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Truckers – Say Goodbye to Paper Logs

Well folks, it’s official, on December 10 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the long-awaited final rule regarding interstate truck drivers and electronic logging devices (ELD). The rule, which will go into effect in 2017, details specifications and mandates regarding ELD usage. The moral? Get ready to say goodbye to paper logs.

According to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “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.”

It’s easy for someone to throw a few soundbites out there, but what does the ELD rule actually mean for truckers? And has the writing already been on the wall for a while now? Let’s dig a little deeper.

A Story of Logs

The fact is, complex logs for on- and off-duty truck drivers have been made with pencil and paper since 1938, and are very hard to verify. Although ELDs originally hit the scene in the 1980s, it’s been a story of trial-and-error regarding their adoption.

Early adoption of ELDs came under a very different Hours-of-Service (HOS) regime. But still, the problem of unexpected occurrences remained.

During the time of paper logs, any delays, whether it be traffic, unloading, or spending too much time in the bathroom, compromised the round trip. If everything went perfectly the trucker would return with a few minutes to spare.

When things went less smoothly, however, truckers could make minor adjustments to their paper logs to account for the irregularities of life. It wasn’t cheating, per se, perhaps only 10 – 20 minutes’ worth of adjustments, but illegal just the same. With ELDs, the paradigm shifts.

A Cautionary Tale

The transition to ELDs will be hardest for smaller fleets that don’t have the capacity to relay or repower loads whose truck drivers have expired the available time on the clock. But even larger fleets have not been without their share of problems.

One well-known 300-truck fleet who does retail store deliveries for big-box retailers implemented ELDs in the late-80s and suffered greatly for it in the beginning. The fleet knew that ELDs would make it impossible to adjust for delays, so they created a video explaining to their customers how the HOS rules and ELDs would impact the operation.

The company also let its customers know it intended to increase its rates 10 percent across the board and pay that 10 percent to its drivers to make up for lost miles or revenue. Furthermore, it announced it was going to add a day to most of its delivery times.

What happened? They immediately lost 40 percent of their business within the first few months, although all of their truck drivers stayed. But within a year, after ELDs became more commonplace, almost all of their customers returned and were happy to pay the higher fee for excellent service.

How to Prepare

The good news is that fleets have between now and 2017 to prepare. They will need to work closely with their customers to ensure a smooth transition without a major loss of business. Small fleets will have to successfully adapt to the new reality and ensure their customers are on board with them.

The fact is little adjustments can add up in a big way. While truck drivers may use a few hours of potential driving time as a result of ELD adoption, the primary question is when those hours will disappear. Quite frankly, it could mean the difference between a quick repositioning or an annoying layover, or perhaps making the delivery one day before you normally would. These kinds of changes can have a net reduction in operating time and make a big impact.

For small fleets who are worried these changes will put their business model at risk, there is one surefire way to make sure the rubber stays on the road. Start logging your paper logs as you are now, while you have a chance to work out the problems associated with no leeway. Don’t wait until the new rule is already here to take the action you should make today.

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