The move to electronic logging devices (ELDs) is a point of contention for some, but on the flip side, there has been a push towards this mandate to help level the playing field across the industry. There is a definite correlation between hours-of-service (HOS) and rates and it’s widely believed we should see an increase in rates once ELDs are fully implemented.
Whether a driver takes the initiative to alter a logbook to gain drive time, or they are being persuaded by an avaricious carrier, the result can be downward pressure on overall rates. This creates a disadvantage for those who are compliant. Those following the rules can’t compete. They can’t afford to extend the same rates as the non-compliant carriers.
Some carriers find it acceptable for drivers to fudge their logs when they run out of hours close to home. This is one reason why ELDs are being mandated. There are certainly those who manipulate logbooks for financial gain, which is why ELDs were suggested as a way to help level the playing field. However, there are perhaps many more drivers who misrepresent time on manual logs for reasons like running out of hours a few miles from home.
Personally, I believe it is better to err on the side of honesty. If you are out of hours and 28 miles from home you have two choices: go into violation to get home and log the time truthfully or simply shut down. Having said that, it is important to acknowledge that each situation is unique and infractions come with potential consequences. If a driver goes into violation, they need to be prepared for what could happen. It’s unfortunate that drivers are inconvenienced on the job.
Not getting home in time could mean they don’t get to their kid’s graduation or meet other important commitments in their life. There are pros and cons, like in any profession, and trucking is not for everyone. It’s not my intention to sound harsh, but if you sign up to drive over the road, be prepared to take the good with the bad and adapt as the industry evolves.
There are many examples where drivers believe they have valid reasons for falsifying a log. Some argue that current HOS guidelines don’t meet the needs of drivers and the realities they face on the job. Some believe they have no other choice but to alter their logs to account for delays and other factors beyond their control.
It has been suggested that HOS issues should have been addressed prior to mandating ELDs, however HOS rules are not changing anytime soon and ELD compliance will become reality nonetheless. At the end of the day, I suggest that falsifying a logbook is never the answer. I don’t believe it is okay to “fudge” a logbook to make more money or to get home. Industry regulations are in place to protect us all and circumventing the law is not the answer for any reason. I believe ELDs are good because they limit a driver’s ability to run illegal to a greater extent than manual logs. However, this will not solve the problem entirely. Enforcement must be made a priority and I’m deeply concerned by the lack of enforcement on the part of enforcement agencies when it comes to ELDs.
I’ve spoken to countless drivers on e-logs and they have unanimously consented that there is considerably less review and scrutiny of their electronic logs by officials than when they were on manual logs. Come compliance day, I hope that officials don’t take ELDs for granted. They must continue to monitor e-logs just the same as paper logs, especially if driver audits are not conducted more frequently than they are now.
Hours-of-service are no joke and seemingly insignificant infractions can entail huge consequences. Take the cautionary case of Gary Blakley, an Ontario truck driver who was a mere 16 minutes over his HOS and driving with an out-of-date log in December 2013. He crashed into a police cruiser and ultimately killed a state trooper. The district attorney in the case stated that “the tragedy was avoidable” and that if “Mr. Blakley had decided to end his drive…we wouldn’t be here today,” according to media reports.
I’m sorry to say, this is not the only occasion where an HOS violation resulted in disastrous consequences, and in this case, the driver was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for aggravated criminally negligent homicide.ELDs will help drivers keep their logbooks current and will hopefully deter drivers from operating outside of their HOS.
Additionally, I hope that those carriers and independents that operate illegally for financial gain will be weeded out of the industry.
When part of the industry is willing to manipulate the system and disregard safety measures like HOS for profit, it forces us to consider what else they are willing to cut corners on.
The fact remains that ELDs are the new reality for the trucking industry. If their implementation means that unfair players can’t compete anymore by running illegal, then I’m all for it. The time has come to eliminate those who undercut and devalue our industry as well as those who create unsafe situations by circumventing the law.
Natalie Martin is marketing and social media coordinator at JBT Transport, and is a member of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada advisory board. Prior to her role at JBT, Natalie worked in dispatch, administration and 3PL logistics.