EOBR findings show low usage, concern over uniformity

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Usage of electronic on-board recording technology is extremely low among North American truckers, says a U.S. research agency just two months before the American government is expected to announce a rule on the devices.

The news comes from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), which has released results from its industry analysis of EOBR devices for hours of service monitoring.

The research, which precedes this fall’s release of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s rulemaking on EOBRs, collected and analyzed data on numerous factors relating to usage, functionality, pricing and potential impacts of an EOBR mandate by conducting surveys with users, non-users and system vendors in concert with analyses of secondary research and stakeholder responses to the original docket.

Surprisingly, most carriers say recruitment and
retention won’t affect harmed by black boxes

One primary reason researches found usage of EOBRs — also referred to in the trucking industry as “black boxes” — to be low was the cost of the technology; as well as a lack of EOBR safety and productivity returns-on-investment and concern over what functionalities and standards will be needed should a mandate be promulgated.

The enforcement community is also concerned about data privacy and data access issues since there are few policies and protocols available for utilizing EOBR data to monitor HOS compliance.

However, the ATRI research does contradict non-user perceptions that EOBRs would negatively impact driver morale and retention. A surprising 76 percent of EOBR users responded that EOBR usage improved driver morale, and 19 percent said EOBRs improved driver retention. No EOBR user respondents stated that driver retention was harmed by EOBR usage.

“We know there are long-standing perceptions associated with EOBRs, but this research gives us insight into the statistical realities that can only be provided by EOBR users,” said Doug Duncan, ATRI chairman and president of FedEx Freight. “Clearly there are still issues that must be resolved prior to any mandate, but we now have a blueprint for resolving those issues.”

The research also offered several strategies for minimizing cost impacts including investment tax credits and bulk-purchase pricing options. There was general recognition that certain industry segments such as local pick-up and delivery services may not be appropriate targets for an EOBR mandate.

However, carriers generally believe that a broad mandate would create a “level playing field” for HOS compliance.

Several vendors indicated strong concern with a mandate based on a lack of EOBR uniformity, interoperability and data standards. Consequently, the ATRI research recommended that the FMCSA rulemaking provide early guidance to the standards development process to ensure that vendors are able to develop appropriate requirements.

According to Al Koenig, president of Midwest Specialized Transportation, “As a compliance tool, it appears that EOBRs can meet FMCSA’s need for improved HOS monitoring. But we still need to address certain safety loopholes, such as improved confirmation of who is driving, and whether EOBRs will increase speeding to offset potential productivity losses.”

— Via Truckinginfo.com

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.