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March 21, 2016 4:00 AM, EDT

Editorial: Prepping for ELDs

This editorial appears in the March 21 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Nearly every significant rulemaking from the federal government is bound to be met with some skepticism and doubt from at least a portion of the freight transportation industry.

The electronic logging mandate from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is no exception. After prior legal challenges, requiring a redo of an initial proposal, the final rule published last December does appear to be on track to take effect in December 2017.

The rule itself was more than 500 pages, and in its most basic form, it appears to be fairly straightforward — nearly all commercial drivers who are required to keep records of duty status must use an electronic log to track their hours of service.

In reality, as we have been reporting in Transport Topics, it can be far more complicated.

There are technological questions, such as what legally qualifies as an electronic logging device. There also are operational questions, including how yard moves or personal conveyance affect a driver’s hours of service in relation to electronically documenting hours.

Then, of course, comes the more basic issue of how fleets can best deploy electronic logs and train their drivers. These critical questions were addressed last week during our latest LiveOnWeb program, featuring Herman Funk, vice president and general counsel of Cowan Systems, and Sam Faucette, vice president of safety and compliance at Old Dominion Freight Line.

They acknowledged that many drivers initially had resistance to electronic logs until they tried them. After getting used to them, few would have wanted to go back, if given the choice, they said.

They also stressed the importance of training, including offering hands-on time to get familiar with the ELD device out of the truck. Any expectation that a driver can just hit the road without proper training is unfair.

Similarly, the shift in business processes means back-office management of ELD data is just as important.

TT wants to thank Funk and Faucette for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their valuable thoughts with our audience. They each work for fleets with strong histories of being safe and profitable. We hope their stories about how they have successfully implemented electronic logs into their operations ahead of the mandate can offer assistance to any fleets just now starting down that same path.

You can listen to all of their advice, and get a primer on the rule from Seth Clevenger, TT’s technology editor, by watching a replay of the program at liveonweb.ttnews.com.