July 9, 2012 8:00 AM, EDT

Editorial: Electronic Logs

This Editorial appears in the July 9 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Highway safety is one of the trucking industry’s top priorities, and we have long supported the industry’s efforts to employ technology in enhancing the safety of our employees’ workplace and the safety of everyone who shares our nation’s highways.

Today, motor carriers are deploying devices that can cut down or eliminate rollover accidents, warn drivers of inadvertent lane departures and slow or even stop a vehicle to avoid collisions.

It’s impossible to say how many crashes have been avoided or lives have been saved, but with the steadily declining rate of truck-involved fatalities, it’s safe to say that the industry’s emphasis on averting accidents is having an effect. It’s a performance record the industry can be proud of.

One of the safety advances made in recent years is the growing use of electronic onboard recording devices, sometimes known as electronic logging devices, to record compliance with limits on drivers’ hours of service.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been working on a regulation that eventually would mandate nearly universal use of EOBRs. To underscore the importance of this safety advance, Congress included an EOBR mandate in the multiyear transportation bill it approved late last month.

But not everyone likes EOBRs. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is among the most vocal opponents of the devices, claiming that they are a plot by large carriers to burden small operators with unnecessary costs that, OOIDA claims, have no connection to safety.

Apparently OOIDA’s fantasy captured the ear of some in Congress, and just a day after Congress approved the highway bill with its EOBR mandate, Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) added an amendment to the Transportation Department appropriations bill that would prevent all work on an EOBR requirement. The House approved that appropriations measure with its EOBR ban and sent it to the Senate.

The Senate should reject this backdoor attempt to take a backward step in highway safety.

Rob Abbott, American Trucking Associations’ vice president of safety policy, has said: “We have very good data that show that fleets that are compliant with federal hours of service have lower crash rates.” The devices automatically record driving time, and ATA President Bill Graves stated, “Clearly, these devices lead to greater compliance with maximum driving limits — which is very good for the trucking industry as a whole and for highway safety.”

We urge the Senate and Congress as a whole to move forward with the EOBR mandate, to ensure that everyone in the trucking industry is playing by the same rules and to make highways a safe place both for our employees and for the driving public as a whole.