As Ms. Kaitlin Brown discussed at our recent alumni reception in Detroit the federal government has made plans to mandate the use of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) by interstate commercial motor vehicles as a way to monitor hours-of service-rules. The potential rule would give truck drivers until 2016 to become compliant.
The EOBRs, which are already used by multiple trucking agencies, have many different uses. The ruling focuses on their ability to track a trucker’s hours of use to ensure that truck drivers are taking adequate breaks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hopes that this will decrease the amount of tired truck drivers on the road and lead to less accidents. The EOBRs also have the capability to recount the ninety seconds leading up to a hard breaking incident along with the ninety seconds after. Trucking agencies are currently using this capability to provide some insight to what was actually happening when a crash occurred and then use this information in court. EOBRs also have the capability to allow a trucking agency to track all of their trucks at once and monitor their movements across the country. They also can look at an individual truck’s speed history, fuel efficiency performance, cruise control usage, as well as a list of all hard breaking incidences. This will allow the companies’ safety managers to better monitor drivers’ habits and hopefully lead to safer behaviors.
Although there are many benefits of mandating the use of EOBRs there are still some issues that need to be worked out. While the use of EOBRs seems to benefit most of the larger trucking companies, at $1500 to $2000 a vehicle, some of the independent drivers and smaller companies are saying that the EOBRs are just too expensive. They would prefer to continue to do their logs by hand. On a different note, some individual drivers are speaking up, saying that the oversight of an EOBR by the trucking companies takes away from the driver’s sense of independence and some of the pleasure of their job. Drivers are also saying that instead of the EOBRs being used to limit the number of hours spent driving, some companies might use it to make sure that their employees are driving the maximum number of hours, not taking into account individual differences.
As for as federal regulation goes, the implementation of EOBRs in all tucks might allow law enforcement to check for previous speeding violations by requesting to see the log at different points throughout the country, much like Professor Smitka’s discussion about truckers going through Canadian customs. While this would most likely significantly decrease the number of speeding violations, it also would be an extreme amount of government intervention. Why would it stop at trucks? Eventually, following this same path, all passenger vehicles might be required to have the same technology installed and all vehicles would have their logs checked at certain points.
Like Ms. Brown discussed, EOBR’s have the potential to create safer highways across the country by limiting the number of tired, overworked truck drivers, but there are still many issues that need to be worked out. Will the companies or individuals be required to bare the full cost of the technology? How will this affect the individual drivers versus the companies that they work for? Will the government have free access to all drivers’ EOBR logs?
Brown, Kaitlin, Timothy Groustra and Jim Rodi. “The EOBR Mandate and its Potential Impact on Safety, Claims Handling and Underwriting.” The Transportation Lawyer. 15.1 (2013): 47-49. Print.