E-logs: Do They Really Increase Driving Time?


Photo by Howard Dickins via Flickr

Every day in America, people who “know what’s best” for truckers are trying to convince us how great e-logs are. One of the biggest things these pushers are trying to make us snort is that e-logs will increase the amount of time a driver has to drive. So is this true?

Well, I for one can’t stand wishy-washy people who beat around the bush. That’s why I’m going to give you a once-and-for-all straight-out answer to this question. I can say with every fiber of my being that the answer is yes… and no. Uhhhh… Maybe???

I’ve been running e-logs for a couple of months now so I feel I’m fairly qualified to answer this question. For the first month, I had to pull double-duty by doing e-logs while still keeping paper logs. This gave me a chance to compare the two systems side-by-side.

In the beginning, I kept noticing that I had just a tad bit more time on my paper logs than on my e-logs. There were two loads in particular that came down to the wire. On both, I went over my drive time on my e-logs, but just managed to get the job done legally on paper logs. Good thing I had been told that paper takes precedence over e-logs. Word has it that it’s also very effective against a rock, but pretty much worthless when it comes up against scissors.

I knew it! Those fibbing safety jerks! How dare they lie to me! I told them they were full of rumpidus wastioli! So the real answer to the initial question is NO! E-logs don’t save the driver time!

But wait… Hmmmm??? Now that I think of it, it is kinda weird that this only happened the first couple of weeks. I mean, the second half of the month I started noticing that I actually did have a little bit more time on e-logs than what my paper logs where showing. So what’s up with dat? Had the time-space continuum changed somehow? Were the e-log pimps somehow messing with physics? Nah. That couldn’t be it. Surely no one praising e-logs has the brains to tamper with such complex forces of nature.

I guess I’ll have to admit that I was the problem. I soon realized that during the first couple of weeks there had been numerous times when I had forgotten to take myself off the On-Duty line. You see; my particular e-log system is set up to automatically put you on the On-Duty line when you quit driving and forget to change your duty status. Since I was new to the system, my safety department would have been glad to change these screw-ups for me. Seeing as how it was only 15 to 20 minutes extra here or there, I hadn’t bothered to ask for the fix. My bad.

Once I realized that the moron in the driving seat was the problem, I remedied this by using the timer in my beloved iPhone. If I go to the On-Duty line to do my pre-trip inspection or to show time at a customer, I set my alarm for 16 minutes. 15 is required. 14 minutes and 55 seconds means you have to start over. So 16 minutes it is. It worked. Well, for the most part it has. I have the attention span of a 5-year-old at a life insurance seminar, so nothing is 100% effective for me. You see, timers work best when you remember to turn them on. Just a little tip from your Uncle Todd.

So there’s your final answer to the question. Yes, e-logs actually do increase your driving time. Good. That’s finally settled. Oh… Wait just a sec… I forgot about something. That’s all theoretically speaking. But we drivers know that nothing works according to plan when you’re sitting behind the wheel of a big rig.

So now e-logs have given me a few precious extra minutes in my day. I’m so giddy I can barely control myself. I feel like belting out a Fred Figglehorn-like scream of joy, but my male hormones are making it utterly impossible. Now I can drive later into the night. My paycheck this week is gonna be a whopper. Right?

Wrong. While it’s always great to gain a few extra minutes of driving time, e-logs make it harder to use all those minutes. Here is how this has worked for me. My e-log unit has just beeped at me telling me that I’ve got one hour left to drive. Since I’m a super-trucker who knows where every truck stop in America is, I know there’s a series of truck stops coming up. One exit is about 15 minutes down the road, another is about 50 minutes, and the third is 1.5 hours.

Which one do I stop at? Since I have an hour to drive, I’d like to make it to the one that’s about 50 minutes out. That way I can utilize most of my drive time and still get parked before Vader pops out of my e-log screen and starts with his mental stranglehold. Oh wait. We decided in the last blog post that that wouldn’t happen. Oh well. I still don’t want to get a log violation.

But what happens if that truck stop has a full parking lot? You might be fine if you’re pulling in before dusk, but what happens after nightfall when truckers descend on truck stops like vultures on a rotting carcass? You know, now that I think of it, a lot of the truck stop parking lots do share that similar odorific funk.

Well, if that truck stop is full, you drive on to the next safe place. Maybe that’s a rest area, which naturally means no shower or food, or maybe it’s that next truck stop that’s half an hour over your legal driving limit. Well gee. What to do?

Maybe I should just stop at the one up here in 15 minutes to be safe. And sadly, that’s what I find myself doing more often than not. Why? Because if I discover that their lot is full, I’ll have one more chance at the 50-minute truck stop before I run out of driving time. So, you non-truckers may be asking, “What’s the big deal? How would being on paper logs help you in this situation? When you’re out of time, you’re out of time.”

Oh ye of little trucking intelligence; lend me your ear. E-logs deal with time set in stone. That’s the way it should be. But a trucker’s schedule is set in sand, or possibly really thick water. Picture that as your toilet bowl the morning after your 21st birthday. With paper logs, there’s not a doubt in my mind that I’d go to the truck stop 50 minutes down the road. I’m going to maximize my log book to the fullest. If there’s parking there, that’s great. If not, oh well. As long as there’s not a weigh station with a bunch of gung-ho DOT officers between me and that next truck stop, I’ll just go there to park for the night. If that’s full, I’ll go on to the next.

The thing is, my paper log would show me stopping at the 50-minute truck stop, even if I didn’t. Illegal? Yes. Maximizing my time? Yes. Done by truckers every day? Yes. But here’s the deal. When I’m an hour further down the road than I’m supposed to be at the end of the night, it just means that I take off an hour later than I actually show leaving the next morning. That also means I drive one less hour that day. It all evens out.

So now we ponder the opening question yet again. Do e-logs really increase a driver’s available drive time? Although e-logs may gain you a few minutes here or there, real life situations make you lose more than you gain. Therefore, my final answer is a big fat nope. Besides, I’m through being a flake. Although I wouldn’t mind being a frosted one. Everyone loves those. They’re GRRRRREAT!

*Please leave a comment if you have your own experiences with e-logs or if you have questions. Thanks*

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15 Responses to “E-logs: Do They Really Increase Driving Time?”

  1. Lisa Nowak Says:

    Sounds like it’s all just another big stress-inducer to me.

  2. Old Friend Says:

    Todd,

    Just want to let you know that this is some of your best writing ever! Really liked the rock, paper, scissors reference. I, of course, not being a trucker read you for the writing and use you for examples in my class. I do not know a darn thing about e-logs, nor do I care, but your writing is getting really good and I just wanted to let you know!

  3. fullforce Says:

    WOW! I failed english class and hate to read… but your writing keep me wanting more the entire time! god job! I could have swore I was reading a article out of a magazine or something.

    Anyways looks like everyone is going to Elogs in the future, and looks like Ill be losing alot of loads and home time if its true.

  4. keith Says:

    just think you won’t be the only one losing out so will shippers receivers and companies. may not lose like the driver but they will lose

    • Todd McCann Says:

      How so, Keith? I agree about the carriers taking a hit, but I don’t see how this will make the shippers lose anything. Receivers? Maybe a bit more, but not for long. Let me think outloud for a second here and see if I can understand your point.

      Okay. If shippers take their time loading you and you can’t deliver because of your e-logs, whose fault is it? Theirs? No, it’s the drivers/carriers fault. Once that load leaves their warehouse, it’s the carrier’s responsibility. If your company told the shipper their driver could deliver it on time and they fail to do so, how does that affect the shipper?

      Sure, receivers will get pissed, but what are they gonna do? Call the shipper to complain? Not in the beginning. They’re gonna call the carrier. Even if the carrier blames the long load times for the late delivery, ultimately it’s still the carrier’s fault. They could have relayed the load to another driver. And if you, the driver, fails to report that you’ll be late because of your e-logs, who gets chewed for that? Not the shipper, receiver, or carrier. That leaves one guy or gal to take the heat.

      Even if the receivers do listen to the carriers and start getting cheesed about all the late loads, what do they do? They call the shipper to complain. Then the shipper finds a different carrier that says they can deliver on time. This isn’t hard to do since there are hundreds of trucking companies that are eager to do business with them; carriers who just so happen to still use paper logs. So again; how does this affect the shippers in a negative way?

      And the last thing that could (in theory) happen is that the carriers stop doing business with shippers/receivers who don’t reduce load/unload times. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Sorry. I cracked myself up there. A carrier throwing away business! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Sorry. I can’t stop now.

      Maybe I’m missing something here. If I’m being a moron, please straighten me out, Keith. I don’t mind looking like an idiot every now and then. 😀

    • Ed Says:

      Shippers & Receivers always blame the carrier. They don’t want to hear weather, traffic or any other excuse. The only way to make this hos work is for shippers and receivers to be fined for outrageous delivery requirements. If you could pull up your load time electronically and show your delivery appointment time you could show they expect the impossible. You are correct, if you complain they will just find another carrier!

  5. Gregory Says:

    Here is my ?. I was talking with a driver that uses elogs and he says he only drives about 8.5 hours a day. He says he never resets and makes all delieveries on time. he runs across country. What are ups/downs on this. Oh he is a o/o

    • Todd McCann Says:

      I sure am glad you tacked on that last sentence, cuz I was one confused puppy up until then! 😀

      Here’s the thing. In theory, I see nothing wrong with driving 8.5 hours a day and never resetting. But in practice, I’d never do it, nor could I. Here’s why. And by the way, this really isn’t as much an e-log issue as it is a general time management question. I’m sure you already know that though.

      1. We company drivers rarely have control over when our loads pick up and deliver. I’m at the mercy of my company. If they see I have hours available, they toss me a load. And with most companies working under the “forced dispatch” rules, it’s doubtful you can come up with an excuse every day as to why you can’t keep running. The chances that I have of getting loads every day that would allow me the flexibility to only drive 8.5 hours per day are somewhere between slim and super-model anorexic skinny. If my load is going to take more than 11 hours of driving, I’m usually going to have to drive 11, take my 10-hour break, and immediately take off again in order to deliver on time. But let’s say that my load will only take 8.5 hours to deliver. Can I just deliver my load and tell them I’m shutting down? Well, there may be a few companies out there that will let you do that, but I don’t know of many. I’ve certainly never worked for one. Like I said, if you’re a company driver and you drive 8.5 hours, that means you’ve still got 2.5 of juice in your bones. At least that’s what your dispatcher sees. If you’ve got hours, you’re running! But the guy you spoke of is an owner/operator. If he only feels like working 8.5, that’s his choice. He can probably pick and choose loads that work with his 8.5 hour work day.

      2. I don’t want to work every day. I’m not lazy, I’d just prefer to hammer down until I reach my 70 hours and then sit for 34 so I can get my 70 hours back. An example from my pre-trucking days comes to mind. Back when I worked at a factory, management asked us if we’d rather work five 8-hour days or four 9-hour days and only work 4 hours on Friday. It was nearly unanimous to do the latter. Wouldn’t you want to get your work over ASAP so you could get on with your pleasure time? If you hammer down for 70 hours, you can then use your 34-hour restart to do things you enjoy. For some that may be exploring the town, exercising, or even sitting around on your lazy butt and swapping stories in the trucker’s lounge. Get up and only drive 8.5 hours per day? That leaves 15.5 hours of down time every day. Let’s see… you MIGHT sleep for 8. That leaves 7.5 for goofing off every night. Hey wait… maybe this guy does have a point. I mean, it would absolutely drive me bonkers to work like this, but I can see some merit to it. It would be sort of like a regular job back at home. Work 8-9 hours, then go home and goof off. Oh wait, nope, I’m back to my original thought. What’s the point if you’re just going to have to hang out with yourself all the time? To each his own I guess.

      So Gregory, I’m sure I’ve cleared things right up for you, right? Right? LOL Seriously, this is really only an issue that an O/O and a very few company drivers will ever have to ponder. The rest of us company drivers out here hammer down when our carrier says to, and we sit without a load the rest of the time. There usually isn’t a choice in the matter.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  6. smoothjazz Says:

    I have been on E~logs about 4 wk and I hate it because it takes the freedom away that we use to have.I been driving 23yrs and I use to be able to stop any time and any were,all we had to worry about was picking up and delivering on time.you could get to a delivery early drop your trailer and bobtail to town to get something to eat or just look around.E~logs has really taken the fun and freedom from trucking and we allow them to do it,dummys

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Well smoothjazz, I totally agree with you on all counts, although I’ve never really considered trucking “fun.” 🙂 You say that “we allow them to do it.” Do you have any suggestions to stop it? The only way I see is for every trucker to abandon their carrier as soon as they switch to e-logs. And you and I both know that will never happen.

      The HOS rules changes are the same way. The FMSCA has a commenting period for truckers to give input, but ultimately they do what they want and we all fall into line. Sad, but true.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. Comments, suggestions, and questions are always welcomed and appreciated. 

    • Todd McCann Says:

      Hey there, smoothjazz.

      I know where you’re coming from cuz I felt the exact same way about e-logs when I first started using them. Well, I rarely (if ever) did the exploring thing like you mentioned, but e-logs really have put a damper on getting those on-time deliveries done efficiently. Just hang in there. They will get easier to deal with and your company will eventually adjust their procedures to compensate for the e-logs’ inflexibility.

      Now for this freedom thing. Freedom with logbooks is really just another way of saying “cheating.” Yes, I’m well aware these minor “cheats” aren’t actually a bad thing most of the time. But the problem is, you’ll never convince anyone who can do anything about the inflexible nature of e-logs because you’ll always be arguing that e-logs won’t let you cheat like your paper logs will. Check out my blog post called, Arguing E-logs, to read my full thoughts on the subject.

      Thanks for writing in, man. I do feel your pain.

  7. Rich Glenn Says:

    E-logs, gps, and satellite tracking have gotten trucking to the point that all drivers should be paid according to “The Fair Wage and Labor Act”.
    Big Brother can track your every move, if the Feds really wanted total honesty from drivers this would happen. As it stands we are considered UnSkilled Labor, therefore we as a group do not get paid time & a half over 40 hours. I beg to differ on the skill level after all we are called professional, does that not imply skill ?
    As for E-logs I’m old school and have opted out of trucking after 25 years. As I see it there was a 10% paycut associated with those. I gave away enough free time over the years.

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

    […] Here’s another example. One of the things that most makes me want to hand my e-log unit to my youngest nephew (that kid can destroy anything with the slightest touch) happens when I’m trying to find a parking spot late at night (find a perfect scenario in E-logs: Do they really increase driving time?). […]

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