Owner-operators sound off on recorders, harassment

| April 27, 2012

At a meeting of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance in Bellevue, Wash., representatives of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration took two hours’ worth of testimony from trucking industry representatives relative to the agency’s published intention to issue a broad mandate for electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) to monitor drivers’ hours. At issue, primarily, was an exploration of whether the devices could be used as tools for carriers and/or law enforcement to harass drivers.

Carrier representatives already utilizing EOBRs expressed support of the effort of a broader mandate, while owner-operators urged FMCSA to consider existing, more affordable alternatives to hours enforcement and address the root causes of hours noncompliance.

Owner-operator and 2010 Goodyear Highway Hero award winner Tilden Curl mentioned reports from fellow drivers who’ve seen real-time back-office hours manipulation firsthand. When sharing lack of hours to complete a particular haul with dispatch, sufficient hours “magically” appear in their EOBR, Curl said. “An EOBR is best suited as a management tool, rather than an enforcement tool for officers.”

He offered the example of Washington and Oregon’s weigh station cameras. Combined with software that interprets images to record truck information, the systems “provide time-stamped records of travel [and] give you valid information that is not doctored in any way,” said Curl. “It’s a system that works.”

Curl cited an hours-enforcement blitz last Fall he saw firsthand in Washington, his home state. “They nearly filled the weigh station with trucks.”

Giving inspectors around the nation the resources to use such tools would be an effective deterrent to hours scofflaws and would allow the agency to effectively bypass the privacy concerns Curl and others see in EOBRs. “Any company that wants to invest in EOBRs should be able to do so,” said Curl, but he could see little safety or compliance benefit  for a nationwide mandate “beyond what the west coast systems have done.”

Werner Transportation company driver Tim Dean said he has been operating  under some form of automated hours monitoring for the entirety of his 23-year, 3-million-mile-plus safe driving career. “I believe the perception [among drivers] of EOBRs is negative,” he said, “but over the years, they’ve become a bigger asset to me.” He cited the dispatch/trip-planning efficiency the devices help enable as a tool to actually mitigate “harassment during off hours.”

Dean was echoed by Schneider National representative Andrea Sequin, who testified that, following the carrier’s first full year of EOBR implementation, drivers called the EOBR a “pressure-release valve” of sorts. Pressure to run beyond endurance limits, she added, “is more likely in the paper log environment.” The carrier has also seen a 70 percent decline in fatigue-related crashes following EOBR implementation and a modest productivity and on-time service decline, Sequin reported.

Prime Safety Director Don Lacy, participating in the webcast session, concurred with Sequin, noting that the fleet continually polls its drivers about its EOBRs and the harassment issue. “With EOBRs you have total transparency,” he noted. “Drivers and operations have the same information.”

Under questioning from FMCSA, however, driver Dean noted that it was currently impossible for him to retain communication from dispatch through his Qualcomm unit for any extended period of time without retrieving it from the carrier back office. “In the future we’ll be able to print off of” the unit, he said. “Now, if I want to retain it…I have to keep it on the screen.” Dean added that, however, “I’ve never had a need to.”

Landstar-leased owner-operator George Sherveny echoed many commenters submitting testimony via the webcast when he urged FMCSA to focus on the problem of excess detention at shipper and receiver facilities, which often forces drivers to violate hours to find a parking space. FMCSA reps said they were working on “research” into the problem of excess detention, but Sherveny said that they ought to go farther than that: he called the shipper/receiver detention problem one of the most important harassing factors for drivers. “I believe it is important for FMCSA to formulate regulations that prevent this kind of harassment,” he said.

The session was the second conducted after a court of appeals in 2011 vacated an EOBR final rule that would have required the devices for certain hours noncompliant carriers as a remedial measure. The driving factor in the decision was FMCSA’s failure to consider the harassment issue. The issue was also debated in February by the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.

  • Marty Marsh

    This is funny,no comments,of course we won’t mention this to anyone.

  • http://overdriveonline.com/channel19 Todd Dills

    What do you attribute to, Marty? Judging by the site traffic, plenty of folks are reading it, at least. . .

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  • http://www.facebook.com/JahLahGey Bobby Moore

    There’s a few things that could help with eliminating H.O.S Violations.

    1: the Shippers and receivers either get trailers loaded or unloaded in a timely manner;

    2: Shipper / receiver allows overnight parking with facilities available during 10hr break.

    3: Change rules where if driver takes a 2 or 3 hr power nap it extends 11/14 hr clock.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1269137418 Mike Jones

    For company drivers..Hourly Pay might be best…detention at shippers would sure come to a halt…somebody has to PAY for the driver to sit and wait?? Cool………it could have a better effect on Hours of Service vs paid by the Mile too……Driver SHOULD be paid for Sleeping in a dumb truck too…they pay the Walmart Drivers for sleeper time…they can Pay the rest of us!!!

  • Dave Jesse

    So we had expert testimony from a driver that is using hearsay from other drivers .has he Tilden curl ever used e logs on a daily basis. What is he afraid of? Yes you can manipulate the e logs just like paper. If we are on e logs we might get the shippers to change, I’m on e logs and have no problems with harassment etc, by tomorrow night I will have done 2000 miles from Friday till Monday night and still have hrs left! What’s the problem

  • DodgePaul

    As an owner/op, I see the cost factor as one of the larger problems. Maybe Werner can afford to add an extra 2500 to the cost of every truck but what about the small guys? Also I haven’t seen anybody discuss the electrical glitches that ALL electrical products face daily. Has anyone here ever had a problem with their smartphone?? Suppose the EOBR shuts off or deletes a days worth or weeks worth of records? All electronics freeze, crash or break. Do we get stuck OOS as if my log book flew out the window or my dog ate it? Yes so if I’m running 100% legit and the government mandated EOBR has a problem I get screwed for playing by there rules when paper logs never created that possibility of on issue. Seems like a large problem no one has discussed. The paper system has worked for decades. Leave it be and tighten up the scales, we all know the differences from one scale operator to the next. Good mood or bad mood of the person behind the desk is the biggest factor allot of the times.

  • sick of it

    I’m wondering how many other folks out there that have their own authority with one or two trucks are sick to death of being lumped into the same category as a company with 10-500 trucks? I’ve got two trucks hauling potatoes I’m not being harassed by “dispatch” I’m not some general freight hauler, and this isn’t just a job it’s my lifestyle…every day my dream is getting harder to live. Not feeling very patriotic lately

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