Federal Update
The playbook on electronic logs
Here’s what truckers need to know right now about electronic logs and the FMCSA’s proposal to mandate them.

By David Tanner, associate editor

Separating facts from fiction about the FMCSA’s proposal to mandate electronic logging devices can be like trying to stomp out a wildfire. Every time you turn around, there’s another flare-up.

It’s time to cut to the chase and give truckers what they need – a quick playbook on electronic logs and where things stand right here, right now.

No. 1
There’s no mandate at this time

The FMCSA’s effort to mandate electronic logs is still a proposal at this point.

Some carriers and employers tell their drivers and leased operators that they must use electronic logs. That’s their right as business owners to make that decision, but as far as any federal mandate it’s not a done deal at this point.

The regulatory term for where the proposal is right now is supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, which was published in December 2013.

No. 2
The safety argument just isn’t there

In its supplemental notice, the FMCSA states that a mandate for electronic logs could prevent between 1,400 and 1,700 crashes each year while saving 20 to 24 lives.

OOIDA has always questioned the agency’s claims, and for good reason.

In 2013, the OOIDA Foundation analyzed and compared some of the largest motor carriers that used electronic logs and some of the largest carriers that didn’t use electronic logs. It turns out the ones that used electronic logs (and speed limiters) had higher crash rates and higher violation rates than those who didn’t.

The FMCSA admitted that its own study on the reported safety benefits of electronic logs was “skewed” to favor large carriers and did not represent trucking as a whole.

No. 3
Technical specs

FMCSA has proposed guidelines for what an ELD would or would not do. Actual designs would be left to the technology vendors.

The agency proposes a device that would track latitude and longitude, log engine hours and odometer readings, and record the vehicle’s location once every 60 minutes regardless of whether the engine is on or off.

The proposed device would store original records plus edits made to correct errors or inaccuracies. Drive time would not be altered in any way, and a driver would not be able to interact with it while a truck is in motion. Individual drivers would have a password if using an electronic log in a shared truck.

No. 4
The harassment issue

The courts and Congress have spoken: An agency-approved logging device must not be used by a carrier or dispatcher to harass drivers.

OOIDA took the FMCSA to federal court on the issue of driver harassment in 2010 and won. OOIDA’s victory forced the FMCSA to vacate its initial final rule on “electronic on-board recorders” in 2011 and go back to the drawing board to solve the issue of driver harassment.

At press time, the FMCSA and a hired contractor were conducting a congressionally mandated survey of truckers on the issue. What were the surveyors asking, and does it go far enough to properly address the harassment issue? We posed the question to the FMCSA.

“The ELD-driver harassment survey focuses on the interactions between carriers and drivers, and what carriers request of drivers that may be considered harassment and concern the way their hours-of-service are logged,” FMCSA Director of Communications Marissa Padilla said.

No. 5

The FMCSA estimates that a mandate for electronic logs would cost business owners $1.6 billion.

Technology vendors told Land Line during the Mid-America Trucking Show in March that a basic logging unit would likely run $500 to $700 and higher if it includes more options.

No. 6
Public comments

Want to make your feelings known on the harassment issue, the technical specs or other parts of the ELD proposal? There’s still time.

The FMCSA recently extended the public comment period until June 26 after OOIDA and the other stakeholders requested an extension. Please refer to Docket No. 2126-AB20. LL