dotOn March 13, 2014, the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) issued an updated proposed rule to require the use of electronic log books, or Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs).  The new rule is intended to improve compliance with the safety rules that govern the number of hours a driver can work.  The proposed rule also aims to reduce the amount of paperwork that is currently required to for hours-of-service record keeping by the trucking industry.

New Rule Intended to Increase Compliance with Hours-of-Service Rules

In July 2013, new hours-of-service rules went into effect for truck drivers.  One aim of this rule regarding electronic logbooks is to make it more difficult for drivers to misrepresent their on-duty, driving and off-duty time on their logbooks to increase compliance with the new hours-of-service rules.  The US DOT cites that “analysis shows it will also help reduce crashes by fatigued drivers and prevent approximately 20 fatalities and 434 injuries each year for an annual safety benefit of $394.8 million.”  In addition, “impaired driving, including fatigue, was listed as a factor in more than 12 percent of the 129,120 total crashes that involved large trucks or buses in 2012.”

How the New Rules Differs from its Predecessor

A similar rule was proposed in 2011.  The FMCSA received a significant number of comments on the proposed rule.  This new proposal takes into consideration the comments made to the 2011 proposed rule, input from the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and feedback from two public listening sessions.  The new proposal also incorporates the mandates set out in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) legislation and President Obama’s call in his State of the Union address for government streamlining.

Several key changes or additions to the updated proposed rule include:

  1. Respecting a driver’s privacy by making the ELD records available only to the motor carrier and the driver, unless there is a roadside inspection, compliance review or post-crash investigation by the FMCSA or other government agency.  This is currently how the manual logbook records are maintained.
  2. Increasing efficiency for law enforcement and inspectors who review driver’s logbooks.  The ELD records will make it more difficult for drivers to submit incorrect duty records.  graphThe ELD records would be imputed though a computer in the truck as opposed to manually written in by the truck driver as shown in the image to the right.  The electronic records will also make it easier to display and review, even print, the logbook entries with potential violations flagged.
  3. Protecting a driver from harassment by a motor carrier.  The new proposed rule explicitly prohibits harassment by a motor carrier towards a driver and even carries a penalty of up to $11,000.00 if a motor carrier engages in harassment.  In addition, the proposal ensures that drivers have access to their ELD records.  And, the ELDs are required to include a mute function to protect drivers against disruptions during a sleeper berth period.

New Rule Intended to Decrease Paperwork

In addition to attempting to increase compliance with the hours-of-service rules, the updated proposed rule regarding ELD records is also intended to decrease the amount of paperwork that must be completed and maintained by truck drivers and motor carriers.  According to the US DOT, outside of tax-related filings, hours-of-service record keeping creates the largest amount of paperwork for compliance with federal regulations.  The goal is to streamline record keeping, while increasing compliance.  The US DOT also aims to create efficiencies for the motor carriers in maintaining records and efficiencies for law enforcement and investigators when conducting compliance reviews, roadside inspections and post-crash investigations.

This is not the first rule proposed by the US DOT aimed at reducing paperwork.  In August, 2013, the US DOT proposed a rule aimed at saving the trucking industry an estimated $1.7 billion annually.  The rule proposed in August, 2013 would require truck drivers to continue to conduct a pre-trip and post-trip inspection, but only require the drivers to file a report of the inspection if defects or deficiencies were discovered by or reported by the driver.  Annual safety inspections by a certified commercial vehicle mechanic would still be required.

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