Some of us believe that ELDs will be good for the industry. Many believe that they are a panacea and will solve all of the ills of the industry. The other end of the spectrum believes that they will drive experienced drivers from the industry. They seem to believe that ELDs will actually cause trucks to shut down, or that drivers will somehow be forced to drive recklessly. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The world won't be turned upside down.
ELDs are compliance tools. They are not evil. They do not take control of the truck. On the other hand shippers and consignees won't automatically grow a conscience and say “Oh you have an ELD, I will hurry up.”. The ELD is simply a recording device. Too many of us automatically confuse them with fleet management systems. Many ELDs, with larger carriers, will be an integral piece within the fleet management system. Smaller carriers, will tend towards self contained ELDs. A one truck owner operator does not have to send messages to some far away management team. That management team is sitting in the driver's seat.
ELDs can't fix stupid. One anti – ELD driver claimed that he was sideswiped by another trucker who was messing with his ELD. I have never seen an ELD that you can mess with while driving. In fairness, the other driver may have been working a messaging system, that contained an ELD. My management system does not allow me to interact with it while the truck is in motion. Devices are heading in that direction. I have seen truckers who appear to be texting while driving. I have seen maps, books, newspapers and other distractions spread across the wheel as they drive. And yes, I have seen more than one driver filling out a paper log as they drive down the highway. ELDs are limited. They can't fix stupid.
They record the same thing as a legal and accurate paper log. The truth is that we have been trending towards completely legal for decades. Gone are the days when the truck stop asked what date we wanted on our fuel tickets. It was not that long ago when we just had to match the date. Now, we have to match the time – the exact time. Engines are constantly recording data. Citizen band radios could not be tracked. Cell phones can. Even without ELDs the modern world has limited cheating, or at least increased the risk.
Logistics magazines are telling shippers to expect increased rates when the mandate hits. They are telling their subscribers that they will no longer be able to expect truckers to run illegally. That's good. Those who are still cheating aren't cheating as much as they used to, so they will only be marginally harmed by the mandate. The mandate will help truckers who currently are keeping a legal and accurate log, but not that much. The real change will come when truckers are paid for all of our on duty time.