July 5, 2016

DOT Officer Secrets to Avoid Roadside Inspection Violations

June 2016

When using electronic logs, one area where fleets have more to gain by following DOT regulations than urging drivers to violate them is roadside inspections.

To learn more, we asked a DOT officer how the rise of electronic logging has influenced roadside inspections, from how officers go about DOT inspections to how drivers can use electronic logs to spend more time driving and less time pulled off the road.

Sergeant Joseph Farnsworth, an officer with the Iowa Department of Transportation’s motor vehicle enforcement division, offered his perspective on all this and more.

Here’s what we learned from Sergeant Farnsworth:

Fewer Hours of Service Violations

“Law enforcement sees fewer hours of service violations when electronic logging devices are in use,” Farnsworth told us.

He also addressed concerns that many drivers have over driver coercion – noting that the precise recording of hours has put many drivers at ease during DOT inspections. “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.”

Form and Manner Violations Basically Disappear

Form & Manner Errors

“Form and manner violations are the most common violations we see,” Farnsworth said, noting that he’s observed “the elimination” of such violations among drivers who log electronically.

“One of the advantages that a carrier and driver have by using electronic logs is the elimination of form and manner violations…missing dates, total miles, locations and such. Electronic logs have the ability to do this automatically and the carry over information from one day to the next when a driver is hauling the same cargo… Additionally, in some cases electronic logs eliminate the driver not having their logbook current to their last change of duty status. Electronic logs will automatically record driving time for the driver and if the truck stops, it will ask the driver if he/she is ‘on-duty’ for such things as loading or fueling, or if he/she is ‘off-duty’ or ‘sleeper berth’ for a break.”

Get Back On The Road Faster

Get Back on the Road Faster with E-logs and ELDs

Sgt. Farnsworth noted that electronic logging is only as efficient as the driver who uses it.

“Our officers are trained and expected to do their jobs as efficiently as possible, but the ‘speed’ or length of the traffic stop is still dictated by the driver, circumstances, and knowledge of the e-log/ELD system drivers are using,” he said.

Simply implementing electronic logging could eliminate form and manner violations and make hours-of-service issues less likely, but they only expedite the inspection process itself if the driver has been given the resources and training to maintain logs properly.

“Professional drivers without proper training and/or organizational skills can make timeliness of traffic stops an issue,” Farnsworth said. “Drivers who don’t receive training or lack confidence in e-logs/ELDs definitely affect the efficiency of the officer.”

Sgt. Farnsworth noted that drivers are required to carry a card or some type of information packet to assist them at roadside inspections when officers ask to check their hours of service. “Our officers realize the increased safety concerns and large economic impact these inspections can have, law enforcement wishes to speed this process to avoid both,” he said.

Use ELD Features Safely

Use ELD Features Safely to Avoid Roadside Inspection Violations

For all its potential to increase safety, electronic logging has also introduced its own set of safety concerns to which the industry has had to adapt. Farnsworth noted that ELD messaging features in particular can create distractions that could result in violations, not to mention serious safety issues. But following standard guidelines should make these easy to avoid, he said:

“Many of these devices have the ability to send messages to the driver from the carrier, much like texting. This can be a distraction to the driver, but even stopping on the shoulder of the interstate to check their messages causes great concern. Officers are required to stop and conduct a welfare check on these busy highways. It also creates a hazard for the public driving around these large stopped vehicles. Making good decisions on when and where to check messages is very important.”

Electronic Logs Affect the Officer, Too

We know recording hours electronically changes a driver’s process, but e-logs also impact how officers conduct roadside inspections – which has brought about some challenges.

“Electronic logs have caused several safety issues for law enforcement officers,” Sgt. Farnsworth explained. “When a commercial vehicle is stopped roadside the only way to check hours of service is to enter the truck, or stand on the running board to see the monitor. With traffic passing at highway speeds this is an obvious officer safety concern, we see many ‘move over’ roadside inspection violations here.”

The more mindful drivers are of these factors, the less challenging electronic logs will be for drivers and officers alike, making inspections faster.

Stay Organized, Stay On Track

Stay Organized and Avoid Roadside Inspection Violations

We asked Sgt. Farnsworth what advice he would give to a driver who already uses electronic logging on how to avoid roadside inspection violations and get through inspections quickly and successfully:

“The best advice law enforcement would give to a driver who uses electronic logs is to be organized and make sure they are properly trained on how to use the system and be prepared to assist the officer as needed. When drivers are organized and knowledgeable it adds to the professionalism of their craft, it also helps make the inspection go much more smoothly and creates a less stressful experience for the driver. Less time in a law enforcement vehicle means more time on the road.”

ELDs Make Everyone Safer

For all the necessary adjustments, Farnsworth said the ELD mandate, once fully in effect in 2017, will make drivers and officers much safer.

“The newer Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) that will be mandated in the near future should be better for the roadside officer and professional driver,” he said. “It will make these traffic stops and inspections faster, safer, and more efficient for everybody involved, saving the motor carrier’s money and expediting freight movement across the nation.”

Roadside Inspection Heat Map

We recently created a heat map to show our drivers and fleet managers the places that are high-risk for roadside inspections. Unsurprisingly, most DOT roadside inspections usually happen around cities and major highways.

Keep this map handy to avoid roadside inspections.

DOT Roadside Inspection heatmap

Avoid Roadside Inspection Violations with KeepTruckin

ELDs and e-logs have multiple benefits for drivers as well as fleet managers. And one of those benefits is that you can easily get through inspections and avoid roadside inspection violations.

If you are still using paper logs, try the KeepTruckin electronic logbook app for free.

If you have any questions, contact our support team for further assistance.

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