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A new big rig logbook is supposed to make roadways safer, but some truckers hate it

Truck drivers protest in Fresno for fair wages and improved regulations

Hundreds of Valley truckers carry signs to make their points known outside Fresno City Hall, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 joining truckers across the nation in protest.
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Hundreds of Valley truckers carry signs to make their points known outside Fresno City Hall, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 joining truckers across the nation in protest.

About 300 long haul truckers held a three-hour protest in front of Fresno City Hall Thursday over a new federal rule requiring electronic logging devices in trucks.

Starting Dec. 18, long haul trucks must have an electronic logging device that tracks how many hours the trucker is using the vehicle. The old paper logbooks in use since the 1930s can no longer be used.

Advocates say the so-called ELD will prevent truckers from working too many hours and reduce the risk of devastating crashes. But truckers who work as owner-operators or owners of small trucking companies say the rule will add costs, cut their incomes, give large trucking companies an advantage and are an affront to human dignity.

By law, truckers can work 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours of driving time. Once the electronic logging device is activated, it stays on for 14 hours straight, according to the protesting truckers. They must stop even if they are in a dangerous area, they said.

That’s a non-starter for Adam Atwal, a trucker from Atwater.

“We get paid by the mile,” he said, but there are times when the truck isn’t moving, such as delays at the loading dock.

“The 14-hour clock is still ticking,” he said. “Why do we have to sit and work for free?”

We get paid by the mile…Why do we have to sit and work for free?

Adam Atwal, trucker

Most of the truckers at the Fresno protest were born in India and speak Punjabi. Many wore turbans. Kamaljit Kaur, a Fresno area community organizer for the Jakara Movement, a local nonprofit community-building organization, said they got into trucking in the United States because “it’s one of the last industries where someone can enter the middle class.”

Councilman Clint Olivier told the crowd he knows very little about the daily struggles of truckers, but knows federal overreach when he sees it and supports their protest.

The new rule is the result of a federal law supported by the American Trucking Association, which praised the House of Representatives last month “for rejecting an 11th hour effort to delay implementation of the electronic logging device mandate.”

The Dec. 18 deadline was set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency at least one speaker said should be abolished.

The protest is a part of a nationwide trucker movement called Operation Black and Blue. Truckers protested Wednesday in Washington, D.C. by driving bobtail trucks. The Fresno protest had no trucks to keep from blocking the streets, organizers said.

Truckers also said the electronic logging device is a threat to their independent nature.

“They’re telling us when we can eat and sleep,” said Chuck Biddles of Bakersfield, a longtime trucker. “The ELD is like having a nine-to-five job and having a time clock. You can’t have a nine-to-five job in trucking.”

Kanwar Aulakh of Selma is an independent trucking auditor and safety consultant who helps truckers comply with transportation laws.

He said electronic devices promote safety by enforcing time limits, but truckers prefer paper logbooks because they allow flexibility in dealing with disruptions that all truckers experience.

With the electronic logging device, if the 14 hours are up, a trucker who is behind schedule must stop even if he has not driven a full 11 hours. Logbooking allows the truckers to adjust hours as needed but still stay within the 11 hour drive-time limit, he said.

For a big trucking company it doesn’t matter because the company can assign another driver to pick up the load, he said. Owner-operators don’t have that option, he said.

Additionally, the trucker may have to stop in a place where there is no place to park or where it is dangerous, he said.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold

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