Logbooks have been a part of the trucking industry since the 1930s, and they’ve secured their place as a staple of the job.
Or they did – that was until December 18 of last year, when a federal law passed requiring all commercial truck drivers to swap out their paper logs for electronic logging devices (ELDs).
It seems like the next logical step in hour logging – many transactions are cashless, and most businesses are moving away from a paper approach to organization. Digital alternatives are becoming primary choices, and paper is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
But this mandate hasn’t been universally well-received throughout the trucking industry. Many drivers feel it is a violation of privacy, and some smaller carriers and owner-operators have said it’s a move by larger carriers to push smaller competition out of the industry.
ELDs are attached to the vehicle’s motor, logging any time the engine is running. This has presented a few problems – slow shippers are being pressured to shape up, as delays could cause a driver to end up in violation of hours-of-service rules. There’s also the issue that a lack of flexibility on where a driver must stop for their break could force them into an unsafe area.
But one sector in particular has had more qualms than most others, and for good reason. Agricultural drivers who transport livestock know it’s not a good idea to stop just anywhere. The nature of their cargo means pulling aside whenever the machine on the dash says to could actually put their freight in jeopardy.
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has failed to repeal or delay the mandate despite protests, they did reveal they’d be granting agricultural drivers a second 90-day reprieve from the new ELD rule.
FMCSA administrator Ray Martinez said: “We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from.”
While the mandate went into effect on December 18, noncompliant drivers aren’t being forced off the roads just yet. A grace period is in effect until April 1, giving drivers a little more time to acclimate to the changes. Those who don’t have a functional ELD leading up to April 1 can be dinged with citations, but the choice to do so is up to the responding officer at this point.
Though the number of roadside inspections has actually gone down since the mandate was enacted, more are expected to come. Certain other exemptions have been allowed for ELD use, such as on short-term truck rentals.
FMCSA representatives will also be at the upcoming Mid-America Trucking Show to provide guidance on ELDs and the law surrounding them. Though they’ve touted high compliance rates, some truckers have been vocal about their unwillingness to make the switch. If it causes them to leave the industry, that’s a bad thing – trucking is already running out of drivers.