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There’s no valid argument against EOBRs

I find the consistent and loud opposition to electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) coming from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) puzzling, if not irresponsible. This summer OO...

I find the consistent and loud opposition to electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) coming from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) puzzling, if not irresponsible. This summer OOIDA went so far as to file a legal challenge of an EOBR regulation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that will mandate the use of the devices for motor carriers with a record of chronic non-compliance with hours-of-service regulations.

According to Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice-president, “the burdensome cost, the violation of privacy and lack of relevant safety verification make any mandate unjustified.”

He’s also apparently concerned that information gathered by EOBRs “could be used against drivers that has nothing to do with hours-of-service, and that is beyond the authority of trucking safety regulators.”

Okay, give me a break.

What is it with owner/operator associations on both sides of the border these days and their fixation with government conspiracy theories? No sooner are we done with the greatly exaggerated concerns over speed limiters (hey, what happened to all the traffic mayhem that was supposed to happen anyway?) that the associations have rallied to the banner against EOBRs.

The FMCSA is looking to first target motor carriers with a chronic record of non-compliance when it comes to respecting hours-of-service. Trucking companies found to have a 10% hours-of-service violation rate or worse during compliance reviews will be required to monitor hours-of-service using EOBRs. Nearly 5,700 interstate carriers will require EOBRs after just one year of the new rule’s implementation, the FMCSA predicts.

Such motor carriers are not only endangering the public and the industry’s reputation with their disregard for hours-of-service rules, they are putting the lives of their drivers and owner/operators at risk by strong arming them into running illegal hours.

To be fair, OOIDA bases its opposition to EOBRs, in part, on a belief there is no evidence these devices would increase highway safety. I’ll buy in to that argument but only to a point.

True, EOBRs can’t address such things as a driver who has the right number of off-duty hours but spent them tossing and turning in his bunk unable to sleep; the low periods in our natural circadian rhythms or the individual differences among drivers when it comes to fatigue susceptibility. But EOBRs will make it much more difficult (unless someone is a software hacking expert) to “game” the system to mask illegal driving time. And keeping HoS records electronically should be much more efficient and less costly over the long run for carriers and much more efficient to audit for the enforcement agencies.

So that leaves OOIDA’s concerns about “burdensome costs and violation of privacy” it claims are involved in mandating EOBRs. There’s not much I can say about the violation of privacy concern -my experience is that people stuck on believing that Big Brother is out to get them, can rarely be convinced otherwise. As for the “burdensome cost,” let’s get real here folks.

That argument is used every time a new technology is mandated, whether its EOBRs or new engine standards. The industry should have been dead many times over if we bought into it. And if there really are companies out there that in 2010 still can’t afford to invest in computerized record keeping, perhaps they should not be in business. There really are no valid arguments against EOBRs.

-Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at can also follow him on Twitter at

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