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Permanent Record

By on January 4, 2012
RoadKing Mag

Everyone has an opinion about electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs). As I see it, the device is a two-edged sword, which can be useful or dangerous depending on how it’s handled.

The Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act mandates that the U.S. DOT issue regulations that commercial motor vehicles used in interstate commerce be equipped with EOBRs for purposes of improving compliance with Hours-of-Service regulations. So these devices are going to be a fact of life for drivers.

Setting the terms

Legislation defines an EOBR as an electronic device that is capable of recording a driver’s duty status accurately and automatically; meets additional requirements for identifying drivers and vehicles; and is capable of monitoring the location and movement of the vehicle.

The EOBRs must have the ability to be integrally linked or communicate with the engine’s control module; identify the individual operating the vehicle; accurately record driving time; provide real-time tracking of a vehicle’s location; enable law enforcement personnel to access the information contained in the device during roadside inspections; and for the device to be tamper resistant.

The debate

So, are EOBRs a good thing? Yes, if you believe they will fulfill their objective of  improving highway safety.

One school of thought is that the devices will make truck drivers more aware and concerned about safety. For instance, drivers will be apt to be more accurate with their logs when an EOBR is installed, and less likely to make “innocent” errors.

Another is that fleets can use the data collected by EOBRs to help them improve their Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores and avoid fines.  An initiative of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), CSA’s objective is to identify high-risk carriers and drivers, with an ultimate goal of improving large truck and bus safety and reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities.

Some fleets say EOBRs would be a good tool to help them reduce their risk of non-compliance with Hours-of-Service regulations, save drivers the chore of filling out logbooks, reduce the administrative paperwork related to logbooks and give dispatchers a more accurate way to gauge a driver’s availability.

Other fleets are concerned about the cost of installing EOBRs and training office staff, operations personnel and drivers to use them.

Driver concerns

On the other hand, if “Big Brother” constantly watches drivers, owner-operators and motor carriers, will the EOBR data be used properly?

Provisions in the EOBR regulations explicitly provide protections for use of information beyond enforcement and compliance monitoring. Ownership of data is protected for the owner of the vehicle or the person entitled to possession of the vehicle as lessee.

The regulations also establish a secure process for standardized and unique vehicle operator identification, data access, data transfer for vehicle operators between motor vehicles, data storage for motor carriers and data transfer and transportability for law enforcement.

Going to court

Plaintiff attorneys are already using EOBR data, when it is available, as objective evidence for such things as vehicle speed, driving time and hard-braking events.

One of the variables in court cases is that everyone judges time, speed and distance differently. That’s because we all see things differently.

EOBRs do away with people’s guesstimates of such things. Say a four-wheeler is moving at a higher speed than a truck, and when changing lanes, turns into a rig. Even if there is no specific evidence of wrongdoing by the driver or fleet, a plaintiff’s attorney could try to use EOBR data to suggest otherwise. The car driver has no EOBR record of its speed. The truck does.

The good news is: an EOBR can tell exactly how fast a truck was traveling at a certain time. The bad news is: an EOBR can tell exactly how fast a truck was traveling at a certain time.

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  1. Ray

    January 8, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    When they are mandated audios driving world hello warehouse work I will quit driving because no one will tell me when and how I can driving. I don’t like anyone breathing down my back that’s why I do this job or how I like to say it (hobby) because that’s what it is to me and to many of us drivers will let there company or government control every little bit of there life. Stand up drivers and take back what is yours (the openness and freedom of the road) hell isn’t that why you picked up your keys in the first place? I know for me it was so lets get back what is ours. Thanks and keep the rubber down and the paint in the air.

  2. Canadian Trucker

    January 26, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Be careful what you ask for. Big brother works both ways. When these EOBR devices start hurting the carriers bottom line you be certain that they will lobby for change in regulations. Not only will they hold drivers accountable but the carrier themselves and really it’s about time. How many times have OTR drivers spent countless hours doing city work and then are expected to drive the maximum driving hours for the day. It will be a boon to truck stops that are 8 hours apart but overall I think it will hurt the industry as a whole along with lowering wages for professional OTR driver and personally I don’t think that will sit very well.

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  4. t j

    October 21, 2012 at 2:04 am

    They want to control us like were all freaks of the other world. We make sure their food is there for them , their clothing etc…the obrd is such a joke to those who dont know what it really is. It has a camera built in and it records everything you do in the truck. I stopped for a light that turned red only because a police was sitting at the light. And the obrd said I stopped to sudden and recorded as a sudden stop. I drove down hill and my truck weight pushed me faster than the truck was set to go so it recorded me speeding not saying how much i was going just showing i was speeding. The trucks govenor was set at 62 mph and it got to 64 going down the hill…sad thing is the speedlimit was posted at 75mph on I-20 in Texas. But I was speeding according to that obrd. The good part of it is… I see it to put alot of people out of work or jail because all these who are really the innocent have to pay the price for ones who are really guilty like our gov.shippers,carriers,receivers,etc… they have to blame this all on someone cause they will not confess as to why a driver was kept at a receiver and a shipper all day then told to drive all night that he had to make his appointment the next morn or be written up for being late…and he runs over and kills someone and spends the next few years in the jailhouse for manslaughter.

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