The Effect of Electronic Logs on the Charter Bus Industry
From my perspective, as the owner of Cline Tours, the FMCSA mandate for electronic logs (ELD’s) will deeply and thoroughly affect our industry. Conversations at bus meetings over the past several years have been vague and conditional since the mandate had not been made official. It is now official and will start December 15, 2017, about 18 months from now.
Since we have been using ELD’s for over 30 months, we have been paving the way for other operators to learn from us. And we will be glad to share our experiences with legitimate charter bus companies. Only a handful of charter bus companies have been using them as they have not been required.
Here is what we have learned from our 30 months running ELD’s.
They are expensive. We spend about $30,000.00 per month for the hardware, software, cell time, training, management and support for our 175 logging units.
Drivers have a hard time with E logs, especially when they first start using them, if they are not fully computer literate. Things seem to improve over time. However, even with improvement over time, the support requirements are extensive and continuous.
These are the things that we have observed from our perspective as an operator. Over time, once our industry is fully involved in using ELD’s, here is what we see that will change our industry.
E logs are complicated and expensive. Operators who are not tech savvy will find they are very hard to master to the point where they can be used. The cost of buying and operating E logs will cause a number of operators to either get out of the business or try to run “under the radar”. Over time, cutting the number of operators will have an effect on available charter buses for customers to use.
With paper logs, cheating is fairly easy. Low price operators who cheat will go by the wayside if they cannot adapt. In any case, their cost of operating will increase which will also drive up prices.
Customers are going to have to comply with DOT regulations with regard to hours of service. This means creating itineraries and schedules that allow drivers to stay in compliance with all hours of service regulations.
So, what is the bottom line?
In our opinion, there will be fewer charter bus companies and charter buses for customers to choose from. And, they will be more expensive. Users will have to work hard on trip planning to get their trips compliant with all DOT regulations. It is going to mean reducing time at attractions, reducing the number of attractions and possibly making the trips longer and more expensive.