Channel 19

Todd Dills

Owner-operators back in the news on EOBRs

| May 14, 2012

The latest is following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s formal removal of the remedial-directive rule, which would have required carriers with big hours compliance problems to install electronic onboard recorders. After being thrown out by the court last year, FMCSA’s finally removed it from the regs.

A feature in the Bismarck, N.D., Tribune newspaper over the weekend, however, shows how repeal of the 2010 EOBR rule doesn’t mean operators who oppose any mandate for the devices can rest easy. A provision of the Senate two-year highway bill — currently in conference with the House — would require EOBRs for all interstate carriers, and FMCSA’s stated intention is to go for a mandate on the regulatory end as well.

Featured in the Tribune story is owner-operator Bob McArdle (click through the Tribune picture of him here for the full piece), who echoes so many out there in urging regulators and other government officials to see the root problem of shipper/receiver delays as the key to combating any hours-violation culture that may exist.

FMCSA has said they’re conducting “research” on that problem, also noting that to get into the regulation of detention pay they will definitely need more authority over shippers and receivers from Congress. While some owner-operators have suggested that this is clear indication that the agency intends to do nothing about the problem, requesting more regulatory authority isn’t of course unprecedented for FMCSA.

McArdle likewise joins many others in disputing that any “violation culture” exists in trucking to begin with, in large part. The vast majority of haulers are “law-abiding family people,” he told reporter Jessica Holdman. “We just want to get home and the government is making it hard for us.” Read Holdman’s story here.

Discussions of a potential mandate have keyed up in a big way online. Owner-operator William McKelvie recommended anyone interested in further exploring the issue to listen in on the archive of a recent edition of the Center Lane Show, hosted by the folks at VideoDashCam.com on Blogtalkradio.com. Their open-forum program (running every Wednesday) last week was a lively discussion devoted to the EOBR listening session in Washington State April 26 that I wrote about here.

Listen to the full show here.

Following find links to past posts relative to EOBRs on the blog as well:
Could EOBRs solve the detention dilemma?
Speak out today in EOBR session
Owner-operators deliver in MATS EOBR listening sessions
Hours debacle covered at news site Politico
More than a typo? Split sleeper wishful thinking

  • E. F. McHenry

    Todd, another good article. You really stay on top of the issues especially with the EOBR and Sleep Apnea proposed rule making. But I see several unresolvable problems with the EOBR proposal and just completely reject the whole sleep apnea thing altogether. But let me layout my concerns with the EOBR proposal. 1).EOBRs transfer a certain level of control of a drivers log to dispatch. And since the log is the bases on which work is performed, it diminishes the Captain Of The Ship notion all drivers must have. 2.)EOBRs create a sense that only driving counts as work. And this will tend toward pressure to minimize a account of on-duty not driving or line 4 by outright falsification. 3)EOBRs also create and compel a high speed, high pressure work ethic where drivers operate under a sense of urgency to beat the clock. 4)EOBRs have been used and will be used by their motor carriers to treat HOS rules not merely as limits to work but rather as mandates to work! This is very important because it assumes a one-size fits all rule that everyone should accommodate. But this is just patently wrong. 5)EOBRs force conformity of productivity or the level of work performed among drivers. 6)EOBRs as already stated exert pressure on drivers to exhaust all avail hrs. 7)EOBRs like their paper counterpart rely on the integrity of a driver since a falsification of line 1, 2, or line 4 will render line 3 false. And thus amount to a false log. 8)No empirical evidence has been offered to prove carriers who use EOBRs are safer than those who don’t. 9)EOBRs diminish the human factor or human need factor making it negligible to say the least; only hours available and wheels rolling count. And finally 10)The EOBR proposal is not a stand alone rule. It is being driven along with a change in the retention of supporting documents. It is my considered opinion that this is meant to provide legal cover solely for a carrier from the improprieties of their drivers on HOS and RODS. It is what I like to call the Hang The Driver Out to Dry policy. Another words abandon the driver to his or her fate. Another words a change in the retention of supporting documents rule appears to be a attempt to create a regulatory blind spot for company audits and mitigate legal culpability for the company alone for what or how the driver is logging on line 4. Another word for company audits or should a driver be involved in a fataluty accident the company will fall back on the EOBR and new policy for supporting documents. But the driver will have no such shield for themselves. The courts will subpoena all supports documents and any paper trail and use it to against a drivers line for on-duty not driving; line 4. But the policy change will shield the carrier from such scrutiny. This is the worse thing that not even OOIDA is addressing. Companies will have no skin in the game to ensure drivers are truly logging as they should. I’m sorry to be a cynic but this rulemaking is straight off the ATA wish list.

  • J.M.Stephens

    In response : 1. Companys are held accountable for what drivers log so why shouldn’t carriers be able to protect themselves from false log entrys through the use of administrative action? #2 through #6 are no different from paper logs unless they are being falsified by the driver to begin with.#8.our company saw a 39.1% decrease in all accidents ( reportable and non-reportable) in the 1st year of EOBR use.#9 – same with paper and #10.EOBR use will probably limit the amount of future regulatory action by not having as many possible “holes” to be plugged unlike paparlogs wich are only as acurate as the person holding the pen.

  • E.F. McHenry

    Reply to J.M.Stephens-I’m disappointed in your response to my post. It obvious you just skimmed. Hmmm…maybe you just don’t get it. Does rigging the system help? Ok let me help you, look up Plausible Deniability. Then we can talk about point#10.

  • Thomas Blake

    Any log violation or Maint issue found in a inspection stays on the drivers record for 3 years, and the motor carriers for 2. So in some cases not only is the carrier protecting their selves, they are also protecting the abiltiy of the driver to be hired in the future. When the clock starts for the day only lines 3 & 4 matter, the clock is ticking. it is up to the carrier to set the rate so that delays at the dock are figured into driver pay, and the overall freight bill. The only time lines 1 & 2 count are achieving the 10 hour reset to start over. Granted I would like to see the split break come back, So that when you are feeling the mid day fatigue kick in you could take the minimum of 2 hour napp, and the 14 hour rule would be extended. But this is not a EOBR issue. it is a saftey issue that the FMCS needs to look into. How many more accident like May 2012 on I 70 Solomon, KS where a truck vears into a rest area at full speed and into the back of a motor home will it take to address this issue. The driver was not asleep behind the wheel, but I’ll bet he was needing a mid day nap. Which we can no longer do, In the name of safety.

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

    Thomas, E.F., J.M., thanks for the thoughts here. The need of a midday nap is a big one, Tom, and any allowance of flexibility to take one and extend the 14-hour clock if necessary, perhaps by just a limited amount, would be ideal and supported by I imagine all three of you, eh? E.F. and J.M., regarding EOBRs, did you make note of the profile I wrote of Tom’s small fleet–they began the move to EOBRs, including Tom’s truck, just more than a year ago.

    He had some interesting thoughts about the Line 4 issue. You can find that post here: http://www.overdriveonline.com/could-eobrs-solve-the-detention-dilemma/

  • E.F.McHenry

    Todd I appreciate your ability to see both sides of the EOBR debate and as hard as it is for me to accept them, I see only two changes that might make them,,and I say this reluctantly, liveable. First we should not allow carriers to enjoy a policy change in the retention of supporting documents. This to me is the most important issues. Carriers should be made to ensure their drivers are matching all time stamp documents with on-duty not driving or line 4. And they should be audited accordingly. This is current policy but is rarely enforced on companies. Andit was much more emphasized under Safe Stat. This will ensure drivers exhaust their hrs naturally and necessitate required breaks, off-duty, sleep and or 34hr restarts to get rest. Cheating here or falsify line 4 is what is leading to driver fatigue in the worst way. Compelling companies to comply with this will give them some skin in the game. Otherwise we are structuring what in my opinion is a system of Plausible Deniability. Plausible Deniability is a condition in which a subject(motor carrier)can safely and believeably deny knowledge of any particular truth(driver impropriety of manual imput on logs/paper&electronic)that may exist because the subject(ie carrier)is deliberately made unaware of said truth so as to benefit or shield the subject(carrier)from any responsibility associated through the knowledge of such truth. Rogue dispatcher have told drivers to stay out of line 4 so as to prevent drivers from exhausting their 70hrs before thd week is up. Second the EOBR should not be incorporated into the fleet management system or dispatch computer in real time. It could.be GPS enabled but real time should be precluded from the dislatcher. You could have a GPS enabled EOBR but not one that takes exclusive driver management out. Rather driver could simply send canned msgs to the fleet in the form of ETA/PTA with hrs avail at said ETA/PTA. This will prevent harassment and privacy. And the GPS will enabled EOBR could still be offer in person to law enforcement. Feel free to make public my comments and concerns even if to FMCSA. Thanks for your publication.