Study looks at electronic on-board recorders used for HOS monitoring

Oct. 1, 2006
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has released results from its industry analysis of electronic on-board recording (EOBR) devices

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has released results from its industry analysis of electronic on-board recording (EOBR) devices for hours-of-service monitoring. This research collected and analyzed data on factors relating to device usage, functionality, pricing, and potential impacts of an EOBR mandate.

Research indicates that EOBR usage is low. This primarily is due to overall system costs, a lack of EOBR safety and productivity returns-on-investment, and concern over what functionalities and standards will be needed should a mandate be promulgated. The enforcement community is also concerned about data privacy and data access issues since few policies and protocols are available for using EOBR data to monitor HOS compliance.

However, the research does contradict non-user perceptions that EOBRs would negatively impact driver morale and retention. A total of 76 percent of EOBR users responded that usage improved driver morale, and 19 percent said devices improved driver retention. No user respondents stated that driver retention was harmed by EOBR usage.

Another area of analysis considered the impact that an EOBR mandate might have on different industry sectors and fleet sizes. Based on unit pricing, estimated ROI levels, and overall management costs, the research determined that small fleets and owner-operators will be hardest-hit by a mandated investment in EOBRs.

This research offered several strategies for minimizing cost impacts, including investment tax credits and bulk-purchase pricing options. There was also general recognition that certain industry segments such as local pick-up and delivery services may not be appropriate targets for an EOBR mandate. However, carriers believe that a broad mandate would create a level playing field for HOS compliance.

Research identified different technical approaches used by carriers for managing, protecting, and accessing data, but did not propose any technical requirements or practices since that effort is being undertaken by a committee of the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council. Several vendors indicated strong concern with a mandate based on a lack of EOBR uniformity, interoperability, and data standards. Consequently, the research recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rulemaking provide early guidance to the standards development process to ensure that vendors can develop appropriate requirements.

Finally, the research indicates that EOBRs will be most effective when their usage equates directly to safety outcomes. There was considerable consensus among users, non-users, and vendors that the devices are effective at managing and monitoring HOS compliance, but additional research is needed to document the role that HOS compliance plays in fatigue management and any related safety improvements.

For a copy of the research, visit www.atri-online.org.

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