You'd better start thinking about e-logs, says Truckload Carriers Association Chairman John Kaburick, owner and president of Earl L. Henderson Trucking.

During a wide-ranging address at this week's McLeod Software Conference that covered everything from the state of the industry to TCA projects to the use of technology at his own company, Kaburick shared some of his fleet's experiences in converting to electronic logs. They're about 75 percent done with the process, which has been going on for a little over a year now.

The Productivity Question

"We've had people say that they lose utilization, and that's true when you first go on them," he said. "Some of our real top producers, they lost some productivity. The fact of the matter is, they needed to lose that productivity because they were doing it illegally. There's a lot of plaintiff's lawyers out there."

However, he said, productivity overall looks like it may end up about even when everything shakes out, he said. That's because there were also a number of lower-producing drivers, who would tell dispatchers they were out of hours even when they weren't just because it was a load they didn't want to take. Now that dispatchers can see exactly how many hours each driver has left, that tactic doesn't wash.

"We think it's going to be a much safer situation for us to be in, and the end result is, it's not going to hurt productivity in the long run."

Henderson Trucking's not some huge company like Schneider or Werner. The Illinois-based company has about 400 power units pulling temperature-controlled trailers. But Kaburick believes in using technology to be safer and more productive. For instance, they've found that their Qualcomm Trailer Tracks system has saved them from "buying" a lot of loads where the seal wasn't intact, but they could prove the doors had never been opened since the load left the shipper. The same technology has allowed them to charge shippers when they decide to use a dropped Henderson trailer for some extra storage.

The E-Logs Transition

Henderson started out "finding some techie type drivers" and getting them started on the electronic logs, then used those drivers to go out and "sell" other drivers on the technology.

Kaburick said they've found the biggest difference with e-logs is that "a driver today plans for today; our drivers on e-logs are planning fo the week rather than for the day. And that's the major deal."

For example, he said, "we've always pushed our drivers to get to the end receiver early, then if something happens you've got some time to deal with that issue. But in the case of some shippers that won't allow you on their premise until an hour before unloading, he may need to plan to run six hours, take his 10 hour break, and then go on in so he can time being there at the right time. So there is a lot more planning that has to be done on the driver's part."

Kaburick also said the TCA is putting together a task force to try to convince the FMCSA to give carriers that use electronic logs more flexibility in the form of some sort of split sleeper berth. When the current hours of service regulations cut out the ability to split the sleeper berth time, that's what really killed productivity, he said.

"One thing FMCSA is really pushing for is electronic logs, and one way or another they're going to get there," he said. Under CSA 2010, he said, carriers with a certain number of hours of service violations will likely be required to go to electronic logs. He recommended that carriers do their homework on e-logs, just in case. "I'd advise you to at least know what you're going to do if that happens."