Many of our readers will remember the dire predictions of massive computer failures that were to occur on January 1, 2000. The Y2K problem, as it was called, was expected to arise because most software at the time, represented a four digit year with only the last two digits. For example, the year 1999 would be represented by 99. This would make the year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900, 1800, etc. For at least two years prior to the new century, hundreds of articles were written about the horrific problems we could expect. On January 1, 2000, as we all sat around waiting for the world as we knew it to end, nothing happened. Most companies and organizations had upgraded their systems well ahead of the dreaded date, and problems were minimal.
For the trucking industry, December 18, 2017, was a minor Y2K.This was the long-awaited date when most motor carriers would be required to begin using electronic load devices (ELDs) rather than paper logs. Experts predicted productivity losses of 4-7%, and a number of industry analysts predicted minor chaos on Y12/18. As far as we can tell, December 18 came and went with a minimal impact on the industry. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, most of the major truckload carriers already use ELDs or similar devices called Automatic on Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs), and have for several years. Their learning curves and adjustments are long past. The biggest impact was expected to be on the smaller carriers and owner operators in the network. The latter group is suspected of often stretching their hours of service. ELDs of course, will make that impossible. This is important however, because smaller carriers actually haul the majority of truck freight in the country.
The date about which we should be concerned is April 1, 2018, the date on which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will begin enforcement. Although ELDs should have been installed by December 18, if a driver is caught without one between now and then, he or she will not be placed out of service. More importantly, this violation will not negatively affect the drivers’ CSA scores. So the predictions that drivers, particularly the older independents, would trade their trucks for campers and boats, rather than stand the ELD expense and constraints, are going to be delayed somewhat.
Business is good right now. Rates are high, truckers are busy, and everyone has a 90-day grace period during which to prepare for the enforcement date. April 1, 2018, then becomes the new kick off date for the expected difficulties. My guess is that the smart shippers and carriers will find a way to minimize the impact, just as they did for January 1, 2000.