(This is the final of four articles regarding the effects of the passage of the highway bill)
As you already know, the recent passage of the highway bill has come with many changes that clearly impact all members of the trucking industry. These include a field study that would look into the effectiveness of the 34-hour restart provision, the creation of a federal drug and alcohol clearinghouse, and requiring the mandatory usage of electronic onboard recording devices (EOBRs) on all trucks.
As groups, including the American Trucking Associations, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance state, EOBRs would be beneficial to the trucking industry and all those on the road, leading to greater safety through HOS compliance, saving time by ridding of paper logs, result in better accuracy, and help fight detention by providing proof of times spent at docks.
At the same time, groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association note that driver harassment, pressure to meet their quota/driving tired and thus enforcing safety hazards, as well as cost remain large issues.
But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently explained that EOBR implementation costs are not as expensive as estimated a year ago.
In a FAQ section, added to the agency’s website last week, the FMCSA acknowledged that they are “currently preparing a supplemental NPRM that will re-examine the estimated costs and benefits (both paperwork savings and safety) associated with an EOBR mandate for carriers using handwritten RODS.” 1
The FMCSA stated that last year carriers were told that they “would likely be required to spend $1,500 to $2,000 per CMV to purchase and install EOBRs, and several hundred dollars per year for service fees,” which was based on the retail value of Qualcomm’s Mobile Computing Platform at around $1,775 at the time. 1
An expense like this would cost the industry over $2 billion a year, OOIDA explained, and is a cost small carriers cannot afford. 2
But since the last estimate, more vendors have come forward offering more cost-efficient products. FMCSA’s FAQ notes that Qualcomm has an updated version that costs around $899 and other vendors are offering products as low as $500. 2
And while there is a cost associated with the new rule, the agency explains that the benefits outweigh the expense. FAQ states, “FMCSA’s RIA for the 2011 NPRM reported total benefits of $2.711 billion, resulting in an annual net benefit of $344 million. A significant portion of these benefits would come from $1.965 billion in annual paperwork reduction – a savings of $688 per driver each year – due to drivers no longer completing and submitting logbooks.” 1
Although passage of mandatory EOBRs would be a success to the ATA, OOIDA is hoping that an amendment to block the course will hold up.
The amendment, which was brought to light shortly before the President’s signature, states that “none of the funds made available by this act may be used to promulgate or implement any regulations that would mandate global positioning system (GPS) tracking, electronic on-board recording devices or event recorders in passenger or commercial motor vehicles,” although Congress would still be able to fund it with the appropriations bill. 3
However, it appears that the chances of the blockage being approved are slim as the Senate has already supported the mandatory usage of EOBR on multiple occasions.
To read the FMCSA’s EOBR FAQ visit http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/other/faq/faqs.aspx and select “Electronic On-Board Recorders” in the drop down box.
Are you in support or opposition of the EOBR mandate? Do you think that the reduced costs of implementation the FMCSA mentioned will attract more supporters? List your comments below.