Controversy Behind Electronic Logs

It’s a common joke in the driving industry - truck drivers are anxious about their log books and the state of keeping them accurate.

Go on nearly any trucking forum or driver’s website and you’ll see countless posts and pictures depicting drivers making fun of log books and questioning other drivers about how they manage them if questioned by an employer or Department of Transportation official.

Until recently, drivers have been familiar with the old-fashioned way of logging their hours – putting pen to paper on their log grid to fill out each city, state or milepost on their routes. It’s not that drivers are thoroughly dishonest about their logs, it’s just another component of the trucking job that takes time and forethought in an already difficult and demanding career.

In modern times, the concept of electronic logs has been a major issue for truck drivers and trucking companies alike. Some companies have made an enormous push to digital while others are wholly opposed to adopting electronic logs altogether. Some companies will even go as far as to advertise that they are not using e-logs in their job postings to attract a certain brand of driver. 

Manual Driver Log Book

Why has this become such an important issue in the trucking industry? Most of it comes down to a financial aspect – as well as keeping drivers accountable for their routes. However, it’s more than just money when it comes down to both sides of the argument.

Why Drivers and Trucking Companies Support E-Logs

First and foremost, many trucking companies are concerned with complying with the law.  According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, drivers must take breaks while driving for periods of 8 hours, and a reset is required when driving within the hours of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Electronic logs can help drivers stay on top of their hours and not have to worry about keeping an eye on the clock as to when a break is necessary.

In similar terms of legality, electronic logs can help prove that drivers are compliant with the break system that has been enacted. The onus is no longer on drivers who are putting pen to paper so much as the systems themselves – so long as drivers follow the rules.

Companies and drivers also consider e-logs to be more efficient on the job and are easier for drivers to manage. It’s not just staying up to code with hours, it’s also about taking one less duty off the shoulders of drivers – just get the loads done and take a break when it is time.

An enormous concern that may persuade carriers to implement electronic logs is  driver safety. If drivers too easily lose track of their hours and breaks, there may be major concerns of a driver losing focus or falling asleep at the wheel and endangering themselves and others. Electronic logs have the potential to let drivers know when it is time to rest.

Trucking companies may also consider the importance of an electronic system due to the size, importance and prestige of the company in relation to other industries. In the airline industry, for example, pilots are held accountable for establishing correct and accurate hours in order to ensure legality and safety. Trucking companies argue that their drivers hold equal importance with the public, and they ought to follow suit with other major transportation carriers.

Those Opposed to E-Logs

On the other side of the conversation are those that oppose electronic logs because they feel the system encroaches on their ability to perform well. Many drivers are against e-logs because they feel that the system intrinsically attempts to incriminate them. When drivers are performing well, they don’t feel that such an enormous addition to accountability is required – in other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Electronic Log Unit

With anti-electronic log drivers, the issue of safety is not necessarily minimized by implementing the logs, in fact, they may actually prove to be less safe. Some truckers argue that when an electronic log is ticking while a driver is on a route, drivers may feel anxious to “beat the clock” or push themselves to make a break and unnecessarily become fatigued. Having to rush on a route is generally less safe than drivers who are on track and going the proper speed.

Concerning the mental state of drivers on the road, having e-logs has the potential to cause a “big brother” syndrome while trucking. While many drivers may choose truck driving jobs for the aspect of isolation and being accountable for one’s self without being micromanaged, electronic logs can destroy this feeling.

Moreover, electronic logs may place blame where blame is not deserved. Even the most experienced and diligent drivers experience hiccups in their routes, and with a constant log keeping track of a driver, any small mistake or minimal misstep may spell severe punishments. This is not to imply that truckers often make mistakes or that they will be inclined to sidestep policies, only that if a correction needs to be made, an e-log cannot easily account for that.

Is There A Solution?

While there may not be a solution to please both sides of the argument, both parties may come to an agreement that there ought to be some improvement or overhauling of the logging system altogether. Certainly paper logs are not perfect nor are electronic logs as we are dealing with individual drivers who have preferences, habits and different ways of conducting themselves on the road.

Trucking companies are always looking for a way to modernize themselves and make their company more efficient. Drivers can likely expect more advances in their job by way of electronic logs – including electronic positioning, online paperwork – the sky is the limit.