Truth about ELDs

The issue I want to address this week is the issue of EOBRs (Electronic On-Board Recorders) also known as ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices). There are a lot of differing opinions within the trucking industry about the ability of these units to improve safety. I will share with you my opinion and the reasons that I think the public should really care about this issue.

On the surface, you might say, “How could it be a bad thing to have a driver’s duty status automatically recorded?” The answer to this question is where you will find the devil in the details.

I provided a statement to the FMCSA during an open comment period on the subject. Click here to see that statement. Contained in that statement is real life examples of how automatic recorders falsify the true duty status of drivers. The real thing to remember regarding duty status is that the only thing an ELD can record accurately is where a truck is located at any specific time. Even that capability has been known to be incorrect in some circumstances. Every other duty status requires a driver’s input and can be manipulated depending on the operator’s use of the device.

First, let’s address the advocates’ argument. They say that the ELD insures absolute compliance and removes cheating. Safety is said to be improved through this compliance. A byproduct of this compliance is a level playing field for all players and removes profiteering from cheating and running illegal. That is a very compelling argument…… If it were true.

The truth is that both the ELD and paper logs depend on driver input to record “On Duty”, “Off Duty”, and “Sleeper Berth”. Neither is more accurate than the other. On duty time can be recorded as off duty in the same manner on both. One main thing that is different is that with paper logs, the driver fills out the duty status and signs it. No one else can change it. With ELDs, the logs can be altered or “corrected” by an employee of the trucking company. This log is certified by the driver and yet the duty status can be altered without the drivers knowledge. This ability to alter the logs at the company level could also be used to coerce a driver to confirm changes or face the misfortune of loss of revenue as retribution.

Next, they are touted as improving safety. This is accomplished by strict adherence to the Hours of Service (HOS) rules. Experienced drivers have repeatedly requested flexibility to be able to operate their trucks at the safest time rather than being forced to operate by a one size fits all approach. Because of the diversity of freight hauling, each type of operation requires some sort of special consideration. Already, FMCSA has given exceptions to the HOS for some operations such as livestock haulers. Another request is pending for household movers because of the problems that strict compliance causes. You can click here to see my statements to a house subcommittee in DC on the problems created by the latest HOS rules. Due to strict compliance, drivers are forced to drive longer without breaks to preserve on duty time. They are forced onto the roads during peak driving hours because of an unstoppable 14 hour on duty clock. The forced use of ELDs removes ALL flexibility from a driver’s control. If you get stuck in traffic you could record a violation that is totally beyond anyone’s control.

On another note, companies and some drivers like ELDs because they create a violation free record. A driver doesn’t have to learn how to record a proper log and monitor all the math in calculating a compliant log. This reduces driver training and driver responsibility for log book violations. Log book violations are one of the most frequent violations received by drivers. In a company filled with low skill level drivers, the ELD hides the lack of training thereby artificially enhancing a carriers’ safety rating. In addition, when the ELD fails, a paper log is required as a backup. In roadside inspections, a weigh master can also require a paper printout for inspection.

Lastly, with the paper log, you are required to present your record of duty status for inspection at any time to proper law enforcement. There is no requirement to leave a copy of your logs there. With the ELD, when files are electronically transferred, a copy of your information is retained by law enforcement. You lose control of that information. It can be used in any manner by any government official that has access to the information without court order but simply by asking for it.

ELDs also cause a loss of production or efficiency thereby causing the price of moving freight to increase. Some would argue that it increases efficiency but I ask you, do you think the lack of flexibility increases or decreases efficiency? Another piece of technology is not what makes us safer. Properly trained and experienced drivers with the flexibility to decide what is safe within a set of guidelines is what makes us safer. ELDs don’t stop violations, they standardize them and make us all less safe in the process. I hope that you will share this information with everyone to stop runaway government before it is too late.

2 thoughts on “Truth about ELDs

  1. Pingback: What’s The Problem? | Tecco Trucking

  2. Pingback: A Trucker’s Family | Tecco Trucking

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