Drivers may fret e-logs — and quit over them — but they could benefit the most

By Jack Roberts on

Last week, the always-excellent Todd Dills, Senior Editor with CCJ’s sister magazine, Overdrive, published a survey on driver response to the proposed 2016 Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate proposed last month by FMCSA.

Todd’s story, which you can read herePeopleNet_TABLET_Incab_eLogsScreen_062013, caused a stir that is still rippling through the trucking industry, because his findings indicated that 52 percent of company drivers owner-operators and a whopping 71 percent of independent drivers responding to the survey said they’d fold up their tents and quit their driving jobs if an ELD mandate became law.

But before everyone starts clutching their pearls and mopping their foreheads over these findings, consider this: The very same survey revealed that 26 percent of responding owner-operators are already using ELDs for their business, and another 25 percent of responding fleet drivers said they’d simply get an ELD and go on about their business if a law was passed.

If you take those numbers at face value, there’s good reason to panic. There’s also good reason to think an ELD mandate won’t be a big deal at all.

What exactly, is going on here?

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First off, let’s note that polling can be notoriously tricky to get right, as Fox News discovered on Election Night back in 2012. Which is why I don’t believe for one minute that 71 percent of all the owner-operators on the road today are going to say, “Screw it!” and quit if an ELD mandate becomes law. It’s one thing to answer a few questions on a survey and say you’ll quit. It’s another thing to think about feeding your family, making the rent and keeping the lights on when push comes to shove. And besides, in case you haven’t heard, jobs are still hard to come by in this economy.

That’s not to suggest we won’t see some attrition if the ELD rule is enacted. Every time a new trucking regulation comes into play, I think the industry loses drivers — particularly on the owner-operator side of the equation. Some of these are “unsafe” operators who don’t want to play by a rulebook that is getting increasingly harder to ignore. Others are simply independent-minded Americans who love the romance of the Open Road and resent any sort of oversight or “interference” in their daily activities.

And really, that second view, in my opinion, cuts to the core of the opposition to ELDs. Americans are a free people increasingly surrounded by a growing Surveillance State. Technology has made it easier than ever before to track the movements and activities of people as they go through all aspects of their lives. Sometimes this is a good thing: The identification and capture of the Boston Marathon bombers last year springs to mind.

But whether or not the benefits of all this surveillance outweigh the steady loss of privacy we’re all faced with today is an issue that is brand-new and very much open to (and deserving of) debate.

But here’s the thing: There is growing evidence that ELDs won’t be all bad for drivers. In fact, voices in the industry are starting to speak up and say that ELDs will actually make life easier for drivers and protect them from abuse from shippers/receivers and law enforcement officials alike.

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As I reported from the Technology and Maintenance Council’s Spring Meeting in Nashville earlier this year, the No. 1 violation truck drivers are cited for by law enforcement officials is for improper logbooks. ELDs take that handy little citation away from the cops forever. They want your log? You hand them a printout. If you’re legal, they’re done. (Although I hope to hell all your lights are in operating order.)

A friend of mine who manages a fleet in the Midwest has been thinking a lot about ELDs lately and he sent me a note this week. His fleet is an early adopter of ELDs and, naturally, experienced resistance from its drivers. Here’s what he had to say about the experience:

We adopted the slogan ‘Embrace Change’ as we started gearing up to put e-Logs in the fleet. And I met with several drivers who told me flat out that [ELDs] were ‘bullshit.’

 One of the loudest critics was an older guy – one of our best drivers. And he told me there was no way he’d accept an e-Log in his rig. As a favor to me, I asked him to give it a try.

 He is now a big fan of the system and says it saves him about an hour a day in terms of paperwork. Even better, our fleet’s driver pay went up year-over-year because we now have metrics in place to make our company more profitable. This allowed us to pay out two additional driver bonuses in 2013.

 My take on the change to E-Logs is this: The adoption and acceptance of e-logs is not a driver problem. It is a fleet management problem. Fleets need to start educating, embracing and managing drivers on the advent of these devices. Because they don’t just benefit fleets; we’ve shown that they make life much easier for drivers.”

My point here is not to defend – or condemn – ELDs. It’s simply to say that the responses recorded in Todd’s Overdrive survey appear to be an overreaction. It’s very possible that e-logs will help you fight unfair traffic tickets, save you an hour or more in paperwork and even get your run finished and home sooner.

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts is executive editor for CCJ and equipment editor for its sister magazine Overdrive. Roberts joined Randall-Reilly in 1995 as associate editor of Equipment World magazine and began covering both heavy-duty and light trucks in 1996. In 2006 he was the founding editor of Total Landscape Care before joining CCJ's staff in 2008.

11 comments
wifesaysfish
wifesaysfish

One more question, are the Canadian and Mexican required to have them too?

wifesaysfish
wifesaysfish

Everyone want to push this propaganda of how great ELDs are and how much safer the roads will be. First of all everyone is livid about using drones and NSA to spy on people, this is just another way to track and control people.

As for safety, FMCSA threw that out the window when they dreamed up the fourteen hour rule. They removed the drivers ability to take a tow or three hour nap when he gets tired, and his ability to take a break instead of putting more traffic into rush hour where the is an increased chance of and accident.

It has come to the attention of this veteran of almost forty years in the industry, based on their speeches and actions that neither Anne Ferro or Anthony Fox know the difference between a truck and a bicycle.

Lindajoy
Lindajoy

There are several issues with the ELD mandate and just as many fears. I have worked for a fleet for 14 yrs and  have talked to many other fleets that have adopted ELD and Elogs with Great Result.  We have been on a slow implementation of Elogs.  Many drivers Fear them and most have found that #1, they save time. #2 the drivers that are good at it actually gain some time, #3 drivers that find dispatchers being pushy now have reason to say No, I cannot do that load.

The cost for our current Peoplenet system is $999 for all parts to install. There is a couple hours of labor involved to install and the monthly charge varies depending on what services you want. Our plan with 250 messages to or from the truck included and elog is $40/month.  I do also agree with many other comments here: The Biggest problem will be getting Shipper/Receivers to be held accountable.  Regulating the Transportation side alone is a Huge issue and I hope they realize that before they force the entire industry to adopt ELD.  I admit that there are some applications where certain loads will not be able to be done the same and that will raise the price of products to consumers but, if a one man show/ owner operator says that they cannot afford ELD solely based on the cost then they are doing something wrong to start with ( I can say this as my husband is an owner/operator also) 

Jeff Clark
Jeff Clark

I have seen many an old trucker easily adapt to elogs and never want to go back-including me. The only way that our time has value is if we limit it. Too many drivers can work around extended dock times with paper logs and still make deliveries on time. Once no one can do this shippers will have to respond.

Blessedman
Blessedman

As an independent owner/operator I see no benefit, only another expense. I've never had a log book violation. I spend probably 20 minutes a day or less on my log book and my trip envelope.

I have no one at the home office to send the data to. All I see is an up front expense of one to three thousand dollars and a monthly fee of maybe $25 to $50 dollars.

The cheaper versions we hear about now do not meet the DOT specs that are proposed.

I also think we will see a LOT MORE trucks parked in illegal places because of not being able to drive that extra 5 to 15 minutes to get to the parking place that was planned on.

polarbear
polarbear

I was a truck owner-operator for about 20 yrs., I'm now disabled and help my wife post loads when I can. I here from drivers that are for ELD's, but mainly against them as they can't make the appointment times on the loads. We still have the same old problem that has yet to be addressed in this industry. That is Shipper/Receiver detaining drivers, which uses up hours and in turn forces drivers to change log book entry's. The drivers have to change their log books or they are not able to make delivery on time. The ELD stops this from happening but in return you have drivers having to get appointments changed and this means they made less money because less miles equal less money. And giving most Shippers/Receivers 4 hours before going on the clock for detention @ $25.00 an hour doesn't make up for the lost miles. And besides the way drivers are losing money out here you could go to work at McDonalds and make just as much and be home every night. Driving truck used to be a great way to enjoy making a living and maybe get ahead in life. Now that is all gone and I don't know anyone that would recommend this industry and way of life to anyone of the younger men/women getting ready to start there own careers.

RobertOstreicher
RobertOstreicher

It's hard enough to make a living when you can "manage" the logs because of the stupid rules and loss of sleeper time along with losing split sleeper time.  I'm a veteran of 40 years of trucking.  If you want E Logs the industry better be prepared to start paying double of what they do now.  E Logs will double costs and throw productivity out the window. 

TAJ13
TAJ13

HI

BEING A SMALL FLEET OWNER THE TROUBLE I  AND MOST OF MY EMPLOYEES AND OTHER PEOPLE I TALK TO IS  THAT WITH E-LOG  IT DOES NOT ADDRESS THE REASON WHY DRIVERS CHANGE THEIR LOG BOOK.

IS  IT THAT THEY TOOK SLEEPER TIME AWAY FROM THE DRIVER AND NOW THEY HAVE TO DO WHAT EVER THEY CAN IN THIS 11 HR DRIVING AND TOTAL 14 HR WORK WINDOW ?

THIS OFTEN MAKES THE DRIVER TRY TO SLEEP WHEN THEY ARE NOT TIRED AND DRIVE WHEN THEY ARE TIRED.

OR COULD IT BE THAT THE DRIVER WAITED  A LONG TIME TO LOAD AND UNLOAD?

THE ONLY WAY MOST DRIVERS MAKE MONEY IS TO DRIVE SO THEY DO WHAT THEY NEED TO DO.

ONE THING THAT I AND OTHER  DRIVERS HAVE NOTICED IS THE SOME DRIVERS WITH E-LOGS DRIVE WAY TO FAST WHEN THE WEATHER IS BAD AND DON'T SLOW DOWN IN RURAL AREAS.

 THEY SAY THEY HAVE TO GO TO GET THEIR MILES IN.

I WONDER IF THERE IS A WAY TO FIND OUT HOW MANY TRUCKS WRECKED  WITH E-LOGS DURING BAD ROAD CONDITIONS AND GOT SPEEDING TICKETS IN RURAL AND REDUCED SPEED AREAS?

THANKS

TOM

brentO
brentO

Driver over-reaction to ELD's is an understatement.  We implemented ELD's in 2009 and, among our drivers, the most outspoken critics are now their biggest fans.  The reason is simple.  Drivers who used to spend their day fretting over logs now simply log in and forget about them, and not a single driver has reported an impact on pay.

During audits and roadside inspections we used to "sweat blood" over log issues and now the auditors and inspectors almost universally say they're not going to waste their time, or ours, looking at the electronic logs.  They wouldn't find anything amiss if they did, but it's nice knowing that our historically biggest stressor doesn't even make it on the radar screen anymore.

BrentO

GeneEC
GeneEC

I feel that the issue that still plagues the industry today as it has for the last 36 years that I have been in it, is that all the mandates seem to point towards the drivers and transportation companies which are typically at the bottom of the feeder ben. With no attention to the shipping and receiving companies who create much of the delays which adversely affect the ability of the driver to manage his logs and sleep patterns. If there is to be oversight in the industry cover both sides not just the truck side.  Gene