It's Official: Truck Drivers Must Use Electronic Logsby Jana Ritter - Published: 12/11/2015
Big news for truck drivers came from Washington on Thursday as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finally revealed the long-awaited ruling on electronic logs. The new federal rule has officially declared that commercial truck drivers and bus drivers operating on U.S. roads (including drivers from Canada and Mexico) must electronically record their hours behind the wheel. It will go into effect in 60 days and will give companies two years from that time to start using the electronic devices. The rule is part of the overall strategy to enforce regulations said to prevent fatigue.
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Since 1938, the law has required commercial drivers to keep track of their hours using paper logs but it’s been an escalating issue with accident investigators and safety advocates complaining that it's easy for drivers to fudge the logs to evade restrictions on hours. In recent years, electronic logging devices have become more common in the trucking industry as they allow more efficient means of automatically recording driving time by monitoring engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information. "This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk," says Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx.
But while many of the larger trucking companies have gradually integrated electronic logs into their operations, the issue has been contested by smaller fleets and independent drivers who argue that it could add to fatigued driving instead. They explain that the companies contracting them to haul freight will have access to the electronic logs and more likely pressure drivers who haven't reached their limit of legal hours to stay on the road even if the drivers feel they need to rest. In fact, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has sued the safety administration demanding they block the rule and has issued a public statement questioning, "the need for truckers to spend money on an unproven technology that is no more effective than paper logs when it comes to safety and hours-of-service compliance." However, the safety administration has a much different outlook and estimates the electronic devices will save up to $1 billion each year in just paperwork reductions and more importantly, save approximately 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries each year. And in direct response to the claims that electronic logs will only pressure drivers to stay on the road, the agency says there are procedural and technical provisions in the new rule to protect drivers from harassment resulting from information generated by the devices.
"This regulation will change the trucking industry for the better forever," said Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations.