From the CEO: The case for going electronic with a work diary

All drivers need to be compliant and EWDs have the advantage of making it simple.

Read time: 3 mins

By Warren Clark

Originally Published in Owner Driver September 2023 Edition

The roll-out of Electronic Work Diaries (EWDs) in Australia began in December 2020 with just two brands. That’s grown to 10, all vying to be the alternative to about 200,000 paper diaries.

In response to growing interest among NatRoad members, I thought I’d write an easy guide to EWDs.

So what is an EWD?

It’s a digital system or device, approved by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, that electronically records the work and rest periods of heavy vehicle drivers.

The use of EWDs is voluntary and is governed by the need to comply with the same heavy vehicle fatigue management laws that cover paper diaries.

The big advantage of EWDs is that they can streamline many of the regulatory requirements that go with driving a heavy vehicle.

The way they work is simple. Drivers log in and enter basic information, such as location and time to record their shift or rest periods.

The system will tell you when you need to take a break or are good to resume driving. The best EWDs will also let you know if you’re at risk of breaking the rules.

You also get to correct any errors before closing off at the end of a day.

Roadside inspectors can examine an EWD in much the same way as they review a paper diary. The device is put into read-only mode.

There’s no risk of misspelling a place name or being pinged for a supposedly illegible diary entry.

All drivers need to be compliant and EWDs have the advantage of making it simple.

There’s similarly no chance of miscalculating. Drivers input work/rest times and the EWD will calculate breaks automatically.

EWDs are faster to fill out and allow shift times to be recorded to the nearest minute rather than rounding to the nearest 15 minutes, as is the case with paper versions.

There’s no manual handling of paperwork; EWDs allow records to be shared or accessed easily (and instantly) and securely stored for as long as required.

Additional features come with different models. For example, one markets itself as being compliant with both national and West Australian regulations.

Others are “platform agnostic”, meaning they work with IOS or Android devices, making it easy to record details using a mobile phone or tablet.

Of course, like most changes in our industry, the introduction of EWDs hasn’t been without divisions of opinion.

In the USA, where the use of electronic logging devices in commercial motor vehicles is mandatory, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association mounted an unsuccessful court challenge, claiming that EWDs breached the New York State Constitution.

I understand concerns that EWDs are the thin edge of a very big privacy wedge where Big Brother tracks drivers constantly and uses data to catch out drivers for minor transgressions.

Misgivings about potentially unfair use of data are valid across many parts of society. NatRoad remains vigilant on that front.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regular says its rules on this concern are very clear. EWDs capture the location where a work or rest event is entered. Each entry is confirmed when you sign out at the end of the day. Only then is a potential breach registered.

In other words, the same thing happens with an EWD as a paper diary except you don’t receive an advance warning.

There are concerns about how far back an enforcement officer will be able to view and take action retrospectively.

NatRoad’s believes that regulators must provide a blanket guarantee that any data or information obtained through technology will not be used as evidence in issuing infringement notices or prosecuting offences. When you balance the pros against cons like the cost of being penalised for minor clerical errors in paper diaries, or going a minute over without taking a rest break, you see why EWDs are being adopted by many.