Fear and Loathing of Electronic Logs
This article was written by Todd McCann. First of all, I’d like to thank Jason, the brains and brawn behind Truck Driver News, for letting me guest-post. Forgive him, for he knows not what he does.
As I sat at a company terminal waiting for a grease job (for my truck, you perv), I asked an older driver what he thought about our company’s announcement that they would be evaluating electronic logbooks.
You’d think from the horror in his eyes that I had just told him that the new CSA rules had implemented mandatory castration for all male truck drivers.
This was not the first he’d heard of it. He admitted that it scared the dookie (my word, not his) out of him. He said, “I’ve been driving a truck since 1970.
Old-timers don’t take to change very well.” Well neither do us 13-year young-timers. I admit it. Electronic logs freak me out. But why is that?
I certainly don’t have any hands-on experience with them, so why the fear and loathing? To answer that question, I enlisted the help of my Twitter friend, Dean. His real friends know him better as @dab2006.
Not only has Dean been using electronic logs for six months, he’s also a regional driver who delivers tires. 10-15 stops throughout the week is a common occurrence for him.
That makes him a perfect candidate for brain-picking. If he weren’t such a Texas Longhorn and Dallas Cowboy fan, I’d probably think he was even more brain-pick-worthy.
Alas, we must forgive him. We all have our faults.
After a flurry of email and Twitter exchanges, I think I’ve pretty much got the gist of this. Keep in mind that this is the way that Dean’s system works. He informed me that each carrier is able to adjust these electronic demons to suit their evil desires. First we’ll get an overview, and then we’ll address the concerns I still have.
Electronic logs track when and where the truck goes. When it’s moving, it logs you on Line 3 Driving. Duh. When you are stopped and the brake is pulled, it can be set to automatically log you onto Line 1 Off-Duty, Line 2 Sleeper Berth, or Line 4 On-Duty Not Driving. Dean’s system defaults to Line 4. The City, State, and time are entered automatically. If he chooses to change anything on Lines 1, 2, or 4, he can do so by going to an edit screen. He can edit the previous eight days logs.
The driving line, however, cannot be altered. Furthermore, the system will alert you when you get close to your 11-hour driving limit, your 14-hour work limit, or your 70-hour weekly limit. Another cool feature is available when a DOT officer wants a copy of your last eight days of logs. You simply get a fax number from them, enter the number into the computer, and the system will fax them copies. Cool, huh?
So that’s it in a nutshell. Now, here’s my concerns.
Concern: What if I’m stuck in rush hour traffic? Will this be wasting my driving time?
Answer: That depends. Dean informs me that his company has set up the system so that if he’s moving slower than 7 mph, he can log off the Driving line and onto Off-Duty. After 2 miles, or if the speeds increase to 8 mph, the system will put him back on the driving line. Honestly, that sounds tolerable for situations like rush hour, construction, wrecks, etc. As long as the speed is below 7 mph, I’d just have to reach down every 2 miles and pop it back up to Off-Duty. And Lord knows it takes a while to go 2 miles in those conditions.
The times I’d most hate electronic logs is during that incomprehensible traffic that goes 5 mph for a mile and then all of a sudden it picks up to 60 mph. Next thing you know, you’re back to 5 mph. Rinse, repeat, and curse. Talk about a pain.
Concern: What happens when I have used all my available drive time to get to a customer, then after I’m loaded/unloaded the customer doesn’t have any place for me to park for my mandatory 10-hour break?
Answer: According to Dean, the truck will beep at you like crazy when it knows you’re driving illegal, but it will allow you to drive. We truckers know that these situations happen. We also know that it’s breaking the law to drive over our 11 hours. We also know that if there’s no place to park, there’s no place to park. Master Yoda would understand what the DOT Gestapo doesn’t. “Drive on we must.”
Concern: Since we can’t “fudge” the logbooks a little here and there, won’t this cause a loss of productivity?
Answer: My guess is yes, at least in the beginning. Ever since I started with this new company, I’ve been keeping track of how electronic logs would affect me. In three weeks time, I’ve had three, possibly four loads that I would have to refuse because I knew that the electronic logs couldn’t log it. I knew I could log those same loads on paper logs without a hitch. On three other loads, I would have delivered late due to circumstances that happened during the trip. As of now, I’m on paper logs and I’m completely legal. I really love fudge.
Conclusion: Trucking companies are going to have to rethink the way they do things. No longer will they be able to give you a load that is marginal, or heck, even productive. If they do, they can expect more late pickups/deliveries and more drivers running out of driving hours before they can deliver. And because of that, they’ll be doing more relays with other drivers. These relays are a pain-in-the-hemorrhoid holder for the planners. Of course, my love of planners is well-known, so perhaps I would get some joy out of watching them squirm. My guess is that productivity will go way down until they figure out that they can’t push us as hard as they used to.
The thing is, most drivers don’t mind being pushed. I didn’t legally log 3100 miles last week by refusing loads that were going to be tight. I took the ones I knew I could log legally, and I refused the others. The DOT gave us rules to log by. I follow those rules and I make money. Why can’t they just leave well enough alone?
Tell us your thoughts and concerns by leaving a comment.
Todd McCann writes a blog about a trucker’s life on the road. It can be found at http://abouttruckingjobs.wordpress.com/. He hopes that by giving non-truckers a glimpse into the trucking world, they might think twice when they encounter a big rig. He’s also active on Twitter. You can follow him on Twitter @ToddMcCann.
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