Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Mandatory electronic logs have been a long time coming. A broad range of issues dogged the 15-year effort to draft a rule, including concerns about tampering, driver harassment, expense, and how enforcement officials would do their jobs. It was the subject of a protracted court battle.

Yet the underlying issue for many fleets really wasn’t so much the notion of using an electronic device to track driver hours — it was the hours of service regulations themselves.

Many drivers have “fudged” their paper logs for very good reasons. Maybe they were only 30 minutes from home when they ran out of hours because they got caught in a traffic jam on a highway blocked by a serious accident. Maybe they had to wait an excessive amount of time to deliver their load, despite arriving on time for their appointment. Maybe they had to drive farther to find a safe parking place to spend their required sleeper berth time. With electronic logs, fleets and drivers know they no longer will be able to get away with these types of “adjustments.”

This was pointed out to me by David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association, who I talked to for this month’s cover story on the electronic logging device mandate that goes into effect in December. He contends that by digging in their heels and resisting the ELD mandate, fleets are only hurting their cause for revising the HOS regs to something that better reflects the day-to-day realities of trucking.

“They need to start embracing technology,” he told me. “If we want to fix hours of service — which believe me, we’re trying to do — arguing against ELDs is not the way to do it.

“As an industry, I can’t emphasize this enough, we can’t advocate non-compliance. Nobody can advocate for a change in the rules by saying we’re not going to follow the rules. The best way is to embrace the benefits of the technology and argue the [HOS] changes at a later time. We can emphasize problems with truck parking, with detention time, and ELDs will go a long way toward doing that, because we will have sound data and sound science behind us.”

I’ve said in this space before, it’s past time for the industry to embrace electronic logs. Back in 2011, I wrote an editorial on electronic logs asking whether Buck Rogers, the fictional space hero, would use paper logs. Isn’t it time, I asked, to move into the 21st century and go paperless? What kind of public image does it paint in the eyes of the public when an industry that uses high-tech routing and navigation and other technology is still tracking its driver hours in a way that largely hasn’t changed since before World War II?

To be sure, there are challenges involved in adopting ELDs, from choosing the right system for your fleet to training both drivers and management on the use of the devices and some changes in the rules. We’ve talked to nearly two dozen compliance and safety experts, ELD providers, and fleets to give you some help in navigating those challenges in this month’s cover story.

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