More Debate Over EOBR Requirement
Groups representing trucking companies and independent rig operators are taking opposing stances on a U.S. Senate bill that would require truckers to use an electronic on-board recorder.
The American Trucking Associations has come out against the EOBR requirement, while the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has urged the Senate to reject the bill.
Senate Bill 1813 contains a provision that would mandate that EOBRs be placed on all long-haul trucks so that drivers and trucks can be monitored in real time. The EOBR requirement comes as the Obama administration is also seeking to change hours of service regulations.
Bill Graves, the president and chief executive officer of ATA, said that EOBRs are good for highway safety and the freight industry in general. He said the devices allow companies to keep track of drivers' behavior and make sure they obey the hours of service limits for all truck driving jobs.
The ATA says its member companies already commonly use EOBRs and find that the devices encourage compliance with hours of service, thus increasing operating efficiency and promoting safety. Companies that use the technology have noticed increased morale among drivers, ATA says.
As well, Graves said, EOBRs can help drivers select the fastest routes and keep track of fuel consumption, cutting down on the amount of gasoline guzzled by trucks and making operations more efficient and eco-friendly.
However, the OOIDA has expressed strong operation to what it calls a costly, intrusive and unneeded government mandate.
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer contended that although the ostensible purpose of the EOBR requirement is to enforce hours of service regulations, in practice it will simply allow large companies to force more productivity out of drivers and increase expenses for smaller motor carriers and operators.
The OOIDA hears daily, Spencer said, from drivers whose companies used EOBRs to harass them about their jobs and force them to work more hours.
Spencer pointed to a court ruling to support his argument that these devices are an unproven technology that in no way benefits truckers or their employers financially and does not improve highway safety.
The federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit invalidated an earlier regulation mandating EOBR use by all long-haul truckers. The court ruling chided the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for not responding to complaints that the technology enabled companies to harass drivers. The court also cited the fact that no research supported claims that an EOBR mandate would make the roads safer.
In the end, Spencer said, EOBRs do not work any better than do paper and pen to log hours of service, but the technology comes at a much higher price.
According to the OOIDA, the White House estimates that it will cost the truckers and their employers $2 billion to comply with the EOBR mandate. That price tag ranks it among the seven costliest regulations being pushed by the Obama administration.
The bill is included in the Congressional surface transportation funding bill, which will soon be considered by a joint conference committee between the House and Senate.