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Fritz Bjorklund
PO Box 157
Kulpmont PA 17838
bjork@ptd.net

02 October 2001

Angeli Sebastian
Driver and Carrier Operations (MC-PSD)
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin.
400 Seventh Street SW
Washington DC 20590

Reference: Computer assisted logs and 31 Aug 2001 FMCSA letter.

Dear Ms. Sebastian:

This letter is in response to the FMCSA letter dated 31 Aug 2001 regarding my proposal dated 8 Mar 2001 for a pilot program or some regulatory adjustment to allow computer assisted driver duty status logs to be printed and hand signed by the vehicle driver. In particular, provide some relief from FMCSR section 395.8 - Driver’s record of duty status, paragraph: (f)(2) Entries Made by Driver Only. All entries relating to driver's duty status must be legible and in the driver's own handwriting.

I think that the FMCSA missed the message in the original 8 Mar 2001 letter. I am asking for a rather modest pilot program that allows drivers to use readily available software to help prepare and further to print neat, accurate, logs that would be hand signed by the driver and presented to motor carriers, and inspectors, as a legal record of their duty status.

Further, I would like to clarify a misconception resulting from my letter of 8 Mar 2001. I am not proposing that digital signatures be used on driver duty status logs. The letter only stated, as a matter of information, that a federal law has been enacted that makes digital signatures as legally binding as hand written signatures on contracts and other legal documents. My proposal is only that computer assisted and printed logs, hand signed by the driver, be considered as legal duty status records. A pilot program seemed the most natural way to ‘test’ this idea. Electronic logs authenticated and certified using digital signatures is a future project.

I will try to address the other concerns presented in your letter of 31 Aug 2001 which asked for more information regarding the number of participants (drivers and carriers), the level of safety, and that logs generated by software should be accurate and tamper proof.

As a sidebar. I consider email and letters sent to FMCSA regarding this proposal to be part of the ‘information’ that you have requested. It is unfortunate that by rejecting this information because a Docket Number has not been assigned has put this proposal into a bureaucratic stalemate. This reminds me of the classic ‘chicken and the egg’ dilemma. Information is being rejected because there is no Docket and a Docket cannot be assigned until more information is presented and evaluated. I suggest that any email and letters regarding this proposal be filed with the proposal as part of the requested ‘information’, since those emails and letters will address the concerns in your 31 Aug 2001 letter. The users of the software and proponents of this proposal are distributed all over the United States, and reflect a large variety different users and experience levels. The collection of ‘information’ is probably going to be via statements sent by email or letter directly to the FMCSA. I could request that such email and letters be sent to me, but that might be prejudicial since I might be inclined to not pass on opinions that don’t support the proposal. Thus, I have asked that opinions, both for and against, be sent directly to you. Further, is not a pilot program a way to gather information on the issues you want information about? So the start of a pilot program in this situation should not require a whole lot of information. But I will try.

Participants (drivers and carriers). As I stated in my original letter, I presumed that since it is estimated that 50% of the families in the United States have a computer, that this would also extend to the population of commercial drivers who must prepare duty status logs. Since a minimum of 3.5 million drivers fall into the category of having to prepare logs, one might presume that 1/2 or 1.75 million have access to computers. Let me present some statistics based on my experience distributing this software using the internet. My visitor counter has passed the 82000 mark and my email regarding the software numbers about 1400. I don’t have an accurate software ‘download’ count, but it is not unrealistic to assume that there are 70000 copies of the software being used. Since the software is free, there is also distribution of copies among users that do not have internet access. Users include drivers, motor carrier auditors, state and local DOT inspectors, and state police. The Florida DOT has asked for and received permission to use the software for their training and audits. There are also a few FMCSA compliance officers that are enthusiastic about software assisted logs. The incoming email regarding the software have the general ‘tone’ that the software has made life easier for the user, and usually contains specific suggestions regarding more features to be considered. The users are spread across the United States and Canada, and there is no particular ‘population’ represented, though most email arrives from truck and bus drivers. Copies of this incoming email can be forwarded to FMCSA as supporting information as necessary.

Owner Operators and Independents are a more specific set of commercial drivers that have access to and use computers in their trucks. The Owner Operators And Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) claims membership at 60,000+ and estimates that 35% of those members have computers, laptops or desktops, in their trucks, to assist them in conducting their business. Doing logs on those computers seems only a natural extension of trucking productivity that they accomplish on those computers - routing, mapping, directions, expenses, revenues, settlements, etc.

Safety. In this case I presume that ‘driver fatigue’ is the issue. The email that I have received that addresses this issue discusses the time saved preparing logs using software, since the software does the arithmetic and evaluates the logs immediately for hours of service violations. The software prints neat, accurate, and presentable logs, and does so quickly. The driver does not need to transcribe those logs to a paper log. Drivers also use the software to check their paper logs, if the motor carrier specifies that paper logs be submitted. A pilot program would eliminate this extra step of preparing a paper log in the driver’s own handwriting. A driver spends less time doing and worrying about his logs, and thus has more time to sleep and is more rested and relaxed when he starts driving again. A driver using the software receives less letters of violation from his motor carrier, and thus is less 'stressed’, and should be safer when driving. Preparing logs is a major source of concern with many drivers, and even drivers with many years of experience do not completely understand logs, and having software that ‘does the job correctly’, is a big help to those drivers.

Accurate Logs. The issue here is log falsification. Using software to prepare logs will neither improve or degrade the situation on a per driver basis. Stated another way, a driver who falsifies his logs will continue to do so using software. It has been stated that software makes it easier to falsify logs. No argument other than the following analogy. There is available very popular software that helps users prepare their income tax returns and would seem to make it easier for a user of that software to falsify his tax return. The ‘tool’, tax or log software, makes life easier and more productive. So, don’t discard it on the basis of user intent when using it. Further analogy, tax returns printed by computer and hand signed by the tax payer are legal tax returns. Should not driver’s duty status records printed by computer and hand signed by the driver get the same legal recognition? The data on the logs (or tax returns) are certified by the driver (tax payer) when he signs them.

Falsification is a very personal issue for me. No driver wants to prepare falsified logs. I personally have about 6 months of truck driving experience ‘under my belt’. The following is based on my own experience and includes discussions with other drivers who are paid by the mile rather than paid by the hours worked. A driver who is paid by the mile, only earns money when the truck is rolling. As a result, drivers waiting at shippers and receivers, are not paid unless a motor carrier has an agreement with the shipper or receiver to pay for ‘detention time’ i.e. excessive waiting times to be loaded or unloaded. Regardless, that compensation, if it exists at all usually does not ‘kick in’ until 3 or 4 hours have elapsed. My experience is that waits of 3 to 4 hours at shippers and receivers is normal rather than the exception. Regulations require that this time be logged as ‘On Duty Not Driving’. Since this time ‘eats’ into available driving hours, I and practically all other drivers log 15 minutes ‘On Duty Not Driving’ when we arrive at a shipper and receiver and the remaining time except for 15 minutes departure preparation is logged as ‘Off Duty’ or most likely ‘Sleeper Berth’. This preserves valuable hours for the driving hours which produces the income. This is a matter of economic necessity rather than any evil intent to falsify. It is my experience that a driver with less than one year of experience would earn less than $5.00 per hour worked if he logs completely by the regulation, and about $8.00 per hour if he ‘fudges’ his time spent at shippers and receivers. The only solution to this predicament is to pay drivers by the hour and for all hours worked - ‘Driving’ and ‘On Duty Not Driving’. Software assisted logs and paper logs come out even on this issue. Drivers will decide the duty status that is appropriate. Neither software nor automated systems can determine ‘accurate’ duty status without driver intervention.

On the general discussion of falsification. Talk to any driver and present this situation: "I am only 3 or so hours from home on a homeward bound leg of a trip, and I have run out of hours. I will stop and take the 8 hours of ‘Off Duty’ as mandated by the regulations." If he answers yes, you are talking to a driver that is afraid to admit to the truth. A tired driver will stop for a quick nap, but will then continue on home, to spend time with his significant other in a nice snuggly bed. Canadian rules tries to accommodate this situation by allowing a driver (once in seven days) to shorten a required 8 hours ‘Off Duty’ to as little as 4 hours as long as he makes up the time during the next ‘Off Duty’ stretch, presumably at home. Thus the driver has a chance to get home without breaking the rules.

Computer assisted software requires driver input of duty status. A Driver is the only one that can determine the correct duty status at any point in time. There are no automated log systems that can do this accurately. Automated log systems (like the Werner Enterprise’s automated log system) make ‘guesses’ about a driver’s duty status. But an automated system alone cannot determine the correct duty status for ‘Off Duty’, ‘Sleeper’, and ‘On Duty Not Driving’. These three duty status situations require the driver to intervene in order to get the correct duty status. The ‘Driving’ duty status is only a little easier. A truck that is moving, the automated system can presume that the duty status is ‘Driving’. But, when a truck is stopped in a traffic backup, and the driver takes the truck out of gear and engages the parking brakes, an automated system will log the driver as ‘Off Duty’ after a number of minutes. The driver is still ‘Driving’ according the regulations. Only the driver can assess this situation correctly. In this situation, the automated log system is falsifying the drivers logs.

Automated logging systems have one advantage, in that they use input from truck mounted sensors to help determine duty status, but has the limitations as discussed above. A Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver coupled with an automatic log system can determine a truck’s position as a function of time, and thus has a clear advantage of recording position and time to verify location of duty status changes. That is the only advantage of an automated logging system. A Vehicle Locating and Tracking system would serve this function as a cross check of a driver submitted logs. So the message is: let the driver determine his duty status, and use a system to cross check his logs as far as his location is concerned. Then average speed can be calculated and used to further to check on log accuracy. Obviously, fuel and toll receipts also can be cross checked against his logs. This is part of normal log auditing procedures anyway.

It should be noted that drivers also use log software to plan the future, i.e. they will ‘simulate’ a proposed trip based on load schedule, and will evaluate this against the driver’s personal hours of service situation, i.e. hours available and the likely event that the available hours might be exhausted before the load is delivered, thus putting the driver into a decision - deliver the load and go into violation (or falsify logs) or stop and wait somewhere to ‘recover’ hours and thus deliver the load late. Late loads for any reason are a real ‘no no’, and reflect on the driver regardless of his hours of service situation. It is better to get this information before committing to a load and the schedule it entails. I don’t know of any automated system that accommodates this ‘planning’ feature, i.e. enter duty status records into the future. Drivers without the benefit of log software, generally do a quick mental estimate of hours available compared to the estimated trip time. Other rely on dispatchers to pick loads based on the driver’s available hours. Dispatchers are only interested loads delivered, and have only minimal interest in a driver’s legal status regarding hours of service.

Tamperproof. There are two parts to this issue. Driver tampering and motor carrier tampering.

Driver Tampering. Software will not prevent tampering. The situation is not improved or degraded when compared to paper logs. Software can record changes to logs made after the initial duty status entries, in order to create an ‘audit’ trail of changes. But, unless this information is forwarded electronically and automatically to the motor carrier, these changes will not be detected. Automated systems do well in this regard, if they communicate logs to the motor carrier in regular intervals. But a driver who adjusts the logs in a automated system (395.15) is still bound by hand writing provision in the regulations unless exempted.

Motor Carrier Tampering. I have not found any written explanation regarding the requirement of FMCSR section 395.8(f)(2) requiring logs be prepared in the driver’s own handwriting and signed by the driver. I would presume that the regulation is designed to protect the driver from log tampering by motor carrier personnel in an attempt by the motor carrier to get more work hours from a driver. I agree that logs should be tamper proof, or as a minimum, tamper resistant. I would think that computer printed and hand signed by the driver would provide some tamper resistance, or as a minimum make it harder for a motor carrier to alter a driver’s logs. If a motor carrier representative prepares false logs using the same software as the driver, and falsely represents those logs as having been submitted by the driver, the motor carrier is at fault, and the driver is protected, since driver keeps a copy of the logs he submitted in his own personal files. The same can be said of the current system of paper logs prepared in the driver’s own handwriting. So software prepared logs would have a slight ‘edge’, compared to paper logs, when it comes to motor carrier tampering.

The only system that prevents motor carrier tampering is a completely electronic transmission of logs by the driver and protected by encryption and real digital signatures. The digital signature authenticates the logs as having been created and submitted by the driver. Again I iterate as I did in my 8 Mar 2001 letter. I am not proposing digital signatures for this pilot program. That is for the future. One little ‘baby step’ at time seems to be the correct course of action at this time.

 

In spite of the discussions above with regard to falsifications, tamper proofing, etc. I only want to propose relief from the hand writing provision in the regulations. I don’t think that there is going to be measurable improvements or degradation in the areas of tampering, and falsification. Safety in the form of driver fatigue and stress will be improved, but will be difficult to measure. Just a whole bunch of more contented drivers who have found that computers and log software makes their professional life a little easier. Doing logs accurately, quickly, and printing them from the computer should yield lower driver fatigue and stress. Further, motor carrier log auditors will find life easier, knowing that the logs as submitted have been pre-audited by the driver using log preparation software. It is simply a matter of finally moving out of the paper age and into the computer age. Hey, guys, the personal computer age started in the early 1980’s (in my case 1977), and it is now 2001. Personal computers are a part of most peoples lives by now.

Again, I consider any email or letters in support of or against this proposal sent to the FMCSA to be part of the information requested in the 31 Aug 2001 FMCSA letter. There are a lot of smart and more experienced people than I in the trucking industry - drivers, auditors, inspectors - that have valuable information to add to the proposal before a Docket is assigned.

Summary. I am asking for a rather modest pilot program that allows drivers to use readily available software to help prepare and further to print neat, accurate, logs that would be hand signed by the driver and presented to motor carriers, and inspectors, as a legal record of their duty status. Minor improvements in safety as measured by a reduction in driver fatigue and stress is expected. No measurable improvement or degradation is expected in falsification and tampering when compared to the current paper log system. Software assisted logs are not to be compared to automated logs, since software assisted logs are presented as an improvement over paper logs. Automated log systems have significant problems determining correct driver duty status as discussed above.

Yours truly,


Fritz Roland Bjorklund

 

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Copyright 1998-2011 Drivers Daily Log - Fritz Roland Bjorklund & Bruce A. Luebke.  All rights reserved.
Last modified: Wednesday April 13, 2011.