Truckers keep this country going. Without them, goods would never make it to distant locations on time. Recent legislation has changed the way trucking professionals track their movements, and many people see it as a move for the better. Here is what everyone needs to know about electronic logging and what it will do for the trucker and the transportation industry.
Background on Record Keeping
For decades, professional truck drivers have kept written logs. The information they recorded ensured they did not exceed the legally allotted time on the road in any 24-hour period. In times past, manual logbooks were kept and turned in for review from time to time.
The goal was a simple one. By limiting the amount of time a trucker was behind the wheel each cycle, it was easier to ensure they had time to rest. This was especially important for TL truckers hauling goods hundreds or thousands of miles.
Why the Change?
Creating and storing manual records is not easy. Truckers either spend time on the road preparing the reports to fax in before they get any rest, or spend hours preparing the documents after they return home.
For the trucking firm, those records must be evaluated, data extracted, and the hard copies must be put in storage. With electronic logging, information is logged, downloaded, and stored in a secure cloud environment in much less time.
How Does It Work?
Electronic logging is envisioned to work by automatically tracking the progress of a driver while hauling goods across the state or the country. The software designed for some logs will allow drivers to include notes, something that is necessary if a road is washed out or some other unanticipated issue arises. Since the information can be accessed in real time, it is easy to know where a driver is in relation to the destination at all times.
The Grace Period
The terms of the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandate allow for a gradual conversion to the use of electronic logging devices. Some sectors of the industry will have up to two years to implement the change. Across the board, all personnel hauling freight of any kind should be using electronic logging by 2019.
Advantages and Potential Drawbacks
While the American Trucking Associations industry group sees electronic logging as a great thing, not everyone agrees.
Proponents of the move note the simplicity of tracking movement and making sure truckers are not working more hours than currently allowed. The devices will also ensure drivers are not catching short naps and then getting back on the road before the mandated ten-hour wait. That, advocates say, reduces pressure on drivers to doctor manual records in order to keep moving and make a delivery.
Detractors believe that the system needs to be tweaked before anything is set in stone. Concerns, such as those raised by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, note that the automatic logging done with some devices allows no room for drivers to deal with unanticipated delays or other circumstances that can take place on the road. This would effectively consume time that, at least according to the log, they were supposed to traveling, when in fact they are stopped and dealing with an emergency.
There is also some concern about carriers using the electronic logs to put additional pressure on drivers. This would apply to those who are employed full-time with a firm as well as independent truckers who work with multiple firms.
Drivers who work independently note they no longer have the opportunity to push themselves a little harder in order to cover more miles in a day. That means they will be competing for spots with transportation firms offering higher rates per mile. The competition may be fierce enough to force some smaller operations out of business.
Implementation: What Will It Take?
Whatever the opinion of electronic logging, there is no doubt that most firms will have to make changes in order to comply with the new mandate. Larger firms will likely invest in hardware that is installed in cab and loaded with tracking software. Some firms may invest in tablets that are loaded with tracking and logging software as a way of staying in compliance.
There is a learning curve both for drivers and personnel at the home office. Instructions in how to enter notes and upload data will become a standard part of driver training. At the office, dispatchers and others will need to learn how to access data, read it correctly, and utilize it to determine where to send a driver once a delivery is completed.
As with any technological change, it will take time for the dust to settle. As more firms make the transition, issues will be identified and solutions found. Once the adjustments are made, there is a good chance that everyone from the trucker to the transportation company owner will find their jobs are a lot easier.