FMCSA survey shows driver harassment prevalent but does not tie it to e-logs

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 11/13/2014

Ten percent of truckers surveyed on the topic of electronic logging devices and driver harassment by motor carriers say their companies ask or force them to drive while fatigued, falsify their logs, and break other rules at least twice a month. The survey commissioned by the FMCSA, however, denies that these forms of harassment are tied to the use of e-logs.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released the survey results on Thursday, Nov. 13. The survey itself was conducted by MaineWay Services of Fryeburg, Maine, at select truck stops across the country.

MaineWay researchers interviewed 628 professional truckers, 341 of which used electronic logging devices, known as ELDs. The rest used paper logs. The survey period lasted from April 28 through May 20, 2014.

Surveyors asked drivers about interactions with their carriers, whether they consider those interactions harassment and whether any harassing interactions are tied to the use of ELDs.

Research focused on 14 types of interactions ranging from adjusting load schedules to conversations about fatigue, detention time and pay.

Ten percent of drivers said they are somewhat routinely asked to drive when fatigued, falsify their logs, or have their logs changed at the back office to add driving time.

Approximately 19 percent of drivers said carriers asked them to meet unrealistic load schedules, while 19 percent said carriers interrupted their off-duty time by messaging them at least twice per month. A third of drivers considered it harassment when asked to drive while fatigued, falsify logs, or delay a break – while 20 percent of drivers considered it harassment if they were asked or forced to wait more than two hours at the docks without pay.

The survey asked drivers to write in any other types of interactions with motor carriers they felt were harassing in nature.

“Threats of firing,” … “Wake me up and tell me to get going and if I don’t answer they call the officers,” … “If you don’t do as they say they won’t give you any loads,” and “Disciplinary action,” were some of the responses.

Despite those responses, the researchers concluded: “The evidence in this survey research does not support concluding that harassment occurs due to being in a situation where HOS are logged using ELDs.”

The findings are not that surprising to OOIDA leadership, which raised the issue of driver harassment and successfully challenged the FMCSA’s initial rulemaking on electronic logs in court four years ago.

“It shows harassment exists, but the conclusions of the researchers are that the harassment is not specifically tied to ELDs,” OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley said.

“It shows potentially thousands of interactions per day that have drivers being asked or forced to falsify their logs and break the HOS rules, but we’re supposed to sit back and say, there’s nothing to see here,” he said.

The survey itself is part of a directive from Congress to the FMCSA to bring forward a new rule on electronic logs while also making sure the devices are not used to harass drivers. The FMCSA issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking earlier this year to discuss the specs and capabilities of the devices.

OOIDA takes issue with the timing of the survey results, which come after the administration came out with its supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking that proposes industry-wide use of ELDs.

“The analysis of the survey is being done through the lens of the administration’s (supplemental notice),” Bowley said.

“The agency should have waited until the survey was done and incorporated the results of the survey into the analysis they did in the (supplemental notice). That would have allowed an examination of the safety effects of harassment that the agency’s report admits happens into the cost-benefit analysis of the rulemaking,” Bowley said. “By not conducting and releasing the survey until well after the SNPRM was released, that opportunity was missed.”

More about the survey
About 70 percent of the drivers surveyed were company drivers while 29 percent were independent owner-operators. Of the drivers that said they used electronic logs, 80 percent were company drivers. Approximately 18 percent of owner-operators said they used electronic logs.

A low percentage, 1-3 percent, of those taking the survey believed that driver harassment was attributed specifically to the electronic logging device used to log hours of service.

Almost unanimously, drivers did not consider it harassment when messages or interactions with carriers discussed ways to save time between loads, paying drivers for delays, or asking drivers to take a break or shut down because of fatigue.

MaineWay also surveyed more than 800 office employees or managers of motor carriers ranging in size from fewer than 50 trucks to more than 1,000 trucks, and found that 13 percent of respondents said they somewhat routinely ask drivers to work more than the regulations allow or to falsify their hours. Still, that was not enough to tie harassment to the use of e-logs.

Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said they believed ELDs would not make the roads safer.

The reported cost-per-unit for electronic logging devices was between $500 and $2,000, with the average being about $1,000. The ongoing cost to have an ELD in a truck averaged $480 per year according to survey responses.

The FMCSA admitted there were limitations to the survey.

“One limitation is that all of the data is based on respondents’ self-reported answers, and not independent observation,” MaineWay researchers state in the narrative. “This introduces the possibility of biases due to memory, willingness to discuss issues of a sensitive nature, and perceptions of desirable behavior.”

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