- The newly appointed administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Raymond Martinez, told the Truckload Carriers of America's Annual Convention he was "all ears" on ways to improve hours-of-service (HOS) compliance now that electronic logging device (ELD) data is coming in, Freight Waves reports.
- Data gleaned from the ELD mandate may reveal "other inefficiencies" in the industry, such as driver detention, Martinez told Freight Waves in an exclusive interview after his TCA speech.
- No specific changes are being planned at the moment, Martinez added, and any reform would take at least a year to implement so that it would avoid legal challenges. The new FMCSA chief said he is looking for ideas as he meets with industry stakeholders.
The statements — even if far from definitive — should be welcome news to shippers suffering from trucking capacity constraints. Martinez's interests suggest a regulatory shift may eventually help temper the capacity problems rooted in limited hours of service.
"The real underlying complaint that truckers have is the lack of flexibility to deal with unplanned events," Ken Evans, CEO of ELD-maker Konexial, told Supply Chain Dive when asked about the driver delay and detention problem. "Not being able to pause the 14-hour clock (once it is started) is a MAJOR complaint of the driver community. They feel like they should be able to stop and take a break when they are tired w/o the 14 hour clock continuing to run.”
For years now, such concerns have led the debate against mandatory ELDs, which remove drivers' ability to log hours as they see fit. Since the ELD mandate rolled out in December, the FMCSA has faced criticism for aggravating an already-existing trucking capacity crunch.
The capacity shortage, which is elevating freight prices and thinning margins across the board, is usually defined in demand and supply terms. The simplest explanation for the phenomenon is that a lack of drivers, combined with excess supply and poor pay inflation, have long created a structural imbalance in the industry.
However, carriers challenge the claim that the solution is purely on the supply side. Delays and detention can happen at various stages of the supply chain, and are often cast as one of the main demand-side inefficiencies aggravating the truck capacity shortage.
"Getting tired of hearing of the 'driver shortage' and how the only answer is more drivers," Bradley McWilliams, a Supply Chain Dive reader and the owner of M&m Oilfield Services, wrote in response to a story on the issue. "As a small fleet owner, we constantly have to deal with shippers and receivers taking hours to load/unload trucks. Of course shippers want more drivers and trucks, that doesn't cost them a dime to have extra trucks waiting."
"When a truck takes 8 hours to load, 6 hours to unload, for a trip that requires 6 hours of driving, then of course we're not going to have enough trucks," the reader continued. "As a fleet owner, I'm all for buying more trucks and hiring drivers when shippers can use the utilization numbers to justify it."
The FMCSA, now led by Martinez, has an opportunity to address the demand-side problems, thanks to new data gained by ELDs. With location-and-hour-tracking devices, device vendors can clearly analyze information on where congestion takes place, and who is responsible for the inefficiency.
"The short-term loss of inefficiency caused by adjusting to firm HOS rules is offset by the efficiency that is gained by shining a light on driver detention," Evans said. "With all of the assets and drivers visible through real-time data, Dynamic Load Matching can help reduce the 30-40 billion empty miles driven annually, helping carriers make more money."
With exact timestamps and location data, carriers may be able to charge shippers for "detention" excess of reasonable times, he said. "'No detention without compensation' needs to become the new operating business model."
Hopes of rapid change should be tempered, however. Regulatory reform is often as slow as legislation, especially when carriers, shippers and truckers are pitted against each other for costly new initiatives.
But if the doomsday predictions hold true when the ELD mandate becomes fully enforced in April, driver detention may come into the spotlight as the next natural solution to the capacity shortage.