Update on EOBR Mandate

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is refusing to abandon its plans to go ahead with requirements for electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) in spite of a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. In their decision, the court overturned the requirement by the (FMCSA) that EOBRs become mandatory for trucking companies that have a 10 percent or higher hours of service (HOS) violation rate. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) originally sued the FMCSA over the regulations, citing concerns that the recorders would be used to harass individuals who hold truck driving jobs.

In February, however, the FMCSA made it clear that it is not about to let the matter drop. It announced that it will be moving forward with the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that it issued in February of 2011 calling for a broadening of the requirements for trucking companies to maintain records-of-duty status.

The FMCSA has stated its intention to issue a supplementary notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) to survey trucking companies, drivers and other interested parties regarding harassment issues and to conduct further listening sessions in order to gather information to determine what behaviors constitute harassment. The FMCSA then plans to assign its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) to come up with recommendations based upon the information these efforts provide.

In its lawsuit, OOIDA expressed concerns that some unscrupulous carriers would use information taken from the EOBRs to force drivers who were ill or fatigued back onto the road prematurely. Supporters of EOBRs counter that regulatory provisions are already in place to prevent such abuses and the rejected regulations only required records to be submitted within three days of recording. Some advocates of the new rules go as far as to argue that the more accurate records provided by EOBRs would make it easier to identify abusive carriers.

The Truckload Carriers Association has come out in support of requiring electronic logging devices (ELDs) as long as their use is strictly limited to recording and reporting HOS compliance. This solution would impose limits on the use of ELDs that are absent in the measures supported by industry groups such as the Alliance of Driver Safety and Security and the American Trucking Associations.

Although concerns about abuses resulting from the use of EOBRs are prevalent among truckers and their advocates, the view that they will cause harm is not universal. Many in the trucking industry have come to the conclusion that EOBRs or some other form of ELDs are necessary for compliance with HOS regulations that have become more and more complex in recent years and are slated to become even more confusing when the FMCSA’s new HOS rules go into effect in 2013.

Advocates of ELDs accuse drivers who oppose the new regulations of wanting to hold on to the days when falsification of paper logs was virtually undetectable and point out that ensuring compliance with the new rules will be difficult if ELDs are not required. They also claim that ELDs make truck driving jobs safer and increase productivity. To supporters of EOBR requirements, the ability of the devices to monitor acceleration and braking habits and other driver behaviors is a positive development for the trucking industry.

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