ELD mandate: Small fleet owner urges Congress to reconsider, more voices on the mandate

David Morin | October 21, 2016

This point-by-point argument against the electronic logging device mandate, also delivered to his ... , was authored by David Morin, owner of the Z-Trans small fleet based on Morganton, N.C.

With the exception of the new Overdrive Radio mailbag podcast, This point-by-point argument against the electronic logging device mandate was authored by David Morin, owner of the Z-Tranz small fleet based in Morganton, N.C. Copies were likewise delivered to Morin’s Congressman, he says, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

1) Safety
The electronic logging device mandate does nothing to promote safety; rather, ELDs merely record movement of the vehicle. The overwhelming safety issue has to do with the hours of service, which in present form force the driver to drive in unsafe situations, such as when they are tired or in rush-hour traffic. Flexibility in the hours of service is what will address the safety issue and will also help to reduce the overwhelming parking-shortage issue now being seen throughout the industry. The mandate does nothing to address these issues. Recording the vehicle’s movement is to enforce the hours of service, which in itself suggests that there is a safety issue, but the mandate does nothing to alleviate the problem. Rather, it adds to it by adding stress to the driver with the time consumed learning new technology, and at times correcting faulty technology, which all takes away from their on-duty hours. Those hours either have to be made up or reduce productivity, which equates to loss of revenue.

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2) Burdens
The associated costs of fitting these units to older trucks — along with the cost of the units themselves and with the monthly subscriptions most come with — brings a financial burden that can not be made up by the smaller carriers, many of whom depend on the spot market for their livelihood. Deregulation as regards the rating system now in place, along with brokerages operating unchecked, is suppressing the carrier’s ability to turn a reasonable profit. While the operating costs continually rise, the rates are continually being suppressed, which keeps the pressure on to keep the company in profitability.

Then there comes the burden of learning the new technology. Most of the old-school drivers who have proven their ability to operate safely over the years are now being subjected to this form of prejudice, that being the one-size-fits-all mentality. These drivers not only don’t want this, but also in reality by their action and safe record over the years don’t need to be treated as if they are rookie drivers. These are the drivers who are well established and the ones buying the newer trucks to add comfort and dependability to their operation. The mandate is adding unnecessary stress to the seasoned driver, who is considering leaving the industry due to this unnecessary action. What is being accomplished by the mandate is counterproductive, as it is taking the safest drivers off the road. Once again, the mandate does nothing to promote safety.

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3) Economics
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that big money is being propagated under the disguise of safety. The forced sales of these units will go into the billions, then add the monthly subscription rates and one can see what this is all about. Safety has absolutely nothing to do with it. On the other hand, many independent truckers are considering quitting the industry over this. Losses to the government will include $550 per truck in Heavy Highway Use tax, along with the UCR fees (which accomplish nothing) and fuel taxes. That’s only the beginning. Once again, people will be put out of work, which constitutes a loss of income tax and sales tax revenues. Have we learned nothing from the recession of 2008, in which so many people lost their homes? This mandate is doing much the same thing; only this time it affects the trucking industry as opposed to the mortgage industry. However the effects will be just as far-reaching when goods aren’t being delivered in a timely fashion.

4) Our position
We are a very small company now of five trucks. Prior to this mandate being introduced, there were 4. Two 1999 models, one 2000 and one 2001. The third 1999 was purchased under the threat of the mandate. All these trucks are well maintained and all have gone through in-frame overhauls. All the ABS systems are kept in working order as well. We have invested a lot of money and time into the two trucks that will fall under the mandate — the 2000 and 2001. The mandate will render these trucks useless, as they are some 17 years old, and although they are in good working order, no one will buy them due to the mandate.

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These two trucks represent less than half of our small fleet, and under the mandate, we will be losing the drivers for them, as these seasoned drivers will have no part of ELDs. Our only choice to recover the losses caused by this mandate will be to part-out two perfectly good trucks and put two families out of income. The other alternative is to invest even more money into them with little to no chance of recovering the investment, as it will be nearly impossible to attract drivers to these trucks.

This hardly seems fair.

Personally, at this time I am rapidly approaching retirement, but I wish to keep working as long as I can, focusing on the dispatching end and part-time driving. However, the looming mandate is taking away all my incentive to remain productive within this increasingly stressful industry. If I am feeling this way, I am certain that there are many others in my age bracket who may be considering the same thing.

5) The solution
In a government founded on the principle of “Of the people, by the people, and for the people “one can see the people taking a major hit propagated by corporate and now governmental greed. It’s high time for the governmental agencies to start using some common sense. Politicians are incapable of resolving these problems, as they have never been behind the wheel of a truck. There is no machine that can tell when a driver is tired, or just plain not feeling well, like having a headache or digestive issues, which do happen once in a while. Only the driver knows that, but presently they are being forced to drive under these conditions due to the 14-hour rule to make an adequate living.

Also know that one size does not fit all. As an example, many reefer drivers run much of their time at night, while flatbed drivers mainly run in the day, due to the shippers’ and receivers’ hours of operation. The seasoned driver knows the routes and traffic conditions and should have the flexibility to adjust accordingly, while the rookie driver is pushing to make a name for themselves and therefore may jeopardize safety in an effort to deliver on-time.

If you are truly concerned about safety, assemble a panel of seven truckers with a minimum of 10 years’ experience behind the steering wheel to fix the hours of service once and for all. Throw out the one-size-fits-all ELD mandate. Keep it voluntary, and perhaps mandate it for new drivers coming into the industry until they get several years of experience. Taking that further, get them the training they need. Making a rookie driver a trainer after only six weeks is absurd, but that is what is happening in some places.

In addition, forget about click-it-or-ticket campaigns and start an educational platform designed to teach the car drivers about the dangers of operating too close to trucks. It is a well-known fact that in some 80 percent of wrecks involving cars and trucks, the car is at fault. I’ve not only seen it, I’ve experienced it.

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6) Summation
This mandate is prejudicial by nature.

First, the retroactive nature of the mandate with the selection of the 2000 model year is prejudicial in itself. When these trucks were manufactured there was no such thing as an ELD. If the mandate is to become a reality, it should only be placed on vehicles being manufactured in the current model year going forward. In this way, when an individual or a company purchases new equipment, they know they will be subject to the mandate and not be struck from behind.

Second, many smaller companies such as ours have vehicles above and below the mandate model year. The drivers above the model year will be forced to adhere to the mandate while the others are not. This isn’t fair to them and many will quit the industry over it. No matter how you look at this, it is a form of prejudice.

Third, older well-seasoned drivers are being treated as entry-level drivers. Many of these drivers have well over 20 years of safe driving experience and pride themselves on their safe driving record. By nature the mandate says that they are on the same low safety scale as the rookie drivers with little to no experience at all. This isn’t fair and demonstrates a level of prejudicial behavior toward the experienced driver by the agencies pushing this mandate.

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And finally, this is prejudicial within the financial spectrum. It is creating one business sector to profit extremely at the expense of another. This is unheard of and borders on extortion and racketeering, both of which are illegal in this country.

ELDs do have a place within the industry, but only if kept voluntary. Those large companies that are continually hiring entry level drivers in the never-ending spinning wheel of their driver recruiting practices should in fact be using them to assist in monitoring entry level drivers until they get the experience they need to operate safely. It’s high time for our government officials to start using some common sense by listening to the voices of experience who know what they are talking about. It’s time to reconsider this mandate to the benefit of all.

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