The cost of being first

April 5, 2013
While waiting on an EOBR rule, proactive carriers are paying a price

A day in the life of the director of safety and policy at the Truckload Carriers Assn. consists of changing several different hats daily, and at times, almost minute by minute. Finding answers to questions asked by members on regulatory or legislative matters is my main focus, and the key is to actually know where to find the answers, not necessarily have the answers ingrained in my head. That being said, I thought I knew the answer to a question recently asked by a carrier member. As the conversation ensued, however, I discovered that the answer is not what I thought it was.

“When can we expect a final rule to fully implement electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) on every truck that requires a driver’s log,” this member asked. He is feeling the crunch of being ahead of the game in his EOBR adoption process and understands that a rulemaking is coming and is wondering when. He even reads up on the agency news and took note when MAP-21 was finalized. But this member struggles constantly to fill driver spots since many independent contractors still have not embraced EOBRs the way ownership has and are signing on to carriers that do not have EOBRs in their fleet yet. In other words, our member, a proactive carrier in terms of safety, is asking when the playing field will be leveled so that all carriers have the EOBR technology in their cabs too.

The answer to this question? Time. Time is of the essence; time will cure what ails us; and eventually, time will deliver us a final rule on EOBRs. As my conversation with this member unfolded, it occurred to both of us that while we wait for a rulemaking to further explain the harassment verdict by the Court of Appeals, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is watching an industry evolve and begin to regulate itself.

That’s right, you heard it here: The industry is regulating itself by beginning a voluntary adoption process on a rule that makes sense for complying with the hours-of-service regulations. We, myself included, have embraced the notion, even claimed victory, that an EOBR rulemaking is coming, yet we continue to wait for it to arrive as our industry, carrier by carrier and driver by driver, adopt this technology before our very eyes. The progressive or forward-thinking motor carrier that has begun the adoption phase or is 100% integrated into an EOBR philosophy is beginning to realize how far ahead of the game it really is. These carriers are finding that EOBR-resistant drivers are still holding out for those carriers that have not begun to implement the recorders just yet.

Perhaps the time has come for FMCSA to not necessarily wait for motor carriers to support them and their policies; instead, FMCSA should support the carriers that continue to make the right decisions in operating safely and complying with regulations. When it comes to technologies, carriers and drivers will quickly find out whether or not it is advantageous to use them. And this brings us to where we are now: waiting for a regulation to ensure that all carriers are faced with the same regulatory burden rather than have others gain advantages by delaying the inevitable.

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