Some people say “All Truck Drivers Lie on Their Logs” and the sad truth is, far too many of them do.
The reason it happens is not something that’s easy to put a finger on; some say it’s low pay in the industry, some point to the custom of paying drivers by the mile (some say this should be outlawed); others point to any number of issues. Larger companies are more likely to have meaningful controls in this area, not to prevent it, but to control it. Owners of small trucking companies often express they feel they must disregard the requirements of part 395 to be competitive.
THE CARRIER’S FAULT?
I met a gentleman in Missouri a few days ago who explained to me in order to make a decent living, he has to drive far more than the law allows, and routinely lies on his logs in order to facilitate this. The carrier doesn’t force him to do it, but applauds him for getting the load delivered and getting another load, when they know (or should know) he is operating illegally.
The carrier may have made a business decision to do this and risk being fined by the FMCSA or worse, but it is more likely the carrier has taken the path of least resistance.
THE DRIVER’S FAULT?
I have known carriers who say they schedule drivers to operate legally and the driver does not start the trip when he is told; instead spending extra time at home, leaving late, driving straight through, and falsifying logs to make it appear as if they left when they were told to.
On the return trip, the same thing happens, with drivers skipping their last rest stop in favor of getting home. I cannot fault a driver for WISHING to spend time with his family, but I do have an issue with breaking the law and endangering the lives of others in order to get there.
I used to get conniptions about this but the fact is, the carrier is taking the path of least resistance
THE FAULT OF THE USDOT?
I often hear this explanation; the rules are unrealistic or unenforceable, or the FMCSA does not enforce it evenly so ‘we have to cheat because our competitor cheats’. Many still feel the HOS regulations are too restrictive.
Recent comments by the NTSB seem to reflect that agency has stopped talking about HOS and seem to be focusing on driver fatigue. No one can deny that tired drivers deprive others of family members. Tragically, it happens too often. The DOT says they don’t have enough people or they don’t have public support. If they try to do something the ATA raises heck but mostly they don’t talk about it because they are taking the path of least resistance.
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO – or is it three?
Regardless where you believe the fault lies, it takes both carrier and driver to let this become a routine problem. As a carrier, why would you let something go on routinely that could put you in jail? As a driver, why would you risk your freedom just to make a living?
Each party COULD choose to ‘go legit’ – and the FMCSA could MAKE them if enforcement was more efficient.
BOTH PARTIES MAKE BAD CHOICES DAILY
When drivers choose to falsify their logs, and when carriers tolerate or encourage it, they are both making a simple mistake – they are trading the equivalent of a parking ticket for a felony. The FMCSA is VERY lenient when, during a compliance review, a number of 11, 14, and 60/70-hour violations are detected. But, when false logs surface, they become far less tolerant. If most drivers and carriers understood this, they would fare better when the really serious compliance review occurs following a serious accident.
THE CARRIER COULD PUT AN END TO IT
If drivers are scheduled legally and supervised properly, there is little opportunity or motive to falsify logs, and no chance to get away with it. Show me a system where drivers routinely lie on logs and I’ll show you a carrier who does not have effective safety management controls.
THE FMCSA COULD PUT AN END TO IT.
I have a potential solution in mind, involving current technology. First, a ‘listening post’ could be installed each 100-200 miles on interstate highways and in CMV-enforcement officer’s SUVs. If every driver had to electronically sign in each time he starts an engine, and if each truck recorded – not reported, just recorded – it’s location once each hour, and uploaded this information each time a ‘listening post’ is passed, an algorithm could immediately detect a driver who is exceeding his HOS.
The information could be sent directly to the carrier, who could contact the driver and order him to the curb. If a law enforcement officer stops the driver while he/she is still moving, it would result in a serious violation for both driver and carrier.
HOW CAN IT BE FIXED BEFORE WE HAVE A RASH OF SERIOUS FATALITIES CAUSED BY FATIGUED DRIVERS?
I believe it is public sentiment that has caused this problem, and public sentiment can fix it. If you find a way to tell your congressman or representative you want the DOT to have the mandate and resources to stop tired truck driving, Mr. LaHood and his team will come up with a simple answer to the current ‘cat-and-mouse’ game. Perhaps even the one I have just suggested.
DOT Compliance Help, Inc