In December, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate took effect and carriers everywhere are working toward compliance. This rule helps save time by reducing paperwork, keeping dispatch up to date on driver statuses and allows for a better calculation of hours of service among drivers. But it’s not just trucks that are being impacted by the mandate, as containers loading and unloading are dependent on drivers; intermodal capacity is also affected.
In markets like Chicago, rough winter weather, highway closures and unseasonably high off-peak cargo volumes work in tandem with the ELD mandate to create a capacity crisis that overseas shippers aren’t exactly sympathetic toward. The ELD mandate is a United States issue, and as rates continue to climb up 7-10% in some regions, the long term pricing contracts that started last year are unyielding to trucking issues.
US port volumes are steadily rising as more imports arrive on our coasts to be unloaded and sent to distribution centers around the country, especially in areas like the Southeast US. As larger vessels call the ports, more containers need to be moved to destinations that are longer distances than those on the west coast or north east, and without the drivers ability to return to the ports on the same day, capacity plummets. These trips were once a single day shot at 600-800 miles round trip, but with the ELD’s rules, an average trip only covers about 550 miles.
It stands to reason that as the adjustment period pains the supply chain, some companies are looking to cut corners, often by using sprinter vans and other smaller trucks that are immune to the mandate. Unfortunately these bandages aren’t feasible for large, heavy or container cargo and innovation will need to step in and further level the playing field. As the number of truck drivers have dwindled in the last decade, the experimentation with driverless trucks has taken off to a point we rarely go a month without a new article about the innovations being made to offset a lack of drivers and a climbing cost for transportation. The once far fetched notion of a freeway filled with automated trucks that finish up at a highway truck point so live local drivers can complete the city and final mile drives to the destination may not be so far off.
We live in increasingly interesting times and as drones, automated vehicles and ships become more commonplace, there seems no limit to what the future holds and the speed with which it arrives to our industry.