Jan. 09–Time is money, especially for a truck driver running late for a delivery or waiting patiently for his truck to be loaded.
No wonder, then, that a small handful of drivers might be tempted to test the limits of their own endurance and the law, which limits them to driving 11 hours after a 10-hour break or 11 hours of driving within an 11-hour on-duty period.
A new federal regulation that took effect Dec. 18 aims to see that they don’t.
Paper logs, which can be reviewed by police or Motor Carrier Enforcement officers, were designed to provide accountability and ensure safety, said Doug Ladds, safety manager for Team Hardinger, an Erie-based trucking and warehousing company.
For the most part, those logbooks, instituted in the mid-1970s, have done just that, he said.
But they weren’t foolproof, he said.
A determined driver, perhaps under pressure from his or her trucking company and willing to risk forging a legal document, could alter that paperwork, allowing the day to be stretched.
Now, heavy trucks in all 50 states are being called on to install electronic logging devices, or ELDs, which eliminate the need for paper logbooks and automatically log a driver’s activity, saving them the time and effort of keeping up with their activity in 15-minute increments.
According to trucking industry reports, some trucking companies, particularly smaller firms, have expressed concerns about the expense.
Harold “H” Bender, owner of Team Hardinger, said his company, which operates 60 trucks, has a sizable investment in its system, which not only works as an electronic logging device, but also serves as a message, diagnostic and dispatch center.
“The cost is almost like anything else,” he said. “It depends on what you want it to do. Ours has a few more bells and whistles, and we find value in that.”
At the lower end, he said, app-based systems that work off a smartphone or computer tablet are relatively inexpensive.
Bobby Rohrer, office manager of K.C. Trucking, which operates eight trucks, said his company already had GPS units installed on its trucks. As a result, adding the ELD units was only an extra $20 a month, instead of $70 or $80 a month, he said.
And while the ELD adds a monthly expense, it saves money elsewhere in the budget. Instead of clerical staff needing to reconcile log books with mileage and fuel receipts, that information is automatically sent to the office staff, Rohrer said.
It would be hard to argue the ELD requirement is catching anyone off-guard.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the new measure in 2015 and put it in place Dec. 18.
Even so, Trooper Joe Pifer, who works with the motor carrier enforcement as part of his job at the state police’s Corry barracks, said not everyone is ready.
Police are being patient for now, he said, giving trucking companies 15 days to correct the problem. That will change, eventually. As of April 1, trucks that don’t have electronic logging devices can be put out of service, Pifer said.
Ladds, who drove trucks for 32 years, said he doesn’t remember a time when logbook forging was a big problem.
But there was always someone, he said, who tried to make up for the extra hours they had to wait to get their truck loaded, always someone who wanted to squeeze another hour or two into the day.
They can still try, he said, but the ELD won’t allow them to document it.
“There is no back way into this system,” he said. “There is no way to falsify it. And for the honest operator, there is no downside.”
Rohrer agrees, at least in general.
But he acknowledges that these electronic replacements for pencil and paper come with a learning curve and maybe a little resistance.
“The drivers don’t like it,” he said. “It’s something new and most of them are kind of old school. It takes some adjustment, at least for some of them.”
Jim Martin can be reached at 870-1668 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNMartin.
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