ELD’s and The Fudge Factor

When I started my first dispatch job in the early 1980’s, one of the first things I learned was the subtle art of not talking directly about Hours of Service. Back then we relied on tacographs to track driving hours and speed – long after the fact. You’d never ask a driver directly if he had enough hours left to make the delivery. Instead, you’d simply ask, “Can you make it by 4?”. It was always the driver’s call. Tacographs were rarely reviewed against logbooks, or timesheets.

On my second day, I spotted some graffiti on the wall of the drivers’ washroom: “Here I sit with a broken heart – took 3 bennies, and my truck won’t start”. The sad reality was that drug use was not uncommon, and some drivers simply weren’t disciplined enough to manage their own driving time legally or safely.

When Hours of Service enforcement was stepped up in the late 80’s, some drivers juggled two and sometimes three logbooks to extend their driving hours past the then outrageous 16-hour limit.

We did our best to keep reins on the drivers’ hours, but a lot of companies ran on ‘willful ignorance’. In the last 10 years or so, as a consultant, I still see many instances of ‘The Fudge Factor’.

The Fudge Factor is the stretching of driving/on-duty hours through adjustments in the paper log book. Both dispatchers and customers don’t want to hear that a driver who’s an hour away from the delivery has to stop and break for eight or 10 hours. Some drivers will park, others will fudge the logbook.

ELD’s will thankfully bring an end to ‘The Fudge Factor’. There’ll no longer be any way to cheat, without lighting up the monitoring software back at the office. The implications, I believe, will be more profound than many people think:

  • Some dispatchers will live in ‘ETA Hell’, trying desperately to ensure load/unload times are going to be met, by drivers who can no longer help them out.
  • Drivers who squeezed in a few extra hours/miles a day will not be able to make that money anymore. That may negatively impact the already severe driver shortage.
  • Shipper/Receiver/Customer expectations will have to be revised.
  • There will now be a level(er) playing field between trucking competitors.
  • Overall fleet utilization will probably suffer. Freight rates may creep up.

In some businesses, ELD’s will have little impact other than providing powerful management tools. In others, it will be the end to HOS ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. Real drivers’ hours will come out of the closet.

ELD’s should make the roads safer. They’re just going to take some time to get used to.

Ron A.