Flexibility Crunch?

Driver Shortage

Information about the driver shortage and reverberations from the April 1 hard enforcement of the ELD rule continues to dominate the news cycle in logistics. In May, Heather Long at the Washington Post talked to truck drivers and found that while there are a few who make close to $100,000 a year, most drivers report making around $50,000. There’s more than enough dissatisfaction with the profession to go around.

The life of a truck driver is, by anyone’s definition, a hard one. Low pay, long, physical hours on the job, and lack of respect from other drivers and enforcement officials compete with limited family time, scant access to healthy food options, and disrupted sleep habits for the number one reason to pass up a truck driving job.

 

ELD Mandate

Let’s add to the above list, the way drivers are paid. Historically, carriers have calculated costs and paid drivers by the mile; at the same time, shippers have requested rates by the mile. The new ELD rule complicates this by enforcing Hours of Service (HOS) rules that narrow a driver’s earning potential. As Jason Doris explains the problem on the AMT blog, “The federal government didn’t get the memo because they’ve created driving regulations based on hours not miles. Simply put–miles is the standard for the workforce and hours is the standard for regulation.”

 

ELD Mandate + Driver Shortage = Flexibility Crunch

Here at AMT, we are constantly looking for ways to boost productivity and create the most cost-effective solutions for our customers. It’s part of our first-principles way of attacking problems. That’s why we’re studying the effects of the ELD mandate on the driver shortage.

In a recent article, our friends over at Freightwaves take a long look at how the ELD mandate is affecting the driver crunch. They’re calling this a “flexibility crunch,” and they make some good points we’d like to pass along to our customers.

So what exactly is a “flexibility crunch?” Dean Croke explains, “The flexibility crunch arises in part because drivers no longer have the flexibility to go off-duty at docks because the ELD Mandate now requires drivers to record dock time as on-duty despite the fact most don’t get paid for it. Prior to the ELD Mandate, drivers would simply go off-duty, rest in their trucks and catch up on some sleep while their truck is being loaded or unloaded.”

In other words, before the mandate, drivers had the flexibility to put their work day together in a way that allowed them to rest when they needed. Croke likens the electonic component of tracking driver’s hours to an ankle bracelet. It’s a pretty good analogy as drivers now have to account for every minute of work time. Once that clock starts, it doesn’t stop.

While the regulations behind the ELD Mandate strive to make the roads safer, regulating hours worked might be contributing to drivers getting less sleep. After all, drivers, like all human beings, are individuals with unique sleep habits. To force drivers to abide by a one-size-fits-all sleep routine is problematic.

 

Solutions

Croke offers a few solutions to the inflexibility created by the new mandate. If we increase driver pay and perhaps rethink the way drivers are paid in terms of hours worked versus miles driven, we go a long way in our efforts to recruit and keep the best. In addition to that, the industry should consider reworking the mandate, implementing  performance-based regulations that reward good drivers instead of playing to the bottom of the pack. Finally, regulating sleep hours rather than work hours could boost drivers’ productivity and happiness on the job–keeping drivers and the roads safer for everyone.

As always, we believe the best way for shippers to achieve capacity is to partner with a innovative and forward-thinking 3PL like AM Transport Services. We help customers deliver products on-time with consistent, reliable service. Every day.

 

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