DUMFRIES, Va. — Under gray skies on the cold morning of April 3, Sgt. Steve Vilbert of the Virginia State Police lay in wait on an Interstate 95 exit ramp ready to nab any truck driver who hadn’t installed an electronic logging device on his truck. Just two days after a soft-enforcement period for ELD usage had ended, history told Vilbert there could be some violators.
“Between Dec. 18 and the first week of March, there were quite a few that didn’t have ELDs,” he told Transport Topics.
One by one, he corralled truckers on their way to the interstate, escorting them to an inspection pit. But on this day, the 12-year state police veteran left his inspection pit without nabbing an ELD violator.
Perhaps some truckers scrambled at the last minute to install the devices. And maybe all of the talk about so many drivers refusing to transition to ELDs has amounted to nothing. After all, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance estimates that the industry is 95% in compliance with the ELD mandate.
It’s also possible that some bad actors still using paper logs are just getting lucky and dodging roadside inspection.
Time will tell, but the truckers that Vilbert stopped for an hourlong Level I inspection — the most thorough conducted by CVSA’s inspectors — were in compliance with the mandate.
Vilbert guides trucks to the inspection pit (Eric Miller/Transport Topics)
They included Charles Wilson, a 29-year-old driver on his first day on the job for Richmond, Va.-based Matthews & Sons. Wilson was hauling recyclable material.
“First day out,” Wilson said as Vilbert inspected his truck “Level I. Man.”
Wilson, who transmitted the electronic log from his cellphone-based ELD to Vilbert via e-mail, said he understood why some of the independent operators tended to stretch their hours over the federal limit to make ends meet financially. But he doesn’t endorse the practice.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said, “I don’t want some guy who’s been driving for 16 or 17 hours on the road next to me.”
Wilson, a six-year truck driver, left the pit with only a single violation: He had a 1-inch crack in a brake line. He would have been out of service if the crack was a half-inch longer.
Horne (Eric Miller/Transport Topics)
Jarrod Horne, 46, who drives for Home Run Inc. of Xenia, Ohio, also was compliant, quickly displaying his automatic on-board recorder device. Vilbert said most of the truckers he inspected in recent months had AOBRDs, which are older, in-cab devices that can run ELD software.
Horne, who has been driving a truck for one year, was hauling housing products to construction sites. It was his first Level I inspection, which ended with a brake out of adjustment violation but no out-of-service citations.
Bob Sweeney, a 61-year-old auto-hauler, also had an ELD. He was en route from Roswell, Ga., to Bowie, Md., with a truckload of new Hyundai vehicles.
“I like ELDs,” he said. “No paperwork. And when the ELD says your day is done, it’s done.” Sweeney added that cheating on hours of service is “not worth it.”
David McDuffie, 46, who was hauling a refrigerated trailer full of orange juice from Florida to Boston, had a brand new truck with a fully compliant ELD.
McDuffie, who drives for Service Trucking Inc. of Eustis, Fla., said he’s been using ELDs for two years.
“I’m very happy with them,” he said. “They take all the worry out of it.”
All told, it was a quiet day of inspections for Vilbert; he issued only a few violations, most of them equipment-related, and none that was punishable with an out-of-service order.