Drivers Divided Over EOBR

A proposal is pending that would require commercial truck drivers to install electronic recorders in their rigs. The device, which is a simplified version of the “black boxes” commercial airlines use, have caused America’s two major trucking organizations to become rivals.

This proposal, which is part of a long-term spending bill that Congress is now debating, would make the recorders mandatory in order to verify that truckers observe existing federal hours-of-service rules. Many commercial truck drivers, who are permitted to work for 70 hours within an eight-day period prior to taking time off, now record their hours of work in a paper log book.

Located in Grain Valley, Mo., the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) is opposed to the measure and maintains that the devices will be an invasion of truckers’ privacy, won’t provide more accurate record-keeping and will only be an unnecessary expense for the vast number of small –business owners who earn their living on the road.

OOIDA’s executive vice president, Todd Spencer, says that the recorder is not more reliable because it can only determine if a vehicle is moving or stationary, and nothing more. He feels that the major trucking firms want “real-time tracking” of their fleets, and that the recorders will be used as a productivity device. He also claims that companies want their trucks on the move constantly and would also like to disregard driver fatigue.

The largest trade association for truckers in the United States, the American Trucking Association (ATA) based in Arlington, VA, takes the opposite view. Sean McNally, the group’s spokesman, simply states that anyone can make a mistake.He points out that the use of paper logs enables some people to drive illegally. McNally also states that fleet members who are now using recorders report that they lead to fewer hours-of-service violations, make paperwork less burdensome, and that they find it easier to comply with federal regulations. McNally also states that these devices would not be part of a crash investigation, as some fear, because they only gather data when drivers are working and their rigs are moving.

In 2010, Schneider National, an international transportation firm based in Green Bay, Wis., began using recorders for its fleet of 13,000 trucks. As a result, its senior vice president of safety and security, Dan Osterberg, reports that the company had a “significant” reduction in accidents. He says that in the past, when they did an internal study of accidents in which their trucks were involved covering a four-year period, they found that fatigue was a major cause. Once recorders were installed they had a reduction in fatigue-related accidents, accidents causing injuries, and accidents resulting in fatalities.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, along with ATA, has urged Congress to support the mandate for electronic onboard recorders. At the same time, in Olympia Wash, Tilden Curl, a trucker who drives approximately 110,000 miles annually, is opposed to the measure. Curl feels that the recorders will not make drivers any safer, and that their employers will be able to manipulate the devices in order to micromanage them and compel them to work longer hours.

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