In December 2017, the federal government implemented new requirements for all U.S. trucks to install electronic logging devices (ELDs) in an attempt to keep drivers in compliance with mandated limits on daily work hours.

Trucking companies were given two years to make the switch from their own automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) to the new ELDs. As the final deadline passed on December 16, 2019, many trucking companies still scrambled to make the switch in time, raising concerns that some may face challenges meeting quotas in the New Year.

The two-year compliance window was provided because making the switch is a complex process, and much of the software required to operate the ELDs wasn’t even ready at the time the new law took effect. Most fleets have since switched to ELDs, but companies that have put off the switch faced a hard deadline, which may make it difficult for them to compete.

Functional and Training Challenges

One might assume that switching from one logging device to another is a relatively simple task. However, the new ELDs provide a much larger amount of data on the driver’s activity than the older AOBRDs, which means administrators and safety compliance departments have more information to sift through on a day-to-day basis. In addition, the difference in flexibility with how work hours are logged could have dramatic effects on productivity. For instance, the ELDs automatically clock the driver as “on-duty” when the truck reaches a speed of 5 mph. If a driver accidentally reaches this speed on his way to a loading dock to receive that morning’s cargo, he could lose 2-3 hours of drive time against his 11-hour drive-time limit.

Of course, most of these issues can be ironed out with proper training, but there’s always a learning curve, and it takes time to work out the bugs when learning a new system. With the deadline having passed, trucking companies that have procrastinated to the last minute may find their drivers losing valuable productivity during the busiest time of year.

Drivers May Bear the Biggest Burden

Despite the deadline being here, it’s unlikely that customers will experience any major delays in cargo deliveries from companies struggling to comply. Individual companies may experience some productivity lapses, but ultimately it may be the untrained drivers who feel the most pressure. As the limits kick into place, the lost productivity may ultimately affect their “down time,” the amount of free hours they have to rest between shifts.

A Bump in the Road

Regardless of the short-term logistical concerns in switching to ELD—not to mention the ongoing complaints of drivers who can no longer “adjust” their log sheets—the industry is expected to adapt to the new technology in the long term, and proponents hope it will make the roads safer overall. Some companies are even exploring ways that the new ELD systems can help them increase their profits. Nevertheless, the December 16 deadline is firm, and companies that run non-compliant trucks after that deadline face minimum fines of $1,000 all the way to $10,000 or more.