truck drivers of dangers, whether it be a potential collision or lane departure, and the other helps to prevent collisions, whether through emergency braking or turn assist. Many say truck manufacturers need to make these features much more readily available on the equipment they sell.

On the other side are trucking organizations that point to swift OEM action to adopt these technologies. They feel more regulation is not necessary. Technology is wonderful, but it cannot replace an experienced and skilled truck driver. What is more, trucking advocacy organizations point to the fact that more large truck accidents are caused by the drivers of passenger cars than they are by the truck driver, which research proves.

Yet, with safety technology showing widespread adoption among passenger vehicles, some openly wonder why trucking accidents and deaths are on the rise. One major consideration is the improving economy. More passenger cars and trucks are on our nation’s roads, which increases the chances for an accident.

Big Shippers Make Moves

One way to ensure we see swift adoption is to see big companies get in the game. As one example, United Parcel Service has been retrofitting a lot of their older vehicles with new, advanced safety systems. UPS now says that nearly half of their fleet is outfitted with collision-mitigation systems and they are hoping to see that number inch towards 70% by 2020.

FedEx and DHL have already made similar moves. But how much movement towards greater adoption remains to be seen. With the American Trucking Associations (ATA) coming out strongly against regulation mandating adoption, many companies may be sitting on the sidelines. It might take more prodding to get them to jump in.

Cost is another factor. Owner-operators and small fleets may not have the capital requirements necessary to procure the equipment. Many owner-operators point to million-mile records without an accident, but is this enough? Clearly, with more people hitting the roads, more needs to be done to ensure large commercial motor vehicles continue to see widespread safety technology adoption.


A New Corrective Action Plan For CSA Is Revealed

Have you heard? The FMCSA has released a mandated ‘corrective action plan’ for the much-maligned CSA program. But what does this mean?

The Details

On July 16 the FMCSA announced that they had delivered what they called a “Correlation Study Corrective Action Plan” for the CSA program. The report was delivered to Congress. The new corrective action plan will outline how the agency will address recommendations made in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on improving the safety measurements the federal government uses to rank motor carriers.

The report examined how effective the percentile ranks given under SMS actually identifies high-risk carriers and what to do if the answer to that is not much. The report also takes a look at the accuracy of the data entered into the SMS database. Researchers were tasked with discovering other approaches to singling out high-risk fleets more effectively. Finally, they wanted to know how effective making the SMS information public has been on lessening the number of crashes recorded.

It is useful to note that the agency has already removed the SMS preview website from public view. This preview website contained changes that the agency was going to propose regarding SMS. Since the changes were released before the NAS report, they are moot.

There were six key elements in the NAS study that the agency addressed in their report to Congress. At the top of the list was the methodology the FMCSA uses to approach the data. NAS openly wondered if the methodology used by the FMCSA was not scientific enough in its modeling approach. They specifically mentioned an “Item Response Theory” approach to making the SMS system more fair and accurate.

What is IRT-Based?

With an IRT-based approach, the agency hopes that they can get an accurate measure of the ‘safety culture’ from fleet to fleet, rather than a zero-sum game of identification and intervention. This approach was further pushed late last year by the FMCSA’s Director of Compliance and Enforcement during a conference in Florida.

The agency states within their action plan that they would proceed with developing and testing an IRT model program. Of course, they would still receive public input on important measures, but they hope the IRT model will streamline and better inform the rule and regulations the agency does or does not decide to move forward with.

There is also a push to ensure that the quality of data within SMS is uncorrupted. A more frequent and much more detailed VMT data would provide much greater insight. Right now, the FMCSA only collects VMT data every couple of years. There is also no interoperability or communication between state and federal systems. More frequent collection of and collaboration with VMT data at the state and federal level stands to benefit everyone.

Finally, the agency wants to ensure it gives stakeholders proper consideration. Input must come not just from public comment, but from insurance companies, shippers, receivers, and just about anyone else making freight move within the transportation sector.

After the program is put together, FMCSA will create values based off of the IRT model to determine what information is relevant for the SMS system. Their goal is to have a small-scale model of the program ready to go by September of 2018.

How will all of this inform the next generation of CSA and SMS deployment? We will have to wait until the outcome of the FMCSA’s own internal studies before knowing which way the pendulum will swing on this issue.

Taking Another Glance At Work Truck Safety

Safety is one of the most important factors facing truck drivers and trucking companies. Not operating a commercial motor vehicle safely can cost truck drivers more than just money and business. It could cost lives. Work truck safety is one of the most critically important parts of trucking.

So, what are truck drivers seeing in their daily routines? When it comes to work truck safety, are all commercial and work vehicles treated the same? A new data study released by Verizon Connect is shedding some light on the issue. Verizon Connect is a fleet management systems provider with over 6,000 customers on its system. Their research study looked at a vast swathe of their customer base, including small and mid-size operators.

Specifically, the study was designed to examine how truck drivers operating in the mid- to light-duty range will fare. Out of everything they could have monitored, the research group covered many safety factors, including the number of fatalities per vehicle miles traveled and average speeding events per vehicle mile.

Want to know where the safest regions are for drivers of these types of vehicles? Mainly states along the East Coast. From Maryland through Virginia and on up through New England and Maine, the Northeast corridor was the safest. An outlier, Washington State, scored second place for work truck safety in the survey.

Where are the most dangerous states to work in for  truck drivers? Primarily in the South and Midwest. Another western state also stood out on the list: Montana, which came in ninth most dangerous on the list. The safest drivers could be found in North Dakota (likely due to lots of oil transports), Maine, and Nebraska. The most dangerous drivers could be found in Utah, Georgia, and California.

Heavy Trucks Not Left Out

Not to be left out, another fleet management systems operator held a contest looking for heavy truck drivers to come forward with their thoughts on what safety concerns they deal with and specific feedback on how to deal with them.

What were truck drivers saying? Interestingly, their number one concern were instances of people in passenger cars cutting them off when they are in mid-maneuver. If executed with little room for the truck to stop, those instances could be deadly. There are far too many instances where too-little space resulted in a disaster.

Another oft-cited problem was a lack of turn signal use. When a heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle is changing lanes, not properly signaling that you are moving in front of them could result in serious accident, injury, or even death. The situation is compounded if that vehicle is a tank hauler carrying hazardous material. Entire stretches of highway have been closed off for such incidents.

Finally, not to be left out was speeding, which should be of little surprise to many. Nearly a fifth of all heavy-duty truck drivers surveyed stated that far too much speeding is going on. When a vehicle is traveling to quickly, it can be difficult to see evolving road conditions.

Stay Aware and Know Your Limits

Above all, truck drivers – and this goes for those surveyed and those who know the importance of safety – say it is important to always stay aware of one’s surroundings and know one’s limits.

If fatigue is setting in, whether driving a passenger car or a commercial motor vehicle, it is critical to stop and get some rest. Lives are at stake and it simply is not worth it.

By conducting the operation of a motor vehicle, whether passenger or commercial, in a safe manner, all the time, with no exceptions, you will ensure safe passage for you and those around you on our nation’s highways.

New Research Shows Sleep Deprivation Affects People Differently

One of the largest health and safety problems within the trucking industry is sleep apnea. Truck drivers have to stay on the road for long periods of time and a lack of sleep or constant fatigue can create a very unsafe situation. With so much research going into understanding how sleep apnea affects people, there are bound to be some breakthroughs.

Many tuckers believe they can pull many hours on the road, but for some people, missing just a few hours of sleep can turn some people into walking zombies. Of course, some people are able to function well on little sleep, but truck drivers should think twice before taking unnecessary chances.

In fact, new research does show that the natural variation in individual biomarkers can identify people most at risk for sleep apnea or excessive fatigue. Researchers uncovered that people who went without sleep for at least 39 hours showed altered levels of microRNAs in their blood. They could then catalog how much sleep loss impacted individual cognitive performance.

But what are microRNAs? Otherwise referred to as MiRNAs, these are small bits of genetic material that govern and regulate genetic expression. MiRNAs work by preventing messenger RNAs from converting genetic information into proteins. By conducting studies that allow researchers to peer into how the MiRNA prevents genetic changes, they can identify who is most susceptible to apnea, drifting and fatigue.

Study Details

The groundbreaking research study tracked 32 healthy adults over a five-day period. The adults received two evenings of regular 8 hours of sleep followed by a full 39-hour period with no sleep. Not sleeping for a full 30 hours is considered total sleep deprivation.

After the full 39 hours with no sleep, participants were allowed two nights of recovery, which included another 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. During the alternating sleep periods researchers took blood samples and administered cognitive tests. By determining the levels of miRNA in the blood during specific periods of cognitive testing, researchers were able to isolate who suffered the most from the 39 hours of sleep deprivation.

If an owner-operator or a trucking company can determine ahead of time how likely a truck driver is to succumb to fatigue, they can better plan road times or setup operators running in teams. It could also mean the difference between having an extra cup of coffee or taking a nap.

Could Be Anyone

Even more, this kind of research bodes well for more than just truck drivers. Everyone from first responders to healthcare professionals and others who work overnight or long hours. It is important to remember, however, that coffee and other forms of stimulation are no substitute for quality sleep.

It should also be noted that although this study only followed people who underwent 39 hours of sleep deprivation, similar side effects would occur to people who just did not get a consistent amount of sleep per evening.

As an example, someone working through the night and then only sleeping for a few hours when they can, would experience the same type of cognitive impacts as individuals who hadn’t slept for 39 hours. This study shows that not only is getting enough sleep important, but specific genetic tests can help researchers learn who is more at risk for the negative effects of sleep deprivation. And since blood tests are relatively simple to administer, advances in screening can give new options to medical examiners who certify truck drivers.

Hopefully continued research will shed light on the issue of sleep deprivation and how it impacts performance. Everyone stands to benefit from improvements.

How Enforcement Impacts Trucking Safety

As a professional truck driver, you know, when you are operating on a crowded road or highway, someone is looking out for your safety. And while some truck drivers may inherently take a dim view of enforcement, the individuals who work as enforcements officers on our nation’s roads and highways are completing a critical job.

On average, on any given major stretch of interstate highway, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of commercial motor vehicles on the road. Enforcement officers help to keep both truck drivers and passenger car operators safe. But what are enforcement officers looking for?

Watch Those Brakes

One of the most common things that gets an enforcement officer’s attention is an unreadable front plate. Once rigs are on the side of the road for an inspection, thin brake linings are also a big violation. With big hills winding through narrow mountain passes, thin brakes can be deadly dangerous. Enforcement officers are trained to look for them and they will not hesitate to dial up a violation if serious.

In some cases, if a brake pad on the trailer is stuck to the drum, it may not release when it is supposed to, which could cause major friction problems on downhill runs. Air loss could compound the problem, causing an even greater safety concern.

Here is one thing to note, while all troopers can stop a commercial motor vehicle for inspection, only certified commercial vehicle enforcement officers can complete a full inspection. Still, certified inspections officers can also write big tickets.

Trucks Can Do Damage

With the nation’s infrastructure under increasing strain, the increase in freight traffic does no one any favors. Cities and towns that exist along trucking routes simply don’t have the capital to maintain long term bridge and road upkeep, especially in light of inaction at the Federal level.

But why are big rigs so tough on roads? It is estimated that one fully loaded tractor-trailer is equal to around 1,000 cars on the road. This is where weigh stations come in. Weigh stations are used to collect data for pavement research and inspections.

If municipalities are having problems keeping their roads and highways maintained as it is, how are they going to install new weigh stations and inspection facilities, which can run $7 to $8 million to build up and put into service?

Following the Rules

Fortunately, most truck drivers and motor carriers pay a lot of care to following the rules. Fleets should come up with innovative solutions to addressing enforcement and safety. One such example could be a monthly breakfast where the entire team gets together to discuss new safety initiatives and road conditions.

Many fleets are already turning to this method and combining it with utilizing truckers who have a long-time safety record to coach newer truck drivers on what they should expect from an inspection or enforcement action. It is important to focus more on the safety aspect than the dollars and cents.

If there is one Golden Rule of trucking, it is to never put trucks on the road that shouldn’t be on the road. Enforcement officials do a great job at spotting trucks with low-hanging wires, dirty plates, cracked windshields, or cargo that has not been properly tarped.

The last thing a motor carrier or owner-operator wants is a violation simply because they did not conduct a proper pre-trip inspection and ensure their vehicle(s) was in proper working order before it hit the road. Stay out of enforcement’s cross hairs, but at the same time appreciate the job they do. Because they do it for you.

Necessary Steps To Prevent Cargo Theft

Cargo theft is an ever-increasing problem. The age of technology has provided tools for motor carriers to safeguard their cargo, but it has also provided thieves with new toys in their endeavor to steal freight. Professional freight cargo thieves are sophisticated, whether it be through the use of jamming devices or road obstructions, they aren’t resting on their laurels.

Motor carriers looking to ensure their precious cargo does not end up in someone else’s hands need to employ comprehensive freight security programs and countermeasures. Dispatch should have real-time monitoring of cargo shipments across the fleet through tracking technologies and software programs.

Looking at Embedded Technologies

Covert cargo security measures include embedded technologies. When location, status, time and condition data can be transmitted back to headquarters the moment dispatchers need to know it, cargo theft is mitigated. Even more, partners who have been in the game for a long will offer additional services.

Does the cargo security firm you are partnering with utilize critical activity alerts, cargo monitoring, shipment tracking, and analytical reporting measures? There must be a high level of communication between the end points. Still, there are technological limitations.

Aluminum containers and cargo holds limit the effectiveness of GPS devices. That is where electronic freight security programs come into place. Just as technology has emboldened thieves, companies have stepped into the breach to keep up with them.

Dedicated EFS programs allow the tracking entity to follow the trailer, whether thieves cut a cellular or satellite link or not. Enterprising fleets are taking advantage of GPS units hidden within the cargo or built into a small box on the side of the trailer. Inconspicuous places can be used to hide the critical payload.

Be Discreet

It is important that the tracking method employed is discreet. The last thing a truck driver needs is for a bad guy to circumvent their security measures simply because they weren’t strong enough. It is true we live in a time where finding a safe place to park has become an increasing problem for truck drivers.

Since truck drivers must park where they do, the least a fleet or owner-operator can do is make it difficult for potential thieves to break in. Utilize locking and early warning mechanisms to ensure the trailer isn’t compromised without the operator even knowing about it.

Even better, OEMs on the front lines of trucking security are providing active countermeasures by utilizing systems that send out multiple signal layers, which confuse jammers. The game is afoot as thieves and corporations do each other’s best to match wits.

Team Up

One of the best ways to confound and throw off would-be attackers is to follow the age-old motto: There’s strength in numbers. When truck drivers link up with one another, it is far less likely thieves will prey upon them.

Law enforcement officials should never be considered as adversaries, but instead open lines of communication with enforcement personnel should be encouraged. Since criminals never run out of ways to defeat security systems, truck drivers and motor carriers must be on constant alert.

If a theft does occur, having a rapport already established with law enforcement allows for the investigation to begin quickly and hopefully yield quick results. Gather quick intelligence and be ready to make decisions on the fly in order to keep your cargo safe.

The brave new front will always be in cybersecurity. Trucking companies must stay at the forefront of digital security in order to keep their operations shielded from harm. Will your fleet be ready when the moment comes to protect against the bad guys?

Your Latest On Safety From Capitol Hill

ELD exemptions are once again on lawmakers’ radar as they look for ways to further streamline regulations head of the fiscal 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill, since it was not handled within the bill itself.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations issued “report language” to go along with any legislation that is created around ELD or other trucking regulatory exemptions. But what was in this report? What language did the Committee send to the rest of Congress?

Livestock Haulers

In short, the Committee stated that the Department of Transportation needed to clarify the 150 air-mile radius exemption, specifically where agricultural commodity haulers are concerned. As such, the Committee directed the DOT to consult with the industry, as well as the Department of Agriculture, to find solutions to the exemption clarification problem.

They went on to point out that those working in the livestock or agricultural hauling sector operated within unique working conditions. As such, those unique conditions must be taken into consideration when the DOT decides to issue new regulatory guidance or frameworks.

What is more, the House version of the bill explicitly prohibits funds from being used for enforcing ELD use on livestock or insect freight haulers. As usual, the House took a firmer stance on the issue, one that the Senate did not emulate. In fact, the Senate’s version of the bill had no political riders attached to it.

It is likely the issue will be sorted out in Congress, with both sides coming to a compromise. It may even become part of a larger negotiating position. Either way, it is designed to address the larger issue at hand, which comes up on October 1. That is when any trucker hauling living things must turn on their ELD and not drive for more than 11 hours, per the ELD rule.

The Difference

Since hauling living things is very different from hauling non-living things, additional considerations must be made. Ranchers and farmers complain that they have difficulty getting livestock from a place like Montana down to places like Oklahoma.

The problem? During summer and winter months, especially during rough weather, livestock is put at risk. If a truck driver has to take a mandatory 10-hour break after 11 hours of driving, they could be putting the lives of their haul at risk. Honeybees are a prime example of this. They are extremely fragile cargo and are susceptible to heat and cold.

As a result, two Senators have introduced legislation, entitled the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act. As it has been introduced, the bill would increase air-mile-radius exemptions from 150 to 300. Livestock haulers would also be allowed to ignore hours of service rules provided they are within 150 air miles of the destination.

The Senators, John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) and Steve Daines (R-Montana) are sponsoring the bill and have openly voiced their support for extending ELD exemptions beyond the 150-mile air radius. Whether or not it actually passes, makes its way through the House, and is signed by the president is all up in the air.

Although there are many in favor of changing the rule, safety groups have come out saying that this is another attempt to gut the efficacy of the ELD mandate. They state that if more and more exemptions are given, the impact of the mandate will become diluted.

Whatever happens, this will all play out in the halls of Congress and at the White House. With trucking company and safety advocacy lobbying groups lining up, only time will tell if his actually sees the light of day.

How The ELD Mandate Is Affecting Truck Drivers

There are some grumblings among truck drivers regarding how the ELD mandate is impacting their pay and the way they operate on the job. Truck drivers from the pre-ELD era might drive for eight hours, take a four to six hour nap while the truck was unloaded, then drive for another four hours or so before stopping overnight for sleep.

In Practical Use

With the ELD mandate in place, scenarios like that are no longer possible. With the 11 hour limit, some truck drivers feel like it is cutting into their pay. Consider how truck drivers are usually paid: by the mile. When the trucker is not out on the road within the allotted time, it cuts into how many hours they can stay on the road.

Even more, the truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute break every eight hours, even if they just spent half the time at an unloading site waiting for their cargo to be pulled off. When you add up all this time, you can see how much a truck driver being paid by the mile can lose.

Compounding the problem, there is a safety issue associated with these concerns. Since most truck drivers are operating on a similar schedule – since they all must comply with the same ELD regulations – they all wind up taking their 10-hour breaks at the same time, resulting in a parking nightmare.

Reports of truck drivers having difficulties finding safe places to park abound. Some openly wonder whether this is defeating the entire purpose of the mandate, which was to improve trucking safety. There has been some uptick in red zone cargo thefts since the mandate went into effect. Certainly, there is nothing to prove correlation or causation, but the trend is there.

What Are the Concerns?

Although the ELD mandate is still relatively young, there is now enough data to provide an initial assessment of how it has effected the trucking industry. According to a recent industry study, productivity is down since implementation, all while the cost of shipping has continued to rise.

While the theory underlying the ELD mandate was sound – that truck drivers were working longer hours to make more money, which could post a safety concern. No one wants truck drivers to operate while they are too fatigued.

Yet, the problem lies in the fact that the Hours of Service rules have remained largely unchanged for nearly a century.

Truck drivers are starting to openly worry whether or not the ELD device usage is creating an unsafe operating environment for them. Some refer to it as a constant race to beat the clock. Some truckers report trying to race to their destination before the mandatory breaks kick in.

Losing Experienced Truck Drivers

The simple fact is this: Money matters. Trucking as a career will become less lucrative for truck drivers who are paid by the mile. A rookie truck driver can expect to bring in around 27 cents a mile. Experienced truck drivers could expect around 44 cents per mile.

Studies done on the impact the ELD mandate has had on truck driver pay shows that there is potential for the average long haul truck driver to lose upwards of $14,000 per year as a result of the new methodology.

With the truck driver shortage already an acute problem, the trucking industry cannot afford an exodus of experienced truckers. Fleets need all the help they can get recruiting, training, and retaining truckers of the future. Will the ELD mandate wind up helping or hurting their cause? Right now, only time will tell.