AT&T outage leads to ELD, tech concerns for truckers

Mar 4, 2024 | Industry News

Mark Schremmer

A large-scale AT&T outage on Thursday, Feb. 22 raised questions about how truck drivers can remain compliant if their electronic logging device stops working.

The short answer is that truckers may have to turn to paper logs to track hours of service, which was the norm before ELDs became federally mandated in 2017.

“If the ELD goes down and they can’t transfer the information … the safety official will use the ELD display or the printout to verify compliance,” said Tom Crowley, a compliance and regulatory expert for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “The issue becomes if your ELD doesn’t retain that last seven days of information, you’d have to go back and recreate those seven days.”

According to reports, tens of thousands of AT&T customers lost cell service on Thursday. AT&T said that service was restored by Thursday afternoon and that it did not believe the outage to be caused by a cyberattack.

“Based on our initial review, we believe that today’s outage was caused by the application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network, not a cyberattack,” the company wrote Thursday evening. “We are continuing our assessment of today’s outage to ensure we keep delivering the service that our customers deserve.”

A cell service outage can be extremely problematic for truck drivers, as the technology can be needed for a wide array of reasons including ELDs, dispatch, mapping, weather forecasts and engine control module updates.

This was the first large-scale outage since ELDs became mandated in 2017.

For truckers who started after the mandate, Crowley voiced concerns about how many know how to fill out a paper log.

“You have a lot of drivers out there who have only used ELDs,” Crowley said. “You hand them a paper log, and they’re going to get lost. People are so reliant on the ELD now to keep track of their time. The ELD tells them if they’re getting close to their hour limitations. Back in the day, that was up to the driver to keep track of their hours. I bet there are a lot of drivers out there who don’t have a clue on how to do a recap.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Lew Pugh stressed the importance of truck drivers making notations for why they had to move to paper logs.

“Notate why you’re doing what you’re doing,” Pugh said. “Because five months from now and you get audited, we’ve all forgotten.”

Crowley noted that the U.S. Department of Transportation can request logs from up to six months ago.

Pugh said the concerns over a technology outage are amplified “a million times” when we’re discussing autonomous vehicles.

“If an ELD screws up, it doesn’t kill anybody. If an AV screws up, it’s a family of five,” he said.

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