Dec. 24–Truck drivers across the country will now be on an even playing field with the recent implementation of new electronic logging device rules.
The rule, which is divided into three phases starting in Dec. 2015, has now reached the second phase where all trucks are now required to have Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRDS) installed prior to Dec. 18, 2017, or self-certified and registered Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs).
With the recent switch, truckers will no longer manually log their hours and the goal is to maximize safety for drivers by better regulating hours spent in the truck.
At Inontime, a Zeeland-based trucking company, they have now been using ELDs for three years because of the wide range of services their software offers for the driver and the company.
“For us, it is just a lot easier,” said Jon Lanning, president of Inontime. “In the past, we had to keep logs. Every stop, you had to stop and mark yourself down. With this, you log-in in the morning and just drive. When you stop, it automatically puts you off duty or on duty at a stop and takes you off driving and totals your hours. At the end of the day, you log out, do your post trip and our guys are done.”
Lanning said when the company first implemented the ELDs, there was some resistance from drivers at the company but that has quickly changed.
“For us, it is just really easy and it saves us time and money,” Lanning said.
Making the switch to ELDs varies greatly depending on the type of software a company goes with and it can range from something found on a drivers cell phone up to a device installed into each truck. Once installed, companies must then pay a monthly fee for the services much like a cell phone plan.
Because of the new rules put in place, each truck driver needs to have software that connects to the engine and it needs to have GPS. As Lanning said, by getting engine data, it makes it very hard for drivers to cheat.
“Engine data and GPS data is feeding into this thing so if someone marks something differently, when they come to an audit, they pull the data points and can find the errors,” Lanning said.
NTB is a regional trucking company that runs routes across the midwest and has a primary terminal in Grand Rapids and in Lansing.
Mike Mastrosimone serves as the safety manager for NTB and has worked in the trucking industry for 40 years now. At NTB, they have been using ELDs since 2006.
“We have been on it for a long time,” Mastrosimone said. “We started with small groups of drivers and by about 2009, we had everybody onto the system.”
At NTB, it was a move they anticipated would be coming down the line and after looking at the tedious auditing process of manual logs, they realized it would make the entire process much easier.
“What has happened is that it has put drivers and dispatchers on the same page so to speak,” he said. “If a driver is being dispatched on a load, our dispatchers can see down to the minute, how much time he has available for his day, both total day and drive time. It helps them to make decisions on what loads each driver is going to get.”
When NTB initially implemented the use of ELDs, Mastrosimone said there was some negative feedback from drivers but once drivers were on the system, they found the systems basically managed their time for them and eliminated any question about which driver could take what load.
Similar to what Lanning said, Mastrosimone said the implementation of the ELDs leveled the playing field for drivers and trucking companies.
“I think this puts everybody on an equal footing as far as following the rules, which is a very important thing,” he said. “Secondly, from a safety point of view, both drivers and companies for years have pushed the envelope. By regulation, there are only so many hours a driver can work.”
With paper logging, drivers were able to adjust their logs or keep a second log and Mastrosimone said it was not unusual for drivers to work nearly 24 hours a day or to be pushed by companies to work beyond the regulated time.
“With the new system, it will show you are in violation if you violate any of the rules and will show the company at the same time that you have violated the rules,” he said. “It provides instant retribution to drivers.”
At Premier Freight, the implementation process began this past summer so drivers are just starting to get their feet wet with the new software.
“It is really a pretty easy process because it basically works off the truck’s computer so if the truck is running and starts moving, there is a GPS system in there that can tell what they truck is doing 24 hours a day,” said Doug Walcott, president of Premier Freight.
Walcott said that across the industry, despite ELDs and their advantages, he has heard that the new rule will reduce trucking productivity by an average of three to seven percent conservatively.
Walcott explained that in the past, some drivers, if they got to South Haven on their return trip but were out of hours, with manual logs, they could make it work and make it home. In the strictest form of the rules, that would be illegal.
With the new systems, they can return home but if they are pulled over and their logs are reviewed, they would be in violation.
The other area where Walcott said drivers would be impacted is when they pick up their loads. Under the new system, if loading the truck takes extra time, that impacts how many miles a driver can go.
“Most of these drivers get paid by the mile and when they are sitting at a customer’s dock, they are not getting paid anything because their truck is not moving,” he said.
For Walcott, despite some of the issues he has seen, these most recent moves are possible because of advances in technology. With that technology comes accountability across the industry.
“I think in the age of technology there is an opportunity for the government to be able to do this,” he said. “I think technology-wise, ten years ago, this would have been very expensive to do. Today, with all the apps, I think this has become more affordable to do. This regulation now creates a guideline that drivers have to follow.”
Trucking companies will be in the second phase of the compliance rules for two years. As of December 16, 2019, phase three will go into effect and all trucks must be self-certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
— Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelAustin or @BizHolland.
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