Making Logbooks Easier
Is it time to put down the pen and log on?
By Heather Larson
Along with the much-loved freedom of the open road, there is the tyranny of the logbook.
The required record of travel may be meticulously kept up-to-date, filled in precisely using rulers and neat block letters. Or a driver may take a chance, wait a day or two, then try to recreate their timeline. Either method requires time, effort and a little math.
But some drivers are discovering the joys of going electronic. “I’m as dyslexic as the day is long and have a nasty tendency of miscounting my hours, especially when I’ve had numerous duty changes during the day,” says longtime driver Don Sterner, of Bastrop, Texas. “I used to have to adjust my logs to avoid a violation that I never intended to have, but that doesn’t happen with this computer software and I can’t screw up my logs.”
Howard Russell, motor carrier safety enforcement manager for the Oregon DOT, likes the electronic logs too. “It’s good stuff overall, true and accurate,” he says. “Some of the systems make it harder for a driver to falsify his logs.”
If a software program is used, drivers do need the ability to print their logs from their laptop so that law enforcement personnel can see the printed version and the truckers can sign it. Wireless printers can be purchased for as little as $90.
Russell also likes the neatness of the printed logs as compared to handwritten ones. “That’s a huge plus,” he says. “And it’s got to be easier for the drivers.”
Wave of the Future
With logbooks generating huge amounts of paper and the auditing process becoming cumbersome, Werner Enterprises switched to their own Paperless Log System, via Qualcomm.
“As soon as one of our trucks moves, we pick up that its location is changing and that will continue as long as the truck is in motion,” says Richard Reiser, general counsel at Werner Enterprises. The system tracks driving time, sleeper berth time and off-duty hours.
Reiser says that this system has eliminated driver errors, and reduced work for them. Plus by using their time more efficiently the drivers make more money.
“We can keep our drivers busy without getting them into a situation where they need a 10-hour break in the middle of hauling a load,” says Reiser.
Even drivers fearful of technology took to the Werner system quickly and if they wanted to maintain paper logs in addition to the paperless ones, they could. In 2004 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted Werner exemption from paper log usage.
“If law enforcement personnel asks to see a driver’s log, he just pulls it up on his screen and hands the device to the officer,” says Reiser. “If the officer insists on a hard copy, one can automatically be faxed from Werner’s corporate office to the officer’s station.”
With ease of use for the driver, decreased paperwork for carriers and the fact that math skills and legible handwriting are unnecessary, electronic logs may soon become the standard for drivers.