Feds to truckers: Ditch paper logs

A new federal rule that became active at midnight on Monday requires truck drivers to give up their paper logs and hook up to an electronic tracker. The change could mean safer roads but the trucking community says it will require more laws to change.

Two years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration required that all semi-trucks will have to make the switch to the electronic logging devices. Drivers are generally allowed 11 hours of driving in a 14-hour period followed by 10 hours off and no more than 60 hours over a seven-day week. Drivers looking to flout these limitations have been known to either fudge the numbers in their paper logs to show they’ve been resting more than they had or keep a second logbook entirely to show to a police officer asking to inspect their driving history.

Drivers transitioning from paper to electronic logs will not have different hourly requirements, but they will lose the flexibility of amending their logs to show unexpected changes to their schedule – extending a driving session past a limit because the driver was stuck in traffic, for instance.

While the majority of drivers already use electronic logs, Matt Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association, said the ones that remain will have to make the change.

“It now has to be done with a device that is tied into the electronic diagnostics of the truck,” he said.

Hart said that the more rigid requirements due to electronic logging likely will have to be loosened with the industry modernizing. The electronic log gives drivers less flexibility to correct times, which has drawn criticism and protests but advocates say the roads will ultimately be safer.

“We have long known that there has been a need for more flexibility in these requirements, but we’ve gotten away with it because of the paper logs,” he said. “We certainly hope that the electronic log devices get the bad actors off of the road and lead to a safer environment.”

There are exceptions for trucks driven for agricultural use as well as others such as UPS drivers. Any drivers caught without the new devices will be given only a citation. The company’s safety record will take a hit if the driver is caught without the device installed after April 1.

Hart said that a survey they conducted last fall showed that more than 60 percent of their member companies already used an electronic device to log driver hours.

–Illinois News Network

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