As I wrote in my column last month, we are part of an industry that has developed a proactive approach to saving lives when operating on our nation's highways. If you have not read the column, I cited EOBRs (electronic onboard recorders), drug testing and even CSA as prime examples of our industry being ahead of the curve when embracing technology to create a safer environment for the drivers of America's freight. So after discovering the recent news that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated the current regulation regarding EOBRs based on a suit by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA) against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, I and many in the industry feel we took a step in the wrong direction.
The EOBR regulation that was vacated would have been effective June 2012 and called for mandatory EOBR adoption for fleets that demonstrated a 10% or greater level of non-compliance in one compliance review with the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. The judgment was based upon the fact that the agency failed to show how harassment can be prevented with the installment of EOBRs.
EOBRs, for all intents and purposes, can be described as paperwork reduction devices that aid in compliance with hours-of-service regulations. That being said, these devices are being more readily accepted across the country by fleets that have not even been required to adopt them. As an association that advocates compliance with all regulations, how can we not be perturbed by a court ruling that basically takes a step backwards in making compliance with the hours-of-service regulations a much easier task to accomplish?
Many advocates, myself included, certainly view this court decision as a delay of the inevitable, since there is another proposed rulemaking in the regulatory pipeline that calls for a much broader mandate of EOBRs. As industry management and drivers alike embrace the technology of EOBRs, it makes sense that everyone should be striving to make this technology as prevalent as possible to assist our drivers in completing their logbooks in a timely and more concise fashion.
This rulemaking does not solely exist in the eyes of the agency either. Introduced as a stand-alone bill by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), S. 695-Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act calls for all commercial motor vehicles operating in interstate commerce to be equipped with EOBRs if they are subject to both the hours-of-service and record-of-duty requirements. This bill is not the only congressional attempt either. Previous highway reauthorization proposals have included full mandates of the technology for hours-of-service compliance.
As compliance advocates, we must make sure that technologies exist to make our fleets safer. While much has been said about HOS regulations and the changes that may come, it is our duty to make sure drivers comply with those rules, whether the rule is acceptable or not. EOBR usage for complying with these regulations should be mandatory and will help drivers reduce the cumbersome paperwork burden of keeping daily driver logs. Since the industry has grown to accept this technology, we must now advocate their use and comply with existing regulations. We must not act as a detour along the road to improved compliance and provide additional delays to this and other much-needed regulations.
David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to [email protected].