MAP-21 became law in 2012 – and one of its provisions was the electronic log requirement. These logs are used to enforce hours-of-service regulations and thus improve driver safety by reducing fatigue. There have been some fears amongst truckers that the new requirement will force smaller carriers out of business. However, those already following safe practices will benefit, and so will everyone else who shares the road with them.
There are some exemptions:
1. Drivers who use the timecard exemption are not required to keep logs.
2. Drivers who are required to keep logs for only 8 days out of a thirty-day period (i.e., occasional drivers) may keep paper logs.
3. Drivers of vehicles manufactured before 2000, which often lack the equipment to do power the electronic logging device, are required to use paper logs instead.
4. Drive-away-tow-away operations (i.e., towing to deliver) are not covered by the mandate.
Otherwise, the mandate covers everyone who is already covered by hours of service – interstate transport, hazmat, etc.
So, here are some best practices to follow, assuming you and your drivers are not exempt:
1. You need to have an approved logging device that meets the new ELD standard. It must be directly connected to the engine (except for vehicles manufactured before 2000), must be able to send data electronically to law enforcement, and must come from a certified provider.
2. All drivers must be provided with an ELD information packet that includes instructions to transfer the log, instructions on how to report a malfunction, RODS graph grids for 8 days and a user’s manual. The instructions and user manual can be digital.
3. You should design practices that make use of the ELD’s capabilities. This can include monitoring and comparing routes so as to direct drivers to take the best route (which may differ by time of day, week, or year), providing better tracking to customers and remotely monitoring the engine, fuel usage and driver behavior. Companies that use the ELD for their own internal monitoring will get a competitive advantage. Consider spending more on ELD’s with additional functions.
4. Look into a smartphone app that allows drivers and supervisors to check the log from the phone they are already carrying. Some of these apps also include messaging and similar functions. (Needless to say, drivers should be discouraged from using their phones in any way when behind the wheel).
5. Use a solution that automatically keeps all the required logs for IFTA and IRP liabilities. This will save you a lot of paperwork, and thus money. Be aware that not all ELD devices are compliant (and some may be compliant for one and not the other). Double check that the device you choose will cover your needs.
6. Use a solution that also offers critical event reporting, such as accelerometers. These can be used if your driver got into a crash to establish that it was not their fault or could not be reasonably prevented, helping you fight suits against you and reducing your insurance premiums.
The new mandate makes it almost impossible to forge logs, which also means your drivers are not going to fudge their logs and get you and them fined. False logs have always been an epidemic as drivers resent the limitations, or feel pressured to complete the trip faster. The mandate will undoubtedly improve safety. For drivers and companies, the requirement to use an electronic logging device should not be seen as something to crimp their style, but an opportunity to install monitoring systems that improve safety, reduce costs, and save much of the time currently spent filling out paperwork instead of driving.
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