With less than 12 weeks before the electronic logging device mandate takes effect, nearly 1 million truck drivers have yet to purchase an ELD.
“Our research shows the market is going to be pretty wild over the next three months because a lot of companies have put it off,” said Clem Driscoll, president of C.J. Driscoll & Associates, a consulting firm.
A survey by the firm found that 60 percent of the 250 for-hire and private fleets interviewed had yet to switch from paper logs to ELDs, or e-logs, Driscoll said. Of the 20 owner-operators, or independent truckers, surveyed, none had deployed an ELD device yet.
“We are hearing that there are up to a million trucks that still do not have a device currently,” said Chris Harlow, director of operations at Zed Connect Inc., a Los Angeles ELD provider.
There are 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S., according to the American Trucking Associations.
Companies that build the devices, which link to a semi-truck’s engine, capturing the movement and recording how much time a trucker spends behind the wheel, say they expect a sales rush over the last two months of this year. Federal law limits truckers to 11 hours of daily driving.
Federal regulators and large trucking groups have pushed for adoption of ELDs to prevent driver cheating on paper logs.
While enforcement of the mandate starts Dec. 18, truckers won’t immediately be put out of service or told to stop driving if they don’t comply with the deadline. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have established a grace period until April 1. However, drivers who don’t comply starting in December could still face fines or collect violation points in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability, or CSA, scoring program.
Regardless of driver and fleet preparation, there’s almost no chance the ELD mandate won’t start as planned in December, said Michael Baudendistel, an analyst at Stifel Financial Corp. He called truckers’ holding out hope for a delay as just “wishful thinking.”
ELD providers told Trucks.com they also believe the mandate won’t be scuttled even as objections to the rule by many drivers mount.
“Realistically, from an objective point of view, the odds of the mandate being delayed are slim to none,” said Barrett Young, director of marketing for KeepTruckin, a San Francisco-based ELD provider.
Congress has voted nearly five times against delaying the mandate, Young said.
Those not in compliance will be faced with picking from more than 100 FMCSA eligible devices while also learning how to use the ELDS during the busiest part of the year for many truckers – the holiday rush, the companies said.
The last-minute holdouts have played havoc on the supply forecasts of ELD providers, who are trying to ensure they have enough product available to handle a sales crush expected to hit in mid-November and continue into early next year.
There was “a lot of noise in the marketplace over the summer,” with attempts by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to delay the mandate, which caused slow summer sales for ELD providers, said Harlow of Zed Connect, a startup partially backed by diesel engine maker Cummins Inc.
Besides recording driving time, the devices must also retain the data and generate a file that can be reviewed by commercial vehicle inspectors during roadside inspections through web services, email, USB or Bluetooth. Drivers must be able to show their driving data from the current day, as well as the previous seven days. ELDs must be fully functional within one minute of the engine receiving power, according to FMCSA.
Drivers operating vehicles older than model year 2000 are exempt from running e-logs.
Some are suggesting truckers use a transitional technology known as Automatic On-Board Recording Devices, or AOBRDS, as a bridge to ELD compliance. It automatically collects a trucker’s driving hours and emails a report that law enforcement can review. If purchased before Dec. 18, truckers can use AOBRDS until Dec. 16, 2019, then they must switch to ELDs, said Fred Fakkema, vice president of compliance at Zonar Systems, a Seattle fleet management technology company.
“It’s a path many companies are choosing, especially because of the data file transfer portion of the ELD mandate,” Fakkema said. Not worrying about the file transfer part really puts the customer at ease.”
As the company ramps up production in preparation for those latecomers to start shopping for a device, it’s still hard to predict how many devices to produce.
“We’ve heard that approximately 16 percent of truckers say they are going to walk away from trucking when ELDs become mandatory,” Fakkema said. “Nobody seems to be in a panic about the mandate. They are like it is what it is, and if I get caught, I get caught.”