Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Impact Of Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBR)

Since 1938, when the first Hours of Service rules were enforced, drivers of commercial vehicles were required to keep track of how many hours were driven in what the now abolished Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) classified as a "work period". The Hours of Service (HOS) regulations are now issued by the FMCSA and generally enforced by Department of Transportation (DOT) officers, and although there have been several changes to those regulations over the years, what has stayed constant is the requirement of drivers to keep a log book if they travel more than 150 miles from their domicile.

On this log book, we record our daily lives, to the minute. We write down when we arrive at the shipper, depart the shipper, buy fuel, take a break, go to sleep, go off duty, arrive at the receiver, depart the receiver, and when we perform pre-trip inspections of our equipment.

As any human being knows, the daily life of a person can’t really be recorded accurately on a logbook, as life isn't really that cut and dry. And, we sometimes make mistakes. For example, let's say I want to go to the grocery store. I write in my logbook the time I leave the house to go to the store. It's there in black and white and I'm ready to walk out the door. But at the last minute, I realize I need to check the fridge to see how much milk I have. Hypothetically, I "legally" have two hours in my day with which I can travel to the store and run my errands, and since I've already marked my departure time in the log book, the clock is ticking.

But because I'm using a paper logbook, I can just erase the entry, and amend it when I am done checking the fridge for how much milk I have. Then, when I get in the car, I will log that I'm actually going to begin driving. Now I'm headed to the store and there's an accident on my route. This causes me to have to sit in traffic for about thirty minutes waiting for it to clear. The clock is still ticking on my log though. I am doing nothing but sitting and waiting. Remember those two hours I have? Well, now my two hours have dwindled down to an hour and a half.

The accident finally clears and I head to the store. I still have another fifteen minutes to get to the store and at arrival, realize I only have one hour left before the clock runs out. I rush through the aisles, gather everything I need, but am in such a hurry that I forgot my milk! Now I have only thirty minutes to get home, so I jump in the car without my milk and I go as fast as I can to get there before my time runs out. Instead of driving a safe low speed, I drive the maximum speed, trying to get through the traffic lights even if they're yellow. I speed around turns and rush into the driveway of my house. I get out and write in the log that I arrived at the two hour mark! Whew!

This is how modern day truck drivers log their time. We make mistakes, we fix them. We decide when we'll sleep, and for how long, and we decide how fast we'll drive. Those of us who do well in this industry know that if you keep your speed down, you'll get the rest that your body needs, you'll drive alert, and you will prosper.

The sleep issue is another one I'm going to tackle here. Let’s say that you're off duty for 3 days, but the last day was spent working on the car until 2 AM. Now it's 5 AM and you have to be at your pick-up. So you're dead tired, but technically, you're legal on the log. You arrive on time and load the trailer. Now you need to take a nap but you can’t because you can't make on time delivery and log it legally.

According to OOIDA, drivers will change their logs to make themselves legal, maintain proper rest, and make on-time deliveries. As you've already read above, humans are unpredictable and can’t really adhere to a log-every-second-of-your-day life; well, accurately and correctly anyway, because we all make mistakes.

If the driver of this load takes a nap, he or she will be more rested and make a safe, on-time delivery. But if they're forced to push themselves by going the maximum speed, or not getting enough rest, then a couple of things can occur:

1. The driver will have an accident, either because they're tired, or because they were operating unsafely.

or,

2. They will make a late delivery to accommodate the EOBR, which may result in making the customer unhappy and therefore jeopardizing getting more customers.

What the EOBR does, is stretch out the time that you'll be able to allot for on-time delivery. This means less miles per year and less revenue to stay compliant. There will be cases on a weekly basis where the load simply can’t be delivered because of several different scenarios; bad weather, traffic, accidents, equipment failure, driver fatigue, etc. These are just a few of those reasons.

The EOBR also doesn’t promote safety. It doesn’t force customers to load or unload our trucks more quickly, and it doesn’t help the already struggling small business owners with their business. What it does do, is improve the bottom line for the EOBR manufacturers, and helps large carriers push the Owner/Operators further into the hole.

The FMCSA has recently been instrumental in making these EOBRs a mandated piece of equipment that must be installed in commercial vehicles using log books. Despite the fact that they have no safety studies supporting the claim that EOBR's do anything to promote safety. Since the FMCSA is facing opposition to the EOBR, and the OOIDA has said that the FMCSA has no data supporting the EOBR's safety claims, the FMCSA has recently launched a study that will most likely prove their claims that EOBR’s are safe. The validity of this study is the issue though, as this study was put in place AFTER the EOBR mandate was added to the recent Highway Bill.

This is a corrupt system, and the FMCSA should be forced to back down on any EOBR legislation, as they have no case for implementing them. There are far reaching implications if this EOBR goes through. The CSA2010 requirements that the FMCSA has recently pushed through are another revenue generating stream that the OOIDA is fighting against, and they are along the same legal structure as the EOBR.

Right now the trucking industry is in the middle of a fight it has NEVER seen before. Millions of dollars, and several safety groups are focusing on the entire industry and their goal is to have complete and total control of all trucks, drivers, and heavy equipment. No matter the cost.

If you are considering becoming a truck driver and want to actually enjoy yourself with a rewarding career in the transportation business, while still being able to be a free person in the United States, you need to join OOIDA. Become educated on the rules and regulations that your citizens are forcing on the average truck driver. There are valid reasons for many of these rules, but the rules themselves are not being implemented correctly, and they are not rules that will do anything to prevent the already small amount of accidents they're being written to stop.

Truck drivers are the safest people on the road. Only 4% of accidents each year are caused by truck drivers, yet we are being forced to adhere to more and more ridiculous regulations daily. And every day there are more people jumping on the anti-truck driver band wagon. This is a great industry and there are a lot of great people driving trucks,. As far as I'm concerned, good riddance to the ones who ruin it for the rest of us.

Do yourself a favor if you intend to drive; start educating yourself now. The more educated the drivers out here are, the more of a chance there is to make trucking a profitable career filled with professionals and diligent long-term drivers.

The EOBR is the government’s way of trying to control the trucking companies who hire losers to drive trucks. It will not work, and if it is implemented, the only comfort there will be, is that everyone will be forced to have them. Unfortunately, for owner-operators, their own equipment is going to be forced to have one too. This doesn’t mesh with a free country. It plays out more like a Big Brother society where your every move is tracked and watched.

In addition to the already unsafe conditions that the EOBR will create, most weigh stations that the trucks go through will automatically by-pass you if you have an EOBR. How unsafe is that? I say very - I can have a major equipment malfunction and I won't get pulled into the scale because I have an EOBR. Something to think about.

Get involved. Please urge your local Senator to stop the EOBR before it's too late.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

right on brother trucker....