Electronic logging device or ELD adoption rates are alarmingly low. This is a serious problem given that the FMCSA mandate deadline is just around the corner. The mandate goes into effect December 16, 2019, and non-exempt carriers have had more than 24-months to prepare for the end of the AOBRD grandfather clause. Let’s look at the data on the trend and the implications this has for the industry as a whole.
The Hard Data
An industry survey found that the number of companies that haven’t updated to electronic logging devices held steady at two percent though the final deadline for implementation is less than a month away. Super-regional carriers have done a little better. They report 99 percent compliance. Their compliance rates were 98 percent just two weeks before.
The adoption of ELDs was faster for owner-operators and small fleets. Yet the target audience for the technology was large carriers, the regional carriers that operate 50 to 100 trucks. Only 97 percent of these firms were compliant. That’s a sharp increase from the 93 percent compliance the prior month but well below what it needs to be. These firms seem to be putting off the adoption of electronic logging devices as long as possible. That is why a number of small carriers and owner-operators said they’d wait until the fourth quarter to upgrade.
The big firms that are the least likely to adopt ELDs seem to be doing so as a cost-saving measure. The problem is that the changeover to ELDs requires changing both hardware and software. This means firms can’t just change out hardware or update software and be done. They have to train people, too. You have to teach drivers how to use the new system and how to work around the new hours of service rules enforced by the ELD.
There are also reliability concerns. The adoption of electronic logging devices was slowed by a lack of customer support even though the new systems had hardware and software issues. Loss of connectivity can be enough to risk non-compliance. And firms don’t have these issues with AOBRD very often. ELD firms could improve adoption rates by using edge computing, reducing the time and signal strength required to send data to the cloud.
Industry experts think that there will be firms that delay implementation until after the deadline. Or they may not do anything until they are penalized by enforcement.
The Consequences for Non-Compliance
There has been a long, drawn-out period for transitioning to electronic logging devices from the traditional automatic onboard recording devices or AOBRDs. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration expects every truck to have an ELD in the cab as of December 16, 2019.
The government will eventually enforce the requirements and driving rules. Companies risk being fined if they are found to be in non-compliance during a back-office audit in the carrier’s office. Or they may be fined or ticketed by an officer who chooses to enforce the hours of service rule.
Ironically, it is the carriers that would be hardest hit by fines that are the slowest to adopt the technology. Small fleets running short fines have less margin than the supercarriers carrying a lot of loads cross-country. Many owner-operators will go out of business if hit with a high fine.