Computer-assisted logs: To print or not to print

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Updated Jul 15, 2014

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s changes to guidance around the issue of whether users of laptop- and mobile device-assisted logging programs must print and physically sign their logs may not have cleared up roadside issues as much as thought by some. This despite the fact that the federal summary of the guidance change suggested a wholesale removal of any printing requirement for those using programs capable of being digitally signed. 

In short, if you’re using a logging app like BigRoad or KeepTruckin or a laptop-based program like the long-running Driver’s Daily Log, don’t leave those printers at home just yet. While you don’t have to have printed copies of each day’s logs on hand immediately, if you’re being inspected by an officer who wants a hard copy of your logs, the onus is still on you to supply that.

Down at the bottom of the revised guidance is this statement about procedures for logs that are electronically signed: 

If the enforcement official requests printed copies of the RODS, the driver must be given an opportunity to print the current and prior seven days RODS (if required on those days) at the time of inspection.

As TCRG Consulting’s Richard Wilson reads it, this takes none of the onus off of drivers to be able to create a paper copy — law enforcement must “provide an opportunity [to print], not a printer.” 

FMCSA responded to a request for clarification with this statement from Duane Debruyne: “A driver using non-Automatic On Board Recording Device software program to record his/her logbook on an electronic device must be able to print out the log pages at the time of inspection if requested by an enforcement officer.” 

Before FMCSA issued that clarification, Shoaib Makani of KeepTruckin wondered at the gray area that the “must be given an opportunity to print” language seemed to render. 

“Would faxing logs from an app qualify?” he asked, referencing a capability that has been accepted in lieu of a driver-printed hard copy in some jurisdictions. 

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“Most officers can receive logs via fax in their car,” wrote reader Alex Rolli in response to yesterday’s news on Overdrive‘s Facebook page

Some jurisdictions haven’t accepted faxes, however. “South Carolina told me two weeks ago I need to be able to print,” wrote reader David Adorno Jr.

Makani believes the language should be removed from the guidance and the printing need done away with entirely. “The summary that the FMCSA provided about the new guidance makes it sound like a driver never has to print as long as they have signed electronically and can display their logs on their phone/tablet/computer,” he says. As it is, though, retaining the ability to print is still on the driver. “That puts an unnecessary cost burden on drivers, and that is our fundamental objection.” 

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