Open deck trucking has undergone some significant changes over the last 18 months. Between implementation of the ELD mandate and increasingly higher demand brought on by the economic recovery, truck drivers have a lot on their plates. The last thing they need is for cargo control to get in the way of turning the wheels.
A driver hauling an open deck trailer doesn’t have the luxury of cargo being contained by four walls and a roof. Cargo has to be secured to the deck with a combination of chains, webbing straps, and other tools. Then it has to be covered with tarps. All of this influences a driver’s earning potential.
Cargo control has been part of the job since the earliest days of open-deck trucking. How it affects the driver’s ability to make money depends on a lot of different factors, according to Ohio-based Mytee Products. Everything from weather conditions to driver experience influences the amount of time and effort it takes to secure a load. This includes the ELD mandate and industry demand.
The Time Factor
When the government enacted the ELD mandate late 2017, it was all about making sure drivers complied with hours of service (HOS) rules. Federal regulations limit the total number of hours a truck driver can work in a given day. They also limit how much of that time can be spent driving. Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are used to enforce HOS.
The challenge for open-deck drivers is to minimize the time spent loading and securing cargo in order to maximize drive time. HOS rules are very rigid; they are not in any way flexible enough to account for traffic conditions, bad weather, or even shippers that keep drivers waiting for loads.
So how does all this influence cargo control? It puts a lot of pressure on truck drivers to make sure loads are secured and tarped as quickly as possible. A driver is not getting paid for loading and unloading time, making the HOS rules a double-edged sword. Time spent loading and securing is counted against the driver’s total allowable time for the day AND he or she is not getting paid for that time to boot.
Higher Demand for Flatbeds
Despite the ELD mandate and all that it implies, there is some good news for open-deck drivers and motor carriers. The good news is found in higher demand. Thanks to a surging economy, demand for flatbed services soared over the summer (2018), keeping drivers busier than they have been in a long time.
Increased demand is also strengthening the position of drivers and motor carriers. They now have the ability to go to shippers and, using the ELD mandate and HOS regulations as leverage, force them to get drivers loaded promptly. This is a tremendous help to drivers who can sometimes wait hours for a shipper to get its act together.
Shippers unable to load drivers quickly get bumped down the list in terms of priority. They quickly learn that if they want their freight moved on time, they have to be on time themselves. That is a big help to drivers looking to maximize the limited number of daily hours they have to work with.
Cargo control is a necessary part of open deck trucking. It is up to drivers and motor carriers to work around government regulations in order to maximize their freight hauling capabilities. It is up to shippers to keep up by making sure they keep to shipping schedules. That is the reality in the era of ELDs and higher demand.