Electronic recorder bill introduced in Congress

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is against a congressional bill that would require electronic on-board recorders on trucks, although some carriers support the measure.

On Sept. 29, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act, which would mandate the devices for commercial vehicles. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) co-sponsored the bill, which would require EOBRs provide real-time tracking of a vehicle’s location and enable law enforcement to access this information during roadside inspections.

If passed, S.3884 would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue regulations within 18 months.

Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, said EOBRs do not track all driver activities and drivers still have to input hours worked. “There is no data that shows these devices will increase highway safety — none,” Spencer said. “EOBRs are a management tool, not a safety device.”

The American Trucking Associations said it supports the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new rule, effective last June, which requires the devices only for trucking companies with more significant compliance problems.

“However, if Congress truly wants to promote technology to improve highway safety, it should provide incentives for a host of ‘active’ safety technologies that proactively assist drivers to prevent automobile and large truck-involved crashes,” said Rob Abbott, ATA vice president of safety policy

Steve Williams, who heads Arkansas-based Maverick USA, said marketplace competition pressures carriers to meet shipper demands. “The mandatory use of EOBRs is the only salvation for the motor carrier community to collectively resist the power of the purse,” Williams said.

Craig Harper, chief operating officer of Arkansas-based J.B. Hunt Transport, and Don Osterberg, a senior vice president of Wisconsin-based Schneider National, support the mandate approach.

“The problem isn’t with the HOS (hours of service) rules, but a lack of compliance with the rules,” Osterberg said. “Electronic logs take the non-compliance issues off the table.”
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Carriers with a 10 percent or greater occurrence of HOS non-compliance in a single compliance review now are mandated to have EOBRs for two years. The regulation’s compliance deadline is June 4, 2012.

OOIDA challenged FMCSA’s regulation in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in June.

OOIDA noted the agency intends to expand EOBR to a much larger percentage of carriers and drivers. Before federal officials implement a broader mandate, more information is needed, such as if the devices’ effectiveness and if requiring them makes economic sense, the association said.