Produce prices may be increasing due to a new federal mandate requiring truck drivers to use electronic logging devices. While the regulation is meant to limit fatigued driving and reduce accidents, wholesalers claim the cost of produce coming from California, Arizona and Florida is being driven up because truckers won’t be covering as much distance or making the same number of runs as before, reports this week point out.
Some truckers are experiencing difficulties and delays as they switch from paper logbooks to the devices, which plug into a truck’s engine. Proponents argue the devices, which have been required for most truckers since Dec. 18, keep drivers more honest about their driving time and therefore make the highways safer.
But shipping delays can driving up the cost of produce, according to longtime Chicago produce wholesalers like Anthony Marano Co., and the price hikes eventually will be passed on to consumers, they say. The electronic devices hold drivers to strict compliance with hours-of-service regulations, which federal regulators and law enforcement officials now say are needed to prevent fatigued driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates the devices will eliminate 1,844 crashes, prevent 562 injuries and save 26 lives annually.
Some transportation managers say they’ve had to pay significantly more for produce, though issues such as a holiday surge in demand and high diesel prices also likely contributed.
Others in the industry are concerned that drivers who are delayed by the devices may end up driving faster, though they’re not speeding, just to make up lost ground and find safe parking before the end of their given driving time under federal hours-of-service rules. Thus, the rules for driving time haven’t changed — just the tool for measuring compliance.
Truckers can drive no more than 11 hours in a 14-hour timeframe, followed by at least 10 hours of mandatory rest, according to federal regulations.