Proponents of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate champion the device as an enforcer of existing rules. While detractors balked at the technology, advocates argued the devices didn’t change the hours of service (HOS) regulations. They contended that so long as drivers were complying with the HOS rules, the device wouldn’t change their day-to-day driving. However, therein lies the problem.
The 14-hour rule says a driver’s clock starts when he or she gets behind the wheel. The clock is a measure of duty time, not driving time, which is where most of the problems begin for truck drivers. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created the HOS regulations with the intent to improve safety, drivers are saying the rules are creating the opposite scenario. ELDs don’t allow for any wiggle room, and drivers are now feeling much more pressure to deliver in a certain time frame. While drivers may be complying with HOS regulations, many contend they are engaging in unsafe driving practices to do so.
For example, drivers who don’t make their destination one day may begin their next day at midnight after a few hours of sleep. Another issue is drivers can’t put a pause on the ELD if they are tired. Even if drivers begin to feel drowsy, they feel compelled to continue driving until their 14-hour allowable on-duty time expires for the day rather than stopping for a rest and picking back up again later that day. This can result in several hours of drivers operating a CMV while tired. Other serious safety concerns include:
- Drivers rushing through work zones to beat the clock
- Serious instances of road rage during traffic backups
- Limited parking while the HOS clock ticks down on an ELD
Compounding this problem are unnecessary wait times. Drivers have long complained about loading and unloading times at shipping and receiving facilities. Now, that time spent sitting counts against their on-duty hours, and drivers are taking umbrage. Opponents argue drivers should charge retention rates for long shipping and receiving wait times, but it’s not always that simple. Many drivers encounter shippers and receivers that refuse to pay retention fees and then switch to a different driver or fleet.
To make matters clear, drivers do not have a problem with ELDs; they have a problem with the existing HOS regulations. Before ELDs, drivers could find a way to fudge their hours. Now, they have no such recourse since ELDs are tamper-proof. Drivers believe trucking associations and FMCSA can resolve most of their problems by addressing the following key areas:
- Reducing wait times at shipping and receiving facilities
- Improving parking so drivers aren’t rushing against the clock to find a safe place to rest
- Amending the HOS regulations
The final point above will require more than proposed changes and rule-making. Truck drivers contend that FMCSA doesn’t understand their industry, and makes regulations about a job they don’t comprehend. Drivers urge lawmakers to get behind the wheel with them for a week to see how HOS regulations are having the opposite intended effect. Truck drivers believe that only by experiencing the job can regulators make smart and effective rulings. To learn more about trucking safety, contact the experts at Cline Wood.
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