Paper Cut

Max Kvidera | February 01, 2011

Compliance is also improved by eliminating mistakes, such as noting the wrong city and state or shipping numbers, Osiecki says. “They reduce paperwork and the hassle of keeping up with the details of writing things in the logs.”

Osterberg says errors are common in paper logs, an issue that often comes into play when a truck is involved in an accident. “The level of precision that’s expected — especially in truck litigation following a crash — really defies use of a paper log,” he says. “Show me any paper log, and I will find something wrong with it.”

U.S. Xpress anticipates EOBRs will help drivers and dispatchers plan more effectively, which will lead to improved productivity. The dispatcher or operations planner can better match loads with drivers who have available hours. “It provides our operations department with more knowledge,” Viso says.

May Trucking driver Chris Bigbey demonstrates access on his onboard logging device.

Before May Trucking went live with its EOBR system in July 2010, it did additional programming to provide real-time information on drivers and their hours to its load planners. Now driver managers can view the status of each driver on their monitors. “You have full visibility, so if you have a guy who’s going to be coming out of his sleeper berth in three hours, we know that at the load planning desk,” says Brad Weatherman, May’s vice president of operations.

Expedited travel through weigh stations is another advantage, says Platter, who’s only been asked once to show his electronic log at a weigh station since he’s had it. “This one guy, the very first thing he did was to see the load information and wanted to make sure I had the correct trailer number and bill of lading number,” he says. “That’s one of the things that caught many drivers on their paper logs.”

Recorder cons

While carriers identify compliance and operational benefits from employing electronic logs, critics contend that EOBRs fail as a tool to enhance safety. Improved trucker safety from using EOBRs hasn’t been proven, says Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has filed suit against FMCSA’s authority to mandate EOBRs for motor carriers that have a poor compliance record on hours-of-service rules.

“I’ve gotten feedback from drivers that it reduces their stress. When a driver is out of hours, he’s out of hours and needs to shut down. It’s a definitive end point to their day.”

— Don Osterberg, vice president of safety, Schneider National

“They are not safer carriers,” Spencer says about some of the carriers using EOBRs. “In some instances they are far less safe than their peers. The correlation between usage and improved safety is poppycock.”

Spencer notes that trucking experienced its safest year based on number of deaths and crashes in 2009. He says driver training and experience contribute more to trucking safety than technology. “The notion that equipment and technology is going to have any measurable impact on safety is marketing or [nonsense],” he says.

“None of the technology will tell when a driver is sleepy and needs to stop and rest,” Spencer adds. “The technology is used in too many instances to pressure the drivers to drive when they may be sleepy and have hours left. The company wants to know why that truck’s not moving.”

Salmon concurs on this view, calling it his chief concern with the use of EOBRs.

Platter, too, agrees that EOBRs don’t enhance driver safety. “It doesn’t affect true hours of duty. It doesn’t reflect the reality of [truckers] working on the docks,” which often isn’t counted as on-duty time.

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