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Electronic logging devices that all trucks and buses must have by the end of 2019 will make the U.S. industry more accountable and ultimately improve safety, experts say.
The rule announced last week by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also allows the agency to take enforcement action against motor carriers, shippers, receivers and transportation intermediaries should they coerce or harass drivers to violate federal safety rules, such as hours of driving.
Trucks and buses that already have automatic on-board recording devices have until the end of 2019 to comply with the rule. Those without the automatic system must have an electronic logging system in place by the end of 2017, which the federal agency said will affect about 3 million drivers and also affects drivers coming into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico.
Since the logging requirement began in 1938, commercial vehicles' actual activity was “virtually impossible to verify,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk.”
An electronic logging device automatically records driving time, engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven and location.
Such devices “provide an accurate picture of a driver's available hours and their recent work activity,” Steve Bojan, Milwaukee-based vice president of fleet risk services at Hub International Ltd., said in an email. “Using this technology does present a challenge as it leaves very little 'wiggle' room as was the case with paper logs. Both drivers and fleet management will need to be more disciplined and do a better job of planning to ensure that drivers can legally complete their routes.”
Mr. Bojan said he was surprised that the federal agency will allow drivers to use smartphones and tablets to track truck and bus activity.
“The FMCSA was more lenient than was expected in allowing multiple platforms and technologies to be acceptable,” he said.
He agrees that the rule will positively affect fleet safety.
“It brings additional accountability to an industry that has been working very hard to improve safety and compliance with FMCSA regulations,” Mr. Bojan said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday that truck and bus drivers will be required to use electronic logging devices to track hours spent driving.