Tractor-trailer rigs are parked at the Petro truck stop in El Paso, TX. A new rule requiring truckers to digitally record driving hours is expected to pass this week.
Tractor-trailer rigs are parked at the Petro truck stop in El Paso, TX. A new rule requiring truckers to digitally record driving hours is expected to pass this week. - 
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A new rule from the Department of Transportation requiring truckers to digitally record the number of hours they drive is expected to pass this week. That means drivers will have to use ELDS, or Electronic Logging Devices, instead of paper logs to track the hours they drive, and, work. 

If you work as a truck driver today, according to the rules, you only need to keep a paper log of your hours.

“They literally take a pen and a ruler and they fill out their times everyday of when they’re driving and when they’re on a break,” said Bob Costello, chief economist and senior vice president at the American Trucking Association

Notes Costello, when the new rule passes, the process will be automated. So companies should have an easier time matching drivers and loads. But in the short run, the new rule could cost drivers. 

"The biggest cost will be putting the device in the truck,” he said. 

Said Neal Kedzie, president of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, the new devices can cost up to a couple thousand dollars per truck. While many big fleets have already invested in the equipment, smaller operators have been holding off. 

“A larger number of the small fleet operators that have been hesitant — wanting to make sure that what they purchased would be the right type equipment," he said. Not an expensive piece of hardware that would quickly become obsolete.

Then there's the issue of cheating. Drivers staying on the road for more hours than allowed and misreporting their numbers. The number of drivers who do that, said Costello, is very low. And the new devices will all but make that impossible. At the same time, a little flexibility can be helpful. Say you’re a driver at a truck who's just started his or her day. Suddenly you run into a traffic jam.

"You take 15 minutes to get down the road and you’re like, 'you know what, I’m going to get off  there’s no sense in setting in this,'" he said. 

Drivers are allowed no more than 11 hours behind the wheel a day, and to work no more than 14  including loading and unloading time. But, noted Costello, with the new electronic devices, pulling off the road, and waiting 15 minutes for a snarl to subside; something that could be fudged on paper will no longer be possible. With an electronic tracking device, starting, then stopping your day just a few minutes later  is not an option. 

"There’s not going to be that flexibility when you have an electronic log," he said. "Once you start that truck and turn it on and move it, boom, your day starts counting down."

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