Federal Update
EOBR listening session draws an earful

By David Tanner, associate editor

A listening session held by federal regulators probably wasn’t on a lot of people’s “must do” list at the Mid-America Trucking Show. But for those who did attend a forum on the issue of electronic on-board recorders and driver harassment, it was a golden opportunity to communicate directly with FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro.

Longtime truckers and OOIDA members were among the most vocal in the steady stream of truckers who made trips to the microphone to address Ferro and the rest of the panel from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

It took a while for the topic to get to driver harassment and EOBRs, as the first few speakers launched directly into the lack of accountability on the part of shippers for the time drivers are forced to wait at the docks and about what many view as a lack of flexibility by FMCSA on the hours-of-service rules.

For many of the truckers who spoke during the morning session of the two-part forum, solving the detention issue and holding shippers accountable would resolve many other problems in the industry related to duty and times.

The panel wanted to hear specifically how EOBRs could be used to harass drivers as the FMCSA continues to work on an industry-wide mandate in the regulatory pipeline.

OOIDA raised the harassment issue in court action against FMCSA last year. A Seventh Circuit ruling in favor of OOIDA forced FMCSA to vacate its initial EOBR rule and go back to the drawing board to prove that EOBRs cannot be used to harass drivers.

Experienced truckers Ray Hanna, Jim Freeland and Kim Llewellyn were among those addressing the panel during the morning part of the listening session.

Leased owner-operator and OOIDA Member Greg Petit lit into the officials about what he feels is an over-regulation of truck drivers. Greg explained more about how he felt following the session.

“The EOBR regulation, in my opinion, is for one thing and one thing only, and that’s to get more of our money,” he said.

“They’re wanting to hold us to an exact science and that just isn’t going to work in trucking.”

In addition to the other points he made, Greg offered insight into the issue of driver harassment and EOBRs. He believes that no matter what technology is being used to log time, someone in the chain is going to use it to harass drivers.

“It’s all about getting that driver to move,” he said.

“They’re always going to use what they have. When Qualcomm came out, they used that. When cellphones came out, they used that. It’s always going to be about harassing the driver to get him to move, period.”

The earful that Ferro and the other FMCSA officials got during the listening session wasn’t contained simply within the walls of the meeting room. Many truckers walked and talked with Ferro in the hallway between the morning and afternoon sessions.

It may have seemed to a casual observer that Ferro had entered the lion’s den, but she listened and assured everyone that she was at MATS with open ears. LL