Fear and Loathing of Electronic Logs


Photo by Capture Queen via Flickr

First of all, I’d like to thank Jason, the brains and brawn behind Truck Driver News, for letting me guest post on his site as well as my blog. Forgive him, for he knows not what he does.

As I sat at a company terminal waiting for a grease job (for my truck, you perv), I asked an older driver what he thought about our company’s announcement that they would be evaluating electronic logbooks. You’d think from the horror in his eyes that I had just told him that the new CSA rules had implemented mandatory castration for all male truck drivers.

This was not the first he’d heard of it. He admitted that it scared the dookie (my word, not his) out of him. He said, “I’ve been driving a truck since 1970. Old-timers don’t take to change very well.” Well neither do us 13-year young-timers.

I admit it. Electronic logs freak me out. But why is that? I certainly don’t have any hands-on experience with them, so why the fear and loathing? To help answer that question, I enlisted the help of my Twitter friend, Dean. His real friends know him better as @Dean0806.

Not only has Dean been using electronic logs for six months, he’s also a regional driver who delivers tires. 10-15 stops throughout the week is a common occurrence for him. That makes him a perfect candidate for brain-picking. If he weren’t such a huge Texas Longhorn and Dallas Cowboy fan, I’d probably think he was even more brain-pick-worthy. Alas, we must forgive him. We all have our faults. 😉

After a flurry of email and Twitter exchanges, I think I’ve pretty much got the gist of this. Keep in mind that this is the way that Dean’s system works. He informed me that each carrier is able to adjust these electronic demons to suit their evil desires. First we’ll get an overview, and then we’ll address the concerns I still have.

Electronic logs track when and where the truck goes. When it’s moving, it logs you on Line 3 Driving. Duh. When you are stopped and the brake is pulled, it can be set to automatically log you onto Line 1 Off-Duty, Line 2 Sleeper Berth, or Line 4 On-Duty Not Driving. Dean’s system defaults to Line 4. The City, State, and time are entered automatically. If he chooses to change anything on Lines 1, 2, or 4, he can do so by going to an edit screen. He can edit the previous eight days logs.

The driving line, however, cannot be altered. Furthermore, the system will alert you when you get close to your 11-hour driving limit, your 14-hour work limit, or your 70-hour weekly limit. Another cool feature is available when a DOT officer wants a copy of your last eight days of logs. You simply get a fax number from them, enter the number into the computer, and the system will fax them copies. Cool, huh?

So that’s it in a nutshell. Now, here’s my concerns.

Concern: What if I’m stuck in rush hour traffic? Will this be wasting my driving time?

Answer: That depends. Dean informs me that his company has set up the system so that if he’s moving slower than 7 mph, he can log off the Driving line and onto Off-Duty. After 2 miles, or if the speeds increase to 8 mph, the system will put him back on the driving line automatically. Honestly, that sounds tolerable for situations like rush hour, construction, wrecks, etc. As long as the speed is below 7 mph, I’d just have to reach down every 2 miles and pop it back up to Off-Duty. And Lord knows it takes a while to go 2 miles in those conditions.

The times I’d most hate electronic logs is during that incomprehensible traffic that goes 5 mph for a mile and then all of a sudden it picks up to 60 mph. Next thing you know, you’re back to 5 mph. Rinse, repeat, and curse. Talk about a pain.

Concern: What happens when I have used all my available drive time to get to a customer, then after I’m loaded/unloaded the customer doesn’t have any place for me to park for my mandatory 10-hour break?

Answer: According to Dean, the truck will beep at you like crazy when it knows you’re driving illegal, but it will allow you to drive. We truckers know that these situations happen. We also know that it’s breaking the law to drive over our 11 hours. We also know that if there’s no place to park, there’s no place to park. Master Yoda would understand what the DOT Gestapo doesn’t. “Drive on we must.”

Concern: Since we can’t “fudge” the logbooks a little here and there, won’t this cause a loss of productivity?

Answer: My guess is yes, at least in the beginning. Ever since I started with this new company, I’ve been keeping track of how electronic logs would affect me. In three weeks time, I’ve had three, possibly four loads that I would’ve had to refuse because I knew that the electronic logs couldn’t log it. I knew I could log those same loads on paper logs without a hitch. On three other loads, I would have delivered late due to circumstances that happened during the trip. As of now, I’m on paper logs and I’m completely legal. I really love fudge.

Conclusion: Trucking companies are going to have to rethink the way they do things. No longer will they be able to give you a load that is marginal, or heck, even productive. If they do, they can expect more late pickups/deliveries and more drivers running out of driving hours before they can deliver. And because of that, they’ll be doing more relays with other drivers. These relays are a pain-in-the-hemorrhoid holder for the planners. Of course, my love of planners is well-known, so perhaps I would get some joy out of watching them squirm. My guess is that productivity will go way down until they figure out that they can’t push us as hard as they used to.

The thing is, most drivers don’t mind being pushed. I didn’t legally log 3100 miles last week by refusing loads that were going to be tight. I took the ones I knew I could log legally, and I refused the others. The DOT gave us rules to log by. I follow those rules and I make money. Why can’t they just leave well enough alone?

*Are you using e-logs yet? If yes, what do you think so far? If not, tell us about your own thoughts and concerns by leaving a comment. And if you know anyone who’s getting ready to start using e-logs, please let them know that I’ll be writing about them as I learn to use them. Thanks.*

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Responses to “Fear and Loathing of Electronic Logs”

  1. dab2006 Says:

    Great post! Informative, yet funny! Thanks Todd & Jason! As for e-logs, they take some getting used to. Once you learn the system, you’ll get some fudge. Granted, not nearly as much, but hey, moderation is the key! 😉

  2. Pam Says:

    Wow. Seems like you are spreading your wing and guest flogging! Remember the little people when you’re famous!

    • helmetorheels Says:

      LOL! I just reread my comment! Should have read: Wow. Seems like you are spreading your wings and guest blogging! Remember the little people when you’re famous!

      Hope you had a good laugh at that one!!

  3. Heidi Says:

    Change can be tough… one thing for sure… it’s happening with greater frequency these days. Roll with it my friend. You’ll land on your feet! Just ask the evil overlord.

  4. Arguing e-logs Says:

    […] had questions about electronic logs before I even got them. Check out Fear and loathing of electronic logs for my initial thoughts. Turns out, most of my fears were warranted. For example, let’s take […]

  5. Arguing e-logs « About Trucking Jobs Blog Says:

    […] had questions about electronic logs before I even got them. Check out Fear and loathing of electronic logs for my initial thoughts. Turns out, most of my fears were warranted. For example, let’s take […]

  6. E-logs: A second look « About Trucking Jobs Blog Says:

    […] you want to get caught up with my ongoing journey with e-logs, check out Fear and loathing of electronic logs, where I speculate about my fears of e-logs long before I had them. Next up was my last post, […]

  7. TD62: E-logs: A Second Look | About Truck Driving Says:

    […] you want to get caught up with my ongoing journey with e-logs, check out Fear and loathing of electronic logs, where I speculate about my fears of e-logs long before I had them. Next up was my last post, […]

  8. TD77: Arguing E-logs | About Truck Driving Says:

    […] had questions about electronic logs before I even got them. Check out Fear and loathing of electronic logs for my initial thoughts. Turns out, most of my fears were warranted. For example, let’s take […]

  9. Charles Says:

    Keeping that door closed is key and not a problem for me. My deal is getting fined for driving over hours because of no place to park or a service failure because say you got stuck in traffic if you knew you had enough time to make it but ended up getting stuck and now don’t have enough time as to with paper just push your start time forward and make that traffic jam wait time disappear. We loose time and loads because of the system but what about pay we loose? I’m sorry but I can’t feed my family on $600 a week and companies saying that is “good money” when its actually not considering the cost of living in our current times. I’m not running elogs yet and don’t know much about them other than what I’ve heard but can benifit from them as they log by the minute rather than 15. I won’t lie, my anxiety is way up on the subject because I know on paper I’m good having never had one single log violation since I started driving in early 08′.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Hey Charles,

      Yep. That is a very real possibility that you could get caught driving over hours because of the inflexibility of e-logs. No doubt about that. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but it could. The thing is, that little sticker that says “This truck uses e-logs” or something of the sort goes a long way. I can’t count the number of times that DOT has waved me through long inspection lines due to that sticker. Usually during routine DOT inspections, the officer doesn’t even ask to look at my e-logs. I’m guessing that’s because they wouldn’t know what they were looking at even if they saw it. LOL

      Now let’s address your fears of log violations due to e-logs. In case you didn’t read the response to your other comment, I’ll risk repeating myself through the remainder of this paragraph. In my experience I’ve found that your company will “flag” any log violations with any mitigating circumstances. So if you had plenty of hours when you arrived at the receiver, but ran out of time due to long unload times, your company will make note of that when you have to drive illegally to find a place to park for the night. Same thing if you run out of hours due to a traffic jam. A note will be added to show you were blatantly driving illegally.

      As for the pay, well, that one’s still up in the air for me. I’ve been on e-logs since December of 2010. In the beginning, I definitely noticed a hit to my miles. But that seemed to recover slowly. Was it due to the fact that January-February are usually slow months in trucking? I could have been. Like I said, I noticed my miles pick up eventually, and actually I noticed another increase when I got a different dispatcher. Then after another dispatcher change (got a newbie this time), my miles dropped again. So was it the e-logs, or was it outside factors? I guess there’s just no was to truly tell. Sure, all my company’s posters say that miles have gone up since the implementation of e-logs, but like any good driver, I ain’t counting on company propaganda. LOL

      As for saving time because e-logs log my minutes instead of 15 minute increments, well, I wrote a whole blog post about that. Check out https://abouttruckingjobs.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/e-logs-do-they-really-increase-driving-time/ if you haven’t already.

      Hope this helps. If you’ve got any more questions about e-logs, don’t hesitate to leave another comment or email me directly at AboutTruckingJobs@gmail.com. I’d be glad to help however I can.

      Todd

  10. TD55: The EOBR Myth | About Truck Driving Says:

    […] know what some of you regular readers are thinking. “But you said you had fear and loathing of electronic logs.” I did, and still do to some extent. I don’t know exactly how they work, so […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: