As we reach the end of the grace period for ELD compliance, the FMCSA has admitted that there are ongoing problems with the technology that they are requiring motor carriers to have. Most notably, drivers are facing issues with getting devices to track time and data accurately. In the most extreme cases, ELDs are reporting that truckers are hundreds of miles from their actual locations. Because the sole purpose of the device is to accurately track time and location, these malfunctions are worrisome. Malfunctioning ELDs pose a couple of problems:
If truckers are over their hours because the device is incorrect, they could face fines from the FMCSA
If they are under their hours, they could face repercussions from their employers
If the device incorrectly reports that a truck is in a state for which the driver does not have a permit, they could face penalty for that as well
These violations could potentially endanger the livelihoods and licenses of truckers all over the country. While the FMCSA has acknowledged that there are problems with the devices, action has not yet been taken to solve the issue. Most of the people that have complained have been told to switch ELD companies.
Part of the problem is that the federal agency allowed companies to self-certify that their devices worked. This practice is pretty standard for the FMCSA, but this influx of problems is unprecedented. To help offset all the problems, the FMCSA has been issuing waivers to truckers that have experienced issues, but most of them are about to expire and they have yet to issue more.
Outside of the FMCSA, independent companies that produce ELDs have increased the amount of customer service employees to handle the influx of calls they are getting in regard to misfunctioning devices. Should these issues not be resolved soon, owners and operators could face weekly fines up to 15,000 dollars. This could put many of them out of business.
Now that the ELD compliance date is here, along with the general movement toward online data tracking, we can see an increasing need for data standardization in the trucking industry. As a result, there has been a call for a blockchain approach to standardizing the industry’s data. Essentially, blockchains are a way for companies to upload and share their data with ease. The trucking industry is massive, even with the driver shortage, and companies need a way to record transactions and track assets in a cohesive way.
Blockchain is an online ledger that facilitates the process of both recording transactions and tracking assets within a network of businesses and employees. An asset can be something tangible like a truck, or intangible like an insurance requirement. So what a blockchain would do is allow more efficient communication from business to business, as well as from employer to employee. It’s no secret that the trucking industry is wildly inefficient, which leads to safety issues and loss of revenue. It can take hours to set up a single delivery, which frankly, is a waste of time. With blockchain technology, delivery transactions can take mere minutes, meaning that drivers can get on the road quicker. If implemented, shippers, carriers and brokers will be operating on a secure, instantaneous network.
Unlike the ELD mandate, blockchains will not be required or enforced, which unfortunately means that users will have to trust the information that is uploaded. Manufacturers must trust that carriers have the required insurance, and carriers must trust companies to uphold their contracts and pay them. Data standardization is in no way easy, and blockchain is still in its early stages, but the advantages to the program could be instrumental to the success of the industry in the future. Sometime very soon, the entire world will move toward standardization and online data tracking.
If you would like more information on how blockchains work, visit these websites:
Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed plans to roll back emissions rules that govern gliders (trucks that have been built out of both new and remanufactured parts). These vehicles cost about twenty-five percent less than a new semi, but they are often built with outdated equipment that does not meet EPA standards. The Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) Phase 2 Rule was a product of lengthy negotiations between regulators, car manufacturers, and leaders in the trucking industry. The rule was meant to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from buses and diesel trucks. Because of the practice of equipping gliders with old parts to keep costs down, this rule would phase out the production of such vehicles.
This decision has split the trucking industry– the bigger companies like Mack and Volvo are strictly against the repealing of the rule, while smaller companies are all for it. Large vehicle manufacturers have spent the last decade or so developing new equipment and technology to control and limit truck emissions, and they do not want their investments undercut. Smaller companies, however, are in favor of tossing the rule so they do not have to buy brand new trucks. GHG, Phase 2 was created as a compromise for both bigger and smaller companies, but it appears that they are unwilling to do so.
The EPA estimated that around ten thousand glider kits were produced in 2016, whereas a little over two-hundred and fifty thousand new semis were sold. Perhaps the problem is not with smaller companies being edged out by the bigger manufacturers, but with the rule itself. Many smaller glider manufacturers believe that they are being targeted by the EPA. Others claim that the rule did not discriminate against gliders, but only makes sure that everyone is complying with the rules. Glider companies are able, for the most part, to rebuild semis and make sure that they are compliant with the new rule. They just do not seem to want to because of the higher cost. As the new rules stands now, gliders would not be subjected to regulation because they are not considered “new” vehicles.
Once the final rule is posted, proponents and opponents of the rule will have sixty days to legally challenge it. Meaning that environmental groups can petition to keep the rule, or glider companies could file a lawsuit if they are not exempt. Spokespeople on both sides have expressed their disappointment and almost guaranteed that there will be legal actions taken.
As we approach the second phase of the three-phase compliance time line, there has been increasing hesitancy and even full-blown refusal from those in the trucking industry. Some of the complaints are reasonable: they are worried about the high costs of the logging systems themselves, as well as the upkeep of the devices draining the resources of smaller companies and ultimately putting them out of business. The ELDs can cost anywhere from $160 to $500 and the upkeep depends on the system. If you want more information about those costs, check out this blog I wrote when the initial ruling was made. Some of the other fears, however, can easily be soothed.
The trucking industry is typically very slow to change, and most major compliance rules are met with a lot of initial push back. One concern that emerged following the ELD mandate that has snowballed within the last few weeks, is the security of the systems themselves in regard an outside person’s ability to hack into them. There are a number of people that are under the belief that because the ELDs are a computer system that monitors the activity of the engine and the brake system, that a hacker can take control of the system from outside of the vehicle. That is not quite true. ELDs, while they do operate on a computer system, do not automate the vehicle, and do not have the capability of doing so. They are completely safe to use. The FMCSA addressed this issue and many others on their FAQ page. There is no current requirement for the automation of truck-tractors, and it is unlikely that there will be any time soon. The nation, or really the world in general, cannot function without the trucking system as it currently stands, and human skills and reasoning in this area are not things that can easily be replaced by a machine. Truckers do not need to worry about ELDs subjecting them to harm or a violation of their safety. If you would like to learn more about ELDs and the FMCSA’s rule, visit their website, or check out our blog.
The newest wave in the trucking industry is Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). These devices synchronize with a truck to automatically record driving times, and are intended to create safer work environments and provide more accurate hours of service. The new ELD rule will be implemented over a four year period and will ultimately replace the old automatic onboard recording devices. This rule is not only for carriers in the United States– Mexico and Canada domiciled drivers will also be required to use ELDs when operating in the U.S. For more information on exemptions and specifications, visit the FMCSA website.
ELDs must be certified, and it will be mandatory to register them with the FMCSA, and in theory, will make it much easier to share and manage driving logs– this also means that it will be much harder to lie on logs. Unfortunately, they can also be a money drain on small businesses; the FMCSA examined a number of ELDs and set a benchmark for what business owners can expect to pay for each vehicle. Annually, the devices (per truck) range from $165 to $183, with the most popular devices running close to $500. The FMCSA predicts that the long-term savings will largely outweigh the initial cost, but for some, that may be too late. The FMCSA estimates total ELD adoption costs to be around $975 million dollars, including driver and inspector training.
Despite high costs, fleet management using ELDs can also be beneficial– the constant monitoring of truck activity can help reduce fuel costs, downtime, and total crashes. The regulation also provides definitive precautions and protocols for harassment, which is defined as “an action by a motor carrier toward one of its drivers that the motor carrier knew, or should have known, would result in the driver violating [a rule],” suggesting once again that one of the main concerns is the safety of drivers.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… a drone? We’ve all heard about them, and some of us may have seen them in action, but what threat, if any, do they pose to the trucking industry? Over the past few years, companies such as