FMCSA Backs Up EOBR Mandate

Drivers and carriers concerns about electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) have been a sticking point for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for years now. But the issue has come into sharp focus recently with the recent passage of the transportation bill, along with a congressional mandate to implement the agency’s proposed EOBR requirement.

In response to the growing clamor surrounding the debate, the FMCSA released some new information in the form of “frequently asked questions,” looking to clarify where the agency stands and its reasoning behind the its stance.

Backing up EOBRs

First and foremost the agency reaffirmed that it stands behind its support for EOBRs, reiterating its belief that the devices should serve to encourage better driver compliance with Hours of Service rules and help to combat driver fatigue.

While most drivers and carriers can agree that fatigue is at least a significant concern for the trucking industry, the agency tries to emphasize how many DOT compliance violations stem from this one rule. Of the 1.2 million citations handed out last year, the agency reports that HOS violations were responsible for 576,000 of them, or around 48 percent, including everything from exceeding HOS limits to simply not having a log book.

An issue of cost

Many drivers remain deeply concerned about the potential for EOBRs to be used to harass drivers, badgering them into driving longer than they are comfortable with or a variety of other potential problems. But for most businesses the biggest concern is that an EOBR mandate will lead to massive added costs just to comply with the law.

The FMCSA argues, however, that many of these concerns are based on its own cost-benefit assessment for the last iteration of its proposal. When the agency submitted its Regulatory Impact Analysis in 2011, it estimated that upgrading all the country’s trucks, along with all the other systems necessary for the systems, would run the trucking industry nearly $2.4 billion per year.

Truckinginfo notes that groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have regularly brought up this point as an argument against EOBRs, insisting that the industry can hardly afford those kinds of costs at a time when the economy is still struggling.

But the FMCSA argues that one number tells only part of the story. The agency’s initial analysis suggested that an EOBR mandate would ultimately end up being a net gain for the industry, with around $2.7 billion benefits for carriers. Cutting out the need for paper records and traditional log audits alone would mean as much as $1.965 billion by itself.

And those numbers assume the costs the agency was seeing for EOBRs last year, when realistically the price for the devices fell substantially through the first half of 2012. In fact, companies have since introduced EOBRs that cost around half of what the device that the agency used as the baseline for its report sold for.

EOBRs draw flak in hearings

The FMCSA was called before the House Small Business Committee on Wednesday, July 13, primarily to discuss concerns about the agency’s Compliance Safety Accountability program. In specific, legislators once again raised the issue of the canceled crash accountability program, but the topic of EOBRs also came up, according to Land Line magazine.

“The big guys they like it. They implemented already,” said Representative Jeff Landry, one of the initial co-sponsors of an amendment to the DOT funding bill that would effectively overturn the EOBR mandate. “Their fleets are so large that’s a better way to manage those fleets. But when you implement it on the little guy, it drives him out of business and the big guy gets bigger.”

Originally posted by David Radke of Lee Trans Services

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