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Large trucking companies applaud move away from paper log books

01.22.16 | John D. Schulz, Logistics Management

The federal government’s mandate to require electronic logging devices (ELDs) in all interstate commercial trucks by late 2017 is being hailed as a boon for safety as well as a potential gain in efficiency for fleets seeking to squeeze every hour of available workers in an increasingly tighter regulatory environment.
 
“It simply makes us safer as an industry,” Chuck Hammel, president of Pittsburgh-based Pitt Ohio, the nation’s 17th-largest LTL carrier, said. Pitt Ohio operates 813 tractors and nearly 400 straight trucks in its LTL fleet.

Hammel explained the upfront purchase and installation costs of an ELD unit results in about a 7 to 10 percent loss in productivity. “But once you get up to speed and learn what you can and cannot do, the productivity loss falls to about 3 to 4 percent,” he said.
 
But over time, Hammel and other trucking leaders see productivity gains as a result of ELDs. That’s because it gives shrewd operators better visibility of their fleets and drivers and allows for the most efficient use of both tractor use and manpower.
 
“First and foremost, it gives you visibility as to when the driver is moving or sitting and exactly how many hours he or she has left to drive,” Hammel explained. “This is critical information to have when scheduling pickups. With paper logs, it is much more difficult to know.”

Noel Perry, partner and senior economist at FTR consulting, said the biggest effects of the change will occur in 2018, right when several other big changes will also be happening, most notably the requirements for speed limiters.
 
As a result of what Perry called “this regulatory drag,” the negative effects of regulatory change on driver supply will peak in 2018, at roughly twice the levels ever experienced so far.  Because many fleets already have installed these devices, FTR is predicting a slow increase in regulatory drag leading up to the deadline.

But Perry predicts that by the early 2020s, ELDS will actually benefit productivity because of information improvement processes between dispatchers and drivers.  But he still is predicting capacity problems for trucking customers in 2018. 
 
Perry said he is more concerned about tighter regulations in the refrigerated transport market. FMCSA recently published for comment its new regulations as required by Congress.  Perry said the result of this new reefer rule will “certainly curtail” reefer capacity as these regulations become official sometime over the next two years.

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