Others only started in December when the ELD mandate was passed. Previously, they may have logged their hours by hand with paper logs.
What is the hours of service (HOS) law?
The ELD by its own merely logs how much a driver has been working. What gives the ELD mandate teeth is the hours of service (HOS) law.
Under HOS, truckers may drive a maximum of 11 hours in a consecutive on-duty window of 14 hours. After that, they must take 10 consecutive hours off-duty. They must also take a 30-minute break at some point in that 14-hour window.
This is to ensure drivers do not become exhausted and therefore more prone to accidents. In 2016, 4,440 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes.
What is the ELD mandate?
The HOS law has existed since the federal government first started regulating trucking in 1938. But, the only way to ensure that drivers were following HOS was to review their paper logs, which are easily fabricated. As a result, many truckers could lie about their hours and work more than legally allowed.
The ELD mandate required that most trucks implement logging devices by December 2017. This enforces the HOS law in an unprecedented manner.
The law is one of many provisions in a larger act passed by former President Barack Obama in 2012.
How does the ELD mandate affect consumers?
The US was short some 36,500 drivers in 2016, according to a 2017 report by the American Trucking Association (ATA).
The ongoing truck driver shortage became more pronounced in 2018 following the implementation of ELDs. The law "has drastically limited the flexibility drivers can build into their activity and tightened the constraints that diminish their operating efficiency," Andrew Lynch, the co-founder and president of Zipline Logistics, told Business Insider.
Shippers in general are pressed to find trucks to move their freight. In June 2018, there were 9.9 van loads to every available truck, compared to 5.6 in June 2017.
To bid for drivers, shippers have upped their freight rates to record highs. Trucking companies have increased wages to recruit more and take advantage of this booming time in the freight world.
For the end consumer, prices have gone up for many everyday products. Hormel Foods, which owns Skippy, Muscle Milk, and other food brands, General Mills, the owner of brands like Häagen-Dazs, and Betty Crocker, and Tyson Foods all said earlier this year that they raised some of their prices to offset high shipping costs.
When Amazon increased the price of a Prime membership in April, they attributed the soar of shipping costs in Q1: a 38% increase year-over-year.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle supported the mandate, along with large companies represented in the American Trucking Associations.
One key reason: Fatigued driving leads to car crashes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimated in 2014 that universally-mandated ELDs could prevent up to 1,714 crashes, 522 injuries, and 24 deaths each year.
The ELDs also allow trucking, a notoriously sluggish industry when it comes to technology, to benefit from data and insights that aren't available on a paper log.
For instance, the device allows drivers and their employers to track how long they've been waiting at a shipping dock, and ensure that the driver is paid for the time spent at the dock. (Right now, only 3% of drivers kept waiting at shipping docks said they usually received payment from the shipping companies.)
ELDs are likely to stay. But the leaders of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), which enforces the road laws, have pledged to overhaul the HOS law to be more accommodating to truck drivers.
"We're moving as quickly as possible to reform hours of service," FMCSA Chief Administrator Ray Martinez said at a recent public hearing.
The proposed changes include revising the expanding 14-hour workday in case of adverse driving conditions and eliminating the mandatory 30-minute break, which often prove redundant when drivers already spend hours of their time on "break" while waiting for freight.
These rules could ease some of the burdens of the unpopular ELD law, while ensuring roads are safe.
"A lot of drivers say they're against ELDs, but I think they're more against the HOS law than the ELDs themselves," Jason Poat, who owns a small trucking fleet in Wingo, Kentucky, told Business Insider.