So, we all know the big news of the week is the ELD mandate. It’s been a virtual ELD buffet on every trucking trade website there is – and like pretty much anything coming out of the cesspool of Washington, it’s been exceptional fodder for those of us who enjoy a little satire.
It’s also a banner week for anyone who happens to have a ’99 Freightshaker with low mileage and good rubber for sale. Holy guacamole, did you just hit the jackpot, bro. I’ll take half a dozen with the Pittsburgh Power Cheese, please.
Could it be that we’re just all freaking out instead of being good citizens, and accepting our fate to keep on trucking because we don’t know how to do anything else? Because we should totally be quiet about the systematic dismantling of the small business portion of the trucking industry. (This may or may not be sarcasm.)
Depending upon which camp you take your showers in, the trucking industry either ends 2015 with a glut of qualified drivers who are demanding to be paid fairly, or a frighteningly horrific shortage of truck drivers with an estimated future of imminent death and destruction for everyone even remotely involved, and safety dictates that speed limiters, ELDs, inward facing cameras, and six magic monkeys should be installed in each and every commercial truck on the road. (Unless it was made before 2000, and then only six magic monkeys and eight documents from a medical professional are required. Also, a partridge in a pear tree.)
These opinions are likely to be swayed by whether or not you operate in the actual world of real time freight, where the market is soft enough for high rollers to have the freedom to issue vague social media threats of, “If you don’t like it, you can go elsewhere,” to committed, proven drivers on a multi million dollar account, or in the pretend trucking world where you sit in an office and scream about the sky falling so you can convince other people who sit in offices of the need to draft fetuses into the industry immediately, or we will all starve and die a horrible death.
But of course, we wouldn’t want to freak out.
Let’s all agree to disagree and come together on the fact that the industry is changing, and some of these changes aren’t making much sense. Implementing an electronic device with no critical thinking skills and almost zero flexibility in use to keep drivers compliant in their hours of service is a bad idea. Improving on that technology to the point of being able to offer the professional flexibility to use the hours most beneficially is a great idea, especially when it’s available for all trucks, across the board, without exemption. It’s just flat out dumb to make rules that only apply to some.
I predict this ELD thing will go much the way of the California emissions laws – there will be years of lawsuits and exemptions, followed by more time in which extensions can be filed, followed by more lawsuits. We are a litigious society, and unfortunately, sometimes the only recourse you have is to go to the courts for determination.
Meanwhile, the truckers (you know, the people who are actually doing the job a bunch of knuckleheads who have never done the job get to make all the rules for) keep on trucking, because that’s what they do.
One of the most important qualities of a good driver is the ability to be flexible. Sure, we’ll lose some drivers over it, but people will learn to live with it, and hopefully do the best they can to use the positive aspects – like an indisputable tracking of detention time and a much stronger defense in covering your hours of service booty if you should be involved in an accident.
There are a lot of good things about ELDs, and if the technology suited the need properly and was available for everyone, it would be a beautiful thing. We’ve been fed a preconceived notion of how the format should be used, and it may not necessarily be the best way to use it. Maybe we shouldn’t freak out, but we should definitely make our concerns loud and public during this two year transition period.