A new requirement from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that all fleet trucks implement Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) as of December 2017 has added challenges not only for the trucking industry, but for customers and suppliers across many other industries as well. How does this change affect the hardwood lumber industry?

What Are ELDs and Why Are They Required?

The American Transportation Research Institute’s annual industry issues report for 2017 lists the required implementation of ELDs as one of the most critical issues currently facing the trucking industry. ELDs replace the paper logs that most truckers have used to track their hours for decades; they automatically monitor duration of engine operation and mileage driven, among other information. 

Federal hours-of-service regulations require that drivers may drive no more than 11 hours a day and that they must have ten consecutive hours off between workdays, and ELDs are now required to ensure compliance with these rules. 

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What Challenges Does the ELD Requirement Present?

The replacement of paper logs with ELDs present some challenges for trucking companies and drivers, especially in the short-term.

Cost: Not only is the initial installation of ELDs expensive for fleets, but subscription requirements and upgrades contribute to ongoing maintenance costs.

Learning Curve: Learning how to operate new equipment while on the job can be a challenge for drivers.

Aging Workforce: The trucking industry is already dealing with a significant driver shortage, and there is concern that asking an aging workforce to use new technology may cause drivers to leave the industry. 

Longer Lead Times: With limits on daily driving hours more strictly enforced, deliveries are likely to take longer, especially during this adjustment period.

Productivity Loss: With ELDs, idling counts as time in service, so if drivers have to wait to unload or pick up, they’ll have less time to drive.

What Are the Advantages of ELDs?

Increased Driver Safety: ELDs create a safer work environment by ensuring drivers abide by hours-of-service regulations, helping them avoid fatigue and avoid accidents.

More Efficient Record Keeping: Drivers spend up to 20 hours a year maintaining a paper log. ELDs will save them time and reduce errors.

Improved Tracking: Eventually, dispatchers will be able to track shipments more accurately and provide more specific delivery times.

How is the ELD Requirement Affecting Lumber Shipments?

During this period of adjustment, hardwood lumber is moving more slowly while trucking companies across the industry adapt to the changes involved in the new ELD requirement. Low trucking availability continues to increase costs as well. Adjusting to any new regulation can be difficult, but in the long-term, ELDs should lead to improved safety and efficiency. Have patience this year as customers, suppliers, and truckers navigate this new landscape together.