OOIDA responds to ATA brief on EOBRs, charges driver harassment

March 8, 2012

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA) has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit  to enforce previous orders to have the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rewrite the proposed rule electronic onboard recorders (EOBR) to ensure that EOBRs cannot be used to “harass” truck drivers.

OOIDA issued a court challenge to the April 2010 rule that required carriers demonstrating a 10% or greater violation rate for certain hours-of-service (HOS) regulations during a single compliance review to install EOBRs in all of their commercial motor vehicles and use them for two years. The compliance date for this rule would have been June 4, 2012. The court ruled in OOIDA’s favor in August 2011, effectively vacating the final rule issued in April 2010.

On Feb. 24 of this year, the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) filed an amicus brief in support of FMCSA’s attempts to create an EOBR regulation. OOIDA’s latest filing is in response to that brief.

The brief reiterated previous filings before the court, which OOIDA said provides “evidence of a disturbing, widespread practice of motor carriers using EOBRs to harass truck drivers to violate hours-of-service regulations.”

OOIDA said that a lengthy survey conducted by OOIDA’s Foundation shows that out of 2,002 drivers, 54% reported that they had received instructions from their motor carriers to drive longer hours than the law allows.

“Companies whose executives serve on ATA’s board of directors were identified widely by drivers as among those who use EOBRs to harass drivers,” OOIDA said. “Sixty-eight percent of the survey respondents under lease to ATA board members were told to drive longer to use available legal hours. Twenty-nine percent of these drivers were awakened from sleep to receive these instructions,” OOIDA charged.

“Demands that drivers get back on the road to use up all available hours under hours-of-service regulations can cause serious problems,” the brief continues. “If a driver is fatigued, he should stop and rest. If the weather is bad, a driver should pull over until conditions improve. Drivers, not motor carriers, should decide when it is safe to drive.”

The survey data collected shows that electronic monitoring devices are “ineffective for enforcing hours-of-service regulations, but very effective for harassing drivers,” the OOIDA brief said.

OOIDA also challenged the ATA’s request that the court accept EOBRs and AOBRDs as equivalent devices, which would create a de facto amendment to an existing regulation from the late 1980s. 

The OOIDA brief said ATA ignores the fact that the agency has never approved the use of GPS technology as an AOBRD system to be used for compliance purposes, with the exception of one carrier. That tightly controlled pilot program had only allowed the use of GPS technology following public notice and comment, OOIDA charges.

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