By David Tanner, associate editor
Navigating federal regulations can be tougher than trucking through a Snoqualmie blizzard, but that hasn’t stopped drivers from finding a way through. A case in point is the proposed electronic on-board recorder rule. In addition to filing comments to the official docket, an increasing number of truckers are discovering the Regulation Room to discuss the proposal and make comments.
Regulation Room, at regulationroom.org, is operated as a pilot project between the U.S. DOT and Cornell University to encourage public participation on federal rulemakings.
During the 106 days that the public comment period was open on the federal EOBR proposal, the Regulation Room received 8,855 total visits, including a total of 5,328 unique visitors.
The 235 comments about EOBRs generated on a discussion page are encouraging, OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz said. Most of them were from professional drivers.
“The difference between what you see in the (FMCSA) docket and what you see in the Regulation Room is that FMCSA’s docket had a lot of the corporate interests represented,” Rajkovacz said. “The Regulation Room was mostly drivers.”
What they said
Comments about EOBRs varied. An owner-operator leased to a carrier posted that EOBRs would be no more effective than a paper logbook and would do nothing to address harassment of drivers.
“An EOBR can and will be used to force a driver to drive when he or she is not rested. Using a Qualcomm system, I have in the past been awakened at night only to have my dispatcher tell me my 10 hours is up and I need to get going,” the owner-op stated.
“He had no idea how long I had been asleep or resting, just that I had been sitting for 10 hours and woke me up at 2:30 a.m. sayin’ I had to go, I’ve sat my 10 hours. Now how will an EOBR make this better?”
Rajkovacz says the owner-op’s example aligns with what many other drivers said.
“You can read through these comments and tell that those are our guys,” Rajkovacz said. “These are affirmations of what we talk about and hear from drivers about every day.”
OOIDA contends EOBRs will not address issues involving hours-of-service or highway safety as the proponents claim. EOBRs also do nothing to address driver harassment or detention time.
The Association filed 60 pages of comments in May, taking a position against how FMCSA has relied on obsolete data to justify the rulemaking.
“The entire cost-benefit analysis is based upon 2003 data that it previously rejected as a basis for an EOBR mandate and that has never been updated,” OOIDA leadership stated.
“FMCSA attempts to hide its failure to update its data collection and analyses behind its current euphemism that it has ‘layered’ data analysis in each successive rulemaking since 2003. But all that has been ‘layered’ is one unsupported assumption upon the next unsupported assumption, coupled with conjecture inspired by an excess dose of wishful thinking.”
The Association’s comments included sheets from a driver’s log to illustrate how an EOBR could be manipulated.
“Only an accurate record of both a driver’s driving and non-driving activities can tell you whether the driver is complying with the rules,” OOIDA comments state.
“And because the driver must manually enter his non-driving duty status into the EOBR, just as he does with paper logbooks, EOBRs are not an automatic, tamper-proof device for accurately recording compliance with the HOS rules.”
FMCSA has not yet set a timeline for an EOBR final rule. If and when a final rule is issued, carriers would have three years to comply.
And in the U.S. Senate, Mark Pryor, D-AR, and Lamar Alexander, R-TN, filed a bill March 31 calling for an EOBR mandate similar to the rulemaking. That bill, S695, currently resides in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. LL