Logistics Sector Preps for Logging Devices

By Patrick Lantrip, Memphis Daily News

While Memphis’ distribution and logistics sectors continued to prosper in 2016, legislative changes and proposed improvements to the infrastructure of Lamar Avenue were among the year’s top local headlines for the industry.

Around this time last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a new mandate requiring all commercial truckers to use electronic logging devices in an effort to ensure compliance with hours-of-service regulations designed to prevent fatigue.

Since the mandate requires compliance by the end of 2017, many companies spent this year preparing.

“We are definitely on the path with certain contractors already having ELDs today,” said Dunavant Global Logistics Group chief operating officer Richard McDuffie. “We’ll be finishing that up on the front half of next year.”

While the fate of other pieces of legislation that may impact the trucking industry – such as changes to reset rules and overtime pay – are still up in the air, McDuffie said electronic logging devices are here to stay.

The logging devices are expected to result in an annual net benefit of more than $1 billion by reducing the amount of required industry paperwork, and it’s also estimated they will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries resulting from crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles on an annual basis, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Daniel Davis, a Dunavant owner-operator based out of Savannah, Georgia, feels that the ELDs are great for the industry, even if a few details still need to be tweaked.

“I love electronic logs. They keep drivers honest and safe – that’s pretty much the bottom line,” Davis said. “However, I feel like there should be a little bit more of a safe haven with the electronic logs.”

For example, Davis said he feels drivers who are near the end of their route when their drive time is up should have a window of leniency instead of being required to stop where they are.

“Other than that, electronic logs are great,” he said. “They actually take a lot of paperwork off of the driver and off of the carrier.”

However, one of the biggest storylines that shaped the Memphis logistics industry in 2016 centered around something that didn’t happen.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation applied for but was denied a $180 million FASTLANE Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help kick-start a $300 million effort to improve Lamar Avenue’s infrastructure.

The project, which called for $150 million in right-of-way acquisition and $150 million in construction, would widen 4.5 miles of Lamar from Getwell Road to the Tennessee/Mississippi state line and add interchanges at Holmes Road, Shelby Drive and Winchester Road.

TDOT threw its full support behind the project because that stretch of Lamar houses 20 Fortune 500 companies and supports more than 1,100 transportation and logistics companies that employ more than 42,000 people.

The project would have increased the capacity to move goods along the congested stretch of Lamar by 50 percent, according to TDOT’s FASTLANE application.

The Daily News reported in October that TDOT estimated Lamar would see 1,950 fewer vehicle crashes over a 20-year period upon the project’s completion. To put that in perspective, 904 crashes and three fatalities occurred along that particular corridor from 2013 to 2015.

TDOT said receiving the grant would have reduced the estimated completion time exponentially – from more than a decade to four or five years.

However, since TDOT’s bid was unsuccessful, local lawmakers such as U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen said they will tweak the application and try again in 2017.