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The ELD Mandate: The Hard Truth for Professional Drivers

There was a day when prospective drivers would call us and hang-up once they found out that we were 100% on ELDs, and had been since 2014. Those days are long behind us. Despite last minute attempts to thwart the ELD mandate, most people have accepted that ELDs are moving forward. Even ELDs are delayed, which is unlikely, many people agree that their implementation is inevitable. 

To speak about the hard truth of ELDs and how they impact professional Drivers, I sat down with Marius, a Company Driver and In-cab Instructor, and Rob Penner, our President & CEO, and previous Driver right here at Bison.


Wistia video thumbnail - ELD Mandate - The Hard Truth for Drivers

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Note: As of filming this, the ELD Mandate was only 139 days away

Here are some highlights from the video:

Lionel: Rob, in your first blog post about ELDs you spoke about whether ELDs were pesky compliance tools or efficiency producing tools. Could you explain a little bit more about that and how we view ELDs?

Rob: So for any of our Drivers who've been here for less than 25 years, they all have always experienced Bison as a compliant fleet. So we've been very focused on our service and compliance for a long, long time. For us, ELDs are not a tool to ensure compliance, they are actually an efficiency tool for our Driver. As far as avoiding the paperwork, it's pretty straightforward to record their time. And for us, it gives us better visibility as to the Driver's time. So our intent is to leverage that tool to make sure that Drivers can be as productive as they possibly can while they're out on the road.

Lionel: There are companies right now that are just moving on to ELDs, and believe it or not, there are carriers that haven't even started the journey to ELDs, yet it is only 139 days away. Why did Bison make the move to ELDs in 2014?

Rob: It's always best to do things at your own pace and with your goals in mind, rather than being under the gun by new government regulations. We saw this is an opportunity for our professional Drivers to continue to improve their safety, lifestyles and income. 

As an industry, it's a big brother mindset. But we've had a close watch over compliance for many, many years to protect our Drivers and their livelihoods as well as ourselves. So for us, it's not about compliance - it's the absolute opportunity to be better.

In our opinion, for those that see ELDs as a compliance tool they have missed the point. We knew early on the ELD mandate was coming and saw it as the right thing to do for our professional Drivers, our business, and the industry. Plus, I go back to the more we see, the better off we are as far as being better at what we do. And our job is to service our customers with the resources we have. The most critical resources are Drivers and to make the best use of our Drivers' time is our objective. So we didn't see this as a compliance challenge at all.

Lionel: Marius, you have been a professional Driver at Bison since 2010, when did you first start using ELDs and what was your experience?

Marius: It was a relief, to be honest. You always have to take the paper log and you need to find out where you are exactly, put the right information in there to avoid any violations. Right now, using ELDs is just so easy. You just hit the button, and its done! It's exactly the location where you are, and you don't have to worry just about all those violations that can be there for you. You just avoid them. It's just so easy. And to be honest, if you ask me if I want to go to go back to papers logs, the answer is no! It is so simple, so easy, and in my perspective, it's nothing to be afraid of.

Lionel: Marius, do you notice the difference between drivers that have many years of experience like yourself compared to new drivers?

Marius: More experienced drivers are often afraid because they are used to paper logs, and you're often afraid of something new. Just like every time you see something new, you're afraid. In that case, you don't have to be afraid. It's just so, so simple, so easy. And like you mentioned before, in our company, we've had ELDs for a long time and we're pretty much already there with the ELDs, right?

Lionel: So Rob, the ELD mandate is coming up very soon, 139 days away. So if there are any drivers out there right now and the carrier they're driving with either has just started the ELD process or hasn't even started the process, what thoughts or advice would you have for those folks?

Rob: Well, I'll go back to Marius' answer. Paper log gives the driver the ability to have discretionary use of their time, and their fear of electronic logs is that their discretion goes away, certainly on the 14-hour window. So the cautious use or discretionary use of time is an effort to conserve time, but that is really just to make up for inefficient planning. It's all it is. And so for us, our focus is on efficiency and maximizing our opportunities to earn for our Drivers and for ourselves.

So if a driver is not on ELDs yet and their company hasn't prepared for ELDs as of this moment, be ready for a rough start because there is a lot of work coordinating, planning, and operations, and the driver, and the driver's needs, and abilities, really. So you really have to relearn how to plan. You have to get really good at planning because the driver is not going to give up the way which they are accustomed to.

Really, we look at it to say if you're used to earning or running 3000 miles a week and you're on paper logs and you've had the ability to be discretionary with your logging of time, once that goes away, there will be a penalty and attacks. So the carrier has to be prepared to pay the driver more to do less. Or the driver has to accept doing less until the carrier is really, really good at putting it all together. I lived through our experience here at Bison where we didn't really care about hours of service, we cared about maximum productivity. And it took us a long time to transition to not punishing the driver. And so, that's something that drivers need to be aware of. And if you are going to be a driver, and this is a great industry, you have an ability to earn a good living and it's a great career and respect is up for commercial drivers. So if you're gonna be in this industry, make a commitment to being in this industry, you should be pushing your fleet to be at the front edge of that and get your experience before it's too late.

Rob: Well, for us, the technology has been there for a long time, and we continue to work hard in the public eye and in the eyes of government to raise the image of a professional driver and also raise the qualifications of professional drivers. And this is just one of those tools. We can't say we're professionals and then want to create our own rules and boundaries. The roads are so different than they were 20 years ago. The congestion and poorly maintained roads are in and of itself a challenge for our Drivers. We share the roads, we don't own the roads. And if we're going to share the roads, we want to be responsible, and we want to be leaders. We shouldn't be fighting things like this.

ELDs contribute to road safety, efficiency, and they do contribute to a better industry. We're looking forward to getting this D-day behind us, and having the industry play in a level playing field. This mandate actually makes better jobs for professional drivers so that more people want to enter this industry. There will be professional drivers here for a long, long time to come and we're looking forward to it.

Lionel: That's a great point, Rob. This will definitely make it a lot more desirable for people to come into the industry when they know that they're going to be following the rules of the road and the law and that they will be used efficiently and be able to maximize their miles.

As much as many people love to complain, we recognize that change is hard. The hard truth about ELDs for professional drivers is this: ELDs improve safety and increase driver earning opportunities and Bison has proven this to be the case. 

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COMMENT BELOW: What are your thoughts on ELDs and what will their impact be on our industry? 

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