Every year, hours-of-service questions from drivers and carriers make up the vast majority of inquiries concerning the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This year, concerns dealt with three main topic areas: electronic logging devices, 30-minute rest breaks, and restarts.

In this article, the first of a three-part series, we'll look at electronic logging devices.

Volumes have been written regarding the pros and cons of electronic logging devices, what is required, and when will they be mandatory. Many of the questions stemmed from the ELD mandate proposal published on March 28. The comment period ended in late June, and as of this writing, there is not much to report. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is in the process of reviewing the comments and presumably writing the final rule.

The Department of Transportation puts out a monthly Report on DOT Significant Rulemakings, but the most current report still does not reflect any estimate for the final rule; it only shows that the proposal process is complete.

The ELD proposal and recent guidance have prompted many to ask the question, “To print, or not to print?”

A typical question: “We’ve been using electronic logging for some time. Recently, my driver had a roadside inspection and was asked to print her logs. Can they ask that and does she have to be able to print?”

The answer is, “It depends.” There are currently three types of electronic logs:

  • Computer programs that assist drivers in the completion of manual logs
  • Computer programs that assist drivers in the completion of manual logs with electronic signature capabilities
  • Automatic On-board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) as defined in Section 395.2 and regulated in Section 395.15. In recent years, these have also become known as Electronic On-board Recorders (EOBRs) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs).

AOBRDs require no printing capability. This has always been the case, but some enforcement officers held an opinion that the devices did need to print. To set the record straight, the FMCSA published guidance in May. The publication included an additional official interpretation for Section 395.15:

"The FMCSRs do not require AOBRDs to provide a hardcopy printout for an enforcement official. As long as the information made available for display on the AOBRD meets the requirements of §395.15(i)(5), the driver and motor carrier are not required to provide additional RODS documentation to an enforcement official at the roadside. However, an enforcement official may request that additional information be provided by email, fax, or similar means within 48 hours for follow-up after the conclusion of the roadside inspection."

In regard to computer programs that assist drivers in the completion of manual logs, in July, the FMCSA published new guidance that made a differentiation between programs that have electronic signature capabilities and those that do not.

The previous guidance remains the same if electronic signatures are not used:

  • The driver must print and manually sign the RODS daily.
  • The driver must have in his or her possession the printed and signed RODS for the prior seven consecutive days (if required on those days).
  • The driver should be given an opportunity to print and manually sign the current day’s RODS at the time of the inspection.

New guidance is provided for logs that are electronically signed:

  • At the time of an inspection of records by an enforcement official, the driver may display the current and prior seven days RODS to the official on the device’s screen.
  • If the enforcement official requests printed copies of the RODS, the driver must be given an opportunity to print the current and prior seven days’ RODS (if required on those days) at the time of inspection.

So, in the case of logs that are electronically signed, enforcement has the option of either using the device or asking for the logs to be printed.

This article was authored under the guidance and editorial standards of HDT's editors to provide useful information to our readers.