Racing Clocks: How Good Intentions Plague An Industry of Independence

Racing The Close – The Unintended Impacts of HOS and ELD

Safety: Not So Simple

Recently, new light has been shown on the trucking industry and how it has been grappling with the unintended consequences of the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) in the years since their introduction. Initially implemented to enhance safety and reduce driver fatigue, these changes have left truck drivers feeling shackled and forced to race against the clock, ultimately compromising the flexibility and freedom that drives so many to a career on the road. This was further emphasized in a 2019 study led by Scott from the University of Tennessee. The study found that the ELD mandates actually worked in the opposite direction, resulting in an unintended increase in unsafe driving behavior, leading to little or no improvement in overall crash rates for small fleets and owner-operators.

Struggles of the Open Road

Being out on the open roads of this country, truck drivers often work in dynamic and uncontrolled environments, making their profession uniquely challenging at even it’s most basic level. Their battles with inconsistent sleep schedules are not well-studied and have forced regulators to instead rely on sleep studies conducted on factory workers.

Beyond sleep, some truck drivers are even exempted from overtime. This being due to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and specifically the Motor Carrier Act (MCA) exemption. This exemption applies to drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders, and mechanics whose duties affect the safety of operation of motor vehicles in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce. 

The exemption is frustrating for many truck drivers are who regularly face with unpaid waiting times at warehouses or even cruising for scarce parking spaces. Believe it or not, an American Trucking Associations study put an actual number on it, revealing that they spend nearly an hour each day just looking for parking. To take this perspective even further, according to research for an article we published earlier this year, there are roughly 1 parking space for every 11 drivers on the road.

The fact that truck drivers are not entitled to overtime pay essentially reduces the value of their time to a free commodity. Although they still legally receive at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked, it raises concerns about their compensation. It’s crucial to remember that this exemption applies specifically at the federal level, and individual states may have their own labor laws offering additional protections, including overtime pay, for truck drivers. This complex situation highlights the need for a closer examination of truck drivers’ working conditions and compensation.

ELD: The Best of Intentions

The introduction of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) was initially seen as a potential game-changer in the trucking industry. The idea was simple: by tracking drivers’ waiting time at customer warehouses, trucking companies could demand fair compensation for the time employees spent waiting to be loaded or unloaded. This, in turn, could have alleviated some financial pressures faced by truck drivers and created a more equitable working environment.

However, implementing these changes has been far more complex. If retailers and manufacturers were to start compensating trucking companies for drivers’ waiting time, the increased costs associated with this shift would likely be passed on to consumers. This could lead to a surge in the prices of goods and services across the board, impacting the economy and consumers’ spending habits.

On top of that, the pressure to maintain low costs and remain competitive may also prevent trucking companies from insisting on compensation for detention time. This would leave drivers in a difficult situation, still struggling with unpaid waiting hours and the resulting financial consequences of losing out on a good contract. As a result, the potential benefits of ELDs in reducing detention time and improving drivers’ working conditions have yet to be fully seen, and until then, the trucking industry continues to grapple with finding an optimal solution.

Taking A Different Toll

Truckers have long been an example when it comes to freedom, the profession has always emanated a certain sense of freedom. The introduction of the ELD mandate, however, has taken a toll on drivers’ sense of independence and job satisfaction. Although there is no definitive evidence that a significant number of skilled truck drivers have left the industry due to the ELD mandate, many have openly threatened to do so. This has led to a high turnover rate in the trucking industry, compelling companies to increase salaries to retain and attract drivers.

High turnover rates in the trucking industry pose a serious problem. Training new drivers after they receive their Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) takes several weeks and can potentially impact safety. This is a truly slippery slope, as it turns out that high turnover rates at trucking fleets negatively affect the company’s safety scores.

In light of the mounting list of challenges, the trucking industry continues attempting to strike a delicate balance between maintaining safety standards and addressing the unique challenges faced by truck drivers. Once this is accomplished, it will ensure a safe and sustainable environment for the future of the industry while respecting the needs and well-being of those who keep the wheels turning.

Before You Hit The Road…

We hope you enjoyed this week’s roundup of important trucker news! As always, we want to hear your thoughts and opinions on these stories, so be sure to leave your opinion in the comments below. Together we can stay informed and engaged. Don’t forget to check back next week for another edition of our weekly trucker news roundup.

If you made it to this part of the article, we’d just like to take a moment to thank you for taking the time to read it. Be safe out there and as always, If you’re in search of CDL A, B, or warehouse positions, check out our open positions. And if you need staffing solutions for commercial driving or industrial positions, be sure to explore our offerings.

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