Trust – but verify
Electronic logs are fast replacing paper as the standard for compliance. But do they improve safety?
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a three-part series on combating driver fatigue. Other stories in this series address technologies for managing driver fatigue and driver-load scheduling.
Customer service was the initial reason Central Refrigerated started using electronic logs. With onboard computers and other technologies, the Salt Lake City-based company could notify customers automatically of load arrivals and departures – but a key component was missing.
Some drivers falsified their paper logbooks to match the electronically captured arrival and departure events. Due to delays in retrieving and scanning paper logs, Central Refrigerated wasn’t able to detect these and other problems until perhaps 20 to 30 days later.
Billing a customer for detention charges with errors in driver logs puts a fleet’s credibility at risk, says Allen Lowry, director of safety. “To solidify that process, we wanted to make it easier for drivers to keep track of what time they arrived and departed,” Lowry says.
Almost immediately after deciding to implement electronic logs, Central Refrigerated was audited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The company was not found deficient in any safety category, but it came “pretty close” in the 70-hour workweek rule, Lowry says.
After the audit, the company accelerated its conversion to electronic logs. Lowry credits the technology for reducing drivers’ 70-hour workweek violations by 97 percent and false logs by 100 percent since fall 2008. More importantly, accident severity has dropped sharply during that time – a likely result of reducing driver fatigue, he says.
“After we went to electronic logs, we can guarantee that a driver gets a 10-hour break,” Lowry says. “On paper logs, you don’t know what they’re doing out there.”
In the past few years, hundreds of fleets voluntarily have converted to electronic logs to enforce compliance with hours-of-service regulations. However, the safety benefits of using the technology are not always as clear-cut.
Correlation with safety
Cargo Transporters already was using various safety technologies in its 400-truck fleet before adding electronic logs in winter 2008. Its safety systems included anti-rollover, lane departure warning and collision avoidance technology.
Safety was a major consideration when the Claremont, S.C.-based truckload carrier implemented Qualcomm’s Hours of Service (QHOS) application for its MCP100 in-cab computing platform. Cargo Transporters rolled out QHOS across its fleet within two months.
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