Editorial note: Updated in 2022 to reflect mandate timing and current industry benefits of electronic logs.
All drivers and carriers must implement electronic devices throughout their fleets in compliance with the ELD mandate. While some bid a fond farewell to imperfect though familiar paper logs, others have been more reluctant. Still, drivers who’ve already made the transition to electronic logs are happy with the results, finding few benefits to holding onto paper logs any longer than they have to.
Below are just seven reasons drivers have switched from paper to electronic logs. Altogether, they make a pretty strong case for using electronic logs whether or not you’re exempt from the ELD mandate.
1. Easy transition to ELDs
The earlier carriers implemented electronic logs, the easier it was to adapt to logging methods that met the ELD mandate which requires all trucks to run on an electronic logging device as of December 2017.
But carriers that switch from paper to electronic logs early will reap the benefits in 2017, when those already accustomed to electronic logging will seamlessly switch to ELDs and likely have a considerable edge over those switching from paper logs directly to an electronic logging device.
One reason many drivers made the switch to electronic logs early is so they could become acquainted with electronic systems while maintaining the ability to edit their duty status. The Motive Driver App, a free electronic log, allows drivers to edit their logs, including driving time, with the same ease as paper logs.
2. Ease of use
Stacy Hill, a Motive driver from Canada (which recently implemented its own ELD mandate), said switching from paper logs to electronic logs requires a smaller learning curve than going directly to ELDs or more complicated logging apps. “A lot of drivers are old school and have trouble with smartphone apps,” Stacy said. “The learning curve can be big for some, which is why I tell everyone to try out Motive because you don’t have to be a tech genius to get it.”
In a review of the logging app on GooglePlay, Motive user Herman Lambert wrote that he hasn’t “had any issues with DOT” since using the app. “This is a great help. My company runs all paper logs and I use this one mainly because my handwriting sucks and it’s a whole lot easier to let the app keep track of my logs and when I need to show breaks to be legal,” he wrote.
“The ease of use, editing feature, and the warnings when you are approaching a violation are excellent in my book,” Driver App user Michael Brown writes, noting that electronic logs have also improved communication with DOT officers on the road.
Not only do electronic logs ease the burden of meticulously recording and remembering to adjust and edit logs as conditions demand, but they’re also impossible to lose. Electronic logs record information accurately and make it accessible to drivers and fleets the moment they need it. Electronic log users note the ease with which they can access logging information in order to prepare quarterly IFTA reports, identify general trends, and plan for the future.
“This app has made my life so much easier. I’m not waiting till the end of the quarter to find who has the info I need for my IFTA report,” Motive user Brian Weaver writes of the app in GooglePlay.
“Would recommend it to any CDL Driver who wants to keep his/her log electronically and have easy access to it anytime,” Karen Delgado said.
4. Electronic logs lead to fewer HOS violations
Hours-of-service violations are some of the most common, and most avoidable, violations drivers receive on the road. Wes Memphis, who candidly chronicled his switch to electronic logs on Overdrive.com, said electronic logs have allowed him greater control over trickier logging tasks that often result in a violation when done on paper. “For the life of me, I never fully understood how to pull off an eight-two split without being in violation until I got on e-logs,” he wrote. “Now I just log in and ride until my clock tells me I have to stop and take a break.”
“Law enforcement sees fewer hours-of-service violations when electronic logging devices are in use,” DOT officer Sergeant Joseph Farnsworth told Motive. Farnsworth says he’s observed the “elimination” of form and manner violations, the “most common” type of violations inspectors discover during inspections of where the driver has used paper logs, he said. Motive drivers agree.
“I’ve been trucking for about 20 years and recently went back over the road, having to use a log book again and this app has been very helpful with the new regulations. In settings, I have it to where it emails me an hour before any violations to keep me out of trouble. I highly recommend this app… Now with the electronic logbooks this app is just as useful because it reminds me to keep my electronic log up-to-date when I’m not in the truck,” Hector Serano wrote.
5. Speedy inspections
The implementation of electronic logging eliminates form and manner violations and makes hours-of-service issues less likely, but it can also make the inspection process a breeze. Electronic logs, when maintained appropriately, are much easier for officers to read and verify when a driver is pulled over for inspection.
“The fact it keeps track of hours, miles in each state and total miles, duty status, break, and total hours, I can’t wait to get pulled over by the DOT!” Motive user Traci Faulkner wrote, armed with her electronic logging app.
“A couple weeks ago I was DOT inspected at the San Jon, NM Port of Entry and handed them my tablet with the Motive app for logbook inspection. They had no issues with my logs and was sent on my way in good stead,” writes Richard Szczepanski.
The ease of use is better for DOT officers as well, who are hopeful the switch from paper logs to electronic logs, and ultimately to ELDs, will improve the inspection experience for all parties. “The newer electronic logging devices (ELDs) that will be mandated in the near future should be better for the roadside officer and professional driver,” DOT officer Sergeant Joseph Farnsworth told Motive. “It will make these traffic stops and inspections faster, safer and more efficient for everyone involved, saving the motor carrier’s money and expediting freight movement across the nation.”
6. Protection against driver coercion
Drivers are less likely to get away with hours-of-service violations while using electronic logs. For many drivers, this is actually a relief. Shortly after announcing the ELD mandate, the FMCSA began enforcing a Driver Coercion Rule, which prohibits managers from “coercing drivers to operate in violation of certain FMCSA regulations,” including hours-of-service limits.
Electronic logs allow for the type of precise record keeping that makes potential hours-of-service violations hard to miss. Many drivers have noticed that the easier it is for DOT officers to identify hours-of-services violations, the less pressure they face from employers to commit them. “Many drivers state that they like having e-logs/ELDs installed in their vehicles, and aren’t under as much pressure to exceed hours of service regulations,” an officer told Motive.
For drivers who have no interest in pushing past hours or hiding violations, electronic logs are empowering them to stand up to pressure from employers to do so.
7. Reduced liability
The prevalence of electronic logs has had profound consequences for lawsuits filed against trucking companies. In many cases, logging hours electronically benefits both the driver and carrier should an accident occur.
Even with the most meticulous drivers, written logs are highly prone to error. “No matter how good the driver is, there are always mistakes. Mistakes as to where time was spent, where things happened, where the last break in service was,” a lawyer who represents trucking companies told us.
If a driver receives a violation and is involved in an accident on the same trip, a lawsuit could be filed claiming that a driver’s hours of service violation was the reason for the crash. With paper logs, notoriously difficult to maintain and organize, plaintiffs could point to improper record keeping as evidence that a violation might have occurred, and that violation might have caused the crash.
With electronic logs, there’s less wondering what “might” have happened and what “might” have caused what. As such, the likelihood a weak lawsuit will move forward is considerably reduced.