EOBR Device is Next Step in New HOS Regulationsby Jana Ritter - Published: 7/22/2013
A tiny electronic device has become a huge topic of conversation in the trucking industry. Further to the new HOS rules that took effect July 1st, it is likely that by January 2016 all drivers will be required to install EOBRs in their vehicles to monitoring their hours of service. While advocates see it as allowing more efficient driving and the first real change to the act of logging hours of service since the 1930s, opponents view the replacement of paper logs as an intrusive measure that will only make life more difficult for drivers than it already is.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants to outfit long-haul commercial vehicles, trucks and buses with EOBRs. Ultimately, the goal is safer roadways. By getting an accurate measure of when drivers are on the road, the FMCSA believes that drivers will be on the road less, cutting down on fatigue and, in theory, accidents. Members of the Trucking Alliance (such as J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Maverick) have lent their support to the use of EOBRs. They agree it’s a good way to improve safety, eliminating the underreporting of hours, something one local trucking official calls “the worst-kept secret in the industry.”
They also add that these devices can help improve relationships between dispatchers and drivers because both sides will have an accurate measure of hours driven. Neither dispatcher nor driver can take advantage of the other in hopes of getting more hours or getting more work. Their view is that this will improve the efficiency of scheduling and make interaction friendlier between drivers and their home bases.
However cost is a concern. High-end EOBRs can come with a price tag of nearly $2,000. Depending on the size of a company's fleet, even the low-end cost of $300 to $400 per truck can be a costly prospect. But the idea is that the improved operational efficiency will ultimately make up for the increased cost.
Opponents of EOBRs see them as an unnecessary cost and doubt just how driver-friendly the technology really is. There is an underlying feeling of “Big Brother is watching” that makes drivers and owner-operators nervous about installing EOBRs. Perhaps the biggest issue that drivers have with EOBRs is that the device eliminates flexibility in their schedules. Anybody who has punched a time clock understands what a pain it can be. Many folks are happy to be given a task and a deadline. They don’t want to account for every second spent in accomplishing that task, and if they happen to get finished early, they’d like to just call it a week.
While there is still time for tweaks to be made to the proposed regulations, it is doubtful much will change between now and the end of the year. Regulations mandating EOBRs won't likely be official until January 2014, and companies will then have two years to become compliant.