Feature Article: Getting on board

| May 01, 2010

RouteTracker features a small GPS device wired to the engine’s electronics, as required to qualify as an EOBR. If an owner-operator already had a Java-enabled handheld device – generally a smartphone of some type – he would sync it with RouteTracker and run software that would access driver logs. Log history would be accessible via an online storage account. The cost for the ECM-connected device, software and sufficient data storage to meet FMCSA’s requirements is $35 to $50 a month, with a $25 activation fee, Xata says.

CSA impact

The approach of CSA 2010, now delayed to Nov. 30 and with full implementation delayed until mid-2011, could cause the EOBR to be perceived as a more positive tool, says PeopleNet’s Angel.

CSA 2010’s scoring methodology will incorporate far more data than is processed now under SafeStat and, if results from test states hold true for the nation, bring many more fleets and drivers to the attention of law enforcement. EOBRs’ ability to substantially reduce HOS violations could make the devices more attractive to smaller fleets, even independent owner-operators.

“Rather than waiting for the regulatory people to put things on you, do it, get it in the truck, and now you can help them write the regulation. It’s better to work with them than against them, because it’s not a question of if, it’s when.” — Bob Caffee

When CSA 2010 is in place and FMCSA intervenes with carriers due to a deficiency in the fatigued driving category, carriers utilizing true EOBRs will have an immediate advantage in their peer group there, grouped as they will be by the number of relevant HOS-related inspections.

Angel, formerly a carrier for broker C.H. Robinson, notes that Robinson already collects Safestat scores from its carriers. Demand for that information could drive the use of EOBRs, says Angel.

“For violations written in 2009,” says Angel, “the top 10 violations represent 79 percent of the total violations. Of the top 10, five are driver-hours-of-service-related. Three of those five are related directly to regulation 395.8, which is the paper log environment: form and manner violations, duty status not current…. In an electronic environment, those three basically disappear.”

Angel further points out that of violations under CSA 2010, the paper-environment log violations range from two to 10 points, while the electronic violations are all one point. “Even if two carriers were given the same number of citations in either environment, it’s still two to one” in favor of the electronically logging carrier.

Intermodal carrier TCW started using PeopleNet’s eLogs system in the first quarter of 2008. “We’ve not seen a driver put out of service as a result of an hours-of-service violation in well over a year,” says Tim Smith, TCW safety director. That helps its current Safestat score, and with its early implementation of EOBRs, the carrier stands to have good scores in the Fatigued Driving category of CSA 2010.

St. Germaine says he’s already experienced some new leverage because shippers and receivers he encounters know he’s running electronic. On a pickup at a facility that prohibited truck parking, St. Germaine was out of hours after the shipper took four hours to load him. Understanding that St. Germaine was on electronic logs and any movement of the wheels beyond 0.7 miles would put him in violation, the shipper “made special arrangements for me to park in their back lot.”

Such responses could be just the tip of the iceberg as EOBRs become more common. “Shippers and receivers are going to discover that they have a clock, too,” says team expediter Linda Caffee.

Independents “will have to start taking a long, hard look at how they compare to some of the bigger carriers in CSA 2010,” says Angel. “If you’ve got a guy who’s aggressive enough to take on an EOBR, he might have a leg up” with brokers and shippers in the future.

Those who don’t get an EOBR voluntarily or through a carrier they’re leased to still are likely to have to adopt an electronic system eventually, some observers says. “Come three to five years from now,” ATA’s Osiecki says, “they’re likely to be mandated for everybody.” n

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