Manufacturers of electronic logging devices expect a sales surge at year-end as a December federal mandate approaches requiring truckers to use of the digital equipment to track how many hours they spend in the cab.
More than 50 percent of fleets with five or fewer trucks and independent truckers appear to be waiting for the Dec. 18 deadline before complying, said Tom Reader, director of ELD marketing for J.J. Keller, a trucking regulation compliance consulting firm.
This has left electronic logging device, or ELD, vendors guessing as to what their sales volumes might be over the next few months — and how much they will need to ramp up production — as some wait until the eleventh hour to buy.
“We absolutely are expecting a sales surge, predominately because we know there’s a lot of laggards still waiting to buy,” Sid Nair, Teletrac Navman’s senior director for transport and compliance in the U.S., told Trucks.com.
Nair is telling truckers and fleets to develop an ELD plan now and not wait until the deadline.
“Waiting until November or December is probably the worst time to make a decision because it’s also truckers’ busiest time too,” Nair said.
The devices sell for $500 to $700 depending on the manufacturer. Equipping the industry with ELDs is expected to cost about $2 billion, according to a congressional report.
ELD providers said owner-operators and small fleets are the wild cards going into the final sales push prior to the December deadline. Most large fleets have already adopted the technology.
“I suspect there’s going to be a lot of vendors turning away prospects at the last minute, but we are ready to serve our customers looking for an ELD,” Gail Levario, vice president of strategy and marketing development for EROAD, told Trucks.com.
“We are encouraging everyone to adopt the technology now so we have a little time to help with the installation, the supply chain demand and the behavioral logistics of getting one of these devices in,” Levario said.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has pushed for electronic logging to prevent driver cheating on paper logs. The devices link to a semi-truck’s engine, capturing the movement of the truck and recording how much time a trucker is at the wheel. By law, drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving daily.
Truckers using Automatic On-Board Recording Devices, or AOBRDs, prior to the compliance date must transition to ELDs no later than Dec. 16, 2019.
There are roughly 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S.
The problem with waiting until the eleventh hour isn’t just about purchasing a device and making sure there is hardware available, it’s also about having the device installed as well as training drivers and dispatchers on how to use the new technology, said Deryk Powell, president of Velociti Inc., a technology deployment company headquartered in Riverside, Mo.
Powell warns that not every ELD on the market is going to be the right fit for a specific truck or model. Truckers need to figure out what will work before purchasing the device or risk not meeting the compliance date.
There are 87 different devices on the market.
“We’ve seen the bad side of this where some good-sized fleets, with more than 1,000 trucks, went with an unproven solution that didn’t work and they regretted it,” Powell told Trucks.com.
Velociti has about 300 mobile technicians that travel to its customers’ trucking yards to install ELDs. The company also provides support for the devices once they have been deployed.
“We remotely monitor the systems so that we can determine when they fail, and it allows us to be prepared instead of waiting for a driver to report a problem,” Powell said.
If an ELD malfunctions, truck operators have only eight days to repair or replace the device or they risk being ruled out-of-service by a commercial vehicle inspector and unable to drive.
Many truckers are already resistant to the concept of having an electronic tracking device installed in their cabs.
Some say they will quit long-haul trucking or switch to driving a local route that doesn’t require ELDs rather than comply with the mandate.
The level of driver retirements or switches to routes that don’t require monitoring via ELDs has created additional uncertainty for the manufacturers of the devices.
Some truckers remain hopeful that the ELD rule will be repealed or the deadline extended before the regulation’s enactment.
A push to delay the mandate for small-business truckers has gained some traction in Congress over the last month.
The ELD Implementation Extension Act of 2017 — introduced by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, in mid-July — would delay the ELD mandate for two years.
“If trucking companies want to continue implementing and using ELDs, they should go right ahead,” Babin said. “But for those who don’t want the burden, expense and uncertainly of putting one of these devices into every truck they own by the end of the year, we can and should offer relief.”
Babin’s bill was referred to the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
A recommendation by the House Committee on Appropriations that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study whether a “full or targeted delay” of the mandate is appropriate also is circulating on Capitol Hill.
The House report said the cost of equipping so many trucks with devices makes for “one of the most expensive of all transportation rulemakings advanced under the previous administration.”
The committee directed the FMCSA to review ELD manufacturers’ technology platforms “to confirm that devices not only meet standards and specifications necessary for all affected industries and fleet sizes to be compliant, but also provide a user interface that is reasonably easy to navigate.”
The House report also directed the agency to provide its ELD findings to the House and Senate committees on appropriations within 60 days of enactment of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, or THUD, funding bill for 2018.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has more than 150,000 members, supports congressional efforts to repeal or delay ELDs.
“While we still believe the ELD mandate should be outright repealed, FMCSA simply isn’t ready to implement this rule,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the drivers association.
The trade group exhausted its legal challenges to overturn the mandate when the Supreme Court refused to hear its case in June.
However, the American Trucking Associations opposes any effort to delay the mandate.
“ATA strongly supports FMCSA’s electronic logging device mandate, and urges Congress to not interfere in the agency’s efforts to improve safety by meeting this important regulatory deadline,” said Bill Sullivan, executive president of advocacy for the ATA.
The mandate was established by the FMCSA in 2015 after 10 years of regulatory inquiry, litigation and a congressional mandate in 2012.
ELD providers say they have been closely monitoring the political debates surrounding ELDs in the last few weeks.
“The FMCSA has gone through a number of iterations, congressional inquiries, scrutiny and has jumped through enough hoops, so it will be an uphill climb to have this mandate delayed before December,” Levario said.