There are distinctly different views on the topic of mandating on-board recorders.
If you want to start a debate among two or more drivers or fleet operators, try raising the subject: then step back and listen to the noise level rise.
The views are often polar opposites of course: there are those who use EOBRs and swear by them; those who use them and swear at them; and those who don’t want anything to do with them. To be honest there are probably some from each camp within the membership of the Private Motor Truck Council and other trucking associations too.
Given the way regulators in Canada and in the US seem to be heading, all these differing views may become moot in any case.
In the US an earlier edition of proposed legislation would have made EOBRs mandatory for those with repeated infractions of hours-of-service rules.
Although since withdrawn, that proposal made some sense to us at the PMTC because it focused on those who couldn’t or wouldn’t comply with hours-of-service rules. However, the word is that the new US administration is leaning toward mandating EOBRs on a more universal basis.
Closer to home, at the end of March, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation ended its self-imposed moratorium on using GPS/satellite records to compare to log books when looking for hours-of-service violations. We fully expect that they will resume using those records later this year.
There are divergent views on whether the use of these records is entirely fair. The most compelling argument against their use is that not all carriers have installed the technology, which leads to uneven enforcement.
As the argument goes, the use of the records puts the more advanced carriers at a disadvantage. In other words, the carrier or driver who falsifies paper logs and doesn’t have an EOBR is able to operate outside of the allowable hours without the fear of having those logs compared to records that don’t lie.
This isn’t speculation. We’ve heard of at least one instance of a carrier that is actually considering removing the technology from their vehicles despite the investment they have made.
The rationale? They have more exposure during a facility audit than their competition that doesn’t use it. That would be an extreme reaction, and there are several good reasons not to go down that road.
First, it may be premature. At this time EOBRs have not been mandated in the US and in Ontario the Ministry is not doing anything until a transition strategy for resuming the use of these records is approved.
Even if the Ministry does decide to utilize the records, it is unlikely to happen right away.
We expect that they would need time to advise the industry and let them know what to expect, as well as time to train their auditors.
Second, comparing satellite and paper records is most likely to happen during a facility audit and the Ontario Ministry plans to take a ‘worst first’ approach in this regard.
Carriers that have exceeded 50% of their CVOR threshold will be the first to be subject to facility audits, and that should keep the audit teams busy for quite a while. Exceptions can be made in the event of serious infractions or a series of infractions, but carriers that keep their CVOR in good shape have little to be concerned about.
It also makes good business sense to utilize the available technology to help ensure that your trucks are operated safely.
I’ve spoken with some of the major suppliers of this type of technology and they all have documented stories of clients that have actually paid for the equipment and service out of savings generated from improved operations and fuel savings.
In other words, it could be free or very close to it. Using the available technology may be the best example of due diligence for a carrier or an owner/operator who wants to prove they are compliant.It seems to us that mandating the use of EOBRs may well be the best way to help ensure compliance and to make enforcement fair for everyone.
But please, let’s not have them mandated in only selected jurisdictions.
There are too many examples of that type of some-are-in and some-are-not legislation now, which create confusion and place unfair burdens on carriers from jurisdictions that have acted.
Acknowledging that it’s going to take a lot of discussion, research, and give and take to make mandatory EOBRs happen, the only question is when are we going to get started?
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