With the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate right out of the gate, its overall impact on the household goods moving industry is to be determined, and as Atlas Agents and Professional Van Operators (PVOs) adjust, opinions reside on both sides of the fence.
“We had a lot of ‘what if’ questions to figure out,” says Chris Meyer, Alexander’s Mobility Services (0214). “Our belief was that if we can put a plan together and get everyone on board, it would put us ahead of the competition. It could be a game changer if handled the right way.”
Increased Safety & Compliance
“A standardized process that documents Hours of Service (HOS) in real-time is a huge positive when you are trying to minimize risks,” says Chris.
The American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) agrees, while also recognizing that with any new regulation comes new challenges.
“Although AMSA is pursuing further reform to certain HOS regulations, such as the 14-hour duty time requirement, we believe modernizing record keeping through ELDs or other automatic onboard recording devices, or Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs), will enhance safety,” says Paul Milotte, AMSA’s Vice President of Government Relations.
From his experience on the road, Jacob Venable, PVO for Advance Relocation Systems (0059), shares a positive perspective.
“In the past, you could drive and take a break when you felt as though you need to,” says Jacob. “But now the computer will make sure you take an eight hour break before you are tired. I believe the system will benefit everyone by prohibiting a driver from driving when he is too tired to do so.”
Operations will see improvements as well, according to AMSA. Immediate access to HOS tracking will help dispatchers make more efficient and strategic planning decisions. From an advocacy standpoint, the robust data ELDs provide enable AMSA to better analyze and demonstrate how drivers are affected by other regulatory issues unique to the moving industry.
Putting an End to Rogue Operators
Rogue operators are companies or drivers that transport household goods illegally and notoriously hold victims’ personal items hostage in order to collect more money. Consumer awareness was essentially the only preventative strategy in place prior to ELD implementation, and Dalton Conklin, President of Advance Relocation Systems (0059), believes the regulation to be an effective solution that will ultimately result in more revenue for reputable moving companies.
AMSA attributes a learning curve to be a major cause for pushback. For tenured drivers, making the transition from paper to electronic logging requires new skills. In addition to the cost of training, carriers are required to absorb installation costs, which average roughly $495 per CMV annually, according to a 2014 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study.
Dalton foresees many drivers will have to adapt to new schedules as well, which he believes could exacerbate the issue of fatigued drivers on the road.
“Historically, drivers operated on a 24-hour day and most had a preference to drive during specific times of the day,” says Dalton. “There are many drivers that prefer to drive at night and others that prefer to drive during the day.
A driver that is trying to achieve the highest level of income will no longer be able to operate that way. Once a driver has available drive time after the required off-duty time, they will be forced to drive.”
Lack of Sufficient Parking
Although historically a major issue facing the industry, the shortage of legal truck parking has escalated to the fourth most important industry issue according to a 2016 study by the American Transportation Research Institute.
“Drivers can no longer ‘bend the rules’ and continue to drive to find a safe place to park. Many truckers are being forced to park on the side of the road, a very unsafe and, in many cases, illegal practice,” says Dalton.
Providing the same level of customer service under more rigid time constraints is a challenge Jacob
and several of his fellow drivers have worked together to overcome.
“Some customers don’t understand when we say we have to leave and cannot finish the job that day,” says Jacob.
He believes informing customers about the HOS limitations and building better awareness could help reduce the possibility of disgruntled customers.
Time will tell how the new regulation will impact the industry in its entirety. Aside from initial pain points, Chris is confident the mandate will render benefits in the long-run.
“There are a lot of positive things that can come from the mandate. It really boils down to how an individual manages and implements the change into how they operate,” says Chris.