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The lines are draw: Truckers, carriers, lobbying groups take sides on EOBRs

The American Trucking Associations told the FMCSA that it supported the agency’s proposal to require motor carriers to install devices to record drivers’ HOS electronically, but urged the agency to address important device design and performance requirements and raised what it called “a number of serious concerns” about the supporting documents component of the proposal. (The Trucker file photo)

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff

6/28/2011

WASHINGTON — With the comment period on the proposed Electronic On-Board Recorders and Hours of Service Supporting Documents now closed, a clear picture is emerging: Motor carrier-supported trucking associations and motor carriers support EOBRs; truckers and driver-based associations are against them; no one is really happy with the HOS supporting documents portion of the proposed rule, and there is concern about cost implications.

There is no published deadline date for when the final rule will be published.

The largest organization, the American Trucking Associations, told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that it supported the agency’s proposal to require motor carriers to install devices to record drivers’ HOS electronically, but urged the agency to address important device design and performance requirements and raised what it called “a number of serious concerns” about the supporting documents component of the proposal. 

“FMCSA’s proposal to require carriers to retain a document (or documents collectively) to verify the beginning and end of each on-duty/not driving time period is unrealistic. Available documents typically lack such precision,” ATA said. “The agency’s suggestion that carriers certify that such documents don’t routinely exist would place those carriers at great risk.”

The ATA noted that FMCSA had proposed that carriers make such certifications, but that they also be automatically subject to the maximum civil penalty if found to have made a false certification. 

The Truckload Carriers Association said it supports the EOBR mandate, but its endorsement is contingent upon the FMCSA’s stated interest in increasing compliance with HOS regulations.

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“Although FMCSA did not address issues related to the collection of hard braking, engine-revolutions-per-minute, speed or other driving-occurrence data in this rulemaking, TCA is nevertheless wary of requiring any such use of EOBRs,” the TCA said in its comments. “Any EOBR-generated data the agency requires carriers to maintain should be directly related to drivers’ HOS records and no other incident an EOBR may have the capability to record.”

The TCA also told FMCSA that because of the significant cost to purchase and install EOBRs, the agency should work with the necessary legislative bodies to provide financial relief to carriers that install EOBRs.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which counts 150,000 independent contractors among its membership, said the FMCSA “embarks on this ill-advised program without any evidence that electronic devices, which require the manual input of changes-in-duty status, will provide the slightest improvement over paper logbooks, which also depend upon manual input of such information.”

OOIDA said that while it is true EOBRs can measure an individual’s driving time, the devices cannot determine compliance with HOS rules any better than paper logs.

The association said FMCSA had noted that miscoding of changes-in-duty status was a serious problem.

OOIDA said it had provided significant evidence that pressure and harassment by motor carriers who require drivers to meet unrealistic delivery schedules and to maximize driving time is a significant factor contributing to miscoding.

“Rather than recognize that its proposed rule creates a useful opportunity to address one of the more significant contributors to HOS violations, the FMCSA elects to do nothing, thereby ignoring its own statutory obligation to address harassment if it mandates use of EOBRs,” OOIDA said.

U.S. Xpress said that while there was hesitancy at first, the greatest endorsement for EOBRs today comes from its drivers and contractors.

The carrier’s comments noted that driver Randy Earl said “the electronic logging system … has made my job easier because it has eliminated much of the paperwork and provided us with a way to independently verify that we are working within the time allowed under the Hours of Service.”

However, the carrier also used the comments to take a shot at the proposed HOS rulemaking.

“We believe that implementation of EOBRs across the trucking industry, following the current Hours of Service in place since 2004, will have a far greater positive impact on the safety equation than the new proposed HOS rule that, studies have shown, will significantly increase congestion and lead to a rise in accidents,” the carrier wrote.

Maverick USA echoed U.S. Xpress’ claim that EOBRs help the end user, noting that its drivers assigned to tractors equipped with EOBRs find they are more relaxed and better utilized, but also aired concerns about the supporting documents portion of the rule.

“Supporting documents were once a valuable resource that was needed to ensure that drivers, motor carriers and enforcement personal could verify driving activity,” Maverick said. “As we move forward into a new era of transportation, supporting documents hold less value in comparison. In reality, concern should only be with driving hours, and those hours are now attached to the movement of a vehicle, which the device automatically records when vehicle movement occurs.”

Based on a random sampling of comments, truckers appear solidly against EOBRs.

“I’m opposed to EOBRs,” said Ronnie Richard Howard, an independent contractor from Midway, Ga. “First of all, they are not going to make the roads any safer. Using EOBRs, these big companies can see how many hours a driver has left and mandate that he make a delivery without regard to how long the driver has been awake and cannot tell whether he’s been sleeping or working.”

“I am against EOBRs for the reason they will not stop the problems at the shippers and receivers to get loaded and unloaded,” wrote James K. McKee Jr. of Ashland, Ky. “They are not going to be able to tell if the drivers are on a break or loading or unloading and they will make drivers more in a hurry.”

Don Siegrist, a driver from Clive, Iowa, wrote: “I believe it’s a way our government wants to control our way of life as truckers. The government is completely out of touch with truckers.”

“I don’t need the government to tell me that I need to use EOBRs,” wrote Adam Wirth of Hurley, S.D. “The government wants to micro manage us. It’s just another freedom they want to take away from us.”

Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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