Video: TCA Vice President of Government Affairs David Heller talks ELDs, autonomous vehicles

FreightWaves Founder and CEO Craig Fuller interviewed Truckload Carriers Association Vice President of Government Affairs David Heller about some of today’s most relevant issues facing the truckload industry during Heller’s recent visit to FreightWaves’ Chattanooga, Tennessee headquarters. The pair hit on everything from ELDs to autonomous vehicles.

Heller said ELDs have changed the face of the trucking industry, creating a reality in which drivers operate in a “true environment,” telling their stories with indisputable data.

In the several months since the ELD mandate took effect, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has already taken on issues like personal conveyance and opened up discussion on hours of service regulations. Heller believes that is just the beginning.

“[ELDs] show the compliance issues that affect drivers that are operating today, especially when it comes to things like detention time. We can better track that. We know where the issues are. We’re starting to outline the biggest bottlenecks,” he said. “These drivers are basically waiting in their trucks to move freight, and it is just not good for the industry. We have to get our drivers driving without a doubt, and ELDs are a step to providing the data to change the rules that will get those drivers driving.”

Heller anticipates that the data extracted from ELDs over the next few years will allow for efficiency increases across the industry that lead to significant improvements in driver experience and lifestyle.

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, Heller does not think drivers need to worry about losing their jobs any time soon.

“Most of these trucks do have a driver’s seat and do have a steering wheel. When you have those two things, there needs to be somebody who is going to sit there.” Heller said. “So, I think it is more of a question of, ‘What are we going to be calling them?’ In the airline industry, we call them pilots. In the railroad industry, we call them engineers. Does the title of professional truck driver change? That becomes the question.”  

While the semantics may change over time, Heller emphasized that there will always be a need for someone to be in the vehicle to take over the steering wheel and operate the truck if something goes wrong.

To hear more of Fuller’s and Heller’s conversation, including topics like twin 33-foot trailers to fuel tax increases, check out the video above.