Ready for the Electronic Log Mandate

August 12, 2015

This fall the FMCSA will publish a final rule mandating electronic logs throughout the trucking industry.  I don’t like all regulations FMCSA adopts but I do like this one.  What is the impact?

At ACT, there is no impact as we have used electronic logs for quite a while.  There are a handful of independent contractors currently on paper logs and they will have to convert to electronic logs.  This won’t affect their operations at all because of our core value of “Integrity.”  We are “by the book” without excuse or exception.  The only change for them will be learning a new computer.  With the right attitude this goes quickly.

There are a lot of benefits to electronic logging for those who operate legally within the Hours of Service.  The first is the elimination of paper.  Paper costs money to buy, it kills trees, and logs must be scanned at a cost and then the auditing function is more labor intensive.  With paper logs you get a closer look at the scales.  When the logs consist of electronic digits, the filling out and transmission of the logs becomes automated.  Often scale houses don’t inspect drivers with electronic logs.  With electronic logs, business leaders and planners can see a driver’s exact hours, rather than estimates.  This allows more accurate planning and preplanning.  With electronic logs, non-driving on duty time is counted at the exact number of minutes as opposed to 15 minute increments required on paper logs.  This adds time to a driver’s day and time is money.  Electronic logs automatically add up time used and show time remaining, rather than a driver having to do this manually.  Form and manner violations which were common with paper logs go away with electronic logs.  Late logs disappear as the computer always keeps things up to date and transmitted.  With electronic logs, CSA fatigued driving violations go away.  This keeps CSA scores low and gets drivers a green light.  That makes us and drivers a lot of money as they drive down the road racking up miles while others sit for hours at a scale house racking up violations.

ACT drivers run legal.  We pay for the electronic log.  So there is really no valid fear other than having to learn something new.  I asked one of our early adopters a few years back how electronic logs changed his world.  He replied that where in the past he always picked the longest load, now he picks the load that works best with his hours.  He mentioned that he actually can do better because of this if he plans his day well before logging in.  That is easier to do today than in the past, because computers, smart phones and tablets put so much information at our fingertips, including road closures, road construction, routes, fueling, tolls, congestion, time zones and much more.  So once the one or two week learning curve is over, it is actually better than paper logs.  I have heard over the years many drivers who are at first fearful of electronic logs say after two weeks that they would never go back to paper logs.

This has also made ACT better.  We know and this reminds us that drivers’ time is important and we have stressed preplanning to help drivers save time and get more miles.

A lot of truckers, who object so strongly to electronic logs, have a problem they can’t admit…that is, they run illegally.  Some say they don’t want to incur the cost.  But, electronic logs actually save money.  The illegal business model should offend good drivers.  It offends me.  These carriers, corner cutters, bid against us for freight with cheap rates.  This drives down rates for all.  They pay their drivers less, and make them work more and drive more miles by running illegally.  This lets them get away without pay increases.  Their drivers have to work harder and risk their driving record and CDL for less money.  They risk their drivers’ safety and their health.

We can all feel good about this change.  The electronic log mandate will level the playing field for those of us who do play by the rules. It will help clean up the industry’s bad image they create. It puts a lot of these outlaws out of business because they can’t change their business model fast enough to adapt.  Their drivers can’t make any money legally at that low rate of pay and they will lose their drivers.  They can’t change their lanes and get their rates up enough to pay their drivers what they deserve. In the future, rates put into bids by all will have to take into account the value of your time and the cost of doing things right….and that is a great thing.

Happy and legal trucking!

Tom