WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia — ‘Not enough’ is a common phrase in the trucking industry. Not enough drivers. Not enough pay. Electronic logging devices (ELDs) have added a new one: not enough minutes.
It’s true that the hours-of-service regulations didn't change. Not enough minutes is a byproduct of the digitization of time. Paper logs are out, electronics are in. Small carriers, many waiting until the last minute to switch, can't get as much done in a workday than before. One extra hour to finish that final delivery and find parking was fudged on a paper log but not anymore.
Shorthauls have not changed because there is an ELD exemption on hauls less than 100 air miles for drivers owning a commercial license. The Honest Operators Undertaking Road Safety Act introduced in Congress earlier this month would increase the exemption to 150 air miles. Cross-country longhauls on team trucks haven’t changed because one person drives and the other rests. But deliveries of “tweener” hauls — between one and two days or between two and three days — are slower due to ELDs. Based on data from 40 shippers, Zipline Logistics found transit times on lanes of 700 to 1,000 miles increased 10 percent after the ELD deadline and 16 percent on lanes of 450 to 550 miles.
Categories for which ELD lengthened trip times
Trips between 450 and 650 miles may now take two days, and 900 to 1,300 miles can stretch into a third day. Fleets say it’s difficult to shift these jobs to teams because the best money is freight traveling more than 1,500 miles.
This is an adjustment process for shippers and freight brokers. Large trucking companies have privately complained about brokers booking loads with small carriers claiming to complete two day hauls in one day, or three day hauls in two.
For example, Los Angeles to Dallas or Denver might be three days, not two. Dallas to Atlanta and Chicago to Philadelphia, about 750 miles, would be illegally run in a single workday but actually takes up to two days. For regional drayage, round trips from Los Angeles to Phoenix; Chicago to Green Bay, Wisconsin, or Detroit; and Savannah to northern Atlanta would be illegally completed in one day.
“A lot of the tweener lanes probably had a bigger impact than anybody expected in terms of truckload pricing,” said C.H. Robinson Worldwide CEO John Wiehoff, speaking at the SMC3 Connections conference.
There were business incentives to turn a blind eye to the practice.
Shippers would get deliveries faster and pay less. Small carriers would complete more jobs per year, thus more income. For brokers, no layover allowed them to offer a competitive rate with 15- to 18-percent margins. Large carriers were unhappy because they believed small carriers undercut the market for years.
Not all brokers, though, engaged in this practice; many did not.
Large carriers said it was common with large brokers unable to track thousands of agents including those still learning the fundamentals. It was also common with very small brokers seeking a foothold in the brokerage industry.
'Tweener lanes' or hauls
Wiehoff acknowledged these bad actors will be eliminated with precise measurements of time behind the wheel. But he also suggested many of these situations were unintentional.
“With a lot of those tweener lanes that were on the edge of whether or not they would be compliant, you’d book the load and nine out of 10 times you were compliant. It was the 10th time you’re stuck in the traffic and go over by 10 minutes. Is that cheating? This is just an evolution into the digital era of more precise measurements,” he said.
Borderline situations like Wiehoff described may not change, however, depending on how recent guidance from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on personal conveyance is enforced by roadside inspectors. If a driver needs an extra 30 minutes to find a safe parking spot, that is now permitted.
Larry Minor, associate administrator for policy at FMCSA, said the government understands it’s unsafe for a driver to park on the shoulder of the highway or in a dark spot. Personal conveyance can be used in those situations in which drivers run out of hours and need to find a location with proper lighting and adequate parking.
“They can make it known on their device that the person [for example] spent the last 10 miles trying to find a safe, convenient, practical location to park at the end of their workday,” Minor said. “We don’t want them to park in a high crime area where they can be robbed in the sleeper berth. We don’t want them to feel like they have to stop in a dangerous, isolated area.”
Brokers, however, cannot require drivers to do the impossible, like 750 miles in one day or 1,500 miles in two days. The FMCSA has also made it clear that brokers are prohibited from compelling drivers to violate their hours of service.
Contact Ari Ashe at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @ariashe_joc.