Monday, April 4, 2011

US Freight Truckers Finally Turning The Corner On Tacho Technology

E Logs are Becoming Accepted at Last
Shipping News Feature

US – The country’s truckers pride themselves on being amongst the most professional in the world and yet, synonymous with any industry as large as that of freight haulage in North America sometimes change is slow to come, no matter how beneficial.

Secretary of State for Transport Ray LaHood spends some time almost every day admonishing drivers, both private and commercial, for over use of technology which is inherently dangerous when employed on the move. Phones and texts are meant for passengers, pedestrians and parked drivers and no doubt Mr LaHood sees the same horrendous images as our news staff showing the results of communicating whilst driving.

Despite this love of new technology there is one area where the US trucker lags behind the rest of the world, modern electronic recording of his behaviour whilst in his rig. This is easy to understand, the image of the truck driving man is a free spirit roaming the highways with no boss on his tail every minute of the day, professional freight drivers are naturally reluctant to employ the ‘spy in the cab’ technology, just as their UK counterparts were a generation ago.

There is another side to the argument however and one which even US haulage firms are now beginning to appreciate. Firstly thirty or so tonnes of heavy metal hurtling down the highway at 60 miles per hour needs to be in the control of someone properly qualified, and properly rested. For every ten conscientious drivers there will always be one who falsifies a log sheet for whatever reason. Similarly their will always be bosses who threaten and cajole truckers to get a job done, whatever the personal cost to the man (or woman) in the cab and no matter how many rules are broken.

Now it seems that the trend is moving toward an accurate record of in cab activity and this week one of the foremost US companies has announced that 71 percent of its 3,000-driver fleet is using electronic logs (e-logs), with full integration of the technology expected in June 2011. Con-way Truckload, a full truckload carrier and subsidiary of Con-way Inc. believe the use of such technology is likely to be made mandatory by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for all carriers by 2014.

Since the universal adoption of tachograph recorders by European hauliers the technology has moved on and the old paper printed disks have almost totally been replaced by electronic recorders. Now, with satellite capability a truckload, LTL or drayage operator can take the process one stage further, using real time data to plan and adapt delivery and collection schedules. Because satellite-based mobile communications units have been installed in Con-way Truckload tractors since 1994, the company was able to integrate e-logs at a minimal cost. And, as a result of reduced costs associated with providing and managing traditional paper-based log books, the company has achieved 59 percent savings to date.

Many drivers are still fearful of their movements and hours of service being recorded but management and staff alike at Con-way speak enthusiastically of the advantages of using the system. Bert Johnson, senior director of human resources and driver recruitment commented:

"We understand that the transition to e-logs presents some anxiety for drivers, based primarily on fear of the unknown and the difficulty of transitioning from a manual practice that has been used in the trucking industry for years. By voluntarily moving our drivers to e-logs now, we can ensure that they are comfortable with the paperless system well ahead of FMCSA's mandate. Additionally, we can begin to realize the safety benefits today versus three years from now, which aligns with our core value of safety and mission to protect both our drivers and the motoring public."

Con-way Truckload began testing e-logs in February 2010 and started integrating the system in its trucks fleetwide in November. Currently 2,145 drivers are using e-logs, with another 75 drivers transitioning to the system each week, on average. One of Con-way Truckload's long-time drivers, Gary Sorell, who was selected to use e-logs, first gave his opinion:

"When I started using e-logs in March 2010, I wasn't sure what to expect; now, I wouldn't give it back. With a computer to do all of the work, a driver doesn't need to spend time filling out a paper log or calculating hours manually. There is no way to make a mistake, which eliminates log violations and makes it easy to work with the Department of Transportation."