E-logs: My First Impression


Despite the fact that I’ve been driving for 13 years, I made a bonehead rookie mistake yesterday. It was especially unfortunate since it probably would have been covered if it didn’t coincide with my first day running with e-logs. But first… what are e-logs?

E-logs are electronic logs. For more details, you may want to jump on over to a previous blog of mine before you read on. I gave it the appropriate name of, “Fear and loathing of electronic logs.”

As my truck was getting e-logs installed, I was taking a class on how to use them. I went in grumpy and hating them. Four hours later, I came out with a slightly less grumpy disposition and a lower hate factor, but I’m still not doing round-off-double-back-handsprings. And thank God for that. I wouldn’t want you to see my cheerleading panties.

One thing I knew going in was that each company can set up e-logs according to their own guidelines. This is something that @Dean0806 had informed me of in the blog post mentioned above. Knowing my company, this was what I was most worried about. My worries weren’t unfounded.

For example, Dean’s company has their e-logs set up where he can creep along (7 mph or less) in rush hour traffic and still be on the “On-Duty, Not Driving” line. My company has it set to go to the Driving line after a half-mile, no matter what your speed is. It used to be set at 1 mile, but they decided that was waaaay too long. Grrr. Keep this under your hat, but I think mine is still set at 1 mile. Shhhhhh.

When they mentioned this in class, all three of us drivers started talking at once. Our concern was this. Many times we’ll be parked at a shipper/receiver waiting for a dock. Or maybe we got there the night before. Either way, if it’s going to be a while, we’ll start our 10-hour break. At some point, we’re going to have to wake up and back into a dock. Now there are a lot of massive warehouses out there. Some of them even have off-site buildings. Many of them will require us to drive over .5 mile to get to the dock. That will effectively break our mandatory 10-hour rest period.

The company is aware of this and is looking into it. For now the fix is to call in to the Safety Department and let them know what happened. If they can verify you never left the property, they’ll fix it. While it’s good that they’ll do that, it’s a big fail in my book. Still stranger, I’m thinking they wouldn’t even have this problem if they’d just left the 1 mile limit in effect. Although that still wouldn’t fix the off-site problem…

Next, I asked about a situation that happened to me not long ago. I had enough hours to get to my delivery location, but they didn’t have any parking. My plan was to park at a nearby Lowe’s that I had been parking at for years. Since I didn’t have enough time to fit in a 10-hour break before my delivery appointment, I was just going to drive the 5 miles from Lowe’s to the customer and show on my paper logs that I had been at the delivery point all night. Illegal? Technically, yes. Done frequently by truckers? Definitely yes. Able to do on e-logs? Nope.

That was my plan anyway. What actually happened is a tow truck driver knocked on my door and told me he was instructed to tow any truck that wouldn’t leave the Lowe’s parking lot. Naturally, I left. Here’s the thing though. I was about 7.5 hours into my break. If I had been down 8 hours I could have used it as part of a split sleeper berth, moved, and gotten my other 2 hours somewhere else. Since it wasn’t, I moved, pretended I didn’t, and delivered my load on time.

But that was only possible because I was on paper logs. I asked the trainer about this scenario and was told that since I didn’t have any hours available, and I had to move before my 10-hour break was completed, I would be charged with a log violation. She did say that the company would note the situation along with the violation so that it could be seen that I had no choice in the matter. While this sucks more than a dehydrated mosquito, that’s not the worst of it.

Since I had moved before completing my 10-hour break and I hadn’t even gotten 8 hours in to set up a possible split sleeper berth, I would now have to start my break over. So now my mandatory 10-hour break has just turned into a mandatory 17.5 hour break (that’s my wasted 7.5 hours that didn’t count, plus my new 10-hour break). Furthermore, I’m sitting 5 miles from my delivery point, but I now can’t deliver because I don’t have any driving time. In this situation, another driver would have to come and deliver my load.

The trainer said the fix for this problem was to plan ahead. If you know that a receiver doesn’t have parking, tell your dispatcher how close you can get and they’ll find another driver to relay the load. This is going to lead to a LOT of relays, especially since my company doesn’t always know which customers allow parking, and which don’t. Even crappier is that many times you can get within the same city as the receiver, you just can’t park at their facility. Since my company doesn’t pay a dime for local runs (within the same city), many of these runs won’t pay anything except for the miles it takes you to get to the relay point. So that guy taking that relay from me would’ve been hosed on money.

While all this sounds easy enough, what about those situations like the one I was in? I’d been parking at that Lowe’s for years. How was I to know they’d change the rules all of a sudden? Or how about those times when you park somewhere questionable because you’ve run out of driving time? Truckers are forced to move all the time for reasons such as this. Who gets stuck with the log violation, the ticket if we get caught, and possibly a service failure if the load can’t be delivered on time? Once again, it all comes back to the driver.

Here’s the next thing that didn’t make sense. Any calls to breakdown must be done during On-Duty time. So say you pull into a truck stop, do your walk-around, and notice a flat tire. You call into breakdown while you’re still On-Duty, then you check into the shop at the truck stop. They say it’ll be about 3 hours before they can fit you in. That’s fine, I’ll just go to sleep until then, get my 2 hours of my split sleeper berth in, and finish the other 8 hours after I’m out of the shop. Right? Wrong. The new e-log rules say that when you are awaiting repairs, you have to log it as On-Duty time. So not only are you wasting time that could be going toward your 10-hour break, you’re also using up your hours on your 70-hour work week. Can someone please explain to me how this is any different from moving on a customer’s property to bump a dock? Cuz my e-log trainer couldn’t.

One thing I was anticipating was for them to say how much time e-logs would save me. It came as expected. She said, “Using paper logs, you have to log 15 minutes for fueling, even if it only takes you 5 minutes. Now, if it takes you 5 minutes, it saves you 10 full minutes of driving time!” To which I responded: “But isn’t logging 15 minutes for fueling a company policy?” It was. “Federal guidelines say that anything under 7 minutes doesn’t have to be logged, other than flagging it. So, in essence, we’re losing 15 minutes, because under DOT rules, we wouldn’t even have to show fueling if it only took 5 minutes.” No good answer followed.

AMMENDMENT:

I later discovered that ANY time working has to be logged. So I was mistaken about this and so was my e-log trainer. Gee, that’s comforting. If they can’t get it right, how the heck am I supposed to? So in the above scenario, even if I managed to fuel in 5 minutes, I would still have to log it as 15 minutes on my paper log. So now that that’s clear as a tornado sky, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled program.

END AMMENDMENT

Next was the mandatory Pre-Trip Inspection. 15 minutes minimum is the standard for both carriers and the DOT. As I happily pointed out, “Here’s another 15 minutes lost. Before, I could log my PTI when I fueled, no matter what time of day it was. Now you’re telling me I have to do it at the beginning of the day, and it can’t be combined with any other activity.” Again. No explanation.

Now back to my rookie mistake. I got my load information and wrote it all down. For some reason, my brain decided that my delivery time of 1300 (1 p.m.) was actually 3 p.m. I don’t know how that happened. I’m guessing the “3” in 1300 stuck in my demented brain. Anyway, here’s how e-logs affected this situation.

Since I got this load information the day before and I didn’t want to sit around and wait, I had already asked if I could deliver early. No one would respond to my dispatcher, so I never got an answer. Now if I had been on paper logs, I no doubt would’ve taken off extra early and tried to deliver before my appointment time. If the customer would’ve taken me early, all would be well. If they wouldn’t take me until my appointment time, I would’ve simply showed taking off a couple of hours later on my logs. Again, illegal? Yep. Done by truckers every day? No doubt.

Instead, I waited until the very last minute to take off. I knew that the second I rolled out, my 14-hour clock started ticking. If I rolled out too early and couldn’t deliver, I’d have burned all that time while I sat waiting on my appointment. I wasn’t going to do that. The problem was, I only left in time to deliver by 3 p.m. When my dispatcher called to ask me why I wasn’t heading toward my delivery, I knew I had screwed the pooch. I had planned on rolling in by 3 p.m. Now I was going to be 2 hours late.

Luckily, I have a cool dispatcher who knows I don’t make rookie mistakes like that very often. It was also lucky that there was heavy fog out that she could blame my lateness on. I’m telling you folks, I’ve got the coolest dispatcher. Still, if everyone on e-logs is trying to maximize their time, it seems to me that it will put a whole lot of truckers in a race against time. Does anyone think that’s a good idea?

So now that my first day with e-logs is completed, here’s my initial impression. They are fairly easy to learn and use. It has some cool features that I didn’t have before, such as a running total of my hours, always knowing what city/state I’m in, and how it automatically knows when I arrive at a customer.

While all of that is great, the ability to search and read messages while I’m driving is my favorite feature. My old Qualcomm unit wouldn’t let me read a message unless I was at a complete stop. They say that I still can’t type while I’m going down the road, which is to be expected. Again, I think they forgot to disable this feature in my unit, because I’ve tried typing while going down the road and it works just dandy. Of course, I’m not planning to abuse this, but still… shhhhhhh.

I’m convinced that the trucking industry is going to have to change if e-logs are going to work. Shippers and Receivers in particular are going to have to start caring about a trucker’s time. And if some of the new proposed rules, such as the hard 14-hour workday take hold, it will be even more necessary. I just don’t think e-logs are quite ready for the weird situations that truckers find themselves in every day.

To sum up, I think the key isn’t the e-logs themselves. The key is how they’re set up. E-logs can be as flexible as a double-jointed gymnast or as rigid as an Eskimo’s clothesline laundry. Here’s to hoping that trucking companies prefer leotards over stiff boxer shorts.

*Please leave a rating and post a comment with your concerns or experiences with e-logs.*

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20 Responses to “E-logs: My First Impression”

  1. Christy Says:

    That was incredibly informative, Todd! I had wondered exactly how these new ‘e-logs’ were going to work, and I know that it is only a matter of time before my company switches over to them. Some drivers claim they gain more driving time, but in your case, you LOSE precious time. Every minute has to count in our profession anymore, mainly because of the idiots who keep making us jump through hoops, and who are driving us closer to starvation every day.
    Every little thing now falls down on the driver’s shoulders, and I blogged about being between a “rock and a hard place” a couple of years ago.
    I surely wish you the best, but if you find you are losing money, and are getting log violations for simply trying to fit the round peg into the square hole, I hope that you will go to the trucker boards and forums and share what you are experiencing with your particular company.
    I think if enough companies start getting bad “DAC” reports from the drivers, eventually they will have to change their tactics if they want anyone of quality to drive for them.
    Please keep sharing these experiences with us….this way many of us won’t be too surprised or blindsided when it happens to us.
    I wish you and the Evil Overlord a Happy New Year. 😀

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Thanks for your comments, Christy. You know I’ll keep sharing my experiences with e-logs. There’s no doubt I’ll need to vent.

      Like the first time I don’t make it home because I hit my 70-hour mark 100 miles from my house. Or the first time I have to take one of those 17.5 hour breaks like I talked about in the article.

      I think you’re right about every company eventually going to e-logs. My Safety Director said as much when I met with him. I think that driver’s will eventually stop asking if a carrier has e-logs. The new question will be “How lenient are the e-logs?”

      Hope you had a Happy New Year too.

  2. TracyLynn Says:

    Another good post Todd! You are absolutely right, there needs to be a lot of changes made in the industry to make it work, do I think it will happen? Sadly, no.
    DOT couldn’t care less. Shippers & Receivers have nothing to lose because they know that DOT doesn’t give a crap.
    Once again that leaves the Trucker out there dangling alone in the wind.
    If anyone can figure this out, it will be you.
    Go get em Big Dog!

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Well, Tracy Lynn, I’m glad you think I’m up for the job. Unfortunately, I don’t think the drivers are really going to have that much say-so in the transition from paper logs to e-logs.

      Drivers have been saying for years that the HOS (Hours of Service, that’s for my non-trucker readers) rules would work much better if the shippers and receivers would get their crap together. But has it changed anything?

      When I spoke to my company’s Safety Director, he said it was ultimately going to be up to the carriers and the government agencies to crack down on the shippers/receivers. They are going to have to be shown how their inefficiencies are affecting trucking safety. He said he had a meeting with one of the big three automakers and presented them with some facts that really left them thinking. I believe him too.

      I know for a fact that my company has dropped major customers due to their inconsideration for a driver’s time. Those customers eventually came crawling back after getting their act together. Hopefully, my company will be willing to do it again as many times as necessary. And let’s hope that the other carriers step up too. God knows we can’t count on the government boys to get the job done.

  3. droidtrucker Says:

    You are definately right about it depends on how the carrier sets up the parameters of the E-Log. I think my company did a pretty fair job on the big picture of what type customers we have and the appt times they give vs. parking situations and being able to make ontime delivery with the set up. We can park close to the receiver, starting our 10hr break, when appt time comes we can start truck and move it 1.9 mile without resetting it. If you have the gumption(know idea if this is a word) to stop truck at 1.9 mile and hit the button to go from sleeper to offduty then you can go another 1.9 mile. rinse and repeat until no longer needed. Once in the dock or where you had to go, you can then edit all back to sleeper time. We can edit anything except drive time. Another feature that can be used is line 5…offduty driving….we can use this anytimne we arent under a load and it doesnt count against our clock…sometimes you may decide you need to use it in a dire emergency even if under a load.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      What a great comment. I love it when truckers who have hands on experience pipe in to help explain how things work. And you are sooooo right about the determining factor being how each company sets up their e-logs.

      I’d love it if I could rinse and repeat every 1.9 miles to get the job done. Our e-logs aren’t set up that way. And to go back and edit them would be nice too. We can’t edit anything. Only the Safety Department can edit our logs, and I somehow doubt they’re going to be much help to a driver.

      We also have the line 5 On-Duty PC (Personal Conveyance), but we have been warned and people have gotten log violations over using it while under a load. If we want to use it because of a long wait to get a dock, we must first get permission to drop the trailer on the customer’s property and bobtail off-site. If we are empty, we can use it any time. It’s a nice feature to have, but it’s not very flexible. At least not with my company anyway.

      Thanks again for the informative comment. And by the way, gumption is a word. Well done. 🙂

  4. Lisa Nowak Says:

    From how you’ve described it, it sounds like it’s only a matter of time before the current rules start costing the company money. That’s when things will change. They could probably care less that they’re expecting you to break state and Federal laws (not to mention the laws of physics) but they won’t stand for these inconveniences eating into their profits.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      It’s the shippers and receivers who are going to have to get their act together. Right now, they certainly don’t care about trucker’s time or what they have to do to deliver the load on time.

      Carriers, on the other hand, have to care. With the new CSA ratings going into effect, every carrier will be judged by how safe they and their drivers are. That’s why I say it’s up to the carriers to force the shippers/receivers hand. Take now for instance. I’ve been sitting here for 5.5 hours and still haven’t been loaded. The carriers are going to have to start charging the customers for these detention times. I certainly can’t do it.

  5. Ира Says:

    nice ))

  6. lapazleo Says:

    as usual another kneejerk reaction to major problem. Ill be leaving a 25 year driving career partly due to e logs did any of these desk jockeys ever think to ask an actual driver what might be a solution

    • Todd McCann Says:

      You got that right, brother. Too many regulations are put in place as knee-jerk reactions to fix something that someone “perceives” to be a problem. And you know, you’re not the first 25-year veteran that I’ve heard say the same thing about quitting. Are e-logs (and all these other new regulations) really a good thing if they’re running off experienced drivers? You and I both know the answer to that. And don’t even get me started on the Mexican truck issue that will only make things worse.

  7. mike Says:

    I have never used this forum,

    I never usually interact but this is by far the best posting i’ve come across and the points are absolutely spot on.

    Having left European trucking 5 years ago I’d like to share a comparisson with you and trust me you are heading the same way.

    The difference is vast but please remember one critical factor and the detrement to the North American trucker. “Pay by hours vs pay by miles”

    I am not being boastful but coming from the Europe the technology in terms of electronic devices are way ahead of North America and its been great but only because we are paid by the hour and the system therefore works to the advantage of the driver. The DOT recognised years ago that drivers were not the problem. Why would any driver exceed his on duty time ie 19 hrs for the equivelant of 11 hrs pay ?
    They realsied that employers who “Claimed to be legal” were effectively forcing a driver to break rules and exceed on duty time etc.

    Legislation followed and the transformation began. No longer do employers hold the upper hand. The driver holds all the cards now and NOT the employer.

    No more “Tipping off the card” This is a term used for interupting your “rest/off duty period” to perform an “On duty activity”

    It’s no longer possible, if you move the truck a foot and you make a mark on your tacho/now digicard.

    Employers know this so its no longer an issue unlike North America the DOT implement a uniform system. They won’t allow a carrier to set their own parameters ie. truck can move 1/2 mile without registering.

    Comparing this with North America the opposite applies. Suddenly 11hrs drive / 14hrs on duty / 70 hr cycle becomes critical and you need to stretch your hrs in order to fit as many miles as possible.

    North American carriers are extremely sneaky, they want their cake and eat it.

    Individual carriers are able to set their own parameters in terms of their satellite system ie. Truck moves 500 feet and nothing records.

    Quite convenient for when they need a driver to wake up after 3 hrs into his Sleeper cycle put it on a dock, deliver and then go back to bed. (Good luck) All for very little of course because you are paid by the mile.

    These companies must think we are stupid, I saw this happening 15/20 years ago.

    Trucking can be a wonderful career and I truly respect North American truckers but when you have to contend with lack of miles, a ticking clock, “Tipping off the card” dispatchers who are reactive rather than pro active in finding reloads etc I think their is a long way to go before employers are held accountable and the DOT need to get a grip and focus on the real issue.

    With manual logs we all had no choice but to stretch our log here and there. We faught to get sufficient miles. Now we have an electronic device that satisfies the employer but leaves the driver juggling yet another ball.

    Being paid by the mile with these restrictions and the downtime we suffer is an absolute joke and they wonder why North America has a driver shortage !!

    Sorry if this dragged on, great post Todd

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Okay, Mike. You never need to apologize for “dragging on” with a comment on my blog. That’s what all my posts are like. They’re like the Energizer Bunny; they keep going, and going, and going… LOL

      This is especially true for comments such as yours. I love learning about trucking in other countries. I had to give a fellow company driver a ride from his home to a terminal once. He was a Brit who had run under the same e-log/pay-by-the-hour system and everything you said backs up what he told me.

      I think most truckers here in the States would love to get paid by the hour, but I’m guessing you’re right that it’s the last thing the carriers want. They’ve got us drivers by the gonads right now, so why would they want to change things? Heck, most of them are still using the Household Mover’s Guide to make sure we don’t get paid all the miles we actually drive. My only fear would be that they’d set the hourly pay too low.

      I’m sensing a blog post about this subject soon. Thanks for giving us American truckers a glimpse into what life “could” be like for us one day. Thanks again for the excellent comment!

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

    […] I figured my time wrong (a rookie mistake) and therefore delivered my load late (details in E-logs: My first impression). If I’d have still been on paper logs, I undoubtedly would have taken off a bit earlier […]

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

    […] Trucking Jobs Blog A blog about a truckers life on the road. « E-logs: My first impression E-logs: Do They Really Increase Driving Time? […]

  10. Charles Says:

    I started driving in 08′ and to this day have avoided elog’s like the plague and was tought how to run illegal from day one but I guess time has come where they are catching up. Shit like what you mention is what worries me about elog’s but in most cases its a damned if you do damned if you don’t no matter what and one way or another, enough screw ups will cost you your job and even your CDL because of CSA and their retarded point system. I’ve run a paper log legal but not 100% to the T. Sometimes you gotta buy yourself 15 minutes here or there.

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Hey Charles. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about elogs.

      After being on e-logs for quite some time, I’d still say that I’d prefer to be on paper logs. That “15 minutes here or there” you mentioned is the main reason. But having said that, e-logs aren’t as bad as I figured they would be. Even with the fact that my company has the strictest e-log rules of any that I’ve heard of, for the most part you get used to them. Yea, yea… I agree that it’s sad that we have to “get used to” crap like this, but times are a-changin’.

      I will point out one thing that will hopefully help ease your mind. I found out not too long ago that log violations only go against your CSA score if the DOT finds out about it through inspection or company audits. So if you have to drive over your 11 or 14 to get to a safe haven, your company will mark it on your personal safety record, but DOT does not automatically find out about it, which means the CSA doesn’t either. So that’s good news.

      Also, 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.

      What it really boils to is how flexible your company’s e-log rules are. I have many trucker friends who love e-logs. I just happen to not be one of them. But seriously, they aren’t as bad as you’re probably expecting either. That’s my experience at least.

      Hope this helps,

      Todd

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

    […] I figured my time wrong (a rookie mistake) and therefore delivered my load late (details in E-logs: My first impression). If I’d have still been on paper logs, I undoubtedly would have taken off a bit earlier […]

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

    […] logs, where I speculate about my fears of e-logs long before I had them. Next up was my last post, E-logs: My first impression, which was written after I’d had been using e-logs for a few […]

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