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5/14/2012 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Opinion: Why an EOBR Mandate Is a Bad Idea

By David Owen


National Association of Small Trucking Companies

This Opinion piece appears in the May 14 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration continues to be dead set on forcing every commercial vehicle in the United States to carry an electronic onboard recorder — better known as an EOBR — despite the device’s hefty price tag and general uselessness as a safety tool.

In defending its determination to saddle motor carriers with these intrusive gizmos, FMCSA insists they will improve highway safety by reducing large truck crashes involving injuries and/or fatalities, but the agency cannot thus far provide statistical evidence that this assertion is true.

Safety, in fact, wasn’t part of the package when the technology that makes EOBRs possible was first being developed — except in the sense of keeping our nation safe. EOBRs are essentially byproducts of the U.S. Department of Defense Global Positioning System, which originally was developed for military purposes.

In the 1980s, DOD released GPS for civilian use, and a commercial version became popular with larger trucking companies to help them cope with high driver turnover rates — and the sad fact is that not all drivers play by the rules when it comes to their precise location.

Let us say upfront that nothing in this editorial comment should be construed as an argument against using EOBRs as a management tool. What we object to is a government mandate forcing carriers to invest in and use EOBRs for purposes other than their own. This is not an appropriate function of government nor the agency, nor will it have a positive effect on safety statistics.

This form of tracking did — and still does — have benefits for those choosing to use it, including ease of communication between driver and dispatch; fewer check calls; the ability of one dispatcher to handle more trucks, loads and drivers; fuel tax calculations; asset management; and as a valuable marketing tool to sophisticated shippers wanting to track their shipments.

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