We don't need logbook training, we use ELDs
April 12, 2016
I used to hear this periodically from fleets that had adopted EOBRs, and now that the US has announced its ELD mandate and timeline, I'm starting to hear it more often. I'm in a crabby mood today so I'm just going to come right out and say that I think this is stupid. The logbook training that drivers do or do not require has nothing to do with how duty statuses are captured and stored. Here's why.
The rules haven't changed
It's important to remember that the HOS regulations themselves aren't changing. Whether you enter the duty status into a computer or write it down on paper, the amount of driving time, off-duty time, break requirements, etc. are still the same and drivers need to understand them. While “form and manner” and “log not current” are common violations that the ELD should remove, there are plenty of other violations that won't automatically be resolved with an ELD.
HOS has to be one of the least understood subjects among drivers. There is so much misinformation out there about what's allowed and not allowed that many drivers are completely lost. HOS is the number one place where drivers tell us “I finally understand it” after taking our courses, which tells me there's a massive knowledge gap in the industry. That gap in fundamental understanding of the rules won't be fixed by ELDs. The machine may tally the totals in each of the duty status categories but drivers need to be comfortable working within those limits. If the machine tells them they're running out of time, they need to understand why. Which takes me to…
Trip planning is just as important as ever
Understanding HOS is about more than just knowing what constitutes on-duty or driving time and entering the details on a form. It's about planning each trip to make the most of the available hours in each day, and understanding the options when unforeseen circumstances come up. The ELD may be able to tell you how much time you have in a day, but it can't tell you whether you should consider using some of the exceptions, how to manage sleeper berth time, or whether a restart is a smart idea. Those are all things that come with understanding the regulations and being able to apply them effectively in the workplace. Lack of understanding makes for inefficient trips, and possibly worse if drivers run out of time on the road because of poor planning.
Also, since ELDs track time with more accuracy, drivers can actually find themselves with a little more time available each day. If they understand how the rules work and why, they can capitalize on that extra time and improve their overall efficiency. If they don't understand the rules, that opportunity gets missed.
There may be cases when the ELD breaks down
Yeah, the equipment vendors want to downplay this, but it could happen. Reliability in any system or process requires a viable backup plan, so drivers should be able to fill out their logs properly on paper in the event that the ELD stops working for whatever reason. It may not happen often, and will probably happen less and less as time goes on, but it's always good to be prepared.
Better educated drivers are not a bad thing
Even if drivers never have to fill out a paper log again, is it so terrible that they know how to do it? When people talk about drivers not needing something, I often wonder what harm they think will come if drivers have more education than the bare minimum needed for the job. I think this is a holdover from the all-training-is-done-in-class days where fleets only delivered the absolute bare minimum because it was so costly and disruptive to do it, but these days there are tons of ways to get training to drivers without incurring those costs or disruption. Study after study proves that the companies who invest in the professional development of their people have better employee engagement, lower turnover, and are more profitable over the long term. I don't see HOS training being any different. The more drivers know about any subject related to their jobs, the better they'll be able to do those jobs and the more they'll enjoy doing them.
So, ELD or no ELD, keep training those drivers on HOS!