The ELD Doesn't Drive Your Truck

February 11th, 2020

We have all heard the problems and the complaints that the ELD Mandate has brought upon the trucking industry. Though some of these complaints are valid, we have also heard complaints that seem to be more of a driver problem rather than an ELD problem. A lot of these complaints stem from the idea that the ELD forces drivers to drive a certain way.

At Team Run Smart, we want to show drivers that they’re in control of their truck, not the ELD. If they are having problems, it’s probably not because of the ELD. More than likely, it means they had problems with paper logs and weren’t compliant to begin with. This is because even with the ELD Mandate, the hours of service (HOS) rules haven’t changed.

In this article, we are going to dispel some of the common myths about ELDs, go over some of the benefits that have come from ELDs, and end with our biggest problem with ELDs. 

Common Myths About the ELD

“The ELD makes me feel pressured to drive beyond my ability”

For new drivers, it makes sense to feel some pressure from the ELD and the HOS rules in general. However, if you have been following the HOS rules for a while, you shouldn’t feel too much pressure just because you now have an ELD. Through experience, you should know how to properly plan your trip and make it to where you need to go on time, most of the time. If you are consistently running out of time and are feeling like you need to drive beyond your ability, this is probably due to lack of experience in being compliant with the HOS rules and not the ELD.

A little piece of advice when it comes to trip planning is to not wait until the last half hour to take your break. It seems like that’s when you always run into the most problems.  

“The ELD makes me speed”

Similar to the idea that the ELD makes you speed, we have also heard “The ELD is attached to my fuel pedal”. Once again, the idea that the ELD makes you speed likely comes from a lack of experience in being compliant rather than the ELD itself. We understand that there are things that are out of your control, but with experience, we hope that you eventually get used to the HOS rules and are able to prepare for situations with dispatch, shippers, brokers, traffic, weather, etc. that might cause you to be close to running out of time on your ELD.

“If I run out of time, the ELD will shut me down in the middle of the highway”

If something happens that is out of your control, and you go over your hours of service, the ELD is not going to stop your truck in the middle of the highway. These types of situations are going to happen to everybody and all you can do if something like this happens is be honest. If you are in violation of your hours of service, use annotations on duty statuses and status changes to explain the situation. In many of these scenarios, the officer will be lenient towards your situation. Just don’t make it a habit and you shouldn’t run into severe issues when it comes to going a little bit over your time.

“The ELD makes the parking situation worse”

The Pros here at Team Run Smart actually feel that the ELD Mandate has made the parking situation better. This is because the days of everybody driving from the early morning to the late afternoon are pretty much over. Since the Mandate, trucks have become spread out because of the natural rhythm of trucks being loaded and unloaded at different times. So instead of leaving when they want and covering up any downtime on their paper logs, they are leaving when they need to. This means some people are leaving earlier in the day and ending earlier, or leaving later in the day and ending later. It all depends on when they actually need to leave rather than when they want to.

Benefits of the ELD

We have all heard about the problems the ELD has created but is the ELD entirely bad? Here are a few of the benefits that have actually been created by the ELD Mandate.

The ELD Mandate didn’t necessarily create an even playing field, it created a playing field in general. With paper logs, there was no playing field. This is because there was no limit on what drivers could do to get around the HOS rules. Running multiple paper logbooks was like being in a car race with a bigger engine than everybody else. In an industry like trucking, it’s important to have rules and standards in order to create fair competition and ensure the safety of its drivers. Overall, the ELD Mandate helped get rid of many areas that people could take advantage of and cheat.

Also, with the ELD Mandate, problems that were swept under the rug are no longer able to be ignored. Now that there is a standard for tracking HOS, it’s easier to come up with solutions for things like weather, parking, detention, etc. because everybody is truly operating under the same rules. For example, the ELD Mandate brought to the surface who the problem shippers and receivers were. The good customers are now aware of the ELD and have become more accommodating. For example, some customers have now opened up overnight parking. If you are dealing with a bad customer, you can go to them, show them how much time you have left, and tell them if they don’t get started that you will have to leave. If that doesn’t work for your customer or carrier, you can no longer be pressured to make a violation because the ELD is tracking your time and you have no way to break the rules. This is just one of the problems that the ELD has helped clean up.

A few other benefits of the ELD are:

You now may have more time available at the end of your 70 hours. This is because all of your time is being kept with 100% accuracy, so you aren’t having to round up and lose minutes. For example, it used to be common to round 7-8 minutes of fueling up to 15 minutes.
The ELD has also made inspections easier. Now officers just need to check the ELD without having to go through all of the paper logs.
Lastly, if you didn’t know how to keep a logbook or didn’t want to spend time doing it, the ELD now does it for you. 

Our Biggest Problem With the ELD

The ELD Mandate has allowed the trucking industry to get really close to tracking everybody’s time accurately. However, the ELD didn’t eliminate cheating the HOS, it just made the window of opportunity to fluff the books smaller. This is because of the distinction between what is considered on duty and what is considered off duty. If everybody put themselves in on-duty status for every scenario the FMCSA says you should be on duty for, nobody would actually have any time to drive. This is because there aren't a lot of things that truck drivers can do to actually be considered off duty. For example, some drivers may back into the dock and wait to go on duty once they are loaded up, even though this should all be considered on-duty time. Because of this, the ELD has led to less “cheating” but technically hasn’t cleared it up completely.

The bottom line: the ELD isn’t going away. Instead of complaining about things that are out of your control, make an effort to figure out how you can better manage your time on the road. This will hopefully lead to more success and less frustration overall.