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Why many small carriers are opposed to EOBRs

Whether it’s speed limiters, or now electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs), there seems to be a strong feeling in the industry that if you do not agree with the large carriers on an issue, you are not only wrong, but also an irresponsible...


Whether it’s speed limiters, or now electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs), there seems to be a strong feeling in the industry that if you do not agree with the large carriers on an issue, you are not only wrong, but also an irresponsible law-breaker.  

Everyone in the free world is entitled to an opinion and I don’t begrudge the proponents of EOBRs theirs. What I have always disagreed with is the traditional media’s lack of coverage of any opinions offered by opponents to such legislation. Although we don’t have the public profile of our larger counterparts, we still make up the vast majority of trucks on the road, which, in a free, democratic society, should make our opinions notable, if not equal.

The pros and cons of EOBRs are being argued from a “one-size-fits-all” perspective. In this industry, one size never fits all, so why should the vocal minority be judge and jury? I’m sure the proponents of recorders have very valid, sound reasoning.

Likewise, we opponents have valid reasoning as well. I would like to outline the reasons I’m against them, which I know are shared by many small carriers. Please note, my desire to blatantly and frequently break the law will not be a part of my argument. Avoiding unnecessary expense, however, is.

My company, and many other small carriers, run primarily within 500-600 miles of home. Driving right to the customer’s location before stopping for the night is the norm, primarily to ensure being unloaded early the next morning.

One example of this is the weekly run our dry van does to the Washington, D.C. area. We always run through, and back up to the customer’s dock just as our hours-of-service expire. This customer starts at 9 a.m., and within 30 minutes, the trailer is empty. There is only one door in the building. If something delayed me from arriving till midnight, I should technically refuse to move the truck until 30 minutes after being unloaded.

Common sense has me moving the truck 300 ft. to clear the door. How was safety jeopardized here? I can’t sleep in a noisy truck stop, so I continue to drive to the location where the following morning, I awake well rested and not having to fight morning traffic. Although laws were not followed to the letter, common sense was.

I’ve had several people correct me on the operational parameters of some of these devices.

If they are correct, you are able to move the truck on the same piece of property without registering any duty status changes.

If so, what have we gained? I firmly believe that the worst offenders of HoS violations are primarily steel haulers, or those operating at large distribution centres, or other locations where expeditious truck processing is an oxymoron. After spending the entire day loading or unloading, many will log it as off-duty, then drive half the night to get back on schedule. This is, to my understanding, still a possibility with EOBRs. I don’t particularly believe drivers are blatantly driving in serious excess of the law just for the hell of it. Us old guys don’t have the energy or desire to do so, and the younger crowd generally doesn’t even want to use up all their available hours, much less exceed them.

I’ve also read the argument that paper logs are eating up too much of the driver’s time; 30-40 minutes per day. What colour crayon are these folks using if they require that much time in a day filling out a logbook?  

Statements like this add a level of absurdity to the discussion. It sounds more sensational to the uninformed, but utterly ridiculous to those of us with daily involvement.

With today’s technology, I don’t feel these systems are really necessary, and they’re certainly not inexpensive. I don’t feel there will be any appreciable gains made in highway enforcement.

A  mouse click will display border crossing times, and a simple phone call to the fuel card provider will expose fuelling times. I don’t have the resources of a police force, but those very actions once caused me to fire one of our otherwise best owner/operators. With paper logs, I was able to trace his indiscretions very easily and, more importantly, deal with it accordingly, even though it was our busy season and I had no replacement.

I didn’t need a computer device to force my decision; I took the proper, responsible action, without being legislated to do so. This is possible without expensive technology, when you only have a handful of trucks. Tracking a few units is not that difficult.

We small carriers don’t deal with the large companies whose distribution centres keep our trucks captive all day. We can’t justify the long equipment tie-ups, so we avoid customers who can’t load and unload promptly.

If your customers put you in this situation, you need to deal with it, rather than foisting additional expensive technology on the rest of us, who are driving sensibly in a way that ensures us the best mix of productivity and sleep. We have all heard from older drivers, already feeling overlegislated, who say they will leave the industry if this law passes. Not from fear, just on principle. Can we afford to lose more of our best?


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