On December 18 of last year, a law went into effect requiring truck drivers in the U.S. to replace their paper logbooks with electronic logging devices.
The logbook, a staple of commercial truck driving since the 1930s, has now been put aside in favor of the ELD. Essentially, the device is a storage drive that plugs into the vehicle’s motor. It tracks active time and ensures drivers can’t fudge their road time records in an effort to get more mileage.
Though the mandate has been in effect before the calendar rolled over to 2018, a grace period was in effect until April 1. This provided some extra time for drivers to comply with the mandate, leaving noncompliant parties facing only minor citations instead of mandates to get off the road.
But with the grace period over, some would think things have settled down in the ELD debate. But this isn’t the case – drivers are still up in arms, with many threatening to find other lines of work if this is how their industry is going to be moving forward.
ELDs were proposed as a way of keeping drowsy drivers off the roads. The rules state a driver can only be on duty for 14 hours (11 behind the wheel) before they must rest for 10 hours.
Regulators have noted drivers liked the paper logs because it gave them a little more flexibility – which in legal terms translates to breaking the law. But some truckers have been brutally honest about their logbook practices. John Grosvenor, founder of Truckers United for Freedom, said: “We did cheat our logbooks. But that’s because the Hours of Service rule doesn’t work.”
In a perfect world, drivers would get to spend all their allowable road time racking up miles and making money. But freight transport has many complications. Unforeseen weather patterns, major traffic jams, and even slow shippers can all take valuable chunks out of a driver’s time on the road.
Then there’s the matter of finding a safe place to stop when break time rolls around. Parking is always an issue for commercial vehicles and stopping in certain places can put a driver at higher risk for being mugged – but with time logged electronically, drivers may have no other choice.
President Trump has faced backlash for not responding to the concerns of truckers over the ELD mandate. Though he promoted himself as a man against bureaucracy and over-regulation, he’s yet to take any action to repeal the ELD mandate.
There have also been complaints about the functionality of many ELDs, with some claiming they’re poor quality. Court cases have been heard and protests have taken place, but the mandate is still in effect and the grace period over.
If drivers get fed up enough to walk away from the field over the mandate, it could send negative effects rippling throughout the entire U.S. economy. There’s already a growing driver shortage and losing even more truckers during a time of high demand could put carriers and shippers in a tough position.