From beer to Bobcat machinery, mandated electronic logging devices are affecting more than just the trucking industry. Area businesses that rely upon drivers for their operational supplies are experiencing delays, too.
Basin Electric subsidiary Dakota Gasification Co. is heavily reliant on trucks to get supplies to its Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah, according to Nathan Johson, senior logistics administrator.
But with the Federal Motor Carrier Association requiring ELDs for commercial drivers this year delivery times to DGC have doubled or tripled in some cases.
“Deliveries we used to get in one day are now taking three or four,” Johnson said, which, in turn, slows the plant’s operations.
While the ELDs don’t change the hours of service requirements drivers had to meet, they have affected how those hours are counted, according to Johnson, who said, previously, when drivers were being loaded or unloaded for a few hours, they would use that time to meet down time requirements. Now, the ELD just keeps running and drivers no longer have that option.
“It was already difficult to get shipments into North Dakota,” said Shannon McQuade-Ely of McQuade’s Distributing.
Particularly during the oil boom, there were a lot of trucks coming into the state but not a lot going back out, which results in delays and higher rates for freight.
While McQuade-Ely said she can’t point directly to ELDs as a cause — Department of Transportation physical requirements and the spread of recreational marijuana legalization making drivers ineligible are other things she’s noticed — she has seen an even greater difference since the mandate went into effect.
“It’s gotten really bad in the last six months to a year,” she said.
McQuade-Ely may be expecting a shipment on a Monday but not get it until a week later. She said often the beer trucks, many of which come out of Colorado, may be loaded but are just sit because there is no available driver.
“It’s a critical issue, and it’s getting worse,” she said.
And it has affected her end consumers that might have to sit without a certain product on their shelves for a while because she can’t get it there.
McQuade-Ely has also heard stories from other distributors in the state who run their own trucking having to stop a half hour from their warehouse and shuttle another trucker out because the previous driver ran out of hours.
Doosan Bobcat, as well as McQuade’s Distributing, both indicated that fewer drivers are on the road in an industry that was already declining.
“We’re shipping more product out, and it’s taking more time than in previous years to get our product to the coast,” Bobcat spokeswoman Stacey Breuer said.
The company often finds itself waiting on drivers to come pull their trailers. And costs have gone up, too, as demand has outweighed supply.
North Dakota's congressional delegation has sought some relief.
Both senators have signed on to the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act. While the legislation is mostly focused on those hauling livestock and bees and the unique problems they face, there is a provision that would help the industry at large, exempting loading and unloading times from the hours of service calculation of driving time and granting flexibility for drivers to rest at any point during a trip without counting against time.
Rep. Kevin Cramer also has given his support, signing onto the ELD Extension Act which would delay the ELD mandate by two years.