FMCSA survey addresses harassment and electronic logging

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Updated Nov 18, 2014
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Truck operators who use electronic logging devices (ELD) instead of paper logs are more likely to experience harassment from their carriers in the form of interrupted off-duty time, according to a Nov. 13-released report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

However, the FMCSA says that research shows few drivers say they are harassed by their carriers, regardless of whether they use electronic logging devices or paper logs.

“The evidence in this survey research does not support concluding that harassment occurs due to being in situation where HOS are logged using ELDs,” according to the agency’s report.

Of the 628 drivers surveyed by the agency for the study, dubbed “Attitudes of Truck Drivers and Carriers on the Use of Electronic Logging Devices and Driver Harassment,” 37 percent of the 341 drivers using electronic logging devices said their carrier interrupts their off-duty time at inappropriate times with messages at least once a month. Just 22 percent of those using paper logs (258 drivers) said the same.

Twenty-two percent of the drivers using ELDs said off-duty interruptions occur two or more times a month, compared to just 15 percent of those using paper logs, according to the study.

FMCSA initiated the study in March to determine:

(a) whether drivers’ interactions with carriers constituted harassment,

(b) the frequency of certain driver-carrier interactions and

(c) whether ELDs made inappropriate or harassing interaction possible.

Drivers using ELDs and who experienced interaction deemed harassment on a monthly basis overwhelmingly did not attribute it to the logging devices: At most, only 2 percent of those interactions were attributed to the ELD, according to survey respondents.

Drivers using ELDs did say they were more likely to be paid for customer delays when picking up or delivering a load, with 63 percent saying that happened at least once per month, compared to 53 percent of those using paper logs. Thirty-seven percent of drivers using e-logs said this happened at least twice month, compared to 30 percent of those using paper logs.

On the flipside, drivers using e-logs said they were more likely to wait between loads without pay.

But drivers with e-logs were more likely to have their carrier adjust a load schedule so pickup or delivery was “realistic,” according to the study.

More than 70 percent of the drivers surveyed said each of the following was true for their use of ELDs:

  • They have less paperwork to fill out
  • The devices save time and make hours compliance easier
  • Their relationship with their fleet manager had been “enhanced”
  • They felt more protected from overbearing management.

However, more than half also said that the following were true about their ELD use:

  • They give their fleets’ management too much of an insight into their day
  • The devices prevent them from doing their job the way they want and
  • They make them feel less independent.

The agency asked the drivers surveyed whether certain interactions with their carriers constituted harassment, such as asking a customer to adjust a load schedule, asking drivers to operate when they felt fatigued, interrupting off-duty time at inappropriate times, arranging loads so that drivers had little delay between them.

Of the 14 types of driver-carrier interactions listed by FMCSA in its survey, between 26 and 30 percent of drivers identified three interactions as harassment:

  • 28 percent: Interrupting off-duty time with messages at inappropriate times
  • 28 percent: Asking drivers to operate when they judge themselves to be fatigued
  • 26 percent: Asking drivers to log hours inaccurately to get more work time or to delay a break

Between 16 and 20 percent of drivers said four other interactions were harassment:

  • 19 percent: Changing drivers’ logs to give the driver more work time or to delay a break
  • 19 percent: Requiring drivers to wait for customer delays for more than two hours without paying the driver
  • 18 percent: Asking drivers to meet a customer’s load schedule when drivers deem it unrealistic
  • 17 percent: Requiring drivers to wait for more than two hours between loads without pay

The drivers in the survey were interviewed at 24 different truck stops. Seventy percent of them were company drivers, and 29 percent were owner-operators.

More than three-quarters of them worked for a for-hire carrier, and 24 percent worked at a private carrier.

Eighty-four percent worked at a truckload carrier, and 9 percent worked at an LTL carrier. Six percent were listed as “other,” and 1 percent worked for parcel carriers.

Nearly half (46 percent) had more than 15 years of experience as truck operators. Twelve percent had between 11 and 15 years experience, and 17 percent had between six and 10. The rest had 5 years or less.

Carriers were also surveyed in FMCSA’s research. Of the 383 respondents, nearly 70 percent said the cost of their unit (software included) was more than $800. The median price was $1,000. Nearly 20 percent said their units cost more than $2,000.

Installation of the units cost another $150 (median) per unit, though nearly half reported spending more than $200 per unit and 24 percent reported spending more than $300.

Carrier respondents reported a median yearly operational cost of $480 per unit, with nearly 30 percent of carriers reporting the cost per year to be between $500 and $749.