TSQ: Is there an acceptable alternative to electronic on-board recorders?

by Adam Ledlow

BOWMANVILLE, Ont. – The prospect of mandatory electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) has been a hotly contested topic since the US DoT introduced legislation in January that would require all interstate motor carriers to use the devices to track driver hours-of-service.

While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration claims use of EOBRs will increase both safety and efficiency, groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association call the proposed regulation “overly burdensome,” arguing that EOBRs cannot accurately and automatically record a driver’s hours of work and duty cycle. But is there an acceptable alternative besides preserving the current paper logbook system? Truck News went to the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Bowmanville, Ont. to get drivers’ opinions of the technology as well as suggestions for a substitute.

Shana Singh, a driver with Mainstream Transportation Services out of Kitchener, Ont., says there are both good and bad aspects to the implementation of EOBRs.

“It is a good law, as they will know if you are in an accident, the speed and where you stop. There are no lies since it is an electronic device, which is good,” he said. “There are some bad parts as well, but law is law, and whatever comes up you have to follow. I do not want to break the law. The dispatch has to understand these things, and it is the driver’s life out there. Sometimes they force us to get the job done. If dispatch can understand the device, then it is really helpful.”

Duane Smith, a driver with Rite-Line Transportation out of Florenceville, N.B., says he doesn’t think electronic logbooks are necessary for the trucking industry. “They will ‘tattletale’ on you, and we have enough of that on the road now; we do not need any more of it.”

As for an alternative, Smith says companies should be able to trust their drivers to “know when they’re tired or when they have done a day’s work.

“I just find the new log system…is kind of screwed up now, so why mess with it more? I found before that we could just split sleep – sleep four hours, then get up and drive some more and do another four hours. That worked well for me, but now you start your clock at 7 a.m. and are done at 9 p.m., and some days you don’t get anywhere. It’s a waste of a day.”

Stewart North, a driver with Powersource Transportation out of Griffith, Ind., sums up his opinion of EOBRs in one concise sentence: “They suck.”

“I think it is an invasion of privacy, and I do not think they are accurate. I do not think that the government has a right to sit there and govern what we do, how we do it and when we do it. We have certain rules that we abide by and you have people inside the government that are driving computers and not trucks. They think that we don’t know what we’re talking about, and that is caused by the logbook,” he said.

North’s suggestion for an EOBR alternative? “Have the government come out here and drive a truck for a while and then sit there and decide after that. They wanted safety? Put the trucks on one side and the cars on the other side, and determine which one is safer.”

Sylvain Mayer, a driver with Ivaco Rolling Mill out of L’Orignal, Ont., says truckers operating in Ontario might manage with EOBRs, but drivers hauling US-bound freight would likely encounter more difficulty.

“For me, it is alright because I always do Ontario, so my hours are not too high. If you go in the States, it’s hard with the (difference in) hours between that side and this side.”

Mayer says his EOBR alternative would involve putting more money in the drivers’ pockets. “I think the company will need to pay the people more because if you follow the logbook like you are supposed to then no-one is going to make money.”

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