Today, more than 3 million truck drivers use paper logbooks to maintain their record of duty status. With the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate set to take effect in the coming years, the trucking industry is gearing up to take on the digital age. While the ELD mandate is finalized by the FMCSA, many drivers are adopting free electronic logbook apps like Motive, to track, store, and transmit their logs.

With the goal of keeping regulation up to date with the state of technology, the FMCSA recently issued a notice of proposed rulemaking for Electronic Documents and Signatures. The stated goal of the rulemaking: to broadly allow the use of electronic records and signatures to satisfy FMCSA regulatory requirements.

The proposed rulemaking is a much needed update to FMCSA regulations, however it doesn’t go far enough. Specifically, the proposed rulemaking fails to address the printing requirement that currently exists in question 28 in the interpretive guidance for 395.8. On one hand the FMCSA is stating that paper and electronic records are equivalent, and on the other it states that drivers who use an electronic logbook must be able to produce a printed copy of their logs during a roadside inspection. This inconsistency causes confusion for drivers and enforcement officials and prevents the adoption of technology that fundamentally improves road safety.

We believe that the FMCSA should resolve the inconsistency by (1) striking the printing requirement from the guidance for 395.8 or, (2) if the FMCSA does not see fit to strike the printing requirement, then we believe the guidance should be amended to allow a driver to send their logs to an officer via email or fax or transcribe their electronic RODS to paper by hand at the time of an inspection.

To the credit of the FMCSA, they invited the public to comment on the proposed rulemaking. Motive worked with previous FMCSA administrator, Annette Sandberg, to draft comments on the rule that address the printing requirement in the proposed rulemaking. Read Motive’s public comment on the proposed rulemaking here.

Thankfully we weren’t the only ones to raise this issue. The American Trucking Association (ATA), the leading trucking industry advocacy group, shares our perspective. In the ATA’s public comment on the proposed rulemaking, they specifically state that Question 28 in the interpretive guidance for 395.8, which requires drivers to print paper logs during a roadside inspection, should be eliminated. In its comment, the ATA wrote:

“Today’s business environment is nearly paperless. Contracts, policy documents, routine communications, time cards, transactions, etcetera are completed without ink ever being put to paper. The business community has adopted these practices after long deliberations about their validity, security, legality, practicality, and efficiency. As a result, some trucking operations have been able to evolve into a decentralized environment that enhances customer service and functional flexibility. As circumstances change, opportunities emerge to further streamline the industry and its interactions with customers, regulators and law enforcement. The electronic storage, display and/or transmission of documents necessary for law enforcement review at roadside is an excellent example of such an opportunity and must be permitted, though not required…

Question 28 found in the interpretive guidance for 49 C.F.R. §395.8 specifically requires the ability to print paper logs. This must be eliminated. There are several devices currently available to motor carriers which offer hours of service logging software but which don’t comply to the currently AOBRD requirements or the proposed ELD requirements.

Specifically, these devices are not integrally synchronized with the vehicle. These devices are in use today in many fleets and will continue to be utilized post-ELD rule in lieu of paper logs when devices fail or when drivers no longer qualify for the short-haul exemptions (for up to eight days). At worst these devices offer complete parity with paper versions. At best, they are more effective tools for drivers to use to understand available hours and avoid potential violations and may also include falsification protections.”

We wholeheartedly agree that if the DOT and FMSCA are serious about improving safety in the trucking industry through technology, they must move to strike regulation that requires drivers to print their logs. The regulation, as it currently stands, is inconsistent with the agency’s move towards electronic logs and is burdensome for drivers and carriers.

If you agree with us, please comment on the proposed rulemaking or reach out to your congressional representatives to make your voice heard.