ELDs and the Law of Unintended Consequences | J.J. Keller Encompass Fleet Management System | ELDs, ELogs & More

ELDs and the Law of Unintended Consequences 

Five ELD use scenarios that feel like unintended consequences but really aren't.

Tom Bray - J. J. Keller Industry Consultant

July 28 , 2017

You’ve probably heard the saying, “There are always unintended consequences.” Interestingly, I am hearing that more and more with regards to the electronic logging mandate. Applying this time-honored wisdom to the ELD mandate, in most cases, is mistaken. Let’s take a look at a few coming across my desk lately.

“But My Driver Can’t Make It with ELDs”

This is one of the “unintended consequences” people keep bringing up when it comes to electronic logs (ELogs). However, this is NOT an unintended consequence. The intention of the rule is to get the driver to stop driving when he/she runs out of hours. If a driver is presently using the “flexibility” of a paper log to complete a trip, he/she is falsifying their log and operating past a limit. Period. This is exactly what ELogs are intended to stop. It is the intended consequence. It is a painful consequence, but by no means is it “unintended”.

“We Never Had This Problem Before ELogs, and Now It Keeps Happening!”

A carrier that says this needs to ask, “Why haven’t we had this problem before?”. In most cases, it reveals that the drivers were good at hiding the problem when using paper logs. How so? By using the “flexibility” of paper logs to falsify their time. Should having to deal with a recurring problem that didn’t used to exist be called an unintended consequence? Or is it actually an intended one caused by forcing drivers to “run legal”?

“But with ELDs, I’m Liable For the Data!”

This is also an intended consequence. By having ELog data, rather than “hand-drawn” logs, everyone can see how the company’s drivers are behaving and what the company is doing about it. If the company is not auditing, counseling, correcting, and disciplining the drivers that are operating over hours or creating false records in the ELog system, it will be obvious to the investigator. If it is an investigation that is being conducted in conjunction with litigation, having the data and not using it to correct a problem can be costly.

Is this an unintended consequence? No! Just read the hours-of-service regulations closely and see who the agency is going to hold responsible for a driver falsifying or operating over an hours’ limit. I will give you a hint – “No motor carrier shall permit or require any driver…” turns up everywhere in the hours-of-service regulations. Forcing carriers to closely watch their drivers’ hours is not an unintended consequence, it is an intended one.

“ELDs Are Causing a Shortage of Parking”

The statement goes, “If every driver has to stop and take the full 10 hours off, 8 hours for a passenger-carrying driver, there won’t be any place to park.” This is an interesting argument in that the statement itself proves it is an intended consequence – making drivers take full breaks. The parking shortage is a painful subject. But ELDs can’t be blamed for forcing drivers to take full breaks; it is an outright lack of parking spots in certain areas that is the real problem.

“My Drivers Won’t Be Able to ‘Drive the Full 11’ if They Must Follow the 14-Hour Limit”

Much like the other “unintended consequences” we have been discussing, this is an intended consequence. A property-carrying driver must stop driving once he/she reaches 14 hours since the beginning of his/her workday. There is nowhere in the regulations that guarantees that the driver will be able to drive 11 out of the 14. However, many drivers use the “flexibility” of paper logs to cover loading and unloading delays, working too long at a job site, sitting too long at a meal break, or traffic delays, to “dodge” the 14-hour limit and drive a full 11 hours. As with the other issues we have been discussing, the idea of going to an ELog is to make sure drivers are obeying the limits. To say that a driver being forced to follow the 14-hour limit is an unintended consequence of using an ELog is mistaken.

Don’t get me wrong. There are unintended consequences to the ELog mandate. But forcing drivers and carriers to follow the limits is not one of them. It is the actual intent.


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