From electronic logbooks to driver retention, 2015 was all about the men and women who sit behind the wheel. We’ve summed up some of this year’s most important issues in transportation. They represent the direction the industry is taking, one that embraces technology, safety and efficient to drive a more demanding economy.
Electronic Logging Devices
After many miles of red tape, speed bumps and false starts, the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate finally passed both houses of Congress. This year’s requirement to record all hours of service (HOS) on electronic devices was undoubtedly the hottest topic of conversation in trucking. ELDs help fleets run more efficiently by helping companies understand the ramifications of running different routes. They also signal a change in culture for fleets still running paper logs – managers should ensure that drivers understand the benefits ELDs provide both the trucking and administrative sides of the business.
Branching out of the ELD mandate is a constellation of changes in how fleet drivers work. One of the most pressing is truck parking. On paper logs, drivers could stretch their HOS while they look for a place to park and rest. ELDs eliminate the ability to stretch hours, requiring drivers and dispatchers to plan ahead for parking. Jason’s Law, passed in 2012, allocates $6 million to create more rest stops for truck drivers. While this is an important step in the right direction, there is still work to be done. The need for safe, easily accessible rest areas will be highlighted as more drivers are transitioned to ELDs.
The Economy Continues to Grow
In 2015, US consumers showed more confidence in the economy than in any other year since the end of the Great Recession (Hightower Agency). Consumer spending rose to 3.2% and layoffs were at the lowest level in decades (Marketwatch). While analysts project that the United States’ place as the world’s top economy will be challenged in the coming decades, there has been plenty of short-term progress to warrant optimism (U.S. News & World Report).
Driver Retention and Turnover
This improved economy is great news overall for the country but it does not solve the high driver turnover rate plaguing the transportation industry. There was some improvement – the 2015 driver turnover rate was 90%, down from 100% in 2014. How companies address the ELD mandate will have a large effect on driver retention. If drivers are made aware of how ELDs improve their job performance, they will be inclined to remain with their carrier.
Advances in Truck Technology
This year, self-driving vehicles moved further away from speculation and closer to reality. From Google’s Self-Driving Car Project to Daimler’s advances in self-driving trucks, the world of autonomous vehicles saw massive strides. Those who worried that drivers would be forced out of a job were reassured. Self-driving vehicles will require a driver with a commercial driver license sit behind the wheel. Fleets of commercial vehicles commanding the road are still years away, but jobs in transportation will increase because of them.
With a bevy of technology advances, transportation is one of the country’s most exciting industries. This year saw a fascinating meeting of old and new with the ELD mandate and self-driving vehicles. Change is inevitable – but change doesn’t have to mean culture is abandoned. Even as transportation figures out how to assimilate new platforms, it will keep the aspects that inspire the people who work in trucks, warehouses, and dispatch offices around the country.
Happy New Year!