Every day in America, people who “know what’s best” for truckers are trying to convince us how great e-logs are. One of the biggest things these pushers are trying to make us snort is that e-logs will increase the amount of time a driver has to drive. So is this true?
Well, I for one can’t stand wishy-washy people who beat around the bush. That’s why I’m going to give you a once-and-for-all straight-out answer to this question. I can say with every fiber of my being that the answer is yes… and no. Uhhhh… Maybe???[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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I’ve been running e-logs for a couple of months now so I feel I’m fairly qualified to answer this question. For the first month, I had to pull double-duty by doing e-logs while still keeping paper logs. This gave me a chance to compare the two systems side-by-side.
In the beginning, I kept noticing that I had just a tad bit more time on my paper logs than on my e-logs. There were two loads in particular that came down to the wire. On both, I went over my drive time on my e-logs, but just managed to get the job done legally on paper logs. Good thing I had been told that paper takes precedence over e-logs. Word has it that it’s also very effective against a rock, but pretty much worthless when it comes up against scissors.
I knew it! Those fibbing safety jerks! How dare they lie to me! I told them they were full of rumpidus wastioli! So the real answer to the initial question is NO! E-logs don’t save the driver time!
But wait… Hmmmm??? Now that I think of it, it is kinda weird that this only happened the first couple of weeks. I mean, the second half of the month I started noticing that I actually did have a little bit more time on e-logs than what my paper logs where showing. So what’s up with dat? Had the time-space continuum changed somehow? Were the e-log pimps somehow messing with physics? Nah. That couldn’t be it. Surely no one praising e-logs has the brains to tamper with such complex forces of nature.
I guess I’ll have to admit that I was the problem. I soon realized that during the first couple of weeks there had been numerous times when I had forgotten to take myself off the On-Duty line. You see; my particular e-log system is set up to automatically put you on the On-Duty line when you quit driving and forget to change your duty status. Since I was new to the system, my safety department would have been glad to change these screw-ups for me. Seeing as how it was only 15 to 20 minutes extra here or there, I hadn’t bothered to ask for the fix. My bad.
Once I realized that the moron in the driving seat was the problem, I remedied this by using the timer in my beloved iPhone. If I go to the On-Duty line to do my pre-trip inspection or to show time at a customer, I set my alarm for 16 minutes. 15 is required. 14 minutes and 55 seconds means you have to start over. So 16 minutes it is. It worked. Well, for the most part it has. I have the attention span of a 5-year-old at a life insurance seminar, so nothing is 100% effective for me. You see, timers work best when you remember to turn them on. Just a little tip from your Uncle Todd.
So there’s your final answer to the question. Yes, e-logs actually do increase your driving time. Good. That’s finally settled. Oh… Wait just a sec… I forgot about something. That’s all theoretically speaking. But we drivers know that nothing works according to plan when you’re sitting behind the wheel of a big rig.
So now e-logs have given me a few precious extra minutes in my day. I’m so giddy I can barely control myself. I feel like belting out a Fred Figglehorn-like scream of joy, but my male hormones are making it utterly impossible. Now I can drive later into the night. My paycheck this week is gonna be a whopper. Right?
Wrong. While it’s always great to gain a few extra minutes of driving time, e-logs make it harder to use all those minutes. Here is how this has worked for me. My e-log unit has just beeped at me telling me that I’ve got one hour left to drive. Since I’m a super-trucker who knows where every truck stop in America is, I know there’s a series of truck stops coming up. One exit is about 15 minutes down the road, another is about 50 minutes, and the third is 1.5 hours.
Which one do I stop at? Since I have an hour to drive, I’d like to make it to the one that’s about 50 minutes out. That way I can utilize most of my drive time and still get parked before Vader pops out of my e-log screen and starts with his mental stranglehold. Oh wait. We decided in the last blog post that that wouldn’t happen. Oh well. I still don’t want to get a log violation.
But what happens if that truck stop has a full parking lot? You might be fine if you’re pulling in before dusk, but what happens after nightfall when truckers descend on truck stops like vultures on a rotting carcass? You know, now that I think of it, a lot of the truck stop parking lots do share that similar odorific funk.
Well, if that truck stop is full, you drive on to the next safe place. Maybe that’s a rest area, which naturally means no shower or food, or maybe it’s that next truck stop that’s half an hour over your legal driving limit. Well gee. What to do?
Maybe I should just stop at the one up here in 15 minutes to be safe. And sadly, that’s what I find myself doing more often than not. Why? Because if I discover that their lot is full, I’ll have one more chance at the 50-minute truck stop before I run out of driving time. So, you non-truckers may be asking, “What’s the big deal? How would being on paper logs help you in this situation? When you’re out of time, you’re out of time.”
Oh ye of little trucking intelligence; lend me your ear. E-logs deal with time set in stone. That’s the way it should be. But a trucker’s schedule is set in sand, or possibly really thick water. Picture that as your toilet bowl the morning after your 21st birthday. With paper logs, there’s not a doubt in my mind that I’d go to the truck stop 50 minutes down the road. I’m going to maximize my log book to the fullest. If there’s parking there, that’s great. If not, oh well. As long as there’s not a weigh station with a bunch of gung-ho DOT officers between me and that next truck stop, I’ll just go there to park for the night. If that’s full, I’ll go on to the next.
The thing is, my paper log would show me stopping at the 50-minute truck stop, even if I didn’t. Illegal? Yes. Maximizing my time? Yes. Done by truckers every day? Yes. But here’s the deal. When I’m an hour further down the road than I’m supposed to be at the end of the night, it just means that I take off an hour later than I actually show leaving the next morning. That also means I drive one less hour that day. It all evens out.
So now we ponder the opening question yet again. Do e-logs really increase a driver’s available drive time? Although e-logs may gain you a few minutes here or there, real life situations make you lose more than you gain. Therefore, my final answer is a big fat nope. Besides, I’m through being a flake. Although I wouldn’t mind being a frosted one. Everyone loves those.
Please leave a comment if you have your own experiences with e-logs or if you have questions. Thanks
Photo by Howard Dickins via Flickr