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Johnny Law Comes for Truckers with Electronic Logging Devices

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In Nick Stockton's Wired piece, truckers react negatively to updated hours-of-service rules that now digitize and automate logbook recordkeeping. No more pen and paper, apparently. It makes it easy, the way Stockton describes it, for an officer to confirm exactly how long a trucker has been behind the wheel without rest.

"To inspect a trucker's logs," Stockton writes, "a smokey just plugs into the ELD unit. Any trucker found in violation of their Hours of Service gets curbed for 10 hours - a serious penalty in a business where running late is bad news."

And the drivers are angry about it.

The New ELD

It stands for electronic logging device. Per Stockton, the ELD is a flash drive that connects to the truck's control module and gathers information like GPS coordinates and the odometer readout, among other things. The data presumably comes in a tidy package ready for the officer to pronounce compliance or non-compliance.

Such a device makes it harder for drivers to falsify logbooks. At least harder than it is with traditional logbooks, a.k.a. "comic books," as they are known in some circles - a nod to logbooks with false entries that give officers the appearance of a driver's compliance with the hours-of-service rules.

With no comic book equivalent to ELDs, this ratcheting down of enforcement has aroused many truckers' anger. Why is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration putting such a stranglehold on truckers with these rules?

The Easy Answer Is Safety

A long-haul trucker at the tail-end of a 12+ hour drive, fueled on coffee but little to no sleep, is a risk to others on the road. Commercial truck drivers, just like other drivers, can make mistakes or judgment errors because of sleep deprivation.

And that answer - safety - is probably sufficient.

Click here to learn more about trucking laws in California.

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