ELDs are electronic logging devices that automatically record driving time for truck drivers. Shockingly, up until last year, truck drivers logged all of their hours by hand. Now, ELDs will log all driver hours digitally. This mandate has drastically increased the cost of goods for marketplaces who purchase from specific retail vendors. Why? Because truck drivers are no longer allowed to break the rules.
Breaking Federal Law Drove Costs Down
Before ELDs became the standard, some truck drivers were encouraged—even incentivized—to drive over federally allowed amounts. Some drivers would reportedly stay behind the wheel for up to 18 hours a day, stopping only to sleep for six hours. This amount of driving would result in drowsy truck drivers. However, if a drowsy driver managed to stay safe on the roads, they could deliver their cargo twice as fast—which would cut costs for market purchases. Economically speaking, drivers breaking the rules meant that there was a higher supply of goods, lowering costs of market goods.
Now that drivers can no longer break the law, more people will stay safe, but store managers are having to pay more for their products. Supply is down, therefore costs rise.
Boxes of produce from Mexico have cost stores twice as much to purchase than they have in the past thanks to ELDs. One store said that a haul of produce used to cost $2,400. That price has now shot up to $5,000. The store owner said that it averages out to $3 or $4 more a box, but somehow only adds 0.20 each to items like bananas and lettuce. The chain said that they are currently “eating” the bulk of the increased costs, but if the mandate continues to stay in effect, other grocery items may be marked up.
Safety a Priority Over Purchases
While the ELD mandate may continue to increase the costs of in-store goods, a 2014 study that inspected the use of the devices showed that there was a 12% reduction in total crash rates and a 5% reduction in preventable crash rates when trucks installed the technology. The study also proved that there were 53% fewer violations in regards to hours-of-service rules on ELD trucks.
Smaller companies are disagreeing with the potency of this study, saying that the data only reveals the impact of ELDs on larger commercial trucking companies. However, proponents of electronic logging devices believe that these statistics will trickle down to smaller companies as well. They say that a system working on a larger scale should also benefit smaller companies—just on a lower spectrum.
With test studies like the one above, the government may be hard pressed to listen to any complaints shoppers may have concerning the increase in the costs of their favorite products.
Safety vs. Cost Will Decide the Future
In the end, the arguments on both sides of the debate hinge on how safe ELDs will make roads, and if that safety is worth the extra cost of goods. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that the devices will eliminate 1,844 crashes, prevent 562 injuries, and save 26 lives annually. Is the general public willing to pay 0.20 more for lettuce and bananas to prevent 1,844 crashes? Will ELDs actually lower the number of annual truck crashes by 1,844? These questions will only get answered with time.