Got an opinion on EOBRs?

How do you feel about electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs)?

As I see it, these devices are can be a help or a detriment, depending on how they are handled.

The Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act mandates that the U.S. DOT issue regulations that commercial motor vehicles used in interstate commerce be equipped with EOBRs for purposes of improving compliance with Hours-of-Service regulations.

The EOBR regulations will apply to commercial motor carriers, commercial motor vehicles and vehicle operators subject to both Hours-of-Service and record of duty status requirements.

The intended deadline for implementation of the EOBR regulations was supposed to have been June 2012, but that has been delayed for a variety of reasons.

Not to worry though. Electronic onboard recorder regulations will come.

To be clear on just what an EOBR is, the legislation defines it is as an electronic device that is capable of recording a driver’s duty status accurately and automatically; meets additional requirements for identifying drivers and vehicles; and is capable of monitoring the location and movement of the vehicle.  

Furthermore, the regulations establish minimum design and performance standards for EOBR devices.

These standards include the ability to be integrally linked or communicate with the engine’s control module; identify the individual operating the vehicle; accurately record driving time; provide real-time tracking of vehicle’s location; enable law enforcement personnel to access the information contained in the device during roadside inspections; and for the device to be tamper resistant.

It will be interesting to see how the “security” for EOBRs works out, given the ingenuity and resourcefulness of some truckers.

So, are EOBRs a good thing? Yes, because the objective of their use is to improve highway safety.

On the other hand, should “big brother” be constantly watching drivers, owner-operators and motor carriers, and how might the EOBR data be used?

One school of thought is that EOBRs will make truck drivers more aware and concerned about safety. For instance, drivers will be apt to be more accurate with their logs because of EOBRs and less likely to make “innocent” errors.

Another school of thought is that fleets can use the data EOBRs collect to help them improve their Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores and avoid fines.

An initiative of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), CSA’s objective is to identify high-risk carriers and drivers, with an ultimate goal of improving large truck and bus safety and reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities.

Some fleets say EOBRs would be a good tool to help them reduce their risk of non-compliance with Hours-of-Service regulations, save drivers the chore of filling out logbooks, reduce the administrative paperwork related to logbooks and give dispatchers a more accurate way to gauge a driver’s availability.

Other fleets are concerned about the cost of installing EOBRs and training office staff, operations personnel and drivers to use the devices.

Another worry with electronic onboard recorders is the matter of privacy.

There are provisions in the EOBR regulations that explicitly provide privacy protections for use of information beyond enforcement and compliance monitoring.

Ownership of data is protected for the owner of the vehicle or the person entitled to possession of the vehicle as lessee.  

Furthermore, the regulations establish a secure process for standardized and unique vehicle operator identification, data access, data transfer for vehicle operators between motor vehicles, data storage for motor carriers and data transfer and transportability for law enforcement.

Then there is the matter of EOBRs and lawsuits.

Even though EOBRs have not yet been mandated, plaintiff attorneys are already using EOBR data, when it is available, as objective evidence of fact for such things as vehicle speed, driving time and hard-braking events.

One of the variables in court cases is that everyone judges thing like time, speed and distance differently. That’s because we all see things differently.

EOBRs do away with people’s guesstimates of such things.

The good news is: an EOBR can tell exactly how fast a truck was traveling at a certain time. The bad news is: an EOBR can tell exactly how fast a truck was traveling at a certain time.