FMCSA to move on electronic recorders, hours

| February 13, 2012

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Feb. 10 announced its intent to move forward with its rulemaking about electronic onboard recorders and hours-of-service supporting documents by preparing a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking.

FMCSA also announced via the Federal Register several steps to augment efforts to obtain comprehensive data to support this SNPRM, including:

  • Listening sessions on the issue of driver harassment;
  • Tasking the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to assist in developing material to support the rulemaking, including technical specifications for EOBRs and their potential to be used to harass drivers; and
  • Conducting research by surveying drivers, carriers and vendors regarding harassment issues.

MCSAC Feb. 8 finalized a report on mitigating the use of EOBR to harass drivers that provides suggestions to FMCSA. The document contained information the agency should explore in any rulemaking on EOBRs for hours of service compliance.

Following the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision last August that vacated the 2010 limited mandate for EOBRs for certain noncompliant carriers, the harassment issue may be the key consideration for the agency. The agency has expressed intent to devise a rule that mandates some version of electronic logging devices for virtually all trucks in interstate commerce.

Harassment issues relating to electronic logs cover driver relationships with law enforcement personnel and with carriers, tilting heavily toward carriers and favoring drivers’ positions in certain instances. For example, a Feb. 8 draft said, “Drivers should be able to save records of carrier contact with drivers.” The statement was presented concerning an item about the difficulty of regulating the role EOBRs can play in hours of service compliance.

“Trying to regulate the difference between productivity measures and carrier actions that result in harassment is difficult because it should be judged by a standard of reasonableness that could be interpreted differently based on a specific factual circumstance,” the item read.

“I’m glad we have some recognition by this committee of the fact that dispatchers can lie,” said MCSAC member Calvin Sturdivant, of Community Coach.

In the same section, the committee spelled out the need for any EOBR regulation to avoid giving carriers what could be considered a harassment-enabling tool. “You cannot regulate bad management practices,” the report read. “You cannot prevent a carrier from pressuring a driver to do his/her job in a potentially unsafe way, yet that is the situation you want to avoid.”

The report suggests the agency “consider civil penalty sanctions as deterrents for harassment” and/or “seek out current regulations that appropriately address” any driver complaint that is made. Also suggested was FMCSA-led training for driver supervisors and law enforcement regarding what could constitute harassment.

Debate about limiting real-time two-way communication with the devices ended with the committee in part divided on the subject of whether such fleet management tools should be required to be included in new standards for the devices. Both the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Teamsters Union representatives on the committee, in addition to others, opposed requiring such tools to be a part of any electronic logging system.

“Minimum requirements for electronic logs do not harass drivers,” a note in the report read, “but the fleet management system that could be incorporated into the device could open the door to harassment.”

Stephen Owings of Road Safe America, a safety advocacy group, proposed an item for inclusion that pointed out “benefits of EOBRs” to drivers relative to harassment by carriers. With EOBRs in use, the report stated, “carriers are less likely to pressure drivers to drive beyond their maximum hours.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer disputed Owings and anyone else “who thinks that EOBR data can’t be and isn’t changed in back rooms and in the systems that collect the data,” he said. “It does happen, and I think it probably will always happen, for those who want to do that. There’s no way to make those systems foolproof, because data will be managed, no matter how it’s delivered, no matter how it’s stored.”

  • charles f donelson

    I am a owner operator with my own operating authority. I do not have a pre pass and never have had one in my present truck. I run mostly from Tn. to the west coast and in the past 2 years i have been inspected at various inspection stations and pulled over at random on the highways a total of 14 times. To date i have had 2 minor violations and my present rating with DOT is about 12. I see the big companies get pre passed with flat tires, lights out, duct taped fenders, etc. religiously and see now why they have pre pass and electronic logs. I suppose i should get the pre pass so i can then run the road with inferior equipment and not worry too much about inspections. I saw once in the truckers paper where it was quoted that the owner operators could not keep their equipment up, i beg to differ as this is our only source of income and being hounded now by big business has got the DOT apparanrtly on our backs,,please comment,,thanks charlie

  • Todd Dills

    Charlie, i’ve heard similar tales from guys w/o PrePass. It’s not a huge burden costwise and is probably worth it. Electronic logs are a different story, though.

    I wouldn’t agree with anyone who says O/Os aren’t some of the best performers out there on maintenance. The one-man, one-truck business model is proven to result is equipment pride, most often bringing good results.

  • Jim Sibley

    Charles, I agree with most of what you said. I too am not a fan of E-logs. BUT I have prepass transponders in all three of my Petes. I like them for several reasons. They save time(money) and fuel(more money). I do not duct tape fenders, keep up with maintenance, and am proud of my very small fleet. Just for the record, we get pulled in and inspected too.

  • Chris

    I am a o/o with 2 trucks I am running with my owne athority too. We have pre pass in the trucks. But I still get checked alot 29 times last year and I am glad to say with 0 violations. Like you these checks are both at scale and on road side. I must say I keep my trucks and trailers in good shap because I want my self and my driver to get back home safely there is anuff stiff that can go wronge on the raid with out having to wory about my truck.

  • m.

    I think the trucking industry as a whole has the power to stop all this BS. Once these trucks Stop , they will listen . When there food and gas run out they will beg you to go back to work. One week vacation for all trucks . LET’S DO THIS ……

  • George Kern

    Truck strike or “vacation” will never happen because the industry won’t pull together. Take your vacation and JB Hunt, Werner, Central Refrigerated and other big companies will haul what you didn’t. Better idea would be for everyone to contact their reps in DC to have them put the pressure on to reject the EOBRs. The cost of the equipment is prohibitive and will have to be passed on to the consumers. Talk to people who aren’t involved in trucking and tell them the cost of goods will have to go up if this is implemented.
    I personally know of 2 instances where big companies, with electronic logs, gave their drivers step by step instructions on how to alter them so they would have enough hours to make a trip that needed to be done. So much for the safety issue.

  • ed stevens

    I have a comment on on board recorders. With the price of fuel at an all time high, where are carriers supposed to et the money to put in an on board recorder? and secondarily where is the info supposed to go? I am a one man ocmpany- where is my peoplnet info supposed to go?

  • Steve

    I am so very sick of ever increasing regulations from the federal goverment. This is an entity that cannot manage it’s own affairs properly yet constantly seeks to manage the affairs of others. FYI I have been driving a truck for over 25 years and have over 3,000,000 accident free miles and NONE of this is due to any federal regulation. I have always logged the way the inspector wants to see the logs done and driven the way I chose to drive. MYOB nanny state!!! And, btw, my prediction is that about 3 months after EOBR’s are mandated someone will have hacked ALL of them and there will be many “workarounds” available on the internet.

  • Steve

    Another thing is, what does a guy who owns his own construction company and owns 4-5 trucks that he uses to haul his own construction gear from site to site supposed to do with an EOBR mandate? He only runs the trucks 3-4 times a year and they are driven by his construction workers. So let me get this straight, this guy is supposed to spend well over $10,000 to outfit his trucks with government mandated EOBR’s that will only get used 3-4 times per year?? Get real FMCSA!!!!

  • donald almeida

    all of this is about money last week i witness dot pull a inspection on a perfect clean new truck the truck behind me looked like was picked at the junk yard gets a free ride through the scale how about passing laws mandating shippers and receivers one hour max time or one hundred fifthy dollars thereafter monday to friday twenthy four hours arround the clock shipping and receiving no appoitment times sunday at mid night to saturday noon time eight hours on eight hours off no limit maybe we need to learn with the europeans how to run legal and make money

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