Everybody is talking about electronic logging devices (ELDs) and their impact on shipping and delivery, especially when it comes to perishables. Although the wiggle room enjoyed with manual logs may seem anachronistic in our digital world, it’s fair to question whether ELDs will really make shipping any safer.
In addition to frustrating commerce and the country’s access to fresh and affordable produce, it has been suggested that ELDs could make roads less safe by limiting a driver’s ability to use his or her own judgment to determine when a break is needed. It is also no surprise that enacting new regulation in a ruggedly independent industry like interstate trucking, and a time-sensitive industry such as fresh produce, has stirred up some raw feelings and good debate.
A Brief History of ELDs
For decades, truckers have used paper logbooks to track miles, fuel, hours on the road, and plenty of other details. It worked well for the most part; sure, spilled coffee could curl pages, and a lost logbook could mean a world of hurt, but the pages, pencils, or pens did the job.
As technology began playing a greater role in transportation, an electronic logbook was introduced in the mid-1980s. Primitive by today’s standards, the devices drew little attention.
But as technology improved, organizations including government agencies, advocacy groups, and larger carriers came to believe the device’s ability to accurately track service time for commercial trucks increased efficiency, standardized industry practices, and improved road safety.
Early regulation related to electronic monitoring came in 1988, mandating the performance and parameters of automatic on-board recording devices (AOBRDs). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) then attempted to solidify hours of service regulations with an ELD mandate in 2000. Many challenges were mounted in court and the issue was buried until July 2012 when President Barack Obama signed the MAP-21 Act, which included the mandatory adoption of ELDs.
At first, the rules weren’t meant to be universal; they were aimed at carriers who had repeated hours of service violations. But less than four years later, the current ELD mandate was put in place and the industry had a year to move from paper logs and AOBRDs to ELDs.
Bumps in the Road
Implementation of the ELD mandate has run into problems every step of the way, particularly in the produce industry. Veteran drivers with a lifetime of pen-and-paper logging were part of a culture that viewed the devices as Big Brother, making their jobs and lives more difficult. Many threatened to quit rather than acquiesce, but there is no evidence to support that such a mass exodus took place.