Federal Update
Virginia Tech to study pros and cons of EOBRs

By David Tanner, associate editor

The FMCSA has tapped the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to study whether electronic on-board recorders, or EOBRs, can reduce the risk of fatigue-related crashes.

The study will use existing data from the U.S. Department of Transportation to compare safety records and crash rates among EOBR-equipped trucks and non-equipped trucks.

Jeff Hickman, occupational health and safety expert for Virginia Tech, says the study will also deal with HOS compliance and estimate how many operators and fleets are using EOBRs; how much the devices cost to install and operate; and whether EOBRs provide benefits as some claim.

Hickman estimates completion in late 2013.

According to a recent posting by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency intends to publish a final rule on EOBRs in March 2013 – well before the results of the Hickman study would be made public.

The agency’s schedule is ambitious, considering that regulators still have not addressed the issue of EOBRs being used as a tool to harass drivers – something the agency has been ordered to do by a federal court following OOIDA’s legal victory defeating a previous EOBR mandate.

Many professional drivers have commented to the FMCSA that they are routinely contacted by their carriers to keep driving regardless of whether they are tired or in need of a break.

OOIDA contends that EOBRs are no more effective than paper logs when it comes to safety and compliance, and that the devices will add unnecessary cost to trucking operations. Privacy rights are also a concern.

In addition, the highway law MAP-21 sets a high mark for what the ideal EOBR should be able to do, what it should not do, and how the data would be collected and interpreted by law enforcement relating to hours of service. The law calls for EOBRs to be able to recognize the driver behind the wheel, which would require a code, thumbprint or some other identification technology.

The U.S. House passed an appropriations bill this summer to block funding for EOBRs. The Senate had yet to take up the bill as of press time. LL