Message from the President
EOBRs for safer highways? It's an illusion that would make David Copperfield proud

By Jim Johnston, OOIDA President and CEO

I recently saw the video produced by the American Trucking Associations, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and AAA that’s being circulated around Washington, DC. It pleads for Congress to force the entire trucking industry to purchase and employ electronic on-board recorders on their commercial motor vehicles.

While the video attempts to make compelling safety claims, it’s an illusion that would make David Copperfield proud. Forcing a $2 billion mandate down on motor carriers big and small is the wrong way to go if you are truly interested in continuing to improve highway safety.

That mandate is incapable of improving HOS compliance. OOIDA and the small-business men and women who compose our membership are serious about improving highway safety, which is why we seek solutions that will address the broader issues causing fatigue and non-compliance, not an expensive, intrusive and burdensome regulatory mandate.

Instead of mandating 1990s technology that will not achieve safety gains, Congress and the administration should consider examining modern tools and policies that take a more comprehensive look at a driver’s duty time. Electronically recording hours is not the issue. It’s the question of whether or not mandating an electronic log will actually improve hours-of-service compliance and combat fatigue.

Despite claims by supporters, the reality is that EOBRs are not the solution to these problems. Recently an EOBR vendor made it crystal clear how ineffective EOBRs are at improving highway safety when they wrote “when law enforcement and DOT inspectors see a sticker on a truck, indicating it’s running on [EOBRs], it’s often waved right through” with no inspection taking place.

This issue, for the large motor carriers, is about managing a driver’s productivity down to the minute as well as using a government regulatory mandate to change the competitive playing field of the trucking industry by encumbering the small-business carriers that make up the vast majority of that industry.

EOBRs turn the focus of carriers toward maximizing driving during the 11-hour driving period instead of focusing on comprehensive HOS compliance and proper safety practices throughout the entire 24-hour day.

Despite claims in the video, the costs of these devices are not insignificant, especially for small businesses with modest profit margins. OOIDA estimates that the direct cost for purchasing, installing and maintaining an EOBR will run approximately $1,500 per device for a small-business motor carrier.

The video makes light of the cost of an EOBR, arguing that they are no more expensive than new tires for a truck. However, unlike an EOBR, new tires will actually make a difference in highway safety. A truck cannot run without tires, but OOIDA members and the members of the other small business and industry associations prove every day that trucks do operate safely without an EOBR. LL