Everything You Wanted to Know About EOBRs

This article was contributed by Mike Curts, marketing director of Driver Solutions and co-founder of eGears.

Lately, it seems that EOBRs (or electronic on-board recorders) intended to reinforce the HOS (or hours of service) have been on the lips of most truckers, amongst others vested in the trucking industry. These devices track when and how long truckers drive. Speculation about the EOBR mandate peaked in the summer of 2012, when President Obama signed MAP-21 – a highway bill that makes EOBRS federally required. The new HOS regulations began to take effect on July 1, 2013. The law is expected to be fully implemented by mid-2014, leaving some truckers shaking their heads and others nodding with approval.

On each side of the fence…

The general public’s support of HOS rules is overwhelmingly high. It’s clear that fatigue can cause truckers to be more accident-prone. These laws are reasonable measures to ensure that truckers who are too fatigued to drive responsibly have limits that restrict them from working beyond HOS compliance. But many truckers see these regulations as an unnecessary limitation to their productivity. After all, it was deregulation of the trucking industry that sparked the golden age of trucking throughout the 60s and 70s.

Many truckers who disagree with these regulations point out that the CDL test sets the bar for trucker knowledge and responsibility, and that further litigation can only serve to drive away hard working truckers. They call monitoring devices like EOBRs harassment (which might be baseless, but it is the kind of allegation to throw a wrench in EOBR legislation for at least a little while.) Some more evident criticisms are that EOBRs may be unreliable and inconsistent in their data reporting. Others are concerned that they can be cheated by manipulating the devices, or that truckers can still work more than regulations allow as long as it doesn’t incorporate driving. Many assert that they’re too costly for upstart firms to invest in.

How does it affect me, anyways?

If recently implemented HOS regulations remain, these laws mostly affect a small minority of truckers with the most unusual schedules. It limits the work week down to 70 hours, requires half-hour breaks for each 8 hours of driving, and imposes an 11 hour limit on driving – which does not include time spent on other work-related tasks. Check out the U.S. Department of Transportation’s site for a complete list of these regulations.

This may be inconvenient to a select population of truckers, but many truckers aren’t in need of adjusting their schedules significantly, if at all, to accommodate for these regulations. They’re intended to curb firms who grossly overwork truckers, and consequentially create hazards on the road through exhausted drivers.

How do we know that EOBRs work?

In fact, EOBRs are hardly something new. They’ve been implemented in Europe since 1985, though then in the form of a more rudimentary device called a tachograph. Like today, they were considered too expensive and impractical when they were first introduced. Many opponents claim that these devices cannot bar fatigue since it does not record any tasks unrelated to driving; others say that whether or not someone is capable of driving longer hours is dependent on the individual.

Tachographs were originally very easy to “cheat” if one placed a magnet on it, meaning that more clever drivers were entirely unaffected by these devices. While innovations are made constantly to avoid exploiting these systems, drivers frequently find workarounds or tricks to fool the devices – which makes them a costly and potentially useless asset. Only time will tell if more modern EOBRs will be effective and foolproof to tampering or trickery.

What are your thoughts on the impending EOBRs? How do you think they will affect your workday?