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Electronic logs required in all trucks within 2 years

Truckers' logs have been a source of some controversy in an industry that's been under fire for allowing, if not encouraging, drivers to put in as many hours and miles as possible, even if it results in fatigue and in some cases serious accidents. Currently, truckers are only required to keep paper logs, which, of course, don't necessarily reflect accurate information regarding rest breaks and other safety-related information.

Now federal regulators have given trucking companies and independent drivers to years to switch to electronic logs in order to provide a more accurate picture of truck drivers' activities. These electronic logging devices are required under a new federal rule implemented to help improve highway safety.

The electronic logs record location information, driving time and engine hours. As Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx noted, e-logs "allow roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk."

Many companies are already using the logs, which have been available for years. The president of the industry group American Trucking Associations says the requirement "will change the trucking industry -- for the better -- forever."

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that the e-logs will save as much as $1 billion by eliminating extensive paperwork and save law enforcement officers from having to review drivers' paper logs. Of course, paper logs can be manipulated to reflect compliance with federal rules such as the mandate that drivers take a 10-hour break after 11 hours of driving.

That's why some analysts are predicting that the amount of freight carried on our nation's roads will decrease. They suspect that drivers have been working more hours than they are indicating to get their freight to its destination.

There is some pushback from those who say that e-logs violate drivers' privacy. Independent truck drivers, in particular, have problems with the new requirement. Some argue that they limit their flexibility by requiring them to begin a shift during bad weather or traffic conditions or when they are stressed or tired.

Time will tell if the implementation of e-logs reduces the number of accidents involving commercial trucks. We all know that these can be among the most serious crashes there are because of the sheer size of the vehicles and the weight and sometimes flammability of the freight they're carrying. If it's a trade-off between safety and speed of freight delivery, most motorists would choose the former.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Truckers Get Two-Year Deadline for Electronic Logging Devices," Loretta Chao, Dec. 10, 2015

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