Paperless Gets Trucking

By Carl Ford December 10, 2015

If you have ever been at a truck stop and looked at the shelves of goods specifically for truckers, you would notice a rather bulky (normally black) picture of truck on a log book. That log probably has not changed much since the 1930s. So it’s probably time that the analog log book gives way to the electronic version. Well, on December 10 the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) adopted the Final Rule that will employ technology to strengthen commercial truck and bus drivers’ reporting of hours-of-service.

The expectation is that the regulation will improve roadway safety and reduce fatigue.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated, “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.” Like other paperless systems, the expectation is that “the use of electronic logging devices (ELD) will result in an annual net benefit of more than $1 billion – largely by reducing the amount of required industry paperwork.”

An ELD automatically records driving time. It monitors engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information. Federal safety regulations limit the number of hours commercial drivers can be on-duty and still drive, as well as the number of hours spent driving. These limitations are designed to prevent truck and bus drivers from becoming fatigued while driving, and they require that drivers take a work break and have a sufficient off-duty rest period before returning to on-duty status.

While the DOT estimates that it will reduce the injuries and deaths associated with truck traffic accidents each year, independent truckers have expressed concerns they will be harassed by their clients if they are not at maximum workload. There are provisions to protect the drivers from coercion by carriers, shippers and receivers.

The ELD Rules will have the following impact: 3 million truck drivers have up to two years to adopt ELDs. In the next two years, the expectation is that ELD-specific devices will be available in the market. In theory, these can be applications on smart phones and tablets, provided they meet safety and security requirements. Legacy systems like Automatic On-Board Recording Devices are acceptable, but need to be updated to match the new requirements. There also is the expectation that the ELD will reduce the requirement for motor carriers (trucking firms) to report redundant information.

A copy of the ELD Final Rule announced today is available here.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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