In April 2010, a proposal requiring the mandatory use of electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) for all carriers cited with serious log violations (those who violated hours of service rules at least 10% of the time) was passed with an effective date of June 2012.
Shortly after that, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed that all “interstate carriers that currently use records of duty status (RODS) logbooks to document drivers’ HOS” to install EOBRs as well 1. Short-haul carriers who utilize timecards, on the other hand, would not be obligated to do so.
That rule would affect half a million carriers and hold a maximum $11,000 fine if violated.
But groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) have been petitioning the ruling for a while, believing that constant surveillance violates a driver’s right to privacy and can lead to greater safety issues for those drivers pushing to meet their quota, sometimes driving tired.
Their arguments paid off and last August, the Seventh Circuit Court had ordered that the rule be vacated until harassment concerns are addressed.
The FMCSA, however, took a new approach to the EOBR ruling yesterday when it removed their initial EOBR mandate that was restricted by the court, instead publishing in the Federal Register a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking they call EOBR 2.
EOBR 2, according to the agency, “would require on-board recorders in virtually all trucks engaged in interstate commerce” 2.
In order to deal with lingering questions over driver harassment, the FMCSA is planning on holding a “series of public listening sessions to hear from drivers” while conducting driver, carriers and vendor surveys, LandLine Magazine notes. Meeting times can be found on the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee’s website at http://mcsac.fmcsa.dot.gov/meeting.htm#.
Many drivers, however, are already coming forward with their opinions. As two of them expressed on thetruckersreport.com, “All I hear is company drivers saying how much they like them [EOBRs], they don’t have to PAY for them, I bet it would change their mind if it came out of their pocket” and “Tell me it’s not true. I thought OOIDA was going to protect us from harassment.”
Do you think that if drivers did not have to pay for EOBRs, they would show more acceptance towards the device or do you feel that driver harassment would still dominate driver concerns?
Fleet management systems incorporating EOBR devices are especially looked to be a concern in regards to harassing drivers. As OOIDA’s Todd Spencer explains, “Minimum requirements for electronic logs do not harass drivers but the fleet management system that could be incorporated into the device could open the door to harassment” 3.
He continued by explaining “On-board recorders can’t measure when a driver is tired, when a driver ever needs to stop or when a driver needs a break, but certainly a fleet-management program can let a motor carrier know their driver stopped,” giving them a “harassment” tool to pressure drivers into working, perhaps when tired 4.
In order to prevent harassment from occurring, the FMCSA is being encouraged to put forth civil penalties for harassment as well as “seek out current regulations that appropriately address any driver complaint that is made” 3.
But while there has been great concern and opposition over the mandatory usage of EOBRs, there are some benefits. As safety advocacy group Road Safe America notes, the installation of the device would promote safer drivers/fewer accidents by cutting back on the number of tired drivers pushed to go beyond their hours of service by their employer.
So was the case this month when a Pennsylvania trucking company was charged with violating hours-of-service on several occasions.
D.A. Landis Trucking, located in Lancaster, PA, was found to have their drivers maintain two hours-of-service logs, one of which they exposed to the U.S. Department of Transportation and FMCSA and the other in which they kept in a filing cabinet (along with trip sheets) that they hid from the agencies, allowing them to travel longer distances without being fined 5. The company now “faces up to 5 years probation and a $5.5 million fine” while the owner faces “5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine” 5.
With cases such as these, the FMCSA is pushing forward towards the mandatory use of EOBRs for monitoring a driver’s hours-of service-compliance.
Like one individual notes, “Mandated EOBR’s (for all CMV’s) are coming, like it or not. I expect within 2 years it will be a mandatory part of the truck build process for new trucks by 2016. Trucks will be no different than commercial aircraft with their black boxes. I wouldn’t put is past them to try and implement CVR’s (cockpit voice recorders) either at some point in the future” 6.
We want to hear your thoughts regarding the FMCSA’s EOBR 2. Do you think that mandatory EOBRs are coming? Do you feel that the device would be more intrusive or beneficial? Are you concerned if EOBR and related device costs are passed on the shipper? List your comments below.