Hours of service are really the problem in my opinion. Truckers were able to fudge paper driving logs for years. ELDs only enforce what was already supposed to be happening but wasn’t, in theory. In practice, ELDs track trucks’ and truckers’ every move down to the last second enabling shippers to ride truckers every minute of the day ensuring they don’t have one second of downtime that might be needed for safe driving. If the ELD time is running, the driver better be on the road, regardless of weather and safety. ELDs are a shipper, DOT officer and fleet owner’s tools for earning income. ELDs have zero to do with safety. Traffic accidents have not decreased since ELD enforcement. Speeding has increased since ELD enforcement.
The problem with HOS is really pretty simple. OTR drivers have 14 hours on duty per day with 11 hours being drive time. 10 hours must be spent in sleeper berth uninterrupted off duty time. It sounds perfectly reasonable. It isn’t. Most adults don’t sleep that many hours straight even when you add on shower and dinner time. Holding 80,000 pounds or better often with a load that shifts on the highway takes more than the average car driver realizes in strength and endurance. Older drivers who have the experience and good driving records, usually like to pull off the road for a few hour’s break in the middle of that 14 hour day and have a shower, lunch, a nap, bathroom break and get back in refreshed to drive. On paper it looks like they have three, but they don’t. Those three hours are usually spent loading and unloading their truck, or at weigh stations, or DOT stops, or getting a new bulb for a headlight that went out. Most adults who actually want to sleep cannot sleep if they timed out at a truck stop that is a circus. Can they get out, rest for a little bit and drive to the next truck stop where they can sleep? Nope. They’re out of drive time. They’re down for ten hours with little to no sleep. Before the ELDs, drivers were able to do what they needed to do to get sleep, rest or a break and still look good on paper. They weren’t on the road longer than they should have been. They just moved their start and stop times. They never should have had to do that in the first place.
Now we have ELDs. The truck owner knows exactly where the truck is at all times, the duty status, and how fast it is travelling. Sounds like a safety mechanism on paper. It’s not. The driver now had better be moving as long as they have time to drive. Forget unsafe driving conditions such as ice on the highway, tornados, fire, etc. Forget that the driver may need 30 more minutes to eat breakfast and have a cup of coffee because they are worn out and not ready to be back on the road. The driver’s actual level of tired or feeling crappy is completely irrelevant. It’s about what that ELD says the driver is.
Now shippers are enacting log ins in order to haul their freight where they can see where their loads are on the highway. They can see where your truck is on the highway. Now the shippers are calling asking why a driver pulled off the road to get a headlight on their time. Well, first of all it isn’t the shipper’s time. Second, once the load is on the truck, the truck owner is liable for the load not the shipper. I promise that shipper doesn’t care if your driver is driving down the highway at night with no headlight. It’s not their ticket or problem. It’s the truck owners. ELDs are nothing but a way for shippers and other bad actors to force drivers on the highway when they need to be pulled over. ELDs are not about safety. They’re about making money for large shipping companies, brokers, and government entities. They’re about profit and tracking trucks.
What is trending right now in trucking is your more experienced drivers are getting out of the trucks. It’s not safe to drive and it’s not profitable. Increasingly less experienced drivers are sitting behind the wheel of 80,000 pounds travelling down the highway. No one is safer.