Electronic logging devices, or ELDs, are attached to a truck’s motor to record the exact times when a truck is driven. Now, the government has decided most truckers must use ELDs for all commercial trucking.
Congress passed the ELD mandate, which is to be fully implemented by December 16, 2019, in an attempt to increase safety on the roads. But, what will be the short and long-term effects? Will road safety really increase enough to justify the more stringent requirements?
What Are the Benefits of ELDs?
The ELD started with the noble desire to make the roads safer for truckers and those who share the roads with them. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has released estimates that indicate the devices might prevent 1,844 crashes, 562 injuries, and 26 deaths.
In addition, the ELDs eliminates a great deal of paperwork drivers have always had to do. What’s more, it increases the accuracy of those records by taking the driver’s judgement out of the equation.
Although ELDs will likely become more standardized as the technology advances, they should already help law enforcement officers find out more quickly and easily whether the driver has been following the hours-of-service rules.
What Are the Drawbacks of ELDs?
ELDs may seem like the most sensible approach to making sure drivers stay safe on the roads. Yet, many small trucking companies, agricultural haulers, and independent truck drivers, backed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, are vehemently opposed to the move to electronic logs.
Cost and Availability of ELDs
The cost of adding an ELD right now ranges from $495 to $849 or more per truck. Finding a device that meets federal requirements can be challenging, too, since the government was slow in deciding exactly what those requirements would be.
Takes Driver Judgment Off the Table
One of the biggest drawbacks truckers see is that the ELDs don’t allow them room to consider complex situations and make their own professional judgments.
For example, if a truck driver was nearing the end of his 11-hour maximum hours of service, they might allow themselves enough time to park in a safe location. However, with the ELD, they may end up parking in a more dangerous spot to prevent the ELD registering them as out of compliance.
May Cause a Shortage of Truck Drivers
Many experienced truckers resent the intrusion of the electronic devices into their work environment. Some drivers feel it’s an invasion of their privacy. Others are more upset about the limits it puts on their professional judgment. Thus, many of the most experienced truck drivers have quit or are contemplating quitting to avoid dealing with the ELDs.
Increases Shipping Times and Costs
The FMCSA suggests that if drivers are already being accurate with their driving logs, it should make no difference to them to switch to e-logs. Shipping times shouldn’t change at all in that case.
However, the rigidity of the ELD system could easily turn a 5-minute discrepancy in the log into a 10-hr delay. If the driver has to stop and rest for 10 hours rather than going on to the destination, the result could be serious time-lags.
Costs would be affected, too, for a variety of reasons. Not only do the trucking companies now have to install the ELDs in all their trucks, but with the time delays, they could have trouble moving as much product.
Agricultural haulers are concerned that produce and animals shipped by commercial vehicles may not reach the market in good condition. If produce spoils or animals are harmed due to being in the truck for so long, costs could increase.
May Keep Older Trucks on the Road
The ELD mandate could bring up another safety issue. The e-log devices cannot be placed on trucks older than model year 2000. This brings up the specter of independent truck drivers and small business trucking companies holding onto those old trucks longer. Because older trucks tend to have more maintenance and safety issues, this could keep a large contingent of worn-out vehicles in service.
Is the Increased Safety Worth the Cost?
On its surface, the ELD mandate sounds like a positive step towards improving safety on the nation’s roads. The final answer to whether the increased safety afforded by the ELD legislation is worth the costs to truckers and the economy will become clearer as the system becomes widely adopted.
As a final matter, the mandate will have important consequences for those who have been injured as a result of a collision with a commercial truck. Attorneys who have experience in trucking accidents, including our Texas truck accident lawyers in Tyler, Texas, have already accounted for this mandate when seeking to preserve evidence for clients who have been wrongfully harmed in truck accidents.
Justin is an attorney at Roberts & Roberts and focuses his practice on mass tort litigation, where he specializes in helping individuals who are harmed by recalled or unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. He has earned recognition as a “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers. Prior to joining Roberts & Roberts, Justin served as an attorney in all three branches of Texas’s state government, including as a Briefing Attorney on the Texas Supreme Court. He also represented electric and natural gas utilities in complex regulatory proceedings before the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Railroad Commission of Texas. Justin is a published author in the St. Mary’s Law Journal.