2018: Year of the ELD

Mar 6 2019

ELDs ruled everything around us in 2018. The topic dominated our list of most-read stories, and the mandate was central to most of the trends that played out in the freight industry last year. 

But before 2018…there was 2017. And in 2017, there was plenty of speculation about what would happen in mandate’s aftermath. Here’s a look at what came true, and what didn’t.

"ELDs will lead to higher rates."

Spot market prices set record highs in June. The national average van rate hit $2.31 per mile. Reefers hit $2.70, and the national flatbed rate topped out at a whopping $2.82 per mile. 

For comparison, the average van rate for June of 2017 was $1.80.

Claim: TRUE


"Small carriers won’t be able to afford ELDs."

While it might’ve been true that the extra expense of ELD adoption pushed some carriers out of business, it wasn’t true for the vast majority of trucking companies. 

A DAT survey found that 91% of small carriers were compliant with the mandate before April 1, when law enforcement started handing out fines. Part of the explanation could be that ELD providers like KeepTruckin offered more affordable service than first expected and even offered to buy out contracts for more expensive ELD services.

Claim: FALSE


"There will be fewer trucks available."

This was correct, but maybe not for the reasons people expected. Spot market volumes set records in the first half of the year. Shippers and brokers had trouble securing capacity, and shipments that would’ve normally moved under contract fell into the spot market, so the truck shortages were because of the demand side rather than the supply side.

Claim: TRUE


"Carriers will quit the industry"

Four months before the ELD mandate, DAT surveyed 645 TruckersEdge customers, mostly small carriers and owner-operators. Thirty percent said that they would leave the industry rather than use an ELD.

Some carriers did leave, and others went out of business. But they were the exception rather than the rule. In fact, the number of active carriers grew at a faster pace after the mandate went into place, with high rates inspiring many company drivers and leased-on owner-operators to get their own motor carrier authority.

The freight markets have settled since then, and while 2019 should still be a strong year for trucking, it likely won’t match the growth we saw in 2018. Some of those who originally threatened to quit still may decide to leave the industry, just later than they thought.

Claim: FALSE (for now)


"ELDs will make roads less safe."

This one is harder to quantify, because the crash records from FMCSA or DOT aren’t available yet. But what we do know is that fatal crashes involving semi trucks had been trending up prior to 2018, even as traffic accidents overall have declined. In 2017, trucking fatalities hit a 29-year high.

Many in the industry cited HOS rules such as mandatory breaks as the cause for the 2017 spike -- drivers drove faster than they normally would in order to reach their destination before the break. An FMCSA study prior to the mandate claimed that e-logs lowered crash rates. But 79% of the 2,000 respondents to an OOIDA claimed that the mandate has decreased safety overall, with 75% saying they feel forced to drive faster.