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Thoughts on ELDs from truck drivers

While the devices and the hours of service (HOS) rules that govern them are far from perfect, some feel transitioning to them won’t be too hard, while others think they’ll take away too much daily operational control.

A series of nationwide protests by truck drivers, owner-operators and small fleets across the country highlighted the often volatile opposition to the impending imposition of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate on December 18 – a date now just a scant two weeks away.

Many of those protesting feel the mandated use of such devices not only imposes extra operating costs upon them but will also reduce their ability to make money.

Yet there are also many drivers who, while not exactly favoring the mandated use of the devices, believe truckers larger and small can transition to ELDs without a negative impact upon their paychecks.

Barry “Bear” Starr, a 28 year veteran of the road who drives for Powell Transportation, explained that while he’s not happy the ELD mandate “has come to be,” he’s been using electronic logs since November 2015 and has not experienced any negative impacts.

“They say you will make anywhere from 25% to 45% less money on them than on paper [logs],” he explained in an email to American Trucker. “But if you are running legal on paper, then running legal on an ELOG [electronic log] should not be any different at all. I am actually am making more money since I've been on ELOGs and I have the paystubs to prove it.”

Starr added that learning how to use ELDs be no different that learning how to operate under the new HOS rules that went into effect back in 2004.

“They say that it will make driver more tired by trying to beat ‘the ticking bomb’ on the dash – I think is how someone put it,” he pointed out.

“But the ELOGs do nothing except record your hours of duty status. They don't control the truck. They don't change the laws that are now and have been in place for many years,” he emphasized. “They will not shut the trucks off when you hit a certain hour mark. They do nothing other than record what the truck does.”

What they [ELDs] will do – and this is, in Starr’s words, is “what makes a lot, but not all, people mad” – is that they will put an end to drivers re-doing their logbooks to make them look legal.

“They will end the white lies to get that last hundred miles,” he said.

Starr added that he’s been an over-the-road driver “all my adult life” and has hauled freight in all 48 contiguous states and every province of Canada, except one, many times over.

“I have run the runs the old way [paper logs} and the new way [ELOGs],” he said. “The new way is not perfect; far from it. But I do feel you need to tell another side of the story.”

Yet Charles Claburn, a longtime driver and trucking activist based in Diberville, MS, who helps lead the 19,000-member anti-ELD group “ELD or Me,” stressed in a recent Facebook post that it is the “real time” nature of ELOG data that is what will cause trouble for drivers in regards to how they operate their trucks – “trouble” in the sense that they could force drivers to operate in unsafe ways.

“Truckers can be on-duty up to 14 consecutive hours and drive up to 11 of those hours,” he said. “But it doesn't matter if it took a shipper five to six hours to load the truck and the driver got a nap in; it doesn't matter if a driver is parked somewhere, realizes a blizzard a moving in, and wants to move on. When time is up, time is up.”

And heaven forbid a driver try to shut down with driving time still on his or her electronic clock, Claburn noted, because the dispatcher, broker, etc., knows in real time if driving time is still available on the clock due to an ELD.

“Say it's around 4:00 pm and you're south of the Chicago area trying to go north. You've got three hours left to drive. Will you make it through Chicago AND find a place to park before your time is up at 7:00 p.m.? Chances are no, probably not,” he said. “But prepare to defend your choice to shut down early! How would like to have to defend every common sense decision you make?”

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