The trucking industry has a little more than a year to get ready for a massive transformation – dumping the paper logs that drivers use to document adherence to federal regulations on how many hours they are on the road in exchange for foolproof electronic logging devices.

Equipping roughly 500,000 U.S. trucking firms with these so-called electronic logging devices, or ELDs, looks to be about a $1-billion business, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates. The mandate will affect more than 3 million truck drivers in the U.S., according to the American Trucking Associations.

Already, 15 companies have registered devices with the FMCSA, a mandatory requirement in advance of the regulation that goes into effect a year from Dec. 18. Device manufacturers must certify that their ELDs adhere to more than 126 pages of technical specifications. Several more companies are expected to enter the market in the next year.

The FMCSA has pushed for electronic logging to prevent driver cheating on paper logs. The devices link to a semi-truck’s engine, capturing the movement of the truck and recording how much time a trucker is at the wheel. By law, drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving daily.

The FMCSA estimates that ELDs will prevent 1,844 crashes, 562 injuries and save 26 lives annually by keeping exhausted drivers off the road. Switching to electronic logs also is expected to eliminate more than $1.6 billion in paperwork costs for motor carriers and law enforcement agencies reviewing drivers’ logs, according to the FMCSA.

Already large carriers such as UPS, FedEx and Werner Enterprises are using electronic systems to record truckers’ driving time and behavior. The American Trucking Associations, which counts many large carriers among its members, has supported the federal mandate.

“We look forward to its implementation,” the trade group told Trucks.com.

But the regulation has encountered fierce resistance from independent drivers who believe the devices will be intrusive.

“I will not be electronically monitored and tracked by my government,” veteran trucker DuWayne Marshall of Watertown, Wis., told Trucks.com.

Barring some unanticipated policy reversal, Marshall said he will retire a day before the mandate goes into effect.

But others are ready to comply with the regulation.

Ronnie Sellers of Knoxville, Tenn., who owns a three-truck operation, said he has been running e-logs since 2011.

“I would not run paper logs, and I just don’t see what the big deal is,” Sellers told Trucks.com. “Anyone who complains about e-logs is basically admitting they are going to run illegally.”

A last-ditch effort to block the ELD rule by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a trade group that represents more than 150,000 small-business truckers, failed last month when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected the owner-operator group’s arguments that ELDs would violate truck drivers’ privacy and foster carrier harassment over driving hours.

The organization is assessing whether it will appeal the decision.

“We are disappointed and strongly disagree with the court’s ruling,” said Jim Johnston, the group’s chief executive. “Because this issue is of vital importance to our members and all small-business truckers, we are reviewing our next steps to continue our challenge against this regulation.”

Still, they might get at least a temporary reprieve.

“If electronic logging device implementation gets sticky because of the FMCSA’s slowness in publishing complete technical standards, the [Trump] administration is much more likely to postpone the December 2017 deadline,” said Noël Perry, a transportation economist at FTR, an industry research firm.

In the meantime, the trucking industry will need the next year to implement the mandate.

“We are kind of in this interim where things are kind of a mess because FMCSA hasn’t produced a software program to accept the files and they haven’t found a way to test the files,” Annette Sandberg, the agency’s former deputy administrator, told Trucks.com.

Additionally, large ELD providers – including PeopleNet, Omnitracs and EROAD, which some motor carriers are already using –  haven’t yet registered their products with the FMCSA.

Eroad Electronic Logging Device

EROAD Electronic Logging Device. (Photo: EROAD)

There has been some fear among ELD providers to “rush to register their products with FMCSA too quickly,” said Gail Levario, EROADS’ vice president of strategy and market development.

Providers are still evaluating their own internal testing framework to make sure their procedures are “rock solid and meet the self-certification requirements,” Levario said.

How quickly law enforcement will be trained on how to read and transfer data using the new electronic logging devices is another concern.

Collin Mooney, executive director for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, or CVSA, said his agency is in the process of “ramping up and coordinating with ELD vendors for the training of law enforcement officials.”

About 4 million commercial vehicle inspections are conducted every year throughout North America, according to the CVSA.

“Most recently, we invited a number of ELD vendors to start educating enforcement, not only law enforcement, but other government personnel and the industry on the specific devices,” Mooney told Trucks.com. “We have started filming small demonstration snippets from each of the vendors, and we are in the process of putting together a video on how to navigate each individual device for training purposes.”

The safety alliance is working to get law enforcement up to speed before the rule kicks in next year.

Some motor carriers that haven’t switched over to e-logs are waiting to see which providers will have devices that meet FMCSA’s technical specifications in the coming months. The cost of the devices is also a concern for some who are weighing their options.

Electronic logging devices can range from $165 to $832, with one of the more popular devices priced around $495 per truck, according to Eldfacts.com.

As with any new product, Sandberg said carriers must be wary and do their due diligence in selecting an ELD provider.

“I wouldn’t encourage motor carriers to go with the cheapest one, because sometimes you get what you pay for, but maybe the most expensive one isn’t the best option either,” she said.

Longtime owner-operator Tim Philmon of Middleburg, Fla., said he is going to give electronic logs a shot and see how it fits in his trucking operation before making any rash decisions.

“I’ve always said that the only regulation that could potentially change the face of the transportation industry is when the federal government numbers the pages of our logbooks,” Philmon told Trucks.com.

The switch to e-logs didn’t fare well for one Arkansas-based motor carrier that implemented a mandatory switchover from paper logs for its owner-operators back in 2010, years ahead of the upcoming mandate.

Fikes Truck Line of Hope, Ark., which had been in the trucking business for 74 years, was dealt a fatal blow when the company lost 40 percent of its owner-operators in the “blink of an eye,” according to Gary Salisbury, Fikes’ chairman.

Other small carriers are having trouble getting ELDs into their fleet. A recent survey for Stifel Transportation & Logistics Research Group asked trucking companies if they lost drivers “who did not want to operate under ELDs” – 51.4 percent reported that they did lose drivers, 48.6 percent said none of their drivers left.

One carrier who responded to the survey said that it had a fleet of 110 trucks and “lost 29 drivers when (they) switched them over to e-logs. They either quit the day we put it in their truck or within two weeks.”

8 Responses

  1. Jonathan

    It’s time for all the drivers to park it ..30 years of driving are about to come to an end November 2017 if this goes into affect

    Reply
  2. Michael Page

    Do the math!!! This will not decrease accidents in the United States. I hope I’m wrong.

    Reply
  3. Pete

    E logs do not help stop drivers from driving tired. They actually encourage drowsy driving. If you have hours available it’s either use them or lose them. They also encourage speeding and other unsafe activities. You have 11 hours to go as many miles as you can. At least with paper logs you could take a relaxed 13 hour drive and show you did it in 11.

    Reply
  4. Noel Eichbaum

    The experience in New Zealand, where Eroad is the leader in RUC and data collection, is that it does encourage better driver behaviour and in fact is embraced by drivers, who often the target of unfair criticism in accidents. The monitoring of drivers and analysis of behaviour does as much to protect the drivers as anything else. Companies can not put pressure on drivers to exceed driving time limits or speed limits to meet deadlines. Drivers who embrace this are generally rewarded better as the employer companies’ reputations are enhanced and their insurance premiums are lower.

    Reply
  5. Brian

    I was recently told by A DOT officer that I was a dishonest truck driver. When I asked him why, he said because I was still running paper logs. I told him I may be a dishonest truck driver but at least I am and alert dishonest truck driver. E-logs are not necessarily the problem. The problem is the hours of service. The 14-hour clock forces drivers to drive tired. Watching that clock and knowing that you have to get so many miles driven that day causes anxiety. Anytime there is anxiety there are mistakes. If you took an accountant doing your taxes, stood over his shoulder and told him he had to have it done in 15 minutes your taxes would have mistakes. You do this to a truck driver who’s rolling down the road at 80,000 pounds now you have a deadly mistakes. Since some companies have gone to elog I have seen this anxiety firsthand. Drivers are pulling out in front of people they are running red lights they are driving up the shoulder in traffic jams to get around people. I have seen all of this. I have also seen far more wrecks on perfectly Sunny afternoons and as you drive by you see the little green sticker on the side of the truck that says (e-log). Why is there not been a study on how many e-log trucks are getting in accidents now. As of right now I do not know how many e-log trucks are out there but I know that is it is nowhere near 3 million and already there are far more avoidable accidents happening than ever before. December 18th of 2017 when all 3 million trucks have to start running e-log…do the right thing, keep your family off the road it’s going to be a very unsafe place.

    Reply
  6. Jonathan m.Hicks

    Brian is right on the money with his comment ..
    This e- log thing is imposed and pushed on the trucking industry for one accomplishment only, mandate the ones of interest money..
    E- logs will not save any lives ,not lower insurance company s demand to pay on accidents.. E-logs will only increase accidents.. It will make Drivers nervous for two major things.. One ; less pay Coz it will take more time to do the same job.. Look at this.. Ok, Drive time is not the stress issue, don t make the Driver Drosey.. It door doc time and wait time, to get on doc to be loaded.. This is all wasted time .. This time stress drivers befor the Drive.. This is part of his 14 hour duty time waisted .. Broken in sections of the day
    .. He can t rest or sleep.. This is more and really the only stress a driver has before he hits the road.. The problems of getting loaded it the biggest stress..
    This is the part of the TRUCKING INDUSTRY that needs to be fixed and Drivers compensated. The three hours on Doc Door s is befor compensation is just not right..that to much time to be on a doc for any way ,that doesn’t even count for time waiting to get on Doc Door .. Or the wasted time from one drop shipment to pick up shipment.. There is very little Drive time used .. Only 14 hour time .. That renders times used in a day .. Stressing the Driver befor he gets in the Delivery Drive of his trip..
    E-logs is not any solution for the Truckers Safty Issues
    E-Logs will only increase Driver Stress , One more VISE to accomplish to Master the Professional Drivers Day

    Reply
  7. Wayne

    I do agree with Brian and Johnathon M. Hicks. If these law makers where to go with any driver to see what that driver and others are going though they need to spend time on the road. They have no clue of what they are doing. Statistics may show 1 side of the story. just not all sides. They need to pull their head out of their tail ends and do more at understanding the situations at hand. Not just the surveys that is handed to them. Same thing goes for a lot of dispatchers. They need to do the same. Also if a company does have e-logs. It is possible the company can easily change the e-log program for that vehicle. sometimes even easier for the company to falsify them records on the e-log device. At that rate what good is E-LOG. Us drivers are already getting harassed constantly by law enforcement even for no reason at all. Us drivers are tired of being harassed too much.

    Reply
  8. Clayton

    Only job I’ve ever had where I can’t put in a hard day’s work if I need too! Thanks fmcsa for making Americans lazy!!!! And let’s look at those stats again. I’d take my o/o with a paper log over a rushing elog driver anyday.

    Reply

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