The analysis of these two issues find there is no correlation between ELDs and driver shortages. The industry has had an issue of driver shortages for years. As we see the driver pool aging with very few younger drivers entering the industry, this alone adds to the shortage problem.
The entry process into the industry is much different than it used to be and in addition to requiring a driver to get their CDL, most states now require driving school, as well. So instead of simply taking a written test, doing a drive test and they can start driving; new drivers have more hoops to jump through.
This makes it hard to get new drivers interested in trucking because in most cases they can’t afford the driving school cost. Even if they can afford driving school, insurance becomes the next hurdle they reach: insurance wants 2 years of experience, but where does one get that experience? The only place to go is with a company that is self-insured and those are usually large, mega-companies with hundreds, if not thousands, of drivers.
The specialty companies that are flatbed/stepdeck and RGN/DD and heavy haul can hire drivers with 2 years experience but do these drivers have the special training to do the kind of work that is required? These specialty companies must ask if they can afford to take the time and resources to train these drivers properly?
All of these factors contribute to the driver shortages; however, there is one more contributing factor on the opposite end of the discussion.
Despite what you may think, ELDs and the new mandate are not why the industry is struggling to get new drivers; it is why existing drivers are getting out.
In years past, especially before electronic communication, drivers could run multiple log books and they could adjust the current log book to look legal. This was the only way the driver could make money based on the miles he drove.
Now, with ELDs, the computer/electronic age has put a squeeze on the income potential of the driver. His 14-hour work day starts when the truck moves, so any delay, such as traffic, waiting to get unloaded/loaded, stops for fuel, mandatory 1/2 hour rest period, etc. means his clock continues to tick down, even if his mileage doesn’t increase. This is why drivers can’t make the money they once did and why they are leaving the industry.
So, one could argue that ELDs are contributing to the driver shortage, but it is hardly the main contributing factor. The truth is that while the trucking driver population is aging out or are too tired to continue trying to make an honest buck, new drivers and younger drivers are not moving into the industry to fill those gaps. How do we move forward as an industry?
One answer is to increase rates to shippers and customers to compensate for a driver’s inability to travel as far in a given time period. Another solution is for trucking companies and brokers to offer higher per mile pay to their drivers to help compensate.
There are lots of new ideas and new solutions coming to bear in this changing industry…but it does take an open mind and a willingness to look at those solutions and their potential.