EOBRs for all?

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a regulatory proposal that would require virtually all interstate commercial trucking companies to use electronic on-board recorders (EOBRS) to monitor driver hours-of-service.

The requirement would include any Canadian trucking company operating in the US.

To help sell the proposal, the FMCSA pointed out it would relieve carriers from having to retain documentation such as delivery and toll receipts currently used to verify the number of hours a driver has been behind the wheel.

“We cannot protect our roadways when commercial truck and bus companies exceed hours-of-service rules,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This proposal would make our roads safer by ensuring that carriers travelling across state lines are using EOBRs to track the hours their drivers spend behind the wheel.”

The proposed law would affect all interstate carriers that currently use records of duty logbooks to document hours-of-service compliance. Short-haul carriers that use timecards would not be required to install EOBRs, the FMCSA announced.

Carriers that violate the proposed law would face penalties of up to US$11,000 for each offense.

“This proposal is an important step in our efforts to raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “We believe broader use of EOBRs would give carriers and drivers an effective tool to strengthen their HoS compliance.”

The US-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) was not so sure.

The group, which as traditionally been opposed to EOBRs, quickly spoke out against the Jan. 31 announcement.

Over-priced record keepers

“EOBRs are nothing more than over-priced record keepers,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice-president of OOIDA. “This proposal is actually another example of the administration’s determination to wipe out small businesses by continuing to crank out overly burdensome regulations that simply run up costs.”

OOIDA contends EOBRs cannot accurately and automatically record a driver’s hours of work and duty cycle. Since they require human input, OOIDA argues the devices cannot accurately detect the actual duty cycle of drivers during loading and unloading times.

OOIDA is also worried carriers will misuse EOBRs by keeping close tabs on drivers and pressuring them to return to work while resting.

“Companies can and do use technology to harass drivers by interrupting rest periods,” Spencer insisted. “They can contact the driver and put on pressure to get back on the road to get the most of his or her on-duty time. This mandate would be a step backward in the effort to make highways safer.”

CTA says to get a move on
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) took the opportunity to urge Canadian lawmakers to pick up the pace in implementing an EOBR mandate of our own.

The CTA has been pushing for a universal EOBR mandate in Canada for quite some time and feels Canadian legislators should accelerate their plans in light of the US proposal.

“With the release of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, work will clearly have to be accelerated in Canada,” said CTA chief David Bradley. “There are many important issues yet to be resolved, not the least of which is the all-important enforcement policies that will accompany an EOBR rule in the US and in Canada. If we are going to build a new sidewalk, we need to build it where people are going to walk.”

The US proposal, which would affect as many as 500,000 carriers, would be fully implemented within three years of the final rule coming into force. The FMCSA contended in its rulemaking that the cost of implementing EOBRs would be offset by the savings resulting from eliminating paper logbooks and through increased efficiencies.

You can read the 72-page proposal from the FMCSA’s Web site at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

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