Trucking through hours-of-service flexibility and EOBRs

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With a new rule mandating electronic on-board recorders for a boosted number of hours-of-service (HOS) noncompliant carriers, the ongoing HOS listening sessions and FMCSA review of the current hours rule and the expectation among industry parties that an across-the-board EOBR mandate may be in the offing several years down the road, the issue of work time and outside control of that time has been front and center of late.

Bison Transport driver Tom Balaz of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who typically runs a majority of his miles in the States, sounds off in the April “Feedback” section of Truckers News with an idea that I’ve heard echoed around the nation for the past several years by drivers and owner-operators of all stripes. Balaz and othes would introduce flexibility into the hours system for drivers with good safety records and a proven track record of experience. “My thinking is,” he says, “take the million-mile driver … and give that driver some hours-of-service flexibility. Give him some wiggle room. Instead of being forced to sit for 10 hours, maybe he can roll after 8 or 9. Give him the opportunity to split the sleeper berth. Give him the flexibility to add an extra hour or so of driving time.”

However unlikely such a proposal would be to pass muster with the safety groups lobbying FMCSA for across-the-board mandates and rigid hours rules, Balaz’ idea has new teeth and a somewhat new character now that driver safety history information down to the roadside level will be available via the CSA 2010 program combined with the pre-employment screening tool. The million-mile safe driver, says Balaz, “probably has an excellent CSA record. They’re probably in compliance with their company whether they work for a big or small company.”

Balaz suggests the possibility of making such flexibility contingent, also, on that driver or owner-operator’s use of an EOBR for hours-of-service monitoring (though “I’m not yet sold on electronic logs,” he says), each driver’s hours customized to his/her safety record. It would require a simple programming effort to make a reality from the practical standpoint, issues of EOBR cost, regulatory change, and privacy aside. It could be an effective way to incentivize both driver safety and EOBR use, though, and could, as Balaz says, “there’s not [any compliance] incentive for the million mile driver to” either stay that way or get there, as it is.

And don’t look for that in the new EOBR rule — compliance incentives for voluntary EOBR use there are only as outlined in the 2007 proposal, for the most part, and are back-office-type measures significant mostly for carriers of fairly large size.

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