Why would a truck driver falsify time logs? According to industry consultant John Seidl of Reliance Partners, one answer is "meatloaf." Seidl, a former FMCSA investigator and MCSAP inspector, revealed this and other insights at the DAT User Conference, where he spoke about the potential impact of the ELD mandate.
John Seidl of Reliance Partners, a former FMCSA investigator and MCSAP inspector, educates DAT User Conference attendees about the ELD mandate.
Seidl described a scenario where a truck driver is at home watching the football game on a Sunday afternoon. He's supposed to leave home by 4:00 PM to begin his work day and legally stay within the federal Hours of Service (HOS) limits, but he waits until the game is over and dinner is served. Why? Meatloaf! Maybe the driver also puts the kids to bed before climbing into his truck at 8:00 PM. By that time, said Seidl, the driver is four hours behind on his scheduled trip. There's a lot of incentive for him to minimize breaks and detention times, and perhaps drive faster than usual, to make his pickup and delivery appointments as scheduled.
On that driver's paper log, the required 10-hour break can easily be reduced to a 6-hour break, with a flick of the eraser. That adds back the hours lost to meatloaf and family activities. Likewise, a half-hour break could also be shortened or eliminated, while the paper log records the legally required 30 minutes. Supporting documents, including bills of lading, fuel receipts, and scale tickets, to name a few, often omit a time stamp on either the original or the copy that drivers must submit to verify location, further enabling falsification of logs.
Beginning on December 18, 2017, however, these techniques will no longer be available to most drivers, who will be required to run with automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) and/or electronic logging devices (ELDs) instead of paper logs.
"The vast majority of roadside inspections require a log inspection of some level," Seidl said. "If your truck is pulled over for inspection at roadside or at a weigh station on or after December 18, and the driver does not have an AOBRD or an ELD installed, with an instruction card, driver user manual, and a set of blank logs in the cab, that driver and the carrier can be cited by the FMCSA."
Potential penalties include points on the driver's and carrier's safety scores, as well as substantial fines. Beginning April 1, 2018, the FMCSA will up the ante. Any truck found running without an ELD after April 1 will be put out of service on the spot, and will remain out of service until a qualifying device is installed. That means the truck will be required to remain at the weigh station or roadside location and wait for the ELD to be delivered, Seidl said.
It's still possible to falsify the electronic log in some ways, according to Seidl. The ELD records the location, speed and status of the truck — whether it's on or off, moving or not moving. But the driver's status is more subjective, given that the driver selects his duty status manually on the device. There are times when the truck could be moving but the driver is considered to be off-duty. One example is when the driver is using the empty truck or bobtail as a "personal conveyance" to a truck stop or residence. Drivers are also permitted to use non-driving hours to move the truck within a freight yard that meets certain specifications. Drivers who misuse the "personal conveyance" or "yard moves" status could easily get caught and penalized when the electronic log is inspected, however.
Eliminating the fudge factor can lead to a reduction in available driving hours, so small fleets and owner-operators have put off installing ELDs for fear of losing productivity. ELDs can also work to the carrier's advantage, however. The ELD provides proof of driver harassment or attempted coercion by a shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary, which could help the carrier defend against driver complaints. ELDs can also help carriers to verify wait times and justify detention charges.
Seidl expressed hope that shippers and receivers will modify their dock operations, to make it easier for drivers and carriers to manage their Hours of Service under the ELD mandate. For example, by posting signs that qualify as "prohibitive" at access points to the yard, the shipper could enable a driver to use the "yard moves" exception. Or when there is a long wait time for unloading, the receiver could allow the trailer to remain in the yard while the driver uses the "personal conveyance" rule to take a scheduled break at a nearby truckstop.
There's a role for freight brokers and 3PLs in these scenarios, as well. The broker is often the driver's first point of contact when something goes wrong. The broker can intercede with the shipper or receiver, on the carrier's behalf, to suggest solutions and minimize friction.